Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ergo Proxy: So Empty...or...Why Pino Kicks Ass!

Update (10 May, 2006): Alright, finally got the full range of images in here...

We're up to episode 9 now in Ergo Proxy, and I'm sorry to say that I'm very disappointed (as are others, check out: anime otaku for his take on this). The first episode showed so much promise, with its darkly stylistic vision of the future and some of the most beautiful animation I have ever seen. Things picked up over the course of the next two episodes, as the show threw new twists at the viewer - from the appearance of Vincent's charm in Real's home, to Vincent's panicked escape from the Romdeau Proxy. And it all came to a very satisfying cliffhanger in episode 4, as Vincent fell from Romdeau and into an even more chaotic world.

Here we are, five episodes later, and I can't get over how much I don't care about the characters. The pacing and character development have left me utterly disconnected from the main cast. In fact, what surprises me most about this is that the only character I do like so far is one of the machines: Pino.

So let's talk Pino. What's not to like? She wears a rabbit suit, genuinely acts like a five-year-old kid, and is simply the cutest little robot ever. I'm not going as far as saying that I want her for a daughter, but she is simply adorable. And because we all know that looks aren't everything, she has personality to boot. While I felt absolutely nothing approaching sadness or loss when Queen died, I did appreciate the adorability of Pino as she touched Queen's face. Pino is just so likeable it almost makes me wonder why the series isn't centered on her more than the other characters.

Whereas Pino is adorable and personable, we have the rest of the cast. What started out as a cast of complex, real human beings has now become a sadly one-dimensional group. To begin with, let's examine Vincent Law. Originally he began as a bumbling immigrant with an unknown past - and now he has somehow morphed into an angst-driven whiner. See episode 9 if you want confirmation on that. The "cool factor" of the beginning episodes, where every time he opened his eyes was another "oh-my-god-he-is-so-cool" moment, is gone, and what we're left with is Vincent the amazing magical proxy boy. A proxy boy with an obsession problem, as I'm about to point out. His love for Real, while genuine in the series, has almost no basis for its existence. We barely see the two interact, except when Real first meets him and basically calls him an idiot. She only follows him for the most rational and emotionless reasons, yet somehow we are supposed to believe that in the approximate hour that Vincent has spent interacting with her he has fallen completely and hopelessly in love with her. Unless Real and Vincent have a much longer history that he somehow understood when he first met her, there isn't nearly enough support for this pairing. It's definitely natural, but not after fifteen minutes.

Speaking of Real - she and Raul, the two primary members of the supporting cast thus far (well, Real will probably end up as a primary character, but so far she only serves as a figment of a love interest for Vincent), have displayed their own shortcomings over the past five episodes. Real was the snobby, yet stylish aristocrat, and Raul the ambitious, overly rational bureaucratic warrior. In both cases, neither character has been given enough screen time past the first four episodes for the viewers to fully appreciate the complexities of their characters.

Screen time is the main problem here - or rather the use of it. After what basically amounts to six episodes of Vincent, two of Real, and one of minor characters, we still have not seen many facets to any of the individuals except for Pino. All the members of the commune barely even seemed human, and as such I couldn't appreciate them, or their deaths. There is a definite emphasis in Ergo Proxy on story and style over character development, and it's hurting the feel of the show. The characters don't have any real driving motivations - there is a journey taking place, but unlike the one in Wolf's Rain where the characters are driven to it for their very purpose, in Ergo Proxy you can't help but feel (and Vincent says) that it's practically an afterthought. Okay, that might be a novel approach, but it fails in terms of holding attention and creating characters that viewers can connect with.

I began this season with so much anticipation - the first three or four episodes even confirmed my hopes...or so I thought. But in the end, Ergo Proxy has thus far failed to be the worthy successort to Samurai Champloo that I had hoped it would be, and instead has become just another mediocre science fiction romp.


At 8:48 AM, Blogger neonix said...

Four years later... heh. I hope your mind changed once you finished the series. While it is left open and far from perfect, it's really something amazing. While the background cast was almost never focused on, I was easily connected to the main characters, and continually disconnected. I think it was really something how the story made you like a character one moment, and later hate them for something they have done to another character, but then trick you back into liking them.

It's funny, Pino was the only character you could love all the way through. She really is awesome.

But the series as a whole leaves you with a lot of interpretation and things to think about. Really great in my honest opinion. But I'm not one of you big anime connoisseurs or literary critics; just an intellectual who knows a good story when he sees one.

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Michael said...

November 28, 2010.

Sorry to be so late replying to your comment (as you can tell, I only check back occassionally for comments).

My attitude towards Ergo Proxy, sadly, didn't change even after I completed the series. Part of the "problem" is that, yes, I was a an "anime connoisseur," who watched too much of it (see the last posts I wrote, before I discontinued the blog). When you watch as many anime shows as I did, you have different standards for the quality of the show you're watching. Based on everything I've seen in the Japanimation world, Ergo Proxy was too disjointed to meet those standards of quality.

The main issue that I have with Ergo Proxy is still how disjointed it feels from the first four episodes to the rest of the series. It sets itself up as one type of show: a Blade Runner-esque sci-fi mystery, and then turns and heads straight into what might be considered uncharted territory for a show of this kind (a concentration on philosophy as opposed to character or story). If I remember correctly, Dai Sato was the lead writer for the show, and I loved the work he did on Bebop and Wolf's Rain. However, his work here feels haphazard and unpolished - something that does not appear to be intentional, but comes off that way nonetheless (just as the animation quality drop-off between the first four episodes and the rest of the series is due to budget constraints, not some conscious effort on the part of the production team).

So, if I were to recommend a Japanimation show that centers on philosophy, I would (of course) recommend Evangelion. Or Now and Then, Here and There. Ergo Proxy has decent production values, and I would recommend the first four episodes to anyone, but beyond that it becomes a mess of philosophizing without character development, of a non-story (made even more so by the poor characters) that drags itself out over 23 episodes due to Japanese network requirements.

As far as "knowing a good story..." we all have our opinions on what a good story is. What I have written, both in my old post that you read and responded to, and in my reply here, are why I do not consider the whole of Ergo Proxy to be a good story. I can tell you disagree, but I hope these two pieces together will help you to understand why I made my judgment about the story in the way that I did.

At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When you watch as many anime shows as I did, you have different standards for the quality of the show you're watching"

The problem with this, is I have read some review, and ratings that were by people who have this same experience, they both rated it fairly high ( one was 9/10, the other 7/10)
Althought others had the same experience had rated it low.
I guess even experienced critiques will still have different opinions on shows.


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