Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ergo Proxy: Ep5: Tasogare & Ep6: Domecoming

It's unfortunate I've made a slow go of it regarding coverage of Ergo Proxy. It deserves better. But who am I kidding? I'm a slow go at just about everything here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic lately. Though I feel those creative energies stir.

Ergo Proxy is indeed an intriguing series by director Shukou Murase. Murase is the genius behind the equally impressive Witch Hunter Robin and character designs on Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within). Writer Dai Sato of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Eden Of The East, Freedom Project and Cowboy Bebop fame and producer Manglobe round out the team.

Anime is a fascinating medium for me. I find the animation completely alluring and entrancing. Does it fail to deliver sometimes? Yes. But when Anime and its creators get an idea and story right and deliver the character and mechanical designs through the best of the best illustrators Anime can and does truly dazzle. It does for me. Ergo Proxy continues to do just that as evidence in Ergo Proxy, Episode 5, Tasogare (Recall) and Episode 6, Domecoming (Return Home).

Cowboy Bebop was beautifully animated, but I found the journey of its characters to be a little less appealing. In fact, its recent arrival on Blu-Ray has yet to prompt a purchase for me. I can tell you I have come very close to hitting the ADD TO MY CART button. Nevertheless some articulate visitors here have suggested I give that series another shot and maybe this space cowboy will do just that sometime soon.

In the meantime Ergo Proxy has been more my cup of tea despite its imperfections. And it saddens me that it has probably never achieved the kind of notoriety or publicity that many of the classically memorable Anime have.

Much of that can be attributed to the creative freedom allotted to Murase and Sato. Murase laughed expressing in Newtype USA, "There was almost too much freedom." He continued, "A show slated to be on a commercial network carries restrictions according to the time shot. Sponsors often have requests intended to help propel the work to hit status; and merchandising entails another set of requirements altogether. By comparison, all Ergo Proxy had to deal with was a DVD release and a TV broadcast over a pay satellite channel." And believe me that creative expression shows. In fact, collectibles are nowhere to be found. Believe me I know. I've checked. I've tried. And perhaps that laissez-faire approach worked to the creators advantage to create something truly original within the medium.

Thus its lack of commercial appeal will likely doom the series from ever receiving a Blu-Ray transfer and that's unfortunate. It deserves to endure with a new audience. Last Exile (2003) and OVA Yukikaze (2002-2005) are two more titles, by Gonzo, that I would love to see arrive stateside on Blu-RayYukikaze did in fact receive a Blu-Ray transfer in Japan and it was a production that really impressed me. Each installment of that series took ages to make it to release, but that's a story for my Yukikaze review. Last Exile was another ambitious effort in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the company. As a result the Range Murata-infused production received some attention and even a sequel later dubbed Last Exile: The Silver Wing (2011-2012). Again, analysis for another day.

So, yes, I do have a seemingly enduring fascination and love affair with Anime and yet so many adults never give it a second thought. They don't know what they are missing. There are some titles out there that rank among the best television series experiences one could enjoy. You know what they are or at the very least you have your own suggestions if you are visiting here. When Anime gets it right it can be a breathtaking art form. When it's not, it can be an imperfect and strange thing. Robert from Robert's Anime Corner had the best take in one of his expertly written weekly newsletters. "I've heard my fair share of grumbling over the years about uninspired plots and unfinished endings, and I just want to remind everyone that we are Anime fans, and as such, the imperfect is our paradise...." And that's as succinctly put and well said as it gets.

Ergo Proxy, for me, moves the needle closer to the more positive spectrum of quality Anime. These things are wholly subjective of course. Ergo Proxy is complex and dense as Anime goes and can even get a bit confusing or seemingly impenetrable for some tastes, but the series is all the more rewarding for it.

Re-l Mayer ventures out of Romdo to reacquire Vincent Law in Tasogare. Re-l is something of a cool assassin and demonstrates a cold disregard for the residents of a commune outside of Romdo. They will be sterilized - the victims of Romdo. Her mission is to essentially rescue Vincent from certain death. Vincent is concerned for the other outliers and would prefer to return with all of them to Romdo. Re-l matter-of-factly informs Vincent he will "forget about this whole experience - the people, the commune, everything." Re-l is hardly a sympathetic lead to this point, but she is an intriguing protagonist. Tasogare offers yet another dark and disturbing look at the world of Ergo Proxy and how the characters have been shaped by its harshly segregated realities.

Re-l is adorned in a suit that would make the designers behind the space suits of Star Trek: The Original Series, The Naked Time proud. The suit operates via an electrical system and when the commune is attacked upon their exit by drones the suit is shorted out. Re-l makes the decision to extricate herself from the suit despite the propaganda of Romdo that she will not survive if exposed to the atmosphere external to Romdo. The command decision is made.

Additionally a Proxy is spotted in the melee for a brief moment and more questions than answers continue to populate the strange but beautifully crafted world of Ergo Proxy. To look at the proof in the pudding of Tasogare we turn things over to our key protagonist Re-l. She asks the questions pertaining to immigrant Vincent Law we do. "What's going on?" "Why was there a Proxy here?" "Why does the Proxy only appear when you're somewhere nearby?" "Who the hell are you?" And in the dark we remain yet we stumble curiously through. And like any good series intriguing questions tend to draw us in. Eventually those answers must come. They must also satisfy the mind or Ergo Proxy will fail as the ABC TV Series Lost did for some. That series thrilled and dazzled with questions and mysteries too.

Episode 6, Domecoming delivers more of the darkly twisty world of Ergo Proxy while continuing to keep us mostly in the dark and off balance regarding many of the players. Subtitled Return Home, Domecoming sees Re-l return to Romdo and the folks of the commune perform a bit of a deception in delivering Re-l back there which I fairly well-executed.

As for Vincent Law, he continues to lend mystery to this world and his significance continues to leave us with some degree of suspense.

The folks of the commune also reinvigorate an old space glider of sorts dubbed The Rabbit previously submerged in the waters outside the dome. But where is Vincent going and why is he such a high value target? What is it they hope to achieve and why don't the deadly drones/patrol craft of Romdo pursue them into the unknown across the bay? And what lies across the bay exactly? Hell if I know, but Ergo Proxy continues to keep my attention even if its goth, film noir crime thriller seems to pursue a swell of questions more than answers. I certainly hope Ergo Proxy delivers in the end, but again turning back to the wise words of Robert from Anime Corner Store there is indeed a bit of imperfect paradise to it all as we continue to enjoy the journey here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. Part of appreciating Anime is kind of just rolling with it and embracing the weird world of otherness that is crafted. Ergo Proxy, with its graphic novel-like quality, may yet be the kind of story with its sheer artistry where one benefits from a second viewing.

Tasogare (Recall): B.
Domecoming (Return Home): B-.

They love the eyeballs over at Ergo Proxy.

Quinn appeared to be an interesting character but is quickly killed off here in Ep6.


El Vox said...

Ergo Proxy certainly has cool looking art, though like a lot of anime the plotting can moves too glacially slow for me at times, and you already mentioned that sometimes it's a bit ambiguous. That said though I'm always open to give it a shot, though I'm pretty particular. I did finally get into Neon Genesis, though it was a slow-go for me. I've heard Ergo Proxy was pretty good, but haven't seen any of it yet.

SFF said...

Ha. I'm not sure Ergo Proxy would be up your alley. It's certainly dark enough with those sci-fi elements, but if you thought Evangelion was slow, hmmm I'm not so sure.

Evangelion was a thrill a minute for me. Thanks El Vox.