Ergo Proxy Episode 17: Never-Ending Battle (Terra Incognita)
Hey there, it's 7Mononoke, or just Mono. My new Wix blog seems to be going pretty well. On my old Wordpress blog, I was in the middle of a project writing about an anime called Ergo Proxy. I was posting detailed analyses of each episode, with the goal of covering all 23 episodes. However, I had to stop temporarily at episode 16 and make the transition over to Wix. So now, we're picking it right back up with episode 17 of this thought-provoking, sci-fi dystopian anime.
As usual for Ergo Proxy posts, my format is divided into sections: episode synopsis or summary, detailed discussion, and references to topics in real life or trivia. For your convenience, here's a list of the previous episode reviews. Let's get started.
Links to previous episode reviews
Note: Usually, I enjoy taking 4-10 screenshots and sharing them in my episode reviews. Unfortunately, to save on media storage space, I am only going to include 3 screenshots.
In Romdeau, we see a set of events that show a drastic change in Raul Creed, moving him from model citizen and Security Chief to violent terrorist. For a long time now, Raul has been dissatisfied with the Regent and the way he rules the city. Romdeau is going into ruin without a proxy to take care of it, and the Regent is doing nothing but keeping secrets and making excuses. Then Daedalus, who is working on his new Re-L project, shows Raul the womb room where technology is used to create and incubate humans artificially. The Security Chief had an instinctual reaction of disgust.
Seeing this truth was another thing that swayed Raul's mind into becoming unstable. He was already angry, stressed, and grieving to before this. Now, his condition is much worse. Raul has visual hallucinations of a smirking Vincent Law, the man who escaped him and took away Pino. It also seems like Raul is having intrusive thoughts of "enveloping this world in despair." At the same time, he started looking into Rapture, a sealed-away weapon with the capacity to bring down entire cities.
Meanwhile, Vincent and company are quite close to their destination of Mosk, where they hope to recover Vincent's memories and solve the mysteries of the proxies. However, Pino wanders away, and her companions must delay the journey to search for her. After entering a mysterious cave that had been sealed shut, Vincent and Re-L discover the bodies of strange humanoid creatures. Suddenly, they hear someone playing music, and they follow the sound to where Pino is playing on an ancient piano. With her is one of the strange creatures of the caves, but it seems to be a harmless child. Re-L wonders what the creatures are, and why they have human possessions like a piano.
In a central chamber of the caves, there are many of the frail, blind humanoid creatures. Re-L discovers there are toxic gases in the air, so Vincent takes her and Pino back outside. The gases were likely what caused the cave creatures to become so thin, sickly, and fragile. On the way out of the caves, Pino sees the child from earlier collapse. Re-L explains that the creatures have become adapted to life underground with the poisons in the air. They can no longer live in outside conditions. Those who try to leave the caves die. However, the child survives and is picked up by his mother and returned to safety. Re-L again wonders what the truth is when she sees images on the wall of cave dwellers worshipping a mysterious figures with enlarged wombs.
Back in the dome, Raul confronts the Regents and says that the people within are not citizens, but prisoners. He becomes more heated as four statues in the Collective continue shutting down his earnest questions. The last straw is when Raul sees another vision of Vincent, who tells him he is defective and powerless. After the unstable man storms out of the room, the Collective orders that he be stripped of his power and position.
Kristeva and the other autoreivs try to monitor Raul, but he vanishes. He heads straight for the weapons vault to secure the Rapture, thus becoming an enemy of the state. On the way, he shoots several autoreivs who were pursuing him. Through a stroke of dark genius, Raul set things up so that when his rights were officially revoked, it would trigger the deployment of the great weapon. The Rapture seems to be a kind of missile. Kristeva and the autoreivs fail to stop it from launching. Raul, at his residence, plays the piano as the missile launches.
1) The Truth About The Cave Creatures?
To be perfectly honest, I'm not exactly sure I understand what the answers are to the mystery of the cave dwellers. All I can do is provide my own interpretation. Re-L mentions the possibility that humans lived in the caves to wait for the outside environment to become livable again. That would explain why there are human artifacts, including the piano. If the humans did hole up there, they almost certainly had a Proxy with them. But what became of the humans and the Proxy, and how did the cave creatures arise?
One idea is that the humans all died from toxic gases. The proxy died too or erased its existence. We know that Proxies create the organisms that incubate humans and keep them alive during fetal development. I think one of those organisms became sentient and started its own species. If you look at the mother of the child, it resembles one of those organisms with enlarged womb areas. Another idea is that the humans who sealed themselves up devolved into the cave dwellers. Without a Proxy to help and rule them, they became weak, blind, and misshapen. They adapted to the toxic gases and became a new species. (For that to happen in just a millennia or two would be impossible, but the again, there was Proxy technology in the caves which may have speeded evolution.)
There is another point to be made about the cave dwellers. Their existence serves as a narrative device to mirror what is happening in Romdeau (at least in a metaphorical sense). Remember how Raul said the people of Romdeau were not citizens, but prisoners? He argued that the city and people are declining rapidly, but they cannot leave. They can rot slowly within the dome, or die quickly by exposure to the outside world. That's why Raul feels so powerless. The situation is basically the same for the cave dwellers in their underground world. They continue to devolve and eek out a miserable life in the caves, or they explore above ground and die quickly. This dilemma, in my opinion, fits perfectly into a story about post-apocalyptic dystopia.
2) Raul's Insanity
Personally, I like Raul and find him intriguing from a psychological perspective. So it was a bit difficult, but also expected, to see him decline into madness. In previous posts, I've talked a good deal about the awakening of Raul's emotions and the factors that contributed to his wrath. Examples include the traumatizing death of his wife, the failure to catch Vincent Law, and the nature of his important position in government. This is information we already know, but this episode also provided a new insight about Raul. He loves Pino.
Originally, Pino was a mindless autoreiv that belonged to Raul and his wife. Despite being devoid of a mind, Pino acted like a good daughter because of her programming. While the lady of the house disliked the childlike robot, it's clear that Raul enjoyed its presence. When Pino gained a consciousness and ran away, Raul probably thought he could capture her again, reset her, and continue playing out their roles of father and daughter. But then it turned out Pino fled Romdeau with Vincent, preferring him to her old family. This was devastating for Raul. Since he is unstable and desperate, it's possible he doesn't truly love Pino, but just wants something to cling to. Either way, it's sad. The part where Raul shouted at the hallucination of Vincent, telling him not to touch "it," was very telling. The "it" he referred to was his autoreiv.
There's one other aspect to Raul's insanity that needs to be addressed. Later on, we'll learn that he was being mentally manipulated by Proxy One, for the purpose of creating conflict and war among the humans. That's why he has intrusive thoughts of destruction and spreading despair. Of course, his own genuine despair and frustration contribute as well.
3) Daedalus' Identity
I failed to mention Daedalus much in the synopsis, since his role was minor in this episode. However, it's still worth mentioning what's going on with him. Daedalus isn't as mentally tough as Raul, so how is he managing to stay afloat emotionally? He is working on a project, which we later learn is the creation of Real, the human-proxy hybrid modeled after Re-L and Monad. Calling his creation "My Re-L," he uses it to cope with the loss of the actual Re-L. The project is now Daedalus' reason for living. As he says in this episode, "As long as I have her, I can continue to be me." In other words, his very sense of identity is hinged on his new creation.
-References to Language, Philosophy, Etc.-
Sometimes, Ergo Proxy has interesting references to history, literature, philosophy, or other studies. I use this an opportunity for some education. In this episode, all I could find was some interesting words to discuss. First, there's the English word rapture, which was the name of the missile. Secondly, the episode title has the Latin phrase Terra Incognita. Let's look at both words and they are used here.
If you have any exposure to Latin, you probably already know that Terra Incognita means "unknown land." This phrase was most likely used to refer to Vincent and company' excursion into the underground where the cave creatures live. Ergo Proxy episode titles usually have two separate meanings: one for what's happening in Romdeau, and one for what's happening with Vincent/Re-L. In this case, Terra Incognita refers to the latter.
"Rapture" has two separate meanings at least. One usage for the word is to describe pure joy and delight. The other meaning comes from the Christian religion. Here, "The Rapture" refers to the process where God spirits away the believers into heaven, leaving the nonbelievers to suffer the end of the world alone. It's supposed to be a sign of the end of the world's end. With these two meanings in mind, why do you think the devastating weapon in Ergo Proxy was called Rapture?
The meaning could go either way. Maybe the missile is called Rapture because the release of it brings joy to Raul. Or perhaps it's called Rapture because it will make people disappear in swathes, and is a sign of the end times.
That's all I've got for this episode of Ergo Proxy. Thanks for reading, and take care.