Texhnolyze Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B-
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Texhnolyze

Texhnolyze Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Derek Guder     April 16, 2004
Release Date: April 06, 2004

The Review!
Comparisons with Yoshitoshi ABe's most infamous work are unavoidable but surprisingly apt, in tone, characters and style. Resembling nothing so much as an odd combination of serial experiments lain and a dark Yakuza film, this was far from what I was expecting when I originally heard about it. TEXHNOLYZE is a very intriguing show, though decidedly slow and even less interested in explaining what is going on than lain was.

I actually watched the whole disc through once in English and then again in Japanese a day or so later to try to take in the fullness of both tracks. I'm squarely in the subtitle camp of anime myself, but I was curious as to how the English dub was handled. For the most part, it was pretty much like any other recent dub in that I would say it's serviceable if largely unremarkable ? aside from the usual minor dub re-writes that tend to make the dialogue more artificial and stilted. Normally I'd blame the dub Prime Directive of matching lip flap, but many of the lines are delivered from off-screen and there is so little dialogue to begin with. That all pretty much comes with the territory, however. Giving the doctor an English accent was actually a really nice touch, providing the dub a more character than I was expecting. The choice to have the stoic mob boss shout out "Wake up and smell the world!" was an absolute low-point of the English track, however, jarring me out of story with peals of laughter.

The Japanese track felt far more natural, with a wide range of emotion that was just lacking from its English counterpart. As I mentioned offhand, there is remarkably little dialogue in the show ? in fact there is none at all for the first half of the introductory episode ? but the actors make the best use of the lines that they have, giving very rich performances. As I was paying closer attention to the audio during my Japanese viewing session, I also was more aware of the quality of the background sounds and music. Quite well executed, sound is crisp and sharp and makes very good use of its stereo format. TEXHNOLYZE is an extremely quiet and reserved show and those sounds that are used were obviously given a great deal of thought and care when the show was put together.

Somehow managing to be sharp and vibrant while remaining as dark and subdued as the show itself, the video is impeccable. Just as with the audio side of the show, great care was taken in the visual presentation of the show, which is to be expected from a reliable production studio like Madhouse. Colors are carefully chosen and often say more about a given scene than the dialogue within it. A variety of digital filters are used throughout the show, most commonly for point-of-view shots for characters who have been texhnolyzed (given cybernetic limbs) or when Ichise is lost in rage and both the video and audio are blanketed with a layer of noise that blocks out everything except his target. The show is quite often very, very dark and it is sometimes almost impossible to see exactly what is happening. It is really only crisp contrast and slight coloration differences that reveal any details and outlines. And then there are the scenes in the doctor's place, where everything is bathed in a soft, white light and colors take on an almost pastel quality. Both extremes are crystal clear and near-perfectly presented.

I quite like the overall package design for the disc. Though there's no volume number listed on it and the layout feels a little strange, packing so much information onto the back cover, but the design definitely fits the style of the show and of much of ABe's work in general. The gorgeous cover painting pretty much sums up our "protagonist" Ichise pretty well as he ends up in these first episodes: violent, withdrawn, angry and with a cybernetic arm. That combined with the handful of screenshots on the back should give viewers some preparation for what's in store, namely cybernetics, violence and politics. I also really like seeing Japanese main credits on the outside of a package, so Geneon gets a lot of points for that as well.

TEXHNOLYZE is one of those great shows that pretty much come with a built-in menu design: the visual interface for cybernetic limbs that we see superimposed on some characters' points of view through the show. Nicely animated and simple, it's geometric design of moving hexagons and lines with scenes from the show playing faintly in the background. Animation between the main menu and the sub-menus is always the same twisting of the screen, but it's nice and quick. Everything responds quickly and the subtitle menu has a text notation for what the current selections for audio and subtitle tracks are, which is a very useful feature sometimes overlooked. The only thing I would have liked to see in the menus is images for the scene selections (especially in an anime like this) as well as the ability to choose specific trailers instead of just playing them all, but that's pretty much a Geneon standard anyway.

The extras are something of a mixed bag. I was really expecting a clean opening and closing, something I would have loved as both the energizing techno opening and the mournful ending are superb songs, but instead we have an interview with Yasuyuki Ueda and Yoshitoshi ABe and some dub outtakes. The interview is great, with the creators giving some insight into how and why the started the project. It is quite nice to have an interview with ABe in particular. I've been waiting for some insight from him for quite a long time now, as I'm avid fan of everything he produces. The "alternate dialogue outtakes", however, seem to have just been an afterthought along the lines of "Well, those dub jokes that other people are doing seem really popular now, so we better try to come up with some jokes of our own". There were only two scenes includes and neither was really that funny. Someone was clearly trying to be funny and didn't quite pull it off.

I'm pretty much sold on anything involving Yoshitoshi ABe right as it comes out the gate, so I was anxiously anticipating TEXHNOLYZE when it was first announced. Even after having seen the first four episodes about 3 times now, I'm still not quite sure just what's going on but I'm certainly enjoying the ride.

Events progress rather slowly (perhaps you could say "at their own pace") as we watch the threads of the individual character inexorably draw together. Ichise is a withdrawn and bestial prize fighter who bites back at his employer when she goes too far in her abuse of her "dog" , losing both his right arm and left leg for it only to be given unwelcome texhnolyze replacements later. Yoshii, a visitor from "above", manages to save the Sage and respected elder of the region from a pair of assassins before heading into the city with an obvious purpose he keeps to himself. Onishi plays the role of the stoic and honorable Yakuza, trying to keep the different factions of the city from tumbling into open war, following what he says are the wishes of the city itself. The doctor, an arrogant and austere character quite at odds to the city she lives in, only wants to research further developements for texhnolyzed limbs and quickly snatches up Ichise as a new test subject after he has been crippled and staggers around the city aimlessly. Through all of this, the taciturn and precognitive Ran just watches everything unfold before her. Each of the characters cross paths with several of the others, establishing relationships and building a web that I'm sure will all come together later on in the series.

As I've mentioned, TEXHNOLYZE is very subdued in almost every way. Things move at a leisurely pace and it seems like surprisingly little actually happens during these first four episodes. That's largely because they focus almost entirely on characterization and establishing the premise of the show: the city of Lukuss is a city of decay in all its forms. The people are fading, dying off slowly. Their ability to heal has apparently diminished, and missing limbs are commonplace along with an atmosphere of defeat and apathy. The few exceptions to this are part of one gang or another, whether the mob-like Organo that seem to be the de facto rulers of the city, the cult-like Salvation Union who preach about purity of the body and the evils of texhnolyzed limbs or the street punks that seem to operate in the shadows of those two.

All of this is communicated in beautiful establishing shots of the crumbling city, nearly all of its buildings having fallen into ruin. The characterization for the cast is as powerful as it is gripping, which is especially important as the designs were intentionally restrained to be more realistic. You don't have the usual exaggerated characteristics to distinguish one individual from another. Instead, we are given greater insight into the characters themselves than we are treated to in most anime and we grow to care about them, the subtle touches of each one becoming more and more obvious. Onishi's almost oppressively silent interaction with his personal aide, strongly reminiscent of a "Beat" Takeshi Kitano role, speak volumes about their relationship. The doctor's obsession with science and experimentation and her controlling nature are revealed in her barely restrained excitement building Ichise's new limbs and her treatment of him as an object or test subject, not a human being. For his own part, Ichise's bottomless rage (and despair) is clear as he staggers around the city, and the pain of losing his limbs is driven home again and again as he clearly cannot deal with daily life without them. One of my favorite scenes on the disc include Ichise falling forward and seeing his right arm reach out to catch himself, only to land face first as his lost limb fades away into nothingness. Or as he watches a set of stairs stretch away into the light and an image of his former self effortlessly ascend them, leaving him far behind in reality.

In Summary:
TEXHNOLYZE definitely has the feeling of a dark crime movie filtered through the somewhat surreal lens of anime. This is a very adult show, in the sense that it is very indirect (even seemingly incomprehensible at times) and does not shy away from graphic and disturbing violence (more because of the joy the characters take in it than any visually gory depiction) or sexual situations. Like the rest of the show, it's not so much explicit as it is suggestive, but that can be even more unnerving at times.

It's that very atmosphere and feeling that is the show's strength and makes it so appealing, in fact. With such slow pacing this early on in the story, all of your attention is focused on the characters and setting ? right where it belongs. Masterfully crafted and a joy to experience, even if there is barely even a hint of what is going on behind everything, TEXHNOLYZE is highly recommended for something looking for another thought-provoking and intricate series along the lines of the vaunted serial experiments lain or another recent restrained and subdued title: Kino's Journey. The only real downside is that it does really require a good deal of patience from the viewer. A payoff is there for those who are interested, but you have to relax and let it build up to it.

Review Equipment
Panasonic CT27SX12AF 27" flat-screen TV, Koss KD365 region free DVD player, Onkyo TX-SR501 receiver, Monster component cable, RCA 6-piece home theater speaker package with 60-Watt subwoofer


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