Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ergo Proxy Ep2: Confession

The serial experiment that is Ergo Proxy continues.

At the conclusion of Ergo Proxy, Episode 1, Awakening, it was determined there was more than one Proxy on the loose. Producer Akio Matsuda offered some insights on this noirishly goth series in the now defunct Anime Insider #35. As he informed, the images and storyline are "focused on psychological suspense, a nice slice of action, and an accompanying sense of wonder." The series opener certainly captured the atmosphere the creators were aiming to achieve. As for those nasty looking Proxy, "There are many, not just one- and their fighting styles are completely different." Matsuda indicates Ergo Proxy is filled in equal parts "physical" and "psychological" aswirl with "unanswered questions." This certainly offers additional information to aid our efforts into discovering more about AutoReivs, Romdo and the Proxy, as well as the many interesting characters that color this deceptively utopian city and those inhabitants outside its domed walls.

A narrated look to the future at the end of Episode 1, Awakening, offered this: "The Security Bureau is out of control. The silence of the Intelligence Bureau. The manipulation of Entourages. They're all connected to the monsters. The points are forming a line. That's when a truth no one knows about appears."

Here we are with Ergo Proxy, Episode 2, Confession (Confession Of A Fellow Citizen).

Ergo Proxy offers a presentation steeped in digital from the 2D and 3D digital animation of today's anime to the technically designed digital world within which the story thrives. For me, digital animation takes some getting used to. It's a bit like receiving a new prescription for a pair of glasses. It all feels a little different when you put those glasses on at first. When one is conditioned to enjoy the breathtaking pencil sketches of 2D hand drawn cel animation, the 2D digital work can seem a bit jolting in its pristine touch. It feels too pure, too clean, too refined, sometimes too simple in its level of detail. It feels cold and free of the warmth and detail of traditional anime. I'm not the greatest fan of its artifice. New isn't always better.

To be honest, and perhaps this is the geek in me, you know-the old school guy that simply won't let go, but I prefer the beauty of the hand drawn animation of Gatchaman or The Wings Of Honneamise. There is a richness and beauty and feeling to those images that have yet to be duplicated and mined by a computer. Getting accustomed to digital for the likes of Last Exile and now Ergo Proxy takes some time, but there's no use fighting it. Digital is the wave of the future and that future is now. Just as CGI has replaced the classic modelling effects of the best in science fiction television [Space:1999, Star Trek: TOS and Battlestar Galactica], digital animation has supplanted the loving detail transferred from hand and pencil to cel. There's no getting around it. Digital is here to stay and as much as I might love models, latex and hand drawn cel animation this is the new world order. Some science fiction television and to some degree anime has suffered as a result too. Having said all of that here is where I bloe my own theory out of the water. Somehow the slight feel of artificiality and the starkness of this reality seems to translate well for Ergo Proxy and works wonders for its digitized, cold, isolated world quite beautifully and quite fittingly. Further, a recent viewing of Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone blew me away. It was stunning in its level of detail despite the notable differences that I still argue remain between 2D hand drawn and 2D digital animation. More on those differences at a later date.

The story begins as Re-l works through a digital photo line-up with some frustration. Previously, Re-l was attacked by a monster in the introductory episode of Ergo Proxy and the photo line-up reveals nothing. Her Entourage and cameras offer no corroborating evidence of her story and no one seems to buy her story either. Strange given her profession as a criminal justice practitioner. Her anxiety rises as she calls the whole thing a "conspiracy." She points to the Security Bureau as erasing any evidence of the event.

Her interviewers patronize Re-l due to her relationship with the Regent of Romdo [her grandfather]. She is less than pleased with the proceedings. The interviewers indicate Vincent Long was found not far from her home unconscious. They indicate he may have feelings for Re-l and may have been her stalker. Exasperated over the suggestion, the interview is terminated.

Shots of the city reveal more digital, electronic billboards urging "Fellow Citizens" to consume more. This theme, coupled with the controls over the AutoReivs, certainly pays homage to the works of George Orwell, Philip K. Dick or even films like George Lucas' THX-1138 and others. Iggy and Re-l drive. Iggy informs Re-l her replacement home will be ready shortly. A home is needed following the destruction that ensued of her home at the end of Episode 1. Iggy indicates she will need a release from the doctor to return to the Intelligence Bureau.

The funny thing about the Iggy character is the level of trust we have for him. Trust is a factor int his relationship, which keeps the audience uneasy. It's not entirely there. Despite his likability he is an AutoReiv and we simply don't know how sincere or programatically free he is in his processing of decisions or of his loyalty to Re-l. The level of comfort regarding his character simply isn't there for us at this time. Given his ability to receive downloads from higher up will it ever be? It is a complex question. Iggy comforts Re-l.

Re-l has been relieved of her duties by the Security Bureau. Re-l argues her case with the Intelligence Bureau. She turns to Iggy for his support regarding what was uncovered at the murder scene, but Iggy blankly turns to her unaware of the information. "What are you talking about?" His memory has been erased. Do you see the Iggy conundrum? How Re-l tolerates the accompaniment of such a partner is a question mark. Re-l will need a psychiatric evaluation from the Health and Welfare Bureau.

Re-l silently puts the pieces together regarding the Security Bureau, her unit's silence over the matter, Iggy's erased data files and that thing-the monster. "The points are forming a line."

An AutoReiv talks with Raul Creed, Director-General of the Security Council, inside the Security Bureau indicating all traces of the Proxy were eliminated from the scene of the crime. They will classify Re-l's statement regarding her encounter with the Proxy as a moment of "temporary insanity as a result of the stalker attack." They've done what is required. "The secret of the Proxy takes priority above all else." The AutoReiv calls it a "psychological war." He understands Re-l is the Regent's granddaughter, but mustn't interfere. The search continues for the Proxy.

Re-l meets with her physician, Daedalus Yumeno, head of the Proxy Research team. She realizes he, too, does not believe her and suspects the Security Bureau has indeed gotten to him as well. She is unaware he is very much apart of the Proxy project. He wishes to run a detailed brain scan. While Daedalus and his two AutoReivs exit the room, Re-l accesses the computer database on the console. She notes there is a specimen analysis on a Proxy in the database. This clearly becomes a red flag to Re-l concerning her doctor's role.

In the car, Re-l requests Iggy connect her to the Main Intelligence Bank and search on the word "Proxy." "CONNECTION TERMINATED." As much as I do like the Iggy character he is clearly compromised and indubitably a wild card in the Ergo Proxy series.

Iggy switches on/off his remote access like a manic depressive off medicine has personality swings. He is at once her partner, confidante, database and connection to those around her, trusted or untrusted. He is going to play a part in this series of some significance or at least he should.

The visual appeal and scope of the series is impressive as noted in the previous sequence. It is visually stunning, vivid and vibrant in widescreen.

Elsewhere, Vincent performs a retina scan to retrieve his professional equipment. Unaware, he is being monitored by a Proxy from the shadows. The creature hangs upside down in a darkened corridor. It is CREEEPY!

Re-l stands before her grandfather, Donov- Romdo's Regent, apologizing that she has not responded to his calls. Her grandfather appears aged and connected to some life-sustaining equipment. Re-l doesn't mince words. She gets right to the heart of it in an interesting sequence that speaks to the level of complexity surrounding the government structure and protocols within Romdo through the overseeing Council.

Re-l speaks directly to the surrounding stone statues. There are four. They are the Regent's Council of Entourages and his four proxies [substitutes or stand-ins] in his weakened condition. The four voices are Berkeley, Derrida, Husserl and Lacan. Collectively, they are referred to as the Council, the Collective or the Administrative Bureau.

Raul Creed see to his AutoReiv's dismissal from his office so that he may examine computer evidence of "two Proxies." He is legitimately stunned. "I don't believe it."

Now at her new place, it's good to see Re-l suspicious of Iggy's actions. Her disappointment is genuine in that Iggy is clearly monitored and controlled to an extent. She feels she is even being "guided" as the Regent sees fit.

Re-l gives Iggy the slip. "Fellow Citizens: Do your part and make waste." At a shopping mall, Creed's wife is with her AutoReiv child and her newly adopted human child. Raul Creed arrives with his AutoReiv. Raul notes gunfire as Vincent runs from an attacking Proxy. The Proxy ravages everything in its path in this stunning sequence.

Oddly, Creed cooly instructs his AutoReiv to have all "armed" AutoReivs deployed and sections of the mall sealed off while his wife and child are quickly struck down and murdered. Only his AutoReiv child, Pino, lives. The sequence definitely tips its cap to an action sequence in The Untouchables [1987] in its construction and execution complete with baby stroller in peril.

Later, she waits at home for her father to arrive, but is visited by two AutoReiv Control Division employees. During the chaos at the mall, Vincent's flight from the Proxy is a relatively thrilling moment in Ergo Proxy's second installment.

The mall is left eviscerated with the slaughtered remains of Romdo's citizens. Forty-two people are killed. Creed is informed the "specimen" broke through the partition and is "at large."

As the episode closes, Re-l investigates her former home for evidence from her encounter with the Proxies away from the watchful eye of her partner Iggy and thus the Regent or Security Bureau.

Now, never discount information that seems trivial in a solid production. Ergo Proxy may be one such anime. The end of this fine second outing offers some additional new information. In Episode 1, Awakening, during her investigation, Re-l informs Vincent he should dispose of his necklace calling it nothing more than "things that smell of Mosk." Mosk is another domed city. Well, it turns out that necklace has a little more significance as Re-l determines here in another terrific ending sequence.

"It was him." Is Vincent a subject of transformation? Why? What about Mosk? What of this relentless Proxy? What the hell is going on in Ergo Proxy's domed city of Romdo!? Where do the characters stand? It's all very ambiguous and the mystery deepens ending with a confession of a sort.

Confession (Confession Of A Fellow Citizen): B
Writer: Yusuke Asayama/ Dai Sato


wytchcroft said...

nice article - brilliant show.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks for saying... I agree. I need to get back to it. It's a keeper.