Ergo Proxy is a 23 episode anime series where the viewer will go on a mysterious journey that takes place in a futuristic city called Romdeau that is modeled to protect its citizens from a strange ecological disaster thousands of years prior. There is peace among both humans and androids that are called AutoReivs. However, order is ruined when a series of murders by robots and AutoReivs takes place.
Some are infected with a specific virus that causes them to become self-aware and threaten the utopia’s social balance. The government secretly conducts experiments on a new subspecies of humanoid life called a “Proxy,” which appears as an almighty god-like immortal entity that holds the key to humanity’s survival.
The character Re-l Mayer is tasked to do some detective work with her AutoReiv partner, Iggy. She discovers powerful creatures and that a proxy is indeed involved. The other central character we later meet, Vincent Law, is an immigrant and somehow related to what she’s witnessed. He lives in a commune away from the utopia. During a massacre of the commune, Vincent leaves the area for Mosk, where he was born, in order to find some answers and insights. He joins Re-l later to try to discover the truth behind the Proxies and the domes. They soon discover that domes are all created by Proxies as well as the people inhabiting them who are created in special incubators.
In the city of Romdeau, the government has several entities: the Intelligence Bureau, the Health & Welfare Bureau, and the Security Bureau and are all controlled by an Administrator who goes by the name of “Regent.”
It is much more of a psychological exploration than a true-crime show.
Humans and Androids
The majority of AutoReiv types are either “companion” or “entourage” types based on their function. Some others range from combat to leisure. Their construction and technology varies but is a high degree of cybernetic complexity as they sometimes bleed upon being shot. On the other hand, the humans of Romdeau are artificially grown in wombs but still carry their ancestral DNA and biology. It is introduced to the viewer that these humans living in the domes have no ability to reproduce naturally. In this way, every person that is “grown” is done so for a specific purpose and function and ensures their place in society.
Our protagonist initially comes off as detached, cold and almost apathetic, but the thing is every child in Rondeau goes through a strict timeline of training and emotional control. But in meeting with the proxy it heavily shakes her up and affects her more than she initially realizes. She narrates most of the episodes through various monologues that give the viewer insight into her psychological evolution and the varying degrees of relationships with characters.
Initially we only see her showing affection towards her grandfather, her group and her friend Daedalus; however, over the course of the show we see her hard exterior subside as she journeys to Mosk and is faced with relying on others, learning to coexist with empathy and compassion. Much like Vincent, her progress while traversing among a renewed Earth, is considerable as she becomes more practical and finds new courage to confront the ghosts and unravel all of the mysteries.
From the very beginning Vincent is portrayed with a great deal of humility. We learn this comes from his desire to become a citizen. Behind his gentle character he has much more depth and determination. However, he wavers through an immense amount of personal doubt and uncertainty as he struggles to come to terms with his past and memories.
However, this tension is offered resolve as the series progresses. He is not one for violence and is often seen escaping the presence of violent situations. This is not to say he has no capability of violence for he shows reactions of despair or when loved ones need protecting. Such as in the initial transformation he undergoes after he is cornered by Monad. Again when he leaves Romdeau in a state of fear and abandonment, we see him attack a patrol drone because he thought it would attack Pino.
Sometimes we seem entirely with his eyes closed and this is a sort of symbolism to how he yearns to close off the reality he abandoned when he forgot his memories, he wishes to pretend that he is a normal human, but his inevitable truth is that he is a proxy. He doesn’t forget who he is, but finds himself lying to himself. There is an interesting pattern though when his eyes do appear open it is a key point of the plot.
There is a great deal of symbolism in Monad’s role in the show. It can be compared to that of Icarus in Greek Mythology. The progeny of Daedalus, Monad decidedly uses her wings to ascend towards the sky. Daedalus is on the ground and anxiously watches as he pleads her to not fly so high. Just like that she disintegrates, flying through clouds and unable to withstand the heat of the sun’s rays.
Ergo Proxy is the other side of Vincent Law, his proxy form. He refers to Vincent as his shadow. He has a great deal of denial about being a flawed creator of flawed beings, thus conceals his memories as amnesia. He works hard to become a fellow citizen with other refugee survivors. He is the proxy of the former Romdeau, the utopian civilization where the anime takes place. The proxy ergo is esteemed with great regard as their God and absolutely pivotal for their continued survival. In the end Ergo Proxy and Vicnent merge as one, and the ending is really up to the interpretation of the viewer as we question how the space humans will react when they discover their Proxy is no longer Ergo Proxy and has altered.
Plot Development: Strengths & Weaknesses
This is a poignant series with its main strength being characterization. The cast is pretty small for the overall length of the series, which allows each individual to have their own character arc which is uniformly effective and methodical. Despite some rather general annoyances, each character’s personality proves to be sympathetic overall comparatively to other dynamics in animé.
The overall plot development is utterly slow and it wavers for 23 episodes. It is definitely an acquired taste, it isn’t a thrilling and quick plotting show, but there are still appealing factors of course. It is also interesting to note that this series had different writers for various episodes, which adds a certain dynamic and stylized flow. There is a certain enjoyment in that anticipation in not knowing what to expect, and it would be assumed this could cause a great level of disorientation, but there is an overall cohesion that isn’t lost through this methodology.
The show lacks a linear narrative and at times seems to take itself too seriously. The tone also fluctuates tremendously from plot-driven mystery to a collection of stories can seem all over the place, but it is effective here. The vignettes they employ seem to come together in an interesting way.
Animation & Style Elements
Ergo Proxy’s animation is influenced by philosophy and incorporates a combination of 2D digital cell animation, 3D computer modeling, and digital special effects. Visually Ergo Proxy is captivating and the character design is interesting with stunning landscapes.
Character personality really comes through in their appearances without a typical animé cliché. Re-L’s elite and naive rebellion and princess demeanor is depicted with excessive makeup and stylized hair with simple clothing. The AutoReivs design also has an impressive design with uncanny human-like representations. However, a concerning flaw is that these great designs are at times quite inconsistent, but this is gradually resolved as the show progresses.
Additionally, the setting is less than inspired with not very strong detailing. Rondeau is rather generic in comparison to other animé environments. This could be a testament to flat use of lighting that comes across as dull rather than atmospheric.
The mechanical design, background art, and character designs are all top notches. On the topic of character designs, the show brilliantly alters the design of the characters to reflect the change in the characters. Vincent Law especially is drawn with his eyes closed and a more rounded face, but he is drawn with sharper edges and a more handsome look as he changes. It is an attention to detail that shows the care put into the storytelling by the staff.
The musical score/composition is great and adds a great deal to the overall ambiance. The ending theme stands out and got many mentions as it is the song ‘Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead! A perfect fit and creates such an aligned compositional feel overall.
As this show came out in 2006, there is a potential for many new fans to watch and get engrossed and captivated by the turns this show takes! Ergo Proxy is easily one of the premier existential sci-fi animes up there with Ghost in the Shell. It is definitely worth a watch! A crazy psychological trip into a sci-fi age of darkness in a dream-like journey that feels practically nostalgic. Anime fans should watch it and be aware of the impressive visual direction and characterization!