Ergo Proxy Series Review
Ergo Proxy is a 2006 cyberpunk/sci-fi and dystopia anime series. I recently completed a blog series analyzing the episodes of Ergo Proxy one by one in detail. Now that it's done, we're ready for the series review! In case you don't know how my reviews work, let me explain. There are five categories: audio, visuals, story, characters, and personal enjoyment. I judge each of these and assign it a score on a scale of 1 to 10. The overall score for the series is the average of those five numbers. Without further ado, let's begin.
Note: This is a spoiler-free review!
The color scheme seems almost monochrome at some points. Everything is dark, grey, and faded. There's some muted browns and reds in the color pallet, but mostly boring old grey. For a show like Ergo Proxy where the world has basically already ended, perhaps it's appropriate to have a dull-colored, misty world. Still, I often found myself wishing for more color, better contrast, and more lightning. You can count this overwhelming greyness as either a positive or a negative of the visual category, depending on whether or not you liked it. Some people enjoy it, and art is ultimately subjective.
The visual style is supposed to look more realistic than most anime series from that time period. The characters looks less like anime characters and more like people. In this way, it's similar to Death Note. However, Death Note has much cleaner, more polished and consistent artwork. In Ergo Proxy, the characters are often hand-drawn-- apparently hastily so, as they look awful. The proportions and symmetry are off or inconsistent almost all the time. There's a lot of sloppiness in the way the characters are drawn from a distance or in the background. Sometimes, even in the foreground, the drawings look noticeably bad.
I might be too harsh on the visuals of Ergo Proxy. Sometimes, they look very good indeed; but when they don't, they really don't. The character designs for the humans and autoreivs are memorable and interesting. I've always been a fan of Re-L's appearance and outfit. Additionally, I love the designs for the proxies. Because of the scenes that actually look impressive, and because of the character and monster designs, Ergo Proxy still deserves more than 5/10. But the overall look isn't that good, so I settled for 6.
First I'll mention story structure and pacing. The pacing in Ergo Proxy is pretty good, but note that it's not exactly thrilling. It's not supposed to be a thriller, but a slow and steady mystery mixed with adventure. The structure is somewhat episodic-- especially in the middle-- but mostly serial. Each episode builds on the last, but missing a few in the middle would not completely wreck the story. There was one episode that could be considered a filler, but it was important for character development. The ending didn't feel too rushed.
Ergo Proxy's plot is excellent. It's well-crafted with very few plot holes. There are several interesting plot twists. Creative imagery and narrative tools like foreshadowing are also used. The only issue with the plot is that it can be a little difficult to follow and keep it all straight. However, I still think it's genius. Ergo Proxy also has educational value with its many references to real life subjects like language, philosophy, and literature. Nearly every episode has some tidbit of knowledge from the real world used to deepen the story. If you look into these references, you could learn quite a lot.
Besides good structure, plot, and educational value, Ergo Proxy also features many interesting and profound story themes. These themes include: identity, reasons for existence, facing reality, abandonment, existential loneliness, memories, society, and seeking the truth. Each theme is explored in depth. If you want some thought-provoking content woven throughout a fascinating story, Ergo Proxy is the right anime for you. Because of all these themes, I bumped up the score for the story category from 8 to 9. It really deserves the high score.
The music and songs in Ergo Proxy are amazing and memorable. The opening song is called "Kiri" by Monoral. It's a simple but powerful song that sounds like a 90s/2000s alternative rock song (which happens to be a favorite music genre of mine). The ending song, "Paranoid Android," was borrowed from a 90s album by Radiohead, a popular English rock band. The song fits perfectly with the feel of the anime. As for the instrumental OST, it's extremely good. I enjoy listening to it on YouTube sometimes. Most of the OST pieces are quiet, slow, and somber. Many of them are ambient with sound effects. Some are ominous or creepy. All of them make for interesting listening.
When discussing audio, it's also important to mention the voice-acting. In Ergo Proxy, the seiyuu (voice-actors) all performed well. I am especially impressed with Hikaru Hanada (voice of Raul Creed), Akiko Yajima (voice of Pino), and Kouji Yusa (voice of Vincent Law). Surprisingly, most of the seiyuu cast has not been involved in very many anime series. For the series where they did act, almost all roles were supporting or background characters. I'm honestly not sure why this talented group has done so little work in the voice-acting world. They all did great. One famous voice-acting veteran, Houchuu Ootsuka, also appeared as the voice of Proxy One. His performance was amazing as usual. With wonderful music and voice-acting, the audio category easily deserves a 9.
It was a little difficult at first to decide on a score for this category. The two central protagonists, Re-L and Vincent, are the kind of characters most average anime fans frown on. Typical, vocal anime lovers despise sensitive male characters and cold, logical female characters. However, I love these characters. I also think they have extra value precisely because their character types are underappreciated in anime. But in the end, it came down to how well the characters were written, presented, and developed. Even if I think the characters deserve 10/10, I have to keep a balanced view based on the facts.
Ergo Proxy's cast of characters is a bit small, but unique and hard to forget. Although sometimes frustrating with their individual flaws, the two main characters (Re-L and Vincent) are believable and consistent. Pino was an important character because she brought cheerfulness and cuteness to the team. Iggy was a fascinating character as well. Supporting characters Raul Creed and Daedalus Yumeno were also written well and explored in interesting ways. The minor characters that sometimes appear for an episode or two are usually quite interesting, too. For example, Quinn and Hoody from the commune outside the city were awesome.
I honestly don't have a lot of criticisms for the characters category. If anything, I would probably say the characters could have been flushed out in more depth than what we saw. There's also the issue that many viewers find Re-L unpleasant as a main character. (That doesn't apply to me, by the way.) Some might say that Vincent's character arc to accept his true identity took a bit too long. I can only think of one other major character-related complaint: close to the middle of the series, a key character dies. This is a spoiler-free review, so I can't say who. The choice to kill off this character disgruntled a lot of viewers. For those reasons, I think 8 is a more balanced score than 10.
Personal Enjoyment: 9
It's not necessary to spend a lot of time on this category, so this will be brief. There were numerous aspects of Ergo Proxy that I enjoyed. The grim but awesome music, the dim grey colors, and the character designs are just the beginning. I also loved the general storyline, the dystopia elements, and the profound themes explored in this series. Let's not forget that I like Re-L and the other characters immensely.
As for aspects that I did not enjoy, none were significant enough to mention. Ergo Proxy is one of those anime series that almost feels like it was made for me. That being said, if you compare it to my top few favorite series, the level of my emotional attachment differs. There was nothing I disliked in Ergo Proxy; but since my emotional attachment to it could potentially be deeper, I gave this category a 9 instead of a 10. It's all part of trying to reflect my experience as honestly as possible.
Overall Score: 8.2/10.0
The overall score turned out great. In my opinion, Ergo Proxy is a commonly underrated anime with strong elements of story, themes, and characters. In this series, the world is bleak and cold, and the only hope for survival lies in the pursuit of truth and the courage to adapt to reality. The feelings of deep loneliness and the harshness of the world in Ergo Proxy reflects my own mental landscape. The existentialism, truth-seeking, and self-discovery reflect the more hopeful sides of my psyche. If you are looking for a serious, plot-heavy anime with elements of sci-fi, dystopia, and cyberpunk, then Ergo Proxy is a worthwhile choice.
Thank you for reading