Ergo Proxy: For a Lost Generation
It's been too long since someone tackled the "Blade Runner" theme, whether in live-action or anime. The closest things I can remember, with credible production values and a decent plot, are Armitage and Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, and both of those are about ten years old now. Yes, it has been a long time, and never before have the themes and environment been tackled in such an appealing manner. Ergo Proxy is beautiful - something not thrown out lightly - and everything about it serves to support this statement.
The first thing any viewer will notice is the amazing amount of detail put into the animation. This isn't your typical TV production. It much more closely resembles, and in many ways even surpasses, the quality of many movie productions within the past few years. The team renders the backgrounds with vivid detail, the characters all have distinct characteristics of movement (something particularly difficult to accomplish in anime without overdoing it), and the frame rates are noticeably above par. Anyone looking simply for eye candy will come away more than satisfied.
Even more than the visuals, Ergo Proxy delivers a stylistic, plot-driven yet character-based story. Dai Sato, the chief writer, has credits on Cowboy Bebop, Wolf's Rain, and Samurai Champloo, all predecessors in form to this work. In many ways Ergo Proxy is the culmination of the elements of writing Dai Sato practiced in the other three shows. Cowboy Bebop focused on character development, Wolf's Rain on plot, and Samurai Champloo on style, whereas Ergo Proxy combines the three. The characters are there (names taken from the Shinsen-Subs version) - Real, the female protagonist, is a gutsy detective, yet Sato effectively reveals the depth of her humanity in the very first episode, when she cries from terror. Vincent Law, the clumsy, almost blubbering immigrant reveals a hidden level of strength by the time the third episode's credits roll. Even the Autoraves (similar to Blade Runner's replicants) have a human dimension, as is expected from such a Blade Runner-esque setup.
Character designs are by Naoyuki Onda, who has such credits as, surprise, Wolf's Rain and Witch Hunter Robin (not surprising, considering how similar the character designs for Robin and Real are). Even more captivating than Real's goth-inspired eyes, though, are the designs for the "Proxy," the monster seen in the first episode and whose appearance drives the plot of the show. The human features are readily apparent, but it is their chained, tortured appearance that will capture the viewer's attention. And with music by Yoshihior IKE, the man behind many of the most popular new shows, you can be certain that the musical score does not lack for intensity and a feeling of something approachig mysticism.
There's not enough of Ergo Proxy out there yet for any definitive statements about its intent and meaning to be made. What is apparent is that this tale will take us once again into the question of what it means to be human, and why we should care. This message comes at a critical time too, as the Japanese continue to slip into a state of aimlessness. This generation does not know where to turn for their purpose - the Emperor has long been demystified, they still do not have the right as a nation to go to war (and should they? - many are asking this question), and the beliefs of Shinto and Buddhism have lost their substance. Perhaps Ergo Proxy will stress the need to return to the ancient Shamanistic beliefs that held sway in Japan before the influence of China. Maybe it will go with the typical anime copout and simply stress the need for "love and belief." Or maybe it will provide a new answer, one that speaks to the minds of a lost generation about the need for self-confidence and assertion, and above all: individuality, not to be confused with selfishness.
*Note: All images in this post can be found on the blog, Memento. Link: http://anime.miao.us/archives/2006/02/06/605/