Mania Grade: A+
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: A+
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: C+
- Age Rating: 16 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 149.95
- Running time: 550
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Texhnolyze
Texhnolyze Lenticular Box Set
By Dan Barry
July 25, 2007
Release Date: July 25, 2006
What They Say
Ichise's grief only allows him to enjoy the pain of the fighting pits in the underground city of Lukuss. However, when a gang punishes Ichise by cutting his arm and leg off, his will to live overcomes the odds and attracts the attention of the ruling Organo syndicate that controls the cybernetic Texhnolyze technology that they usually reserve for the elite. Meanwhile, an outsider has come down to the city and, along with a young psychic girl, the dominos are beginning to fall in the seething unrest of the city as their paths slowly intertwine with Ichise's.The Review!Audio:
Excellent foley work makes this one of the most immersive viewing experiences I've ever had. Arranging sounds for this series must've been a royal pain: there's swordplay, guns, cybernetic limbs, boxing matches, fields, factories, an extensive underground city with trains, cars, and motorcycles ... Not only that, but the montage work of the series means that there's often very fast switching between different locales, visions in a dream sequence, or camera angles. In other words, one episode could theoretically require sounds from every single one of the above groups. The imaginary sounds are rendered and edited magnificently. They deepen the premise of the whole series: that the world of Texhnolyze could very easily emerge from our own.
Music is used sparingly, and is almost never meant to be noticed (as compared to, say, series like Noir or Cowboy Bebop). I can only remember a few moments where I heard anything like a song. However, the opening theme by Juno Reactor is incredibly, incredibly badass.
I did my usual switch back and forth between sub and dub to see how each handled. The American voice acting was competent, if a little flat. In particular, Ichise, the main character, is constantly in a gray mood, and the Japanese actor's rendition of this trait was more accurate. The American actor sounded merely bored or unenthused, whereas the Japanese actor hit the nail on the head: his Ichise will go wherever anyone will have him, because he feels he has no inherent worth. That's a crucial difference in a series filled with shades of gray and moral ambiguities.Video:
Texhnolyze is a very visually demanding series "it demanded a lot of its creators, and it demands a lot of you, the viewer. Some shows unload all their ammo in their opening sequence, and never match it in the series proper (Ergo Proxy); other shows use flashy techniques in their early episodes to hook viewers, only to abandon them for more mundane, cost-efficient techniques (Gantz). With Texhnolyze, however, all of the visual techniques used in the opening sequence "and it's an impressive one "are used throughout the series. Visual noise, dream-sequence imagery, HUD-style visuals, and carefully-coordinated palettes are all part of the animators' arsenal. It's like no show I've ever seen before "and that's before even considering the character designs or unique mecha. After watching the full series, I'm convinced I could pick a Texnolyze background cel out of a lineup "that's how distinctive the architecture, colors, and mood of this show is.Packaging:
For this review, I had the pleasure of receiving the special edition box set with lenticular "onserts." (Think the cover of Tool's Aenima
.) There's one for each of the art box' faces, and one for each DVD cover as well. They're a beautiful extra, taking Texhnolyze's already-excellent cover art and essentially turning them into 3-D stills. My only beef is that they came attached by just a measly spot of rubber glue. They fell off almost instantly. That was fine for the DVD cases "I just put the onserts under the transparent plastic, where the regular DVD covers go. But as for the onserts that were supposed to be on the outside of the artbox, there was no way to put them back on short of super-gluing them to the box itself "which, truth be told, is gorgeous even without the onserts. So now those outer onserts are nothing more than DVD case sized pencil boards. Bummer!Menu:
In the series, people with texhnolyzed limbs have a number of computerized readouts in their field of vision. Often the camera will switch to their point of view, and you'll see these little whirly targeting devices and statistics. The menus go overboard trying to reproduce this effect. There are about ten times the number of texhnolyzed whirligigs in the foreground, video clips from the episodes in the background, and enough movement to keep an ADD kid fascinated for a solid five minutes. All of this makes the relatively few menu options difficult to locate. I also noted that the menu music was a loop of the quirkiest, least listener-friendly section of a song from the show. Annoying. If only they had started the music at the point where the loop fades out, it would have been perfect "and much less cloying.Extras:
Not much here in the way of extras. The most significant one was a series of hit-and-miss comedy spots the American dubbers threw together. About one out of every five actually made me laugh. Viewers looking for extras that will elaborate on the series and its world will have to look online.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)What to Expect from Texnolyze
Forget everything anyone's told you about Texhnolyze. Pretend they lied to you or whatever. Start from scratch. Texhnolyze has been undeservedly glossed over by the same critical establishment that made a masterpiece out of Evangelion. In fact, Evangelion serves as a useful point of comparison. Both series are visions of a future dystopia; both are radical, convention-smashing anime. But Evangelion's "experimental" storytelling techniques merely annoyed viewers (how many screens full of huge Japanese characters or scraggly horizontal lines can you watch before you just stop paying attention?). Texhnolyze, on the other hand, uses avant-garde techniques straight out of art-house cinema. The result is that Lukuss, the city at the heart of Texnolyze, is infinitely more believable "and habitable "than Evangelion's Tokyo-3. When an Angel goes all Godzilla and knocks over a building, we as viewers primarily feel bad for the building
, for the destruction of the physical city; as an afterthought, we might assume that there were people living or working in there, and feel bad for them, too. When a fight breaks out in Lukuss, you see the open-air vendors running for cover "or staying close by their stands, jaded at the sight of the millionth downtown shooting, caring only that they don't get robbed in the confusion.
Another difference worth noting is that Texhnolyze is much more aggressive towards its viewers. Evangelion revealed the elements of its sci-fi plotline like an information war: a tidbit here, a flashback there. You knew you'd get the full story eventually. Plus, there were giant robots and cute high schoolers and a comic relief animal and plenty of other long-running anime tropes that made otaku feel right at home. With Texhnolyze, you have to fight the show in order to connect to it. All your well-honed otaku instincts go right out the window. The characters are designed with normally-proportioned eyes and figures instead of your usual anime googly eyes. There's no easy-to-read good and bad guys; pretty much everyone is a scumbag. The robotic technology is something that requires adjusting to and maintaining; it's not some messianic miracle cure. And I think if you tried to bring Pen Pen or Mokona to Lukuss, they'd implode. Texhnolyze forces you to join the very battle it portrays "or walk away.
I'm not gonna lie to you. I walked away at first. The first episode is almost entirely silent, and my reaction went from "WTF?" "which, really, isn't all that uncommon of a reaction when you're watching a first episode "to something more like, "no, seriously, WTF?! This is weird. You're not giving me anything to go on. I'm turning this off."
Months and months later, I remembered that first episode "the crushing silence of it, the uncomfortable sex scene, the shades of gray. Reflecting on it, I realized how ballsy it was to make such a break with tradition. This was a TV show that was allying itself with high cinema, an anime that threw out the otaku playbook in favor of live-action storytelling techniques! It reminds me of the first time I heard the music of The Cardigans, Converge, and Fiona Apple, Meshuggah's Chaosphere
, Silverchair's Diorama
"groups and albums that are now among my favorites. I had a strong initial "WTF?" reaction, if not an outright negative one. But something stuck in my head and percolated over time, convincing me to revisit them. Once I chose to accept them on their
terms, they suddenly opened up for me. Texhnolyze may not be user-friendly, but it's worth fighting for.Who's Who
Lukuss is who Texhnolyze is about, really. It's not fanciful to say that the city of Lukuss is the show's protagonist. Beautifully represented by a series of symbolic locales "cranes, open-air vendors, canals, and a gigantic obelisk that sits at the center of the city "Lukuss is the world's first underground city. It is governed (barely) by an awkward balance between several factions, and is largely spurned by the above-ground world. Texhnolyze is essentially a chronicle of the war between Lukuss' different factions, and its eventual outcome.
Ichise, the main character of the series, is only "main" by a very small stretch. There are several other characters who have roughly equal screen time, and a handful who are actually far more influential in determining the future of Lukuss. Those who have trouble with large casts of characters may not enjoy Texhnolyze "although I should note that the character designers did a wonderful job of creating characters that are easily distinguishable from one another, even if you can't remember their names. Ichise is a boxer, thin and lightweight, who crosses his promoter and ends up on the wrong side of a sword. Barely alive, he's rescued by a doctor who texhnolyzes his limbs. But with no family, no friends, and a body that's now completely unfamiliar, Ichise becomes a stray dog: he searches for a reason to live, but just ends up fighting time and time again.
Wielding the blade that lops off Ichise's limbs is Onishi, leader of a group called the Organo. Intentionally styled as a yakuza organization, the Organo have all but cornered Lukuss' organized crime market. Their key holding is their control of raffia, a strange substance that Lukuss seems to have been built to mine. The properties of raffia are what allow dead and desensitized flesh to connect with robotic limbs "in other words, it's the glue that makes texhnolyzation possible.
Marginally allied with the Organo is a woman only known as Doc. Blonde, beautiful, and severe, Doc is easily the show's most fascinating character. She's perfected the texhnolyze process using the Organo's resources. But she's no good-natured fix-'em-up doctor; she's proud of her process to the point of obsession. She literally gets off on watching it work. While working on Ichise, she humiliates him, has sex with him, and rebuilds him. It's hard to tell whether she's turned on by him or by her own brilliance, but one thing is clear: there's something disturbing about her sexuality that radically differentiates her from the stereotypical fan service nurse. Doc's story is also the richest, since viewers get to watch her resolve the tension between her megalomaniacal nympho genius and her humanism. She may be psycho, but she also truly believes in the helping power of texhnolyzation, as well as its beauty.
There are two organizations butting heads with the Organo: the Raccan and the Salvation Union. The Raccan are a bunch of street punks who have recently begun to organize themselves in resistance to the Organo. The Salvation Union are a radical militant group who are against texhnolyzation, fearing that it tampers with man's inherent spirit. Neither group is large or powerful enough to take on the Organo outright, and they differ too much from one another to band together. Still, there has been ongoing low-level warfare between the three groups, and as the series begins, the street conflicts have been escalating.
What little government Lukuss has seems to come from two organizations who take a very hands-off approach to the affairs of the city. There is a town on a hill far enough away from Lukuss to require a train trip; here, a traditional society rules based on visions from their town seer. The latest incarnation of the seer is a girl named Ran, who has not yet come to terms with her gift of second sight. The town acts as a sort of buffer between Lukuss and a group known as the Class. Little is known about the Class, since they live in a sealed compound, but it's clear that they have access to the most advanced technology in the underground world "and that they are also the only ones with easy access to the above-ground world.
Into this ugly stew wanders Yoshii, an above-grounder who makes the grueling trip down the miles of stairs that line Lukuss' ventilation shaft. What could an outsider possibly want that badly?Story Arc
It's hard to imagine Texhnolyze finishing in anything under 22 episodes. With so many factions and characters at work, a lot of blood has to be spilled before any kind of resolution is possible. There's really only one story arc: that of everyone in Lukuss getting involved in a battle royale until only one group is left standing. The smaller arcs are really just the tales of particular groups: the struggle of the Raccan to gain a foothold; the Salvation Union's inexorable swandive; the Organo's fight to maintain dominance against outside forces while infighting weakens its ranks.
There is, however, one deviation from the larger plot arc. The emergence of a clear-cut villain is Texhnolyze's biggest (only?) disappointment. Kano, the white-haired loose-cannon from the Class compound, might as well be one of the Sephiroth clones from Final Fantasy: Advent Children. He sits back in his chair, spouts selfish, pseudo-gothic babble, and sips liquor from his goblet. In a series that was almost entirely comprised of shades of gray, Kano is so stereotypical that he simply fails to be believable. Luckily, the battle royale is mostly resolved by the time Kano appears at the end of the series. Even he can't derail the gruesome end in store for Lukuss.In Summary:
Before Texhnolyze even reaches its halfway point, it's clear that the story is headed in a pretty hopeless direction. You know a horrible end is coming, and when it arrives, knowing ahead of time doesn't make it hurt any less. Most anime make hackneyed, Judeo-Christian fueled attempts to end on a note of redemption, healing, or hope. But we threw the rulebook out the window at the beginning, remember? There's no path to salvation in Lukuss, before, after, or even through the battle. The only moral currency in the story is the honor that comes from carrying out one's duty. But even honor is just a social concept. And if everyone else is dead, then who will honor you?
The city of Lukuss is nothing more than a slightly futuristic, slightly higher-tech ghetto. And its people do what ghetto people do best: kick the ever-loving shit out of one another in order to be the king of the trash heap. Texhnolyze gracefully avoids turning this theme into a social or political critique. In so doing, it allows the story to take on an operatic size comparable to that of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or the Final Fantasy games. But by lopping off the happy endings of those tales, Texhnolyze forces us back into our own reality, and compels us to look at the way a story like Lukuss' might resemble "or emerge from "our own.
Some conclusions are inevitable. Texhnolyze certainly seems to suggest that technology won't save us; the transhumanism and cybernetic "evolution" proposed by Ghost in the Shell is a cool daydream, but it's a bunch of crap. In fact, technology might just bring out more of the beast in us. Atomic energy, which is conspicuously absent from the world of Texhnolyze, has already made it abundantly clear that cooler technology just makes for cooler ways to kill each other. Advances in medicine have created a surface world where people live longer, emptier lives than ever before; indeed, it's unclear whether they're ghosts or humans. And after a series full of Lukuss' earth tones, the bright colors and sunshine of the surface world are horrific, suggesting that there's little salvation to be found in running back to nature. But rejecting technology isn't the answer, either; you can see the Salvation Union's demise coming miles away, and you're supposed to, because their purist ideology is so clearly out of tune with the world they live in.
"We're all going to die," says Doc to Ichise. "All we can choose is where. Where do you want to die?"
It sucks to admit, but the lady's got a point.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Toshiba 34HF81C (16:9, 32", HD-ready), Sony DAV-C700 5 DVD Changer (5.1 DTS) w/ Sony speakers