Review of Ergo Proxy: Vol. 3 - Cytotropism
A bit late this one. Still hitting the live pages before its release next week, but nonetheless, I`ve been sitting on the check disc for a few weeks now simply to give myself a chance to re-watch the first two volumes before I sink my teeth into the latest set of episodes; as commented upon in a previous review, `Ergo Proxy` doesn`t run the sort of narrative that lends itself to bursts of episodes every month. So in order to truly appreciate it, a refresher was in order. Not that it would matter if the review arrived after the disc`s release, as the show, in the short space of two volumes, has cemented itself as a love it or love it lots anime, and anyone who`s invested their time and money in both volumes will no doubt be eager to lap volume three up.
Vincent Law, with cute-as-a-button AutoReiv Pino in tow, finds himself in the tower of a strange, reclusive man who claims to have rescued him from the wreckage of volume two`s climactic battle. The man appears to know much about Vincent`s forgotten past, but appears to have an agenda of his own. Meanwhile, R-el and her entourage Iggy are outside the overbearing walls of Romdo searching for Vincent and the Proxy, convinced the paths of the two are linked.
9. Angel`s Share
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.
"Just a couple of trailers" he says as he stifles a yawn.
I`m pickier than a five-year old`s index finger when it comes to anime; any old guff won`t do, especially if I`m handing over my hard-earned for it, but there are even review discs I`ll give a wide berth if they don`t seem like they`re right up my alley. `Ergo Proxy` caught my eye from the first trailer, and in the live, filled-out flesh from volume to volume, hasn`t disappointed yet. This third volume is more solid continuation of a rather complex narrative, more shadowy than overly-convoluted, but as I expected would happen sooner or later, it hits a (very minor) wall in volume 3, one that doesn`t ruin the enjoyment of the show in any way, but as everything has its flaws, no matter how small, `Ergo Proxy` has finally had to reveal its own.
Its mission statement of holding its plot cards close to its chest has been rather endearing up to now, but rather than drip-feed exposition as in the previous volumes, two of these four episodes take an unnecessarily Lynchian approach to storytelling, particularly episode 11`s dream-like story where it gets a little too caught up in the riddle-like dialogue and ambience of ambiguity, choking the progression of the plot. While this approach worked well in shows like `Paranoia Agent`, `Ergo Proxy` has always seemed like a more straight-talking affair and it comes as a surprise to see the writing reduced to what, on reflection, seems like the modern narrative`s equivalent of a wrestling resthold.
So, with that out of the way, we can get back to talking about just how captivating the show is, wary of my self-imposed promise to keep these reviews lean to avoid spoilerage. Its ominous atmosphere and labyrinthine layering of a solid -- if frequently clouded in enigma -- story really suck you in, and along with the dinginess of its `Blade Runner`-meets-`The Road Warrior` world, particularly the dome-less wastelands, makes `Ergo Proxy` feel like a real rarity for TV-based anime. The aura even frequently reminds of `Blood: The Last Vampire`, as the show evokes that omnipresent air of bleakness and intrigue seen in the post-WWII Japan setting of I.G`s critical hit from 2000. The dichotomy of the narrative thread -- shifting between R-el and Vincent from episode to episode -- ensures that even when the story stalls a little through its slow pacing, a volume never stagnates and manages to keep itself feeling fresh overall. That`s not to say the flow of the episodes doesn`t suffer from this approach, particularly if you find one protagonist`s side of the coin a little more interesting, but events in this volume point to a more cohesive approach to the storytelling in future. So volume three then - another great instalment of an excellent anime, and while these episodes are probably the `least best` of the run so far, `Ergo Proxy` is still nothing but essential viewing.