Mania Grade: B+
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- 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: 29.98/39.98
- Running time: 100 / 100+30
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Ergo Proxy
Ergo Proxy Vol. #1 (also w/limited edition)
By Chris Beveridge
November 16, 2006
Release Date: November 21, 2006
Ergo Proxy Vol. #1 (also w/limited edition)
What They Say
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
The domed city of Romd 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...
Limited Edition Notes: Comes with Special Collector's Box that holds all six volumes of the series, and the "Extra Disc" which contains trailers and features. The Review!
An amalgamation of a number of other shows and styles, Ergo Proxy manages to stand out on its own even as it traverses very familiar territory.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 shdes 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:
The cover artwork for this volume is certainly the kind that will be eyecatching and one that you could put in what few music stores are left and probably nab some extra sales via mistaken identity. Featuring Re-l in a simple headshot, it's meshed with some of the visual flair from the show that gives it some style all while keeping focus on the soft but distinct white face and the blue make-up. Though it's just playing up a certain kind of archetype for this genre, it is easy to see and appeals quite a lot to that market and beyond. 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 a really great looking illustration of one of the investigation scenes. 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:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ergo Proxy comes at exactly the right time as certain other shows that are within this same sort of realm have ended and very little comes close to being in the same style. Though fairly simple in its early plot moments, Ergo Proxy exists more on style and atmosphere. There is definitely a story here, it's not substance free. In fact, in its attempts to ensure that there is an intriguing story there, it at times feels more pretentious than it should be.
There are a lot of reasons to anticipate this show and most of those are the same reasons that will have me intrigued for the long run rather than just writing it off quickly. The creative talent behind it is very much right up my alley and once you start to look deep into who all is behind it, you can make the connections to other shows all the easier. Coming from manglobe, whose last big release here was Samurai Champloo, they've brought in some solid talent. My chief reason for being interested is that the script and overall arc was done by Dai Sato, who produced some of the best written episodes of the Ghost in the Shell TV series. His layering worked well for that show and produced some great standalone pieces as well.
The visual side and the atmosphere of the show isn't hard to break down either. Being a mixture of Samurai Champloo in design while combined with Witch Hunter Robin, realizing that both shows share the same director in Shuou Murase makes it all the more obvious. Visually, it's like he took With Hunter Robin and transplanted much of it and tweaked it to be even more mechanical and cold. Some of the character designs are reminiscent of that series as well, though Naoyuki Onda didn't serve as a character designer for it. His work in Gantz and Sol Bianca is more apparent here but much darker than either of those shows in some ways. Probably more importantly in the visual arena, it's having Kazuhiro Yamada as the director of photography that helps set all of it. Between Samurai Champloo and working on Blood: The Last Vampire, the angles and shots are very reminiscent.
Ergo Proxy plays up to the darker side of science fiction stories in some future version of the world where most of humanity has been seemingly wiped out and remnants now exist inside a massive domed city called Romdo. Within that world, plans swirl through the control of a group of people who have something bigger in store and simply control everything that happens in some way. Be it authorizing births to couples or watching everything that happens through the eyes of their robotic guardians, the AutoReivs, they seemingly know everything. Much of the power is retained to them, but they dole it out in small measure to various humans who do their bidding, such as Raul who works as the head of what you could call the police.
Where the show focuses early on though is with a young woman named Re-l who works out of the Intelligence Bureau. Looking like she came directly off of an Evanescence CD cover, she's the granddaughter of the man who rules this city and operates as a detective. She's been loyal to what's been going on and works closely with her Entourage AutoReiv named Iggy to deal with the assignments she gets. Parallel to her experienced nature and sharp skills, we also follow a young man named Vincent Law who has recently immigrated to Romdo from the outside. Immigrants aren't given much in the way of status and they have to work hard to earn citizenship while being deferential the entire time. Vincent's having a difficult time adapting to this new work but he wants citizenship dearly for some reason. Through his challenges and the people he meets, we see different sides of Romdo than we do though Re-l.
Re-l's view of the world changes though when she finds herself on a case that puts her up against some mysterious and deadly humanoid creature called a proxy. She manages to escape with her life but when she proceeds to start a full investigation into it, she realizes that it's existence is something being kept a secret. Something that's being manipulated at the highest levels as her grandfather is now using Iggy to watch her directly and keep her out of sensitive areas of information that would help her. As she goes through this discovery, Vince finds himself in a similar situation with a proxy only that it's killed his Entourage and he's being hunted by the police due to the deaths it creates during a busy shopping mall.
With a series that looks like this and deals with the issues it does, it's filled with a lot of atmosphere and seemingly useless background things, such as the text that floats up on screens a lot. But it's actually something that helps build a more fully realized world and adds to the mysteries of how it all operates. Ergo Proxy is trying to mix both big concept with basic action thriller material and other than a few far too slow moments here and there, has done a solid job of setting the opening episodes of the series. Even though they're made to obviously appeal to a certain crowd, I adore the look of Re-l. From the first small clip I'd seen where they were really pushing the blue eye make-up, it just clicked for me in a way that similar things in Ghost in the Shell clicked. Be it my inner geek or something else, this is a visually attractive show.In Summary:
Call it an amalgamation of shows like Ghost in the Shell, Texhnolyze and Witch Hunter Robin, Ergo Proxy has to stand on its own in the long run. While it can drawn on visual and story cues from those shows, it has to bring it all together within its own fully realized world and make it work. These opening episodes, with a couple of them running slightly longer, manages to do a solid job of just that. Teasing out the information without making it too mysterious, there's a definite learning curve involved but the payoff really starts to show by the end of the first volume as the worldview gets bigger. There really isn't all that much like this on the market right now so it will attract an audience and probably a lot of faithful to it. This set of episodes isn't an out of the park hit though. It will likely take several more episodes if not the series when viewed overall as a whole to be really appreciated as a piece of work. But it looks to be a very enjoyable ride to get there.
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles
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.