Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ergo Proxy

Pure intention juxtaposed will set two lovers' souls in motion,
Disintegrating as it goes,
Testing our communication.

Tool - Schism

Twenty-three freakin' episodes, almost a dozen hours, and the moment when it all clicks, the moment when I finally knew - not suspected or expected or assumed - what the series was about, the core idea and juxtaposition behind the plot, was the very last couple of sentences, the backdrop for the final scene.

I'm not much of an anime fan. Sturgeon's Law applies as in every other medium: ninety percent of everything is crap, and most of the rest is partially craptacular, a chore you sit through for the good parts if you're committed enough to grit your teeth. Ergo Proxy, if I'm to judge from my limited experience with the medium, makes rather few concessions to the mass market. It's not nearly as experimental as Lain (pun intended) yet also eschews many of the common heroic tropes of such series - tropes much more recognizable in Wolf's Rain or Cowboy Bebop, for example.

Some of Ergo Proxy's flaws do stem from concessions to form - slightly more fights than necessary, a few scenes stretched to fit a preconception of drama, comic relief a bit too jarringly wedged in between slices of plot - while others stem from the attempt to move away from these norms. As the show dances between psychological exploration and unraveling the setting's nature through vague hints and revelations, it hinges on its audience's expectations. This is a niche product, a series for those who readily accept inhuman mental states and apocalyptic landscapes. Even so, some hints were too vague while others bulldozed too abruptly over the pace of storytelling (the game-show episode) and other gimmicks were largely meaningless (the whole theme-park episode should have been a five-minute footnote.) Many scenes (fights especially, natch) were overplayed or overextended for purely visual purposes, but it's hard to fault the creators for that. "Proxy prances through gothic locales" may not sound like much but it's a very satisfying use of the animator's art.

Still. I suppose the advantage here is that this series is just as easy to approach for anime fans and non-such. Watch the dust which isn't dust. Watch the skies, watch the bare rock. Trace the stark, twisting architecture. Revel in decay and abortion of meaning, in failed social experiments and the apocalyptic nihilism of mad gods reeling from fate's grip. Don't come at it like a linear narrative or like a mystery novel. Ergo Proxy both expands outwards into its setting and regresses into its history. Its totality is best absorbed as a Lovecraftian unfolding of terrible realization, something like Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family.

I've done the math, enough to know the dangers of a second-guessing

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