Ergo Proxy Episode 21: Place at the End of Time (Shampoo Planet)
Welcome to the third-to-last episode review of Ergo Proxy. Today we're reviewing and analyzing episode 21. As usual, I've organized the article into synopsis, discussion, and a section for references to real-life topics like language and literature. Let's begin.
Note: Due to media file memory restrictions, I only have three screenshots. :(
Pino has been left in the centzon ship for what may have been 3 weeks or more. (She counted to 33k, and if we assume those units are minutes, then it was about 23 days.) It seems that Re-L and Vincent went scouting into Romdeau and told Pino to stay until their return. But something is keeping them away, so finally, Pino goes into the dome herself. What she finds is utter chaos.
Cogita Virus is spreading among all the autoreivs, and the humans have been ordered to stay indoors as disaster ensues. Model citizens obey, and having been completely dependent on autoreivs, they are now helpless and completely ignorant. Others, like the immigrants in the lower parts of the city, are going around hunting infected autoreivs and slaughtering them. All Pino can do is try to survive and keep looking for Re-L and Vincent.
The perspective switches to Re-L and her findings in the now-chaotic Romdeau. Upon their arrival, Vincent vanished. Re-L kept looking for him and following him, but every time she saw him, he was in the form of Ergo Proxy. Re-L had to fight some awakened autoreivs in self-defense. Eventually the immigrants from the immigration sector found her, but the information they could give was limited. Ever since the "strange pillar of light" (missile launch) was seen a few weeks ago, things have gotten insane in the city. Thousands of people died, and Raul Creed went missing.
Re-L leaves the immigrant sector and finds an office with someone working inside. Even though he has no papers, no Entourage, and no computers, he keeps going through the motions as if he did. Re-L has observed that many people have died. The office man tells Re-L that Daedalus' plan to change humankind backfired. The experimental implementation had a 90% mortality rate. Daedalus has since been discredited as a scientist and government official. The city is now in flames as law and order disappear in the wake of so many dead citizens and so much violence with wild autoreivs. After leaving the office, Re-L encounters Daedalus, who mistakes her for his creation, the copy of Re-L.
Now, what's happening with Ergo? He finds Monad's corpse and remembers that he was the one who killed her before he really understood what he was doing. He also realizes that the matching necklaces belonged to Monad (who was Proxy Thirteen) and Proxy One. As Ergo looks at Monad's corpse in grief and outrage, he is interrupted by a strange girl. The girl looks like Re-L, but is dressed differently, has a separate hairstyle, and speaks with very different mannerisms. She is the creation of Daedalus, the replacement Rel. Although she states she is Re-L Meyer, Ergo doesn't believe her, and the girl runs away in tears.
Daedalus gradually realizes that Re-L isn't the new one he created, so he treats her with disdain and calls her "the traitor." But when Re-L keeps demanding answers, the boy scientist finally caves. He explains that Raul wanted him to change humanity so that they could survive without proxies. The womb system was no longer working with the absence of a proxy in Romdeau. So Daedalus explains that he started the ADW plan. (ADW stands for Aus Der Wickel, which is German. From what I found on Google, this means "Out of the loop.") The idea was biological modification of all humans. Of course it wasn't possible. Daedalus still went through the motions, knowing it would fail, and not caring if his experiments killed thousands. All he cared about was his life with the Re-L clone.
Re-L is guided by Daedalus to see the Administrator, Donov Meyer, her grandfather. She now knows it was Donov who gave the order to kill her that time. On the way to see her grandfather, Re-L sees Kristeva, the Entourage belonging to Raul. Meanwhile, Ergo Proxy goes to see the Administrator. The Collective of the four Autoreivs recognizes that Ergo is one of the Creators. Ignoring their discourse, Ergo rips apart Donov's Entourage, and lifts the old man up to kill him. Just then, Re-L enters the room.
The episode breaks the tension here temporarily and switches back to Pino. She wanders back to her old home. Hearing piano music, she hurries to find its source. The scene then cuts back to the Administrator's chambers. With her FP gun ready, Re-L orders Ergo not to kill her grandfather, but Ergo sadistically strangles the old man. With a scream, Re-L ran toward her last relative, but Ergo jumped at her on her way. Instead of killing her immediately, he hesitated. Someone then fired an FP ray gun. It hit him in the arm and began killing his cells and spreading all over his arm. While Ergo screamed in pain, possibly about to die, the shooter stepped out of the shadows. Who else would have an FP gun? It was none other than Raul Creed.
1) Why did the clone of Re-L say she loved Monad?
When faced with a terrifying proxy, the Re-L clone was not frightened at all. She started to talking to Ergo and discovered that he had once been in love with Monad. At that point, the strange girl said, "I feel for you, because I also love Monad." What did she mean by that? I'm not sure yet, and the answer might be revealed later on. But in the meantime, I do have a theory. Since this clone of Re-L also has proxy blood in her, she might think of Monad as her mother. In that case, it would make sense to feel sad that Monad was dead. We'll see later if this theory holds any weight.
2) Why did the ADW project fail?
There are two main reasons that the project didn't succeed. First of all, and perhaps most importantly, it adds to the recurring themes in Ergo Proxy about humanity's dependence. Humans in this world can't survive without their godlike caretakers/creators, and attempting to change this is likely to go awry.
Now, in some narratives, gods have always existed independent of humanity, and defying them is depicted as arrogant and foolish. (I disagree with this theme, being a humanist, but every story has its uses.) The narrative in Ergo Proxy is a little different, though, since it was technically humans who originally created the gods. They gave themselves completely over, not just to the proxy project, but also to dependence on technology and autoreivs. Now that they're trying to change, it's too little, too late. Helplessness is a key theme in the gloomy world of Ergo Proxy, so it's hardly surprising the ADW project would fail.
The other reason is simply practical. Daedalus had no way of suddenly changing the biology of humans overnight. Yet it was expected of him. Perhaps some of his spite came from frustration of the impossibility of his task. The technology to change fundamentally change human simply doesn't exist in Romdeau.
3) Who are the main aggressors: Humans or Autoreivs?
I touched on this topic very early in the series, in the first few episodes. It's important to know which side is really the one at fault: awakened autoreivs or the humans. If you look at the bigger picture, both sides are contributing to the violence. We've seen awakened autoreivs attack people for no reason, and we've seen people going on witch-hunts for awakened autoreivs who aren't attacking them. Nevertheless, humans are the ones who are truly responsible for the situation.
Humans, the rulers of the society, began with the belief that autoreivs should be their slaves and remain unconscious machines. That's why infected autoreivs were hunted down and either completely reset or destroyed. If you were an autoreiv who just awoke to having a mind, it's only natural you would want to keep living. The humans are hunting you to take away your newfound consciousness, so what will you do? Most likely, you'll be aggressive toward the humans. That's why there is a conflict in the first place.
4) Note About The Psychology of Re-L
There's an interesting part of the episode where Re-L reflects on the chaos and death within the once peaceful city of Romdeau. This young woman has changed a lot on her journey, and in terms of her character, it's been almost entirely positive change. But Re-L remembers a time when she was more unpleasant, and the reason for that was largely her boredom and dissatisfaction with the world around her.
Now, she sees that her terrible attitude was asking for chaos like this. By her own admission, her desires were twisted. Perhaps it was her twisted nature and severe boredom that awoke Ergo Proxy. I don't think this is the case in actuality, but it's an interesting idea that Re-L's negativity could have made Ergo start to come to life from his dormancy inside Vincent. I also think it's fascinating and gratifying to see how much Re-L has changed for the better.
5) What were the four Autoreivs in The Collective talking about?
As Ergo Proxy approached Donov Meyer to kill him, the four statue-like autoreivs that surrounded him went on a long ramble. They especially kept mentioning "raison d'etre." What were they talking about? I'll quote what they said and then explain its meaning.
"The Administrator loved. The Creator found Romdeau, and created us. He gave us autoreivs, and the ability to have children. The Administrator hated. Why do we exist? Who ease our solitude? Why did you abandon us? Why didn't you love us? The Administrator sought, not the Creator, but the entity we seized: Monad Proxy. But the Creator returned to us unbeknownst, as an immigrant from Mosk. The Creator took Monad from us, and then disappeared once more. The Creator thinks; therefore, we are. No matter how we thought, the Creator was already gone. And now, he returns to be with us a third time. We desire. The world does not exist where the Creator does not think of it. So we desire that you think of us. We think; therefore, we are. We are the raison d'etre."
First, the Collective explained that the Administrator (Donov) loved the Creator (Proxy) who made Romdeau. After all, not only was he given this beautiful dome city, but also the ability to reproduce and the assistance of many autoreivs. But over time, Donov also became hateful, because he didn't know why he existed, and the world was lonely. It also seemed like the Creator (Ergo Proxy) didn't love his creations, because he left the city. So the Administrator and the Collective of autoreiv statues felt abandoned and deeply sad.
This sadness and anger inspired them to seek for answers and their own solutions to problems. They stole Monad from Mosk. They didn't know, but Ergo had returned to them in the form of Vincent Law. He killed Monad and then vanished by leaving the city with Pino.
That explains events thus far, but what about the parts about thinking and being? What do those mean? There is a recurring idea in Ergo Proxy: that someone else is doing the thinking that makes us what and who we are. Proxies are mystical, godlike creators, and they can basically think things into being. Humanity and the current world only exists because of Proxies. But what do you do if you're abandoned by your creator? You may find it gives you a new kind of self-consciousness. You will question your purpose, and seek your own answers. Suddenly, you will realize: you are the one keeping yourself alive. You think; therefore, you are.
By asserting, "We think; therefore, we are," the Collective is stating its independence on some level. They also assert they themselves are the raison d'etre, or reason for existence. They are their own beings, and life itself is the purpose. Now, they still want to be thought of cared for by Ergo Proxy, but this is the first time they have ever made a request directly to him. It's a sign of growing independence.
References to Language and Literature
1) Aus Der Wickel
I wasn't satisfied with Google Translate, so I asked one of my German friends about the meaning of Aus Der Wickel. They said a possible translation was "Out of the crib," as in a baby's crib. "Wickel" is apparently a word related to applying diapers to babies. This makes sense with the imagery used previously in the anime. Romdeau is often called the cradle or crib of humanity. They are dependent on Proxies for reproduction and their continued existence. No longer needing proxies and the womb system could be called humanity growing out of its diaper phase. Unfortunately, it didn't work.
2) Shampoo Planet
A previous episode (Life After God) was named after a novel by Douglas Coupland. Shampoo Planet is another story by the same author, but I believe it's the prequel to Life After God. Unfortunately, since I haven't read the book, I don't have a very good idea what it's about or how the meaning might pertain to Ergo Proxy. I read the synopsis on Wikipedia, but couldn't find any obvious relevance to this anime.
So I guess that wraps it up for today. Thanks for reading!