Ergo Proxy Vol. #2 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2007



What They Say
Re-l leaves the safety of Romdo in order to bring Vincent back and clear his name. Leaving the shelter of the city is a test of courage, but dealing with the realities of life outside the dome is a test of conviction. The idyllic illusion of life within Romdo begins to crumble for Re-l and Vincent as they forge into the darkness that surrounds them and travel away from the light.

The Review!
The mystery and intrigue of this twisted world becomes all the more intense in a surprisingly low-key and relaxed manner.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The audio mixes on this release are pretty strong as both languages get a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix and one English track also gets a DTS 5.1 mix. In listening to the Japanese mix, it's got a strong sense of placement to it with a lot of dark and creepy scenes using sound effects well as well as using the entire forward soundstage to really draw out the music. Dialogue is well placed though a lot of it is focused through the center and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in early 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Due to the style and design of the show, this is one where it's really hard to get it completely right on DVD. Heavy in blacks and all sorts of shades of gray in between, it has a certain oppressive feel to it that can be lost easily if the transfer looks soft or details are missing. While I doubt it captures it one hundred percent of what's in the source, this release does a solid job. Blacks mostly maintain a solid feel; the noise level is kept relatively low and the shadings as it moves from black to lighter shades looks decent. Some areas do have some very noticeable color gradient issues but this goes back to the source with its digital painting. Where it works out is that there isn't quite as much visible blocking when the camera pans over these areas. On most sets, Ergo Proxy will look quite good and pack a solid visual punch.

Packaging:
While the first volume had a cover that simply sold itself without any effort, this volume is a bit different though no less stylish. Not as clean as Re-l's cover, Vincent's piece is quite a powerful cover when you get into the crux of the show with this set of episodes as the shot of him there leaning into the wind with his eyes open is almost a completely new way of looking at him. The back cover has a good looking shot from the show that's close to an action pose while listing the episode numbers and titles over it. Below, the shows premise and technical features are listed clearly as is the production information. That section seems to get smaller and tighter with every new release. The discs basic technical information is in the single line strip below that as is the rest of the logos and information that's generally required. The insert breaks down the chapter lists for the episodes and has a shot associated with them while it opens up to interesting recolored version of a scene from the show. The back cover has more from the show and basic information about the property and Geneon itself.

Menu:
The menu layout is a rather busy piece that uses elements form the opening and closing sequences set to an angle with the menu selections overlaid on them. The visuals for the show are good and the menu does admittedly fit into the theme and style of the show, but it's a bit too, well, almost garish in a way I think. There is a brief bit of instrumental music that plays during it and navigation is quick and simple. Access times are nice and fast and we had no problems with our player presets being picked up.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ergo Proxy's first four episodes were ones that tantalized and really got me intrigued by the world setting it wanted to use. After finishing up a series like Ghost in the Shell, this one fell right into place with similar feelings through its atmosphere. As the second set of episodes progresses though, the show has taken on a much closer feel to the series Tehxnolyze as it moves through a dark and overly oppressive outside world.

While the larger storyline continues on regarding the Proxy(s) and what they're really all about, a few smaller tales gain some steam here. Romdo takes something of a backseat for these episodes, at least in the visual sense, as much of the time is spent in other locations. Having Vincent on the outside with Hoody and his little Commune is interesting enough as we start to learn just how badly Hoody has been manipulating people. Vincent's fall from Romdo has left him in a state where he's unsure of how to proceed but the realization that they will be coming for him again because of his apparent relation to the Proxy pushes him to move. The idea of returning to his home dome, with whatever state that may actually be in these days, isn't a surprise but his methods put him with an amusing group alongside Pino.

The pair's journey across the ocean, complete with teasing glances at maps, puts them in a larger view than we've had before as we get away from Romdo. Similar to our introduction of the cast in Romdo however, the world outside isn't cut and dry either as there are warring fashions and secretive wombs where resources are geared towards survival of smaller clans. What becomes the most interesting aspect of this journey is that Vincent becomes closer to Pino through it as she's now the main constant in his life. She hasn't exactly grown much, being an AutoReiv and all, but more facets of her and her abilities are being explored. They're an unlikely pair but it's one that's very fascinating to watch develop.

The other main story arc follows Re-l around as she initially comes out to the Commune to bring Vincent back but then ends up becoming far more involved in the reality behind Romdo. Her curious nature has landed her in plenty of trouble to date but when back in Romdo, the realization that something is terribly amiss because of the Proxy(s) has led her to even more. This time she ends up sneaking into a very sensitive area that Daedalus controls and finds out more about the Proxy(s) than she figured she would. Seeing the way that humanity is now essentially harvested and managed inside the Dome isn't new or surprising, but the visual flair for it is quite nice and engaging. I was even impressed by the aesthetic design of how elevator interiors work in this show.

Much of the time in Romdo is spent with Re-l and Daedalus going through the motions of explaining how the Domes manage their population but there is also some key moments spent with the upper echelon. The political intrigue side is still kept to a minimum overall because of the facelessness of much of it, but seeing plans within plans taking shape and those being swept up in it making their own is something that I find quite thrilling to watch. The main focus for Romdo though in this set of episodes is through the limited history of the Proxy(s) and what little understanding there is of them. Even though it isn't a lot, it feels like we're getting a good deal of information early on which only points to far more interesting things to come in future episodes.

In Summary:
Ergo Proxy doesn't quite lose the energy or intensity of the first volume but it seems to shift it in different directions here. Vincent, a character that I didn't care much for at all in the first volume, now becomes a much more engaging and intriguing person. Through him, Pino also becomes more interesting as does Daedalus through her interactions with Re-l. This volume cements my heightened interest after the first volume clearly gained my attention. The strong vibes that are similar to Tehxnolyze only reinforces it as I want to see just how far they want to go with this ruined world and its characters.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English DTS 5.1 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ergo Proxy