Ergo Proxy: What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Ergo Proxy (2006)
Length: 23 episodes
OP: “kiri” by Monoral
ED: “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead

Dvd Cover

I’ve been meaning to watch this show ever since I saw an ad for it that ran whenever I’d put in the DVDs for Elfen Lied (so probably about 10 years at this point). Initially attracted by the goth-looking main character and the title that sounded like someone had read too many wiki articles about philosophy, I was not disappointed by the focus on those exact aspects throughout the show.

Themes and tone are frequently established through such expository dialogue

Overview

A cyberpunk journey of self-discovery, the plot focuses on Re-l (pronounced Real, which is relevant to the philosophical ground it travels), a government worker in a domed city where excess is lauded and conformity is the law. Initially, there are AI present who serve the needs of the “Citizens”, but they begin to revolt after the “cogito” virus gives them freedom of self, which coincides with the escape of a mysterious monster.

It’s hard to discuss the plot elements without spoilers, because a fair part of enjoying the show is the way the mysteries are unraveled. Suffice it to say that they don’t keep it locked strictly to common cyberpunk locales and visuals, which makes the world feel fairly complete to me. The narrative is a little tricky to follow sometimes because episodes will cut from one unknown place to another with little to no explanation, but that explanation is also not wholly necessary, so I can’t fault it too hard for that. A number of the episodes in the middle are somewhat experimental, which gives it a bit of an odd feel, but I like the unique presentation.

Presentation

Visually, the characters are nicely designed, and most of the robots and CG vehicles are passable, but the scenery really stands out. For a show that takes place in a dystopian future, there’s a lot of really well-drawn landscapes, as well as the customary cyberpunk megalopoli. The animation lacks occasionally, during some action scenes and on other rare occasions,
but it never took me out of it in any way.
View of the aurora, one of many impressive scenic elements
The atmosphere really impressed me most of the time, because for the most part, it’s fairly oppressive. The tone of the story and most of the characters remains mostly serious, and the moments of levity that are occasionally offered up feel natural and pleasant, often a relief even. I enjoy the music, especially early on. There’s a lot of religious imagery and elements, and the ominous chanting really backs that up (plus I’m a huge sucker for ominous chanting), and the opening sets the tone pretty well. The end theme is Paranoid Android by Radiohead, which fits with the sonic tone as well as the obvious “android” relation.

Writing

While the writing of the narrative can be less than straightforward at times, the writing of the characters is solid throughout. Their motives and feelings are thoroughly explored and explained through occasional introspective monologues, and their growth is displayed nicely in their interactions with one another. This is important because the themes covered in the show are fairly “human”, often dealing with the nature of self, understanding one’s place in the world, and doing what is right versus what you want.

Issues of Self

I would definitely say the characters are the strong point, with the visuals and music supporting them well as they navigate a plot that pays off well in the end, even if the last couple
episodes feel like a rush to tie up the loose ends. I wouldn’t say I felt fully satisfied with some of the wrap-up, but it was a complete story in the least.

One of my favorite elements of the show—something I enjoy in most media—is a healthy dose of opportunities for tangential learning, in the form of reference to many myths, stories, and philosophical works, often in the names of characters and places. Pino (ala Pinocchio, the doll who becomes a person), Daedalus (the great inventor of Greek lore), and the Centzon (meaning rabbit, referring to the 400 Rabbits of Aztec mythology), are only a handful of examples present, and I really enjoy the added depth some of the characters get from their connections to well-known stories, especially given that this takes place in the future of our world.

The Joker,representing the unknown

Conclusion

Overall, I’d say it’s worth a watch if you’re in the mood for a slow burn, interesting take on cyberpunk elements with a focus on philosophical themes.

Written by: Velerian Simpson

1 Comment Added

Join Discussion
  1. Halcyon April 7, 2018 | Reply

    The tangential learning, like you said, is one of the key parts to a full feeling and engaging anime! Your mentioning of that alone makes me want to watch this, since so many steampunk or cyberpunk stories that don’t tie back we’ll to history and lore just fall flat for me. Nice review!

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