Ergo Proxy

Tagged: TV

Japanese animated tv series (2006). Manglobe. Executive producers: Satoshi Fujii, Hiroyuki Kitaura, Takashi Kōchiyama and Akio Matsuda. Director: Shūkō Murase. Chief writer: Dai Satō. Voice cast includes Hôchû Ôtsuka, Rie Saitō, Akiko Yajima, Kōji Yusa. 23 25-minute episodes. Colour.

In the year 7207, Earth – blighted by a Disaster caused by late twenty-first century Climate Change – is home to domed Cities inhabited by an artificial humanity. They were created by Proxies, who are Supermen and superwomen shaped through Genetic Engineering by the human race (called "the Creators" by the Proxies), to restore the Earth while humanity took refuge off-planet. But ontological crises (see Metaphysics) – are they gods? do their creations disappoint because they reflect their flaws? – drove some Proxies mad and led others to desert their cities. Resenting the Creators, Proxy One (Ôtsuka) built a new Proxy, called Ergo, to punish them on their return; however Ergo, disillusioned, persuaded his lover, Monad Proxy, to help him become a human called Vincent Law (Yusa). Following the bombing of his city Vincent suffers Amnesia, becoming a refugee.

To Re-l Mayer (Saitō) of the Citizen Intelligence Bureau, the city of Romdeau is a "boring paradise", but that changes when the Cogito virus begins to infect AutoReivs (the Androids who serve the inhabitants), triggering AI self-awareness and inspiring some to kill. Re-l is told to investigate the murders (see Crime and Punishment); while doing so, she comes across an immigrant – Vincent – who appears to be linked to the attacks. He is forced to flee Romdeau, accompanied by the infected AutoReiv known as Pino (Yajima), a surrogate daughter for parents who had not been allocated a child from the city's artificial womb; later they are joined by Re-l. They travel the world, pursued by Proxy One who attempts to reawaken Ergo, and eventually return to Romdeau, witnessing its destruction. Ergo and Proxy One now fight; Ergo wins; he and Vince assimilate into one consciousness, subsequently meeting up again with Pino and Re-L (who, it appears, is a clone of Monad): they depart the ruins as the Creators' Spaceships appear, leaving it open how Ergo/Vincent will respond.

The very complex plot – the above omits much – is influenced by Gnosticism and mixes in numerous philosophical ideas, along with classical and popular allusions. For example, the story of Daedalus and Icarus is re-enacted; as hinted by her name, Pino(cchio) becomes a real girl [for Real Boy see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]; references to sf are also common, with one episode titled "RE-L124C41+" in echo of Hugo Gernsback's novel Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (April 1911-March 1912 Modern Electrics; exp as fixup 1925; rev 1950).

Ergo Proxy's animation is solid and stylish, though the desire to convey a noir sensibility often means recourse to black, black and more black. Despite the generally sombre tone, there are some lighter touches such as a Television quiz show (which reveals much backstory) and the Smileland theme park (that twists expectations by being fairly benevolent), while Pino is always charming. Though its ambition sometimes wanders into ambiguity, this is a successful and effective slice of SF Anime. [SP]

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