Ergo Proxy Episode 22: Bind (Bilbul)
Welcome to second to last episode analysis for the 2006 cyberpunk dystopian anime, Ergo Proxy. We'll jump right into it today.
Ergo proxy tears off his own arm to avoid being killed by the spreading FP rays. He then regrows his arm and begins to chase Raul with the intent of killing him. Re-L kneels beside her now dead grandfather and thinks about what to do next. Suddenly, the Re-L clone in white arrives on the scene. The original Re-L is shocked to see another one of herself. The clone Re-L says that she is actually Monad and that she wants to see Vincent again. Daedalus arrives and orders clone Re-L back to the lab. The real Re-L then tries questioning Daedalus, but to no avail. He doesn't care about her anymore, and is fed up.
Before leaving with the clone Re-L, Daedalus does tell Re-L to ask the statue autoreivs, The Collective. The four autoreivs are willing to talk a little, before shutting down and telling Re-L they want to be left alone until the end of the world. They tell her she must ultimately find her own truth. The other information they gave was what viewers already know, that Ergo created Romdeau and then abandoned it to try to forget he was a proxy. The people of Romdeau are mostly clones of about a dozen people created by Ergo. And reproduction can only happen using the artificial womb system.
Re-L wonders if she was created for the purpose of killing Ergo Proxy, who wanted to die from his sorrow. It breaks her heart to think she was made for someone else's purposes. And to think she's the one who must kill Vincent. Re-L also now realizes Vincent is just a personality created by Ergo to forget his true self.
Back in the lab, Raul tries to kill Daedalus after learning that the scientist boy carelessly threw away the rest of the FP bullets. The clone Re-L, who is also present, prevents Raul from shooting Daedalus and inflicts a major wound on him. Raul stumbles away, knowing he's going to die soon. He returns to his house and finds drawings left by Pino, who visited the home not long ago. Inspired by the pictures, Raul spends the last few minutes of his life searching for Pino. He wants to see her one last time. Unfortunately, a wild autoreiv knocks Raul into a broken glass window, which finishes him off. He finally dies.
Ergo Proxy returns to the regent's quarters for some reason, staring at the dead old man. Re-L appears with the gun in her hand containing the last FP ray bullet. Ergo says he returned in order to be shot, but after a moment of hesitation, Re-L decides not to shoot. She explains that she doesn't want to be manipulated, and has finally arrived at her truth. The truth is that there is "another shadow" in the background, manipulating both Ergo proxy and Vincent. It's Proxy One. A door to the roof opens, and Re-L and Ergo ascend. On top of the regent's tower, on a dark throne sits Proxy One. Upon seeing him, Ergo trembles in fear and horror. That's where the episode ends.
1) Proxy One Finally Revealed
After being hidden for the entire series with only a few hints given about his presence, Proxy One finally appears out in the open. The final reveal about Vincent's identity is not that he has two personalities (Vincent and Ergo), but that there is a third existence within him. Proxy One has been manipulating everything since the beginning of the series and even before. I've been mentioning him in all my posts whenever I've found it relevant. Hopefully, the pieces are all coming together now. But in case they're not, the next episode will explain Proxy One's motivations and go over his actions and manipulations so far. If need a review, wait till the next episode.
2) Free Will
This episode of Ergo Proxy brings up the classic old question of whether or not humans have free will. Many people believe we don't. Organisms at a certain level probably don't have free will-- for example, a dog acts like a dog and is subjective to its instinctual nature. The idea that humans are different is a hard sell for some people. After all, the supposed higher reasoning of humans could be called human instinct. It's possible that humans can't act outside our instincts. That's one argument against free will. There are others, including ideas of determinism and arguments from physics. Regardless of these arguments, the majority of humans still prefer to believe in free will. (I'm on the fence about it myself.) It's certainly an interesting debate, no matter which side you fall on.
Now, what does this have to do with Ergo Proxy? Re-L, the Administrator Donov, and even Ergo Proxy himself battle with feeling like their lives are out of their control. It feels like they are being manipulated by things they can't fight against. Other characters struggle with this as well, and many of them look to proxies as their gods. But do these characters actually have free will? The issue is more complex in Ergo Proxy because in this fictional world, there are actually godlike beings, AKA proxies. These beings are extremely powerful and can create or edit life as they see fit. That means free will of humans in this world is even less likely.
However, Proxies are not perfect gods. They aren't all powerful or all knowing. Controlling and manipulating literally everyone and everything is out of the question. That means there is a chink open for humans to exercise rebellion. If nothing else, these characters have the illusion of free will. They are still able to fight against their supposedly pre-set destinies and roles. Re-L is the best example of this. In this episode, she decided to fight against her role as the one intended to kill Ergo Proxy. This topic will continue being important in the final episode. So think over it, and maybe decide what you think about free will for these fictional characters and for yourself, too.
3) Concept of Personal Truth
Do you think truth is objective? I firmly hold that this is the case. There's no such thing as "your truth" or "my truth," because something is either true or it isn't. I think this is the only view that comports with reality. Subjective truth would mean it is no longer "truth." Ergo Proxy episode 22 introduces the concept of personal truths, the idea that one must find the truth personally. If the anime was advocating for subjective truth, it wouldn't really matter because it's fiction. However, I think there is some nuance here. Ergo Proxy isn't saying that everyone has personal, subjective truths. It's simply saying that one needs to keep seeking truth and not give up on seeing the bigger picture, even after being presented with a seemingly depressing truth.
There are countless examples of this idea throughout Ergo Proxy: that seeking the truth without despairing halfway is critical. In episode 22, Re-L discovers it's true that she was created with the purpose of killing Ergo Proxy; furthermore, this "destiny" was being pushed on her at every major step in her journey without her even realizing. But the Collective tells Re-L not to stop at that truth. If Re-L had given up and wallowed in despair, she wouldn't have kept thinking about more possible truths. But she did, and she arrived at the conclusion that Proxy One was the dark puppet master. By exposing Proxy One, Re-L could potentially ruin all his plans. Two seemingly opposing facts can sometimes both be true. And you won't know if you stop seeking. That's what the point was of discussing Re-L's "personal truth."
4) Simple Humanity in Raul and Daedalus
In a certain sense, people are simple creatures. An interesting fact about psychology is that our needs and desires become more basic in times of great trouble. For example, humans need companionship. Humans need physical sustenance too. These needs become more apparent in desperate times. And sometimes, even when things are going very well for us, we will feel unsatisfied. That is another fact about human psychology. Both of these ideas come into play in Ergo Proxy episode 22 with the characters of Raul and Daedalus.
As Raul faces the concept of impending death, his desires become simple and relatable. He just wants to see Pino, who is like his daughter, and thus the last surviving member of his family. He wants some companionship and closure before he dies. As for Daedalus, he isn't dying, nor in need of any basic life requirements. But nevertheless, despite what he may say, he isn't remotely satisfied. Daedalus wants Re-L to have eyes only for him, and he's so possessive of her that he can't stand it when Re-L (whether clone or original) mentions Vincent. Daedalus' mental state is about to go downhill quickly, and he might do some terrible things. Still, we should remember that he's just a fragile kid on the inside.
References to Language
The second part of the title of this episode is "Bilbul," which is a Hebrew word meaning "bewildered." I think the reason for this title is the way Ergo reacts to seeing Proxy One and realizing he has been the puppet master the whole time. It's pretty bizarre to see something that's almost like another you. The same can be said when Re-L saw her clone for the first time. It would indeed feel bewildering.
That's it for today, so thanks for reading. I hope you'll join me next time for the analysis of the final episode of Ergo Proxy!