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Ergo Proxy Complete Series Anime Classics DVD Review

9 min read

Saving the future of mankind never, ever seems to go well.

What They Say:
The domed city of Romdo is an impenetrable would-be utopia where humans and robots coexist, and everything is under complete government control – or so it appears. While working on a mysterious murder case, Re-l Mayer, a female detective from the Civilian Intelligence Office, receives a foreboding message that something is going to “awaken.” That night, she’s attacked by a deformed super-being…

What was this unidentified monster that attacked her, and who was the figure that came in between them? As Re-l attempts to unlock this spiraling mystery, a metaphysical battle cry leads her to the unknown outside world.

Contains episodes 1-23.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation here mirrors the original Geneon release in that we get three language tracks. We have the English and Japanese tracks in 5.1 encoded at 384kbps through Dolby Digital. We also get something a little better with an additional English mix using the DTS codec at 55.1 encoded at half bit rate of 784kbps. DTS wasn’t anywhere near as common at the time and it was certainly good to get higher quality audio. It does still stand out in comparison to the other two tracks, but with the show being heavily dialogue driven it sets the ambient and sound effects to being more distinct than anything else. When the action hits, all three tracks work well with a good bit of impact and bass that suits the show well. It’s a very mood track by its very nature but when it needs to step up, it does so very well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twenty-three episodes are spread across four discs with six on the first three each and five on the fourth. The series uses the same source materials as we saw before with the translated opening and closing sequences. Ergo Proxy came from manglobe and the overall visual design has a very dark look to it with shadows being prevalent in nearly every scene. There’s still a lot of detail to be scene and some really striking visual elements when it comes to faces, whether the strictly human Re-l or the Proxy itself where it uses so many different pieces of shading. While there’s a bit of noise to be had in the background, the transfer in general is clean and problem free.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release keeps things simple and compressed as we get a single sized clear keepcase to hold everything. We also get an O-Card over the case that mirrors the artwork inside, just with a slight border around it to tie it to the Anime Classics line. The front cover uses the familiar artwork we’ve seen on previous incarnations as it’s a murky but very appealing piece that puts Re-l and Vincent together with the Proxy whisped in. There’s a lot of good colors here that paints the feeling and atmosphere of the show while also playing things fairly mysterious. It may not be a big eye-catching piece, but it’s one that I like a lot. The back cover is far murkier as it uses some of the artwork that doesn’t really stand out much and shots from the show that barely have any brightness to it at all. It’s definitely representative though which makes it harder to complain about it. The premise is covered well and the breakdown of what’s involved here is clean and straightforward. The release doesn’t have any show related inserts but there is artwork on the reverse side with some mechanical gears.

Menu:
The menu design for the series uses a very appropriate design as it uses the mechanical aspects in the background. Overlaid on that is a large strip through the center that hits more of the mechanical designs and darkness but changes it up with different characters, from Re-l to Iggy and more. It’s very dark and atmospheric that sets the mood very well and definitely had me looking forward to each new disc to see what artwork would be used. The navigation is kept off to the left and is simple with just the main selections for each disc and all the extras being on the fourth disc. Submenus load quickly and access times are nice and fast. The show defaults to the English 5.1 mix with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The extras for this release port everything from the Geneon release as we get the same featurettes that showcase some of the behind the scenes production information, the Japanese promo videos, commercials and the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As an original series written by Dai Sato and directed by Shuko Murase for the WOWOW network, Ergo Proxy is a twenty-three episode series from manglobe that had a lot of big shoes to follow in. With Samurai Champloo the year before and up and coming names in general involved in the production, expectations were certainly high, especially based on the promo material that came out and the striking character designs by Naoyuki Onda. These are definitely standout pieces against a particularly gorgeous if bleak background design.

Ergo Proxy takes place in a far flung future where the world is essentially in ruin and uninhabitable. What’s left of humanity is in a series of domed city-states that exist which are meticulously maintained by those in charge and the AutoReivs that assist them as Companions. These mechanical men and women are disturbing to watch with the way they care coming out of rather staid and almost dark facial designs. They have a haunting look that really drives home their inhumanity. Population control is kept firmly in check and there’s a kind of blandness about everything. Even as depressing as it is when you get down to it, there’s a lot of fascinating elements to it that draw you in.

What makes it engaging however is the characters and the situation that they’re involved in. In the city of Romdo, we’re introduced to Re-L Mayer of the Intelligence Bureau who is investigating various crimes. What’s drawn her attention now is the continuing space of Cogito virus attacks that have hit various AutoReivs that cause them to abandon their directives and, left somewhat unsaid, develop their own intentions. Most tend to go crazy though which leads to her and others attempting to take them down. In the midst of this, we get to know an immigrant to Romdo named Vincent Law who works with AutoReiv’s and gets caught up in them going crazy.

It’s a bit awkward early on as events unfold as we get numerous things happening and an introduction to the setting and characters, but the thrust involves the revelation that Romdo had something called a Proxy that it was investigating and trying to understand as they kept it locked up. This Proxy has gotten free and is causing all sorts of problems and is considered to be one of the sources of the Cogito virus. With the Proxy on the loose, citizens being murdered and Re-L hunting it down, the combination brings her into Vincent’s presence more, especially when it’s revealed that the Proxy seems to be chasing him. This leads to him being forced out of the city through the amusing nudging of a pint sized AutoReiv named Pino.

The series runs on a few different tracks from this point that end up orbiting each other for more than half its run, sometimes intersecting while building a larger look at the world. Vincent’s forced escape to outside has him seeing how harsh it is and how some people manage to survive. Re-l tries to investigate him further and to find out about the Proxies and what they really mean, while also getting a better idea of how certain aspects of Romdo works to educate the viewer. And in the midst of this we see some bigger picture elements through Chief Raul who has contact with the elites who control the city that are masked in mystery. Each of them expands the overall narrative as they go on and the depth and detail of how it all operates is really quite fascinating.

A good part of what comes from Vincent’s journey is to show what the outside world is like as he ends up on an even more forced journey when Re-l comes looking for him and they both end up on the run. The two aren’t exactly friends, though he’s infatuated with her, and she’s been so protected and taken care of by the AutoReivs that it’s a difficult experience. But through the two of them and Pino – who is far more enjoyable than I would ever have imagined – we see other city-states that have existed and are falling into disarray at different levels. The fall of other cities is disturbing as it shows the way the plans failed and entire swaths of humanity perished. And it highlights for Re-l just how fragile her own city of Romdo is.

The bigger exploration, and it’s one that is convoluted in a way, is what the deal is with the Proxy and Vincent as the two are tied together. It’s made relatively clear early on what the connection is, but there’s more nuance to it as he sees these other cities and finds contact with other Proxies who have lost what they were supposed to be connected to. Getting exposure to all the other cities has a lot of appeal but getting the expanded look of how the Proxies are tied to them, how they dealt with the citizens within and how it impacts Vincent is really engaging. It plays a lot of psychological games until it ends up drawing back to Romdo where they face their great challenge, all of which goes back to the origins of the cities and the long lost glimmer of hope about trying to save humanity.

While the show could have been done in half the time, it would have lost of a lot of its well done exploration of how all those places worked and the impact it had on the various Proxies. And the time would have been lost in seeing the relationship develop between Vincent and Re-l as well as how Pino gets involved with it all. The strong supporting cast is well used too, though they’re a bit more complicated when you start getting into it. They all bring something to it, including the AutoReiv companion that Re-l has which is very closely bonded with her. The psychological makeup of Vincent and the Proxy related to him is also given a lot of time to be explored and losing too much of that would have damaged the end result I think.

In Summary:
Ergo Proxy plays with the dystopian future well, especially with its set design and the general world makeup used here, and blends some solid philosophical material into it. It’s a mystery thriller that has some good doses of action along the way to bring it all together. With its core focus on the three characters that drive a lot of it, it moves forward well while taking a few detours along the way that does add to it overall. This show definitely felt confusing and convoluted the first time I had seen it in single disc form years ago, but the marathon version of it really brings it all together in a much cleaner way. The mysteries work well, Re-l continues to be just as engaging to watch and the overall sense of adventure and discovery kept me riveted throughout. I had really enjoyed this before and this just reinforces it. It’s a dark and engaging work that’s worth revisiting every few years.

Features:
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English DTS 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Key Words of Ergo Proxy Featurette, Behind the Scenes, English Staff Interview, Japanese Promo Trailers and Commercials, Textless Songs

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 28th, 2012
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 575 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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