In the domed city of Romdo, a digital infection—the Cogito virus—is spreading through the robots everyone trusts their lives and safety to. Re-L Mayer, the granddaughter of one of the city’s regents, goes to investigate ... but when she crosses paths with seemingly- meek robot repairman Vincent Law, her investigation, her life, and her entire sense of self are shattered.
What begins as a bleak dystopian noir thriller mutates not just once but several times over—through post-apocalyptic action, psychological-thriller territory, and finally a climactic orgy of destruction. The brilliant ideas, beautiful scenery, and knotty plot twists that get accumulated along the way are all but squandered by the show’s messy and borderline-incoherent ending … but the trip there is both an eyeful and a mindful.
- Complex and challenging story with tons of food for thought.
- Unpredictable, to say the least: you really can't say where they'll go next.
- Tilts a little too heavily into confusion for its own sake sometimes.
- Too many episodes where very little actually happens.
- Director: Shukou Murase
- Animation Studio: Manglobe
- Released By: Geneon
- Released Domestically By: FUNimation Entertainment
- Audio: English / Japanese w/English subtitles
- Age Rating: TV-MA (violence, blood, language, thematic material)
- List Price: $39.98 (DVD)
- Science Fiction
In the future, everything is under control ...
Ergo Proxy begins with a premise and a setting that should be familiar to most anyone who’s read science fiction: a hermetically-sealed and meticulously-managed environment where everything is perfect, and under perfect control. Here, it’s a massive domed city named Romdo, where the inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living courtesy of their robot companions and guardians, the “AutoReivs.”
The AutoReivs are personable and intelligent, and can even do a fine job of simulating human quirks—a feature which the manufacturers mercifully allowed a way to turn off when they get too mouthy. Then along comes a computer virus named “Cogito,” which infects AutoReivs and causes them to go berserk. So much for the safety switch, or for that matter the Three Laws. The infected machines escape the city via an access tunnel, never to be seen again, but not before causing untold havoc along the way. (Fixing an infected AutoReiv is simple: you shoot it until it stops moving.)
Among those on the trail of the Cogito virus is Re-L Mayer, the granddaughter of one of the city’s supreme regents. She’s smart, self-possessed, and swings a mean shotgun, but finds herself at a loss when a monstrous something-or-other breaks into her apartment and comes within inches of killing her. It’s not an infected AutoReiv; it’s something else called a “Proxy,” and there is a conspiracy of silence about it that reaches straight to the top.
... or so you think
Re-L’s frustration grows as her options shrink. Her AutoReiv companion, Iggy, shows signs of having been tampered with. Valuable pieces of evidence vanish. Then she encounters a hapless young man, an AutoReiv repairman named Vincent Law, who by all accounts is just another hard worker trying to secure his citizenship (he’s an immigrant from another city, sealed like this one). But he’s also a Proxy magnet: where he goes, they soon follow, and soon Re-L is following him to the very access vent where the infected AutoReivs have all been heading … and beyond that, to the outside world.
The outside world is nothing but death and desolation, or so Re-L has been told. She’s startled to discover human life of a sort does exist out there, despite the blasted landscape and the dim sun. Why was all this hidden from her? There, in the company of Iggy, Vincent, and an infected AutoReiv named Pino—a little-girl model who serves as emotional foil to all of them—she travels between various remaining pockets of civilization, unraveling a mystery that always seems to point right back at Vincent, and her to boot.
Frustrated? You should be
Some shows can be faulted for not having a grain of ambition, but Ergo Proxy has the exact opposite problem. It’s so ambitious, so full of ideas and so willing to be experimental and challenging, it sometimes forgets to settle down and tell us a story. There is a story here—it just comes out in so many fits and starts, with so many digressions and left turns, it’s easy to get lost.
I suspect that was the idea, since what’s most striking about Ergo Proxy is not the story itself (people living in a hermetically-sealed environment discovering their world isn’t what it seems), but how it’s told and to what end. The real story is inside each character’s increasingly disturbed mind—no coincidence that the closing-credits tune is Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”.
And on the whole, it works: Ergo Proxy generates such a consistently eerie, fascinating aura that you’re curious about what happens next, even if it seems like a narrative dead end. Only a show like this could get away with an entire episode where Vincent Law thinks he’s trapped inside Re-L Mayer’s body, and there are enough clues along the way to suggest it might well be the other way around. Or an episode where Pino finds herself in a bloodthirsty Disneyland that actually turns out to have relevance to the plot.