Since the start of this week, I've been watching Ergo Proxy. I currently have 5 episodes left to finish the series, and I thought I'd review my thoughts on it before it finishes. I have a certain feeling that things will be left unexplained and unresolved in the end, and it might leave a bad taste on my otherwise good impression of the show thus far.
I like going into a series without knowing anything about it, and Ergo Proxy is no exception. On initial impression, I was attracted to the show's darkly futuristic, dystopian backdrop with slight cyberpunk themes. In fact, the show's first few episodes share themes similar to that of sci-fi classics like "Brave New World," and "Fahrenheit 451." We have a seemingly perfect society based on people living as model citizens. Humans live alongside autoreivs (androids) in a pure white, dome shaped city called Romdeau, and the scene paints a somewhat ideal utopian future. However, we immediately learn that not everything is as stable as it seems. There are autoreivs who have become infected with the Cogito virus, basically enabling them to become self-aware and leading some to murderous rampages. The government tries to keep this a secret from the general public, and they hire control personnel to destroy any rampant autoreivs they discover.
This could be a story in itself, but it just serves as a beginning to the real story at hand. The main male protagonist, Vincent Law, serves under the autoreiv control unit to deal with any autoreivs infected by the virus. He tries his best to follow the rules and be a model citizen, but he just doesn't seem to fit in with society. One day, he finds himself getting chased down by a "monster" called Proxy, which leads to many innocent people getting massacred in a shopping mall. After the fiasco, he's subsequently wanted and hunted down by the Security Bureau, forcing him to flee outside the domed city of Romdeau and into the vast wastelands beyond. Vincent wonders why these events are happening around him, and he learns that he himself has a deep dark secret that he can't seem to remember. This brings about in him a quest for truth and meaning, which propels him to journey back to his hometown of Mosque. Meanwhile, the uncertainty of his origin causes a lot of higher-ups to be interested in him as well.
Basically, that's the premise of this anime. It's a man's journey for truth and validation of existence. This very premise leads to a lot of deep philosophical musings by characters throughout the show, and it's done fairly well for the most part. It runs on the verge of being pompous and pretentious at times, but before it gets too self-absorbed in itself, it refocuses its shift back to the story at hand. I guess because of this very nature, it might get too convoluted at certain points. Hmm... in fact, because this anime takes on so many philosophical ideas at once, there is very little time to explore everything in depth. The philosophical roots of this series feel more like a tease rather than a full-fledged exploration of ideas, but I'm fine with that. Most of the questions posed by the anime are reflective and rhetorical rather than conclusive. If I wanted something more in-depth though, I'd just go pick up a philosophy book, but in relation to the story, I think it works out nicely.
Most of the characters are plagued with existential problems.. and they're always referring to their raison d'être, their reason for existence. Heck, "existence" is the very theme of this anime. It's funny that the only one who doesn't suffer from this is Pino, the autoreiv in the form of a young girl. She gets infected by the Cogito virus, and for the whole series she's happy just learning about the world around her. Meanwhile, the other characters are always faced with the question of why they're doing what they're doing, and they're always reminding themselves of that reason. I find Pino to be a strange character to add to the story, because for most of the plot, her only purpose is to serve as a beacon of innocent joy in an otherwise bleak setting. The other characters seem kind of empty at first, but as the story progress, they grow subtly in character. Even Raul, the head of the Security Bureau who seems cold, logical, and manipulative, becomes strangely human in his actions towards the end.
I can't help but feel this story would have been better off as a novel. It's a great anime though, but it comes up a little short in being a satisfying masterpiece. The story and its elements have a lot of depth behind it, and is pretty thorough in exploring itself. I think it's for this reason though that the anime can be very dry at times. It's not to the point of frustrating, and it's still an enjoyable series to watch if you're into dark sci-fi or stories with philosophical elements. Some people may be turned off because this show has too much depth, or maybe for the sense that it just seems like it does. The show can easily be boring is you don't care about this stuff. It's also a very serious show, so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't take things seriously or is just looking for a laugh.
I have a notion that the ending will be really convoluted and unsatisfying.. but of course, I have yet to see the conclusion to all this, so perhaps I should reserve my thoughts on this aspect until after I've finished watching.