Friday, July 3, 2015

Ergo Proxy Ep9: Angel's Share

"My name is Ergo Proxy.
And I am the agent of death."
-Vincent Law transformed into Ergo Proxy-

Ergo Proxy continues. And it continues very much at its own pace. You could call it something of a slow burn.

Vincent Law is saved by Kazkis Hauer in the final moments of Ergo Proxy, Episode 8, Shining Sign from Charos. Law and Pino are brought to Asura Dome, referred to as a city of the sun. The story continues in a new location with Ergo Proxy, Episode 9, Angel's Share (Shards Of Brilliance).

While Ergo Proxy is a fairly well drawn contemporary animation, one birthed in the digital age, its drawings and renderings of characters still sometimes suffer from deficiencies in detail. It is simply lacking at times in the kind of artistry that really grabbed us by the throat at times in the the pre-digital era, the era of hand drawn artistry. It's still generally very good despite its animation shortcomings, but it does err on the side of oversimplifying images due to time and budgetary constraints no doubt. It is indeed economical in telling its tale.

Rescued by the enigmatic Hauer the first portion of the episode centers on a conversation essentially between Vincent and Kazkis. Kazkis makes it clear he had no love for the inhabitants destroyed at Charos where he rescued Law.

Kazkis expresses his love for Senex, the now deceased Proxy who battled the inhabitants of Charos.

He talks of Charos as the moon and Asura as the sun. The two served as companion towers. The female Senex and Kazkis loved one another and hoped to unite their worlds together suggesting immediately he too is a Proxy.

Kazkis attempts to explain that Vincent Law himself is a Proxy but Law's memory betrays him and he refuses to believe he could become such a thing---that monster. Kazkis realizes Law, having become the monster, has unknowingly killed his beloved Proxy Senex without even knowing he had done so. Law runs away from Kazkis upset with the suggestion and idea he could have killed Senex. Vincent refuses to believe he could be capable of such a horrific act.

So of course this conflict between Law and Kazkis sets up a showdown for the second act of Angel's Share.

To reach the inevitable conflict, Kazkis inquires with Vincent if he knows who he really is. Vincent tries but cannot remember his own history in Mosk. Kazkis talks of Monad Proxy, the creator and supervisor of Mosk Dome as much as he himself, Kazkis Hauer or Kazkis Proxy, is the creator and supervisor of Asura Dome.

It is learned that Monad Proxy was entrusted with the memories of Ergo Proxy, or what is clearly Vincent Law.

In a fit of rage over the death of Senex Proxy, creator and supervisor of Charos Dome, Kazkis Proxy seeks to destroy Law. Kazkis takes Vincent's gun and turns it against him. Law is shot several times and is left bleeding.

Meanwhile, Pino, the underdeveloped, strange machine-based character, seeks out and finds the beloved flight craft Rabbit.

Under attack by the Autoreivs or what Kazkis calls the knights, Vincent is forced to anger and his Hulk, Bixby-like transformation occurs allowing him to become the powerful Ergo Proxy. This is the first occasion, nine episodes into the series, where Vincent is seen visibly undergoing a change before viewers eyes.

Just as Kazkis prepares to kill Law now almost completely transformed into Ergo Proxy, Law vanishes moving swiftly and lethally to strike at Kazkis Proxy. It is a very Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde moment.

Ultimately Kazkis is killed and reunited spiritually on a plane with Senex.

Much philosophical and ambiguous rambling is muttered by Kazkis as he perishes. Vincent Law returns to human form as his tears flow over the realization of what he actually is. He is Ergo Proxy, the angel of death.

All of this forces Law to question his humanity and whether life is worth living.

As a viewer we continue to ask so what? So what does it all mean if Vincent is a proxy? What does it mean if he is the angel of death? What does it mean that Pino actually understands that Law is both human and proxy? I mean, what the hell is going on!?

Well, we continue to fly in the dark, reunited with The Rabbit as Pino and Law head to Mosk hopefully to obtain some fucking answers. That would be nice at this point.

Ergo Proxy while wonderfully dark and brooding undeniably has its share of pacing problems and requires a good bit of patience on the part of the viewer. Personally, mine is wearing thin. The chain is yanked far too much and frustration is setting in. All of this combined with questions to matters hopefully significant and pertinent to narrative coupled with animation that is markedly too simple in terms of overall detail is making Ergo Proxy a bit of a slog at this point. I'm hoping it turns a corner soon. But the creators---of the series not the proxies---are testing me and my resolve to carry on and continue forward.

Angel's Share: C+.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Space Battleship Yamato Vs Japanese Battleship Yamato

The Japanese Battleship Yamato would be the inspiration for Space Battleship Yamato (1974-1975) and what would become the Argo herself for Star Blazers (1979).

Walter Amos: On Star Blazers

"Probably the longest and most significant single segment cut from the series is the exposition from early in the first series about the history of the battleship Yamato in World War II. The battle in which the battleship is sunk is shown in some detail, in order to explain why the ship's hull now rests at the bottom of the sea...."
"In one sense, the extent of this cut is surprising, considering that many American viewers may not be familiar with the history of the real, historical Yamato, and would probably benefit from the exposition. However, a closer viewing of the segment reveals themes some may have found objectionable, such as the captain of the ship-portrayed as a noble warrior-tying himself to the wheel and going down with the ship. Sailors and pilots are seen sadly saluting the fall of their noble enemy, and it's possible that the sympathetic portrayal of the enemy the United States fought so hard against during World War II may have been seen as too risky by the show's American producers."
-Walter Amos, Animerica Vol.3 No.8 (p.10)-

It's certainly safe to say those underlying nerves were understandably frayed following World War II. Both sides were suffering the long term effects of a terrible war.

While certainly a very Japanese attribute, I know a few families linked to World War II veterans that would not have saluted their enemy. Some still look at the historic relationship in a much different light and context to the anime fan despite the generally positive relationship that has been forged between the two nations over the course of time. Time to heal is always essential.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Star Blazers: The Quest For Iscandar S1 Part I: Images

The episodes created for Star Blazers were approximately 20,000 dollars each and production often exceeded that cost.
Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki was forced to shorten the intended 39 episode run to just 26 episodes. This fact may offer some explanation as to why The Quest For Iscandar lasted twenty-five episodes and the return home just one episode.
When production was cut short and the creative team received word on the budget cuts they were literally finishing episode 20.

Also of interest to anime fans, Space Pirate Captain Harlock was intended to appear in the 39 episode run. Yes, Captain Harlock was actually part of the Star Blazers universe.
Enjoy these additional images not included in our original coverage for Star Blazers: The Quest For Iscandar, Series 1, Part I here taken from the first five episodes. Be sure to note the sheer emotion related to given characters in the images. It was indeed a hallmark of the series.