I planned to write about Carnival but I’d completely forgotten that M Morse was already doing a mighty fine job writing about it for Chud. I’ll eventually write about Carnival, but for now I decided to grow a pair and write about my favorite anime series ever, Ergo Proxy, at the risk of getting swallowed by its massive complexity.
Written by Dai Sato – the man responsible for jewels such as Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Ghost in the Shell: SAC – Ergo Proxy is a series that, unbeknownst to the audience, manages to deliver a tremendous amount of information on every episode while being very confusing. It is the type of story that only truly makes sense at the very end and benefits from multiple viewings. I’ll make a feeble attempt at summarizing and analyzing this wonderful series in hopes that you, my dear reader, will give it a chance.
These write-ups run the risk of making as much sense as a drunken buffoon on a bender, but I’ll try to make them as clear as possible.
Needless to say, there will be spoilers. Lots of spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Episodes: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 /
13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23
Episode 1: Awakening – A.K.A. The end of boredom
Summary: In the domed city of Romdo, a humanoid monster escapes from a lab, Inspector Re-l Mayer is assigned to investigate a series of murders alongside her partner Iggy, robots are going wild and dropping to their knees, and immigrant Vincent Law is doing his very best to become a fellow citizen.
The episode begins inside the observation room of a laboratory populated by a young doctor and his robotic assistants. Behind the looking glass, there’s a humanoid creature in restrains. Alarms blast away as a robot tells the young doctor (whose name we later learn is Daedalus) that the subject is waking up. Daedalus worriedly declares the creature must be kept asleep at all cost a bit too late, for the creature breaks away from its retrains and cracks the looking glass with the power of its mind. Daedalus is removed from the observation room as the slender creature with dark gray skin, long white hair and a mask similar to a respirator stares in his direction. It is later revealed that the creature goes on a killing spree.
Assuming that the title of this episode refers to the awakening of the creature from the lab would be a seemingly logical conclusion. However, awakening is a concept that’s deeply rooted within this story both metaphorically and literally; it cannot be dealt with in depth at this point, its function within the story is explained at the very end of the series, and yet this episode is plagued with it from start to finish.
The following scene shows a man in an orange uniform riding a bike, losing control of it and ending up unconscious on the road; cut to the silhouette of a naked man standing in front of a clear blue sky, holding a pendant, delivering a monologue that is the backbone of this story:
“That is when everything became perfectly clear,
everything about the malice implanted by the creator.
We cannot resist that which is;
We simply… we simply have to punish them.
Can you hear the pulse of the awakening?”
And as the monologue ends, his face is revealed:
This man is clearly not a regular man. He has what looks like dark gray skin and his eyes emit light. About his monologue, attempting to analyze it at this point would be foolish, as it would spoil the entire series. So, if you decide to give this show a shot, keep the monologue in mind.
The initial images of the domed city of Romdo give the impression of a city like many other from stories set in the future: Technology is highly advanced and society is highly organized, citizens are motivated to consume, and not only do humans coexist peacefully with their servant robots, known in this story as Autoreivs, but the city also heavily relies on autoreivs for its proper operation.
The scene that introduces Re-l Mayer and Iggy as they drive through the city gives a deeper insight into the reality of Romdo, also revealing character traits. Iggy is an autoreiv with a slightly effeminate voice that acts like a buddy more than a robot, but by turning off his Turing application by voice command, he acquires a mechanical tone and stance. He can perform calculations and remotely retrieve data, but his mission is to protect Re-l.
In a voice over, Re-l describes Romdo as a cradle that never changes for the better, built amongst the environmental destruction that surrounds the planet. She finds the city utterly boring. But in her conversation with Iggy, it is also revealed that there’s a report about residents being brutally murdered and an increase in incidents related to Cogito infected autoreivs. The Security Bureau has a new chief, Raul Creed, and he’s requested the help of the Intelligence Bureau with the Cogito investigation. Therefore, this city is not as peaceful and organized as it seems, and it is slowly unraveling. Also, the mention of an environmental disaster and the fact that Romdo is contained within a dome reveals that the planet is uninhabitable. But what is The Cogito Virus? More on that later.
Raul Creed and Kristeva (Raul’s autoreiv assistant) stand before the Romdo regent, Donov Mayer, discussing the incident with the creature from the lab, now referred to as The Proxy. Donov Meyer is an old man attached to medical equipment, accompanied by an autoreiv. The regent never speaks. He is surrounded by four giant statues named Derrida, Lacan, Husserl and Berkeley. These statues act as the regent’s counselors and speak for him. When Raul asks if he can kill the Proxy in order to prevent the death of more citizens, the statues tell him that the Proxy must be captured alive, and that if the city runs low on citizens, all they have to do is increase production. By this, it can be concluded that the citizens of Romdo are expendable; also, by stating that citizens can be produced, it is implied that they are not born.
Furthermore, the only people privy to the true nature of the Proxy are the regent, his counselors, and Dr. Daedalus. Back in the now shattered lab, Raul and Daedalus discuss the incident with the Proxy, where it’s made clear that Raul has a general idea of what the creature is but has no idea what they were doing with it. Daedalus tells Raul that his job was to take care of the creature while it remained asleep, and follows by saying “obtaining that sort of power would have significant implications… Well, that’s the first thought that comes to mind”, to which Raul simply smiles, the sort of slightly malicious smile that comes from understanding.
The conversation with Iggy in the car also reveals that Re-l is an Intelligence Bureau inspector and the granddaughter of the city reagent, and her relationship with him is difficult. Her demeanor is somewhat aloof and cynical, resembling the attitude of a spoiled rich kid. She seems not only bored with the city and its citizens, but she’s mostly bored on an existential level. Interestingly, she’s very aware of and analytical about her attitude towards others, as exemplified by her voice-over as she observes Vincent Law from a distance after meeting him:
“That is the face of an ideal fellow citizen, the face
of a person this city desires, a dull face.
But perhaps it’s me, the one who looks down on them,
who’s now become unnecessary.”
As it turns out, this voice-over touches on another issue that’s vital to this story: expendability.
Vincent Law is an immigrant from the domed city of Mosk, working for the Autoreiv Control Division at the Temporary Immigrant Sector FG. His task is to terminate cogito infected autoreivs and make regular checkups to prevent the recurrence of infection. He wears an orange uniform and a pendant. He’s well groomed, and his eyes appear to always be closed. He’s shy, clumsy and self deprecating. He’s interested in Re-l. But most importantly, he yearns for Romdo citizenship. His introduction to the show brings up a third important issue, which is classism. When Vincent and Re-l meet for the first time in the episode (this is actually the second time they meet in the story), autoreiv entourage Dorothy reviews Vincent’s work, assigning him a new case at the citizen residential district and telling him that if he does as she says, he’ll become a fellow citizen. This conversation is promptly interrupted by Re-l as she informs Vincent that Dorothy’s words should be dismissed because she’s simply a robot and the only way to get citizenship is to work on his human relationships. She later tells him that his job is to protect the citizens of Romdo. When she sees the pendant Vincent is wearing, she tells him that “things that smell of Mosk are to be thrown away”, a sentence that takes a whole new meaning by the end of the series.
When Vincent does a checkup on Pino, a companion autoreiv with the body of a little girl owned by the Security Bureau Chief’s wife, he is referred to as a lowly immigrant when he fails to comply with the chief’s wife implied request to get a replacement autoreiv to help take care of the new baby she and her husband were granted by the welfare department.
Within the confines of Romdo, immigrants and autoreivs are considered inferior inhabitants of the city.
Re-l and Iggy arrive at an abandoned Immigration Bureau building to investigate a possible cogito contagion. This sequence presents us with the first glimpse of what the Cogito Virus does to autoreivs, and puts Re-l in the middle of an important confrontation. The name Cogito comes from Cogito Ergo Sum (I think, therefore, I am), a term originally used by philosopher Rene Descartes. Cogito infected autoreivs achieve self awareness and can’t be controlled by humans. As Re-l inspects the building, she is attacked by the Proxy from the lab and has an encounter with two infected autoreivs.
Re-l swiftly dodges the Proxy attack. The Proxy escapes. Then she witnesses the first sign of a Cogito infection: the autoreiv falls to its knees and assumes a prayer position.
“In this city of Romdo, where all the systems
are designed in order that we may live,
even the prayers of an autoreiv
who’s prepared to die are unnecessary.”
- – Re-l Mayer
This is followed by an attack from the second infected autoreiv as the first one escapes.
The most important confrontation of the episode comes at the very end. After a Long day, Re-l prepares to take a bath at her apartment, when she discovers the word awakening written on her mirror; the a creature breaks into her apartment.
Re-l’s pinned to a wall, terrified by the appearance of this creature, clearly a Proxy, who’s taller and bulkier than the one from the lab. But instead of attacking her, the Proxy touches her lips and cries. Re-l completely freezes as the Proxy from the lab enters her apartment and as the two Proxies fight each other, Re-l faints.
1. When Vincent’s work is being reviewed by Dorothy before he first meets with Re-l, he pours milk and alphabet shaped cereal. He spills the milk, and when his attention goes back to the bowl, the cereal floats to the surface in a way that spells “AWAKENING”.
2. What do the man staring at the sky holding a pendant, Romdo’s central structure, and Vincent have in common?
3. If you decide to give this series a chance but aren’t keen on reading subtitles, you can relax: Ergo proxy has an excellent English dub.
On the next episode: Accusations of mental instability, another praying robot, carnage; and hopefully for you, a shorter post.