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Preview Image for Ergo Proxy: Vol.1 - Awakening (UK)
Ergo Proxy: Vol.1 - Awakening (UK) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000096514
Added by: Matthew Smart
Added on: 16/8/2007 05:19
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    Review of Ergo Proxy: Vol.1 - Awakening

    9 / 10


    There`s something about modern TV anime that sees production houses tease us with the prospect of a traditional genre piece, but which in the end crumples in a ball of tonal bankruptcy. So many just seem to be unable to balance the required feel for a science fiction or horror work, getting caught up in a maelstrom of direction in an attempt to satiate the tastes of the varying audiences, and craft something that appeals to as wide a demographic as possible. As an example, `Requiem from the Darkness`, despite its mature horror theme, fluffed it as soon as its buffoon of a protagonist appeared, wasting its sex and violence, terribly twisted tale and generally yummy debauchery because anime, by its very nature, appears to require a vein of joviality or spiritedness - in the characters, in the art design, in the script. Many fans of all ages love a side of silly humour with their helping of seriousness, because to them, that`s what anime is, and that`s what attracts them. But one man`s meat is another man`s derivative nonsense.

    The tone of `Ergo Proxy`, however, is much more in line with its feature film big brothers of sci-fi anime; a serious construct with a mature plot. It`s this that makes it one of the most exciting new animations from the little Asian island that could and naysayers of the medium could do well to check it out.

    `Ergo Proxy` opens with a mysterious creature escaping from a secret research facility deep in the belly of Romdo, a would be paradise created for both man and machine (named AutoReivs) alike in the wake of an unnamed environmental disaster. Intelligence bureau officer and granddaughter of Romdo`s serving Regent, Re-l is investigating the case of a mystifying AutoReiv virus when she`s attacked by the creature, and saved by a, just as strange looking, individual. As those in positions of power within Romdo try to curtail the escaped creature`s rampage, R-el launches her own personal investigation into what attacked her, what saved her and how it relates to a shy young man named Vincent seeking citizenship, a young AutoReiv child on the run from decommissioning and the world which lies outside of the massive dome.


    1. Awakening
    2. Confession
    3. MazeCity
    4. Futu-Risk


    Even the most diligent scrutiniser will have a hard time picking up any major flaws here. A few of the common kinks that accompany animation transfers - it`s a little soft from its NTSC origins and there`s the odd minor artefact - will be apparent, but it`s yet another stellar transfer from MVM. The anamorphic 1.78:1 visuals are sexy and stylish, and the character and art design manages to keep a semi-realistic aspect, toning down the obvious signs of its Asian origins, yet still makes itself identifiable as being of Japanese origin through copious aesthetic zeal and stylisation throughout. It`s surprising the amount of detail that you can pick out in some scenes, while the contrast remains high throughout and the conceptual, moody and bleak colouring gives it an engrossing edge over shows that really don`t draw you into their distinguished world in the same way.


    A cracking selection of audio tracks. Clearly realising stereo is for wussies and luddites, there`s no Dolby Digital 2.0 at all on the disc, instead 3 flavours of 5.1 digital surround (all together now - wooooo!). The original Japanese track is present in Dolby Digital 5.1 form with English subtitles, while the accomplished English dub (nothing less than great scripting and voicing would do on a show like this, and thankfully we get it) comes in two welcome varieties - Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. As usual, DTS only sounds better (read: slightly louder) because we`ve had it drummed into us that DTS is the superior of the two compression formats. Those without DTS-compatible equipment will still find a thumping 5.1 in the double-D, one which while not particularly soundstage-mobile, does sound full, bassy and really does justice to both the electronica-tinged score and spot effects.

    Interestingly, the disc menus and end credits run with Radiohead`s `Paranoid Android` as if to truly cement the show`s dingy atmosphere, which even those who think modern Thom Yorke and co are a bunch of miserable, overrated whiners won`t be able to deny suits the show superbly.


    Surprisingly above average for an MVM or any other TV anime release:

    `Keywords of Ergo Proxy` - a series of primer commercials shown in Japan detailing information on characters and terms used in the show, which may prove useful for anyone who feels like the show requires too much cryptanalysis just to work out who works for who.

    `Behind The Scenes` - a criminally short trip around the Manglobe animation studio - barely 5-minutes long!

    `English Staff Interview` - does what it says on the tin, although it runs for 30-minutes and is an interesting insight into re-scripting and dubbing anime for western audiences.

    Then there`s the usual stuff; text-free credits, promo trailers, TV spots, art galleries and trailers for other MVM shows.


    Call it the exhausting day at work, or skipping the sushi at lunchtime, but while watching the first episode of this hot new sci-fi anime, it just went whooshing over this reviewer`s head. Not what was actually happening, per se - that part`s pretty obvious; pretty girl cop-type gets attacked by a nasty looking monster after investigating murder most foul in a sulky looking utopia-slash-dystopia. It`s that there`s so much information in those opening 25 minutes - character names and roles, agencies and relationships, esoteric technical jargon and a general sense of being assaulted by a grevious exposition dump from a great height - you can`t help but think the show doesn`t want to ease anyone into anything, racing ahead of its viewers flashily rubbing collective noses in its deep and involving mature credentials. A blatant, "If you can`t keep up and pay attention, leave the room" if ever there was one, sure to leave even the most ardent thinking-man`s anime fan a little puzzled.

    Thankfully, on re-watching the opening episode for a second time, it all suddenly made sense; if any show requires immediate and unflinching concentration, it`s `Ergo Proxy`, and a fresh set of eyes and ears made all the difference. Those who are used to watching anime that, even as interesting and involving as some of it can be, usually washes over you in a wave of relaxation will find themselves at odds with an entirely different beast here. Dialogue heavy, yet wasting nary a sentence, this dark, brooding cyberpunk conspiracy mystery is much heavier than most other comparable anime, certainly more so than even `Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex`, but it wouldn`t be a disservice to either to liken it to the original movie and its sequel, with their heavy metaphysical philosophising and hard sci-fi tone giving them a flavour not dissimilar to that which undulates from the magnificent `Ergo Proxy`. It`s not ground breaking, it`s not full of new ideas, instead it`s a return to honest-to-god science fiction the way they used to tell it. Asimov and Dick would be proud, if not for what`s being told, then for the way it`s being told.

    Re-l, our female protagonist and Amy Whasserface from Evanescence look-a-like is no Major Motoko, though. The Major had a sense of humour to go with that ex-military hard edge, but R-el is in the market of humour-free angst, her grim attitude echoed in her black bangs, dollops of eye shadow and undertaker sense of style - an emo fantasy gal, alright. But then playing straight fiddle never hurt Neo in `The Matrix` or Deckard in `Blade Runner`, two films with which `Ergo Proxy` looks likely to rub shoulders with, both in terms of style and as a thematic exercise. The story, an intrigue filled tale of malfeasance at the top, robotic viruses and false paradise is strung together with careful detail, yet naturally reluctant to play too many cards from the off. The characters are clearly still developing, but they`re well envisioned and some even piquant - particularly Re-l`s AutoReiv partner Iggy whose `entourage` programming dictates he acts like her camp best friend, there`s a visual polish in the way everything is presented and its bleakly atmospheric, yet compellingly dishevelled world and clandestine narrative is the perfect antidote to a diet of fruity, gimcrackery anime that looks and sounds good, but just doesn`t deliver on a level sufficient to give your 50 ounces of grey flubber a thorough seeing to.

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