Ergo Proxy is a Sci-Fi anime set in a technologically advanced time in the city of Romdo, sealed within a dome to protect against severe environmental disasters in the outside world. Robots called ‘AutoReivs’ have become an integral part of everyday life; they are used in government, as housekeepers, even as substitute children; but apparently in the past few years, an infection called the ‘cogito virus’ has been affecting AutoReivs, reportedly giving them free will and an overwhelming urge to leave the city, killing any humans in their way. Re-l Mayer, a female inspector for the Citizen Intelligence Bureau is asked to investigate a murder thought to be the work of such an AutoReiv, and this is where the story begins.
Upon investigation Re-l discovers that the murder could not have been committed by an AutoReiv, and diving head-first into the action she is suddenly attacked by a monster. It escapes soon after, however. Later at her home she suffers another attack, this time involving two of the monsters. After explaining her story, the young inspector finds herself pulled off the investigation and her claims brushed off as psychiatric trauma. Unnervingly she also finds that her AutoReiv’s memories and relevant CCTV footage have been tampered with, destroying the evidence. Nevertheless she continues her investigation, intent on uncovering the truth. She also discovers the name of the monsters – Proxy.
The most obvious thing that I loved about this DVD was the unique and intriguing storyline, which actually requires you to think for yourself; something unusual in a lot of anime. It is true that some viewers may be put off by Ergo Proxy’s confusing nature, but I found it a refreshing change to have to start piecing together the puzzle myself instead of being handed the information. Ergo Proxy is filled with mystery and suspense, and having to work things out for yourself really draws you into the story. The anime also keeps you guessing; just when I believed I was finally getting a grasp on the mystery, Re-l discovered something new which completely threw me again.
It has been said many times that Ergo Proxy shares common elements and themes with stories such as Witch Hunter Robin, the much acclaimed Ghost in the Shell, and even George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Particularly the dark, gloomy portrayal of the city and its total government control are very reminiscent of the totalitarian dystopia from Orwell’s classic. However, from what I have seen so far Ergo Proxy is more than unique enough to stand on its own.
The small touches in this anime should really be admired. For instance, near the start of Episode 1 Re-l makes reference to ‘the Turing application’; this is named after Alan Turing, who is considered by many to be the father of Artificial Intelligence. Also the ‘cogito’ virus comes from the philosopher Descartes’ famous saying: ‘I think, therefore I am.’ The inclusion of tiny details like this make the world of Ergo Proxy seem more real. They also give us something familiar that we can recognise, in what is otherwise a very unfamiliar setting. Everything in Romdo is extremely futuristic, which makes the viewer feel both unfamiliar and captivated at the same time.
The action is superb. Sure, there is a fair amount of conversation and investigation, but these four episodes also contain their fair share of action; and it all blends together seamlessly and looks great. The elements of suspense and horror are used to good effect here, especially when it comes to the proxy - I won’t give anything away, but let’s just say ‘scary!’
The animation is very modern and realistic, which is a good thing in my book, but it is not realistic in the same way as in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. I do not know much about such things, but from what I have read; Ergo Proxy’s animation comprises a mixture of 2D digital cel animation, 3D computer modelling and special effects. The colours are mostly dark and gloomy but this suits the anime very well.
In my opinion, there are not many negative comments that can be made about Ergo Proxy. The first episode does start off slow and at first I thought it was going to be rather dull, but after the first few minutes I was immediately drawn into the story.
The plot is quite confusing at times as I said earlier, and this will put people off – but I like it, and it will no doubt attract a lot of fans regardless. However – I found that, excluding Re-l and Vincent, characters and their roles are not always made clear, and this is rather annoying.
Re-l’s gothic appearance and blue eye makeup lend her a distinct style, and the viewer is made to feel a connection with her because as the mystery unfolds, both the viewer and Re-l are in the dark, trying to piece together the puzzle. She is portrayed as a very strong character – beautiful but dangerous - and her weakness when she is attacked by the proxy contrasts greatly because of this. This also emphasises the proxy’s strength; it barely touches her but seems able to paralyse her by its presence alone.
At first Vincent Law, an immigrant whose job is to track down and dispose of infected AutoReivs under Re-l’s supervision, does not seem important to the story. However, he soon he finds himself being chased by a proxy and later the police, and then Re-l uncovers a possible connection between him and the proxy; so we can be sure he will play a large role in episodes to come.
There is also a man who works at the Bureau called Raul Creed, who seems to be behind the attempts to recover the proxy and to track down Vincent. We are not told much about him, which confused me, but I assume his position will become clear in later episodes.
Overall I found Volume 1 to be a great introduction to the series, and am eagerly anticipating watching the next instalment. Ergo Proxy has a unique and captivating storyline, superb animation and powerful action scenes. You should know by now whether this is going to be your thing – and if it is, I suggest you buy it now.
[I watched the DVD in Japanese 5.1 (with English subtitles). The subtitles are of the English dub, and are very good quality.]