Popular Reviews from the Last 6 Months

This is a post where, as suggested, I highlight some reviews that have been popular in the previous 6 months. (Last time around I also did a post that was more like just my favs from each month but I’m a bit busy at the moment :D).

Below can be found those posts that got the most traffic – though I may or may not have done the best job in expressing myself in them.

(Once again, I’m still not ready with my ‘Prefect Blue’ review but I’m making tiny strides!)

December – Sword in the Stone

January – Nadia vs Atlantis

February – Update (+ Guessing Game)

March – Trigun (The Gung-Ho Guns Arc)

April – Karakuri Circus

May – Ergo Proxy (Collaboration) :)

I was interested to see that my Nadia v Atlantis post still gets some attention and that a Guessing Game post got in there too 😀

Thanks for reading!

Ashley

Ergo Proxy (Collaboration with In Search of Number Nine)

Very excited to kick off this collaboration with Iniksbane at In Search of Number Nine, since we’re writing on one of my all-time favs, Ergo Proxy!

I’d put off reviewing Ergo Proxy for a long time but being able to work with Cameron took a bit of the pressure off, and I’m really happy with what we came up with. Thanks to Cameron’s awesome posts over the years, I’ve been introduced to a heap of great anime – and one that comes to mind instantly for me is Rahxephon

But getting back to Ergo Proxy, we’ve split the posts between our blogs, so below you can read our review conversation and next up is our analysis post over at In Search of Number Nine – link to follow once we go live 🙂

But now, let’s begin – and Iniksbane’s up first:

Iniksbane: I’m curious when and where you first encountered Ergo Proxy? I have a little bit of personal history with this show. I initially saw the first episode at Otakon in 2006, and I was blown away by how this show looked. Sure. There were other stylish shows that I had seen, but between the austere sci-fi setting and the voice-over, I was intrigued. 

I’m not sure if I would say I was hooked, but I was interested in learning more. 

This show holds an important spot in the anime distribution history in America in that it was one of the final shows that Geneon released. Pioneer and then Geneon were responsible for distributing a lot of the more unusual anime, stuff like Ergo Proxy, Serial Experiments Lain, Haibane Renmei, Paranoia Agent and Gankutsou, to name a few.  The End of Geneon USA – Anime (bellaonline.com)

This was around the time I started blogging as well. 

It was the start of the change of the anime industry in the U.S. Within a year or so, ADV would become Section 24. They would eventually start rereleasing anime under Sentai Filmworks, but that would take some time. 

Bandai Entertainment, the American distribution arm of Bandai in Japan, held out until 2012, but they ended up shutting down as well. Bandai Entertainment to Stop Releasing New DVDs, BDs, Manga – News – Anime News Network

Funimation ended up being the last one standing. They emerged with all of the Dragon Ball Z money. 

But I remember feeling lucky that I got my copy of Ergo Proxy. 

In my notes, I noticed that the show has a 4.5 out of 5. I find that interesting because it wasn’t a beloved show at the time of its release. I’m glad that it’s found an audience 15 years later. 

Ashley: Wow, that’s pretty awesome that you got to see the opener at a convention! 

I remember being only generally aware of Ergo Proxy back in the early 2010s and sometimes seeing it on informal lists here and there afterwards, it seemed like a real favourite for a lot of people but at the same time, not a series that was well-known, yeah.

I reckon I first saw a preview, probably on a DVD of another show and that got me searching for the series, thinking I ought to finally track down a copy and see for myself what it was like. (That copy was the Funimation reissue).

Glad I did too :D.

Iniksbane: What did you think about the show when you first watched it? What do you think of it now? I’ve heard another review of this show that divided it into three parts and said the beginning and the end were weak, but the middle was great. 

I’m not sure I remember much from my first time watching the show, I remember the quiz show episode and the one where they were stuck, and I vaguely remembered Iggy’s fate. 

Honestly, this time through, I liked the beginning. I loved the middle episodes, and I am still torn about the ending. 

To give you some to react to, I thought the first few episodes moved fast enough to set up what happened after they started the journey. I don’t feel like it wasted any time, or rather I felt like it spent enough time doing what it needed to. 

The show really kicks it into high gear once they leave the dome. I found Hoody’s story arc engrossing. I liked the interplay between Daedulus and Raul.

The conflict between Iggy and Re-l was great. In particular, I love the line, “You don’t get to write me off just because I’ve gotten complicated.”

Although Vincent is strangely hands-on with Re-l in a way, I wasn’t comfortable with and didn’t understand. I wrote down in my notes that Re-l attracts creepy stalker guys. 

My biggest problems come in the last three or so episodes. I’m still struggling with what they were trying to do there. It’s the only part of the show that felt self-indulgent. The show would have these long panning shots without anything going on. Raul and, to a lesser extent, Daedalus felt like non-entities at that point. 

It’s not a bad end, but it felt a little lackluster in comparison to some of the frankly brilliant stuff they do in the middle.

Ashley: That’s interesting re: the review you mention. For my first viewing I had the opposite response, to me during some of the middle episodes it felt like the tension was beginning to fall off. I remember preferring the beginning and ending parts.

And yet, on subsequent viewings those middle stretches contain some of my favourite moments. A bit like you, the ending is the part that I now wonder about. I wish it had been expanded for a few more episodes at least.

When I finished Ergo Proxy the first time I remember feeling like I had to immediately go and watch the first few episodes again to catch the foreshadowing I’d missed. Viewing it now feels like watching familiar, (and some) beloved characters fighting against cruel manipulation and that abandonment you mention below, I feel like I can focus more on character and less on unravelling the plot.

I guess like a lot of post-apocalyptic/cyberpunk fiction the fear of what humanity cannot control does seem to motivate a lot of characters and I like how that played out in Pino’s character, since she humanised the robots who are ‘infected’ with the Cogito Virus. (Maybe a bit like Robin from Witch Hunter Robin?)  

Iggy stood out for me too – poor guy, Re-l seems to treat him as a punching bag at times. Agree that Re-l is definitely a magnet for those sorts of fellows.

I also agree that Daedulus and Raul had some great scenes together but that the narrative seems to abandon them by the end, which was a real shame. Again, maybe just a few more episodes and that ending could have given them more time too?

One thing I think about the show now compared to the first time I watched it, is I realise more just how long the audience is kept in the dark in terms of piecing the bigger picture together, which is mostly only lurking behind the smaller investigative events for a fair while.

Iniksbane: Do you feel like the show succeeded with its more surreal aspects? So I’m leading a little bit here, but I felt this show was good at adding weight to what are largely surrealistic episodes. 

In particular, I pointed out in my notes that I liked the library episode. In particular, I said  One of the things about this show is just how surreal it is without losing all of its footing in “real” life. The bookstore in the middle of the wasteland is the height of that weirdness.  

This is also true with the episode Ophelia, as they are in the dome with the grocery store, and they keep running into a proxy that could copy other people. I don’t know if it’s the Hamlet reference, but I think the episode succeeds in making me realize that the proxy felt lonely but was so scared of being lonely that she killed everyone. 

Ashley: The Ophelia episode was one of my favs, absolutely – the surrealism throughout that plot was ace. It’s interesting how well those episodic sections of the series operate to build tension, expand the world and delay the answers everyone is seeking. 

It also fit right into the unsettling tone – sometimes it’s almost absurdist, which kinda built upon the unease for me.

And I know what you mean, the further into the show you get, the clearer it becomes that the Proxies are desperately unhappy or lonely, often broken by their roles. I especially felt bad for the Disney Proxy who was maybe doing a better job at protecting his charges than what we see in other domes.

Iniksbane: What character moments/episodes stood out to you? I’m curious. I liked two episodes in particular. One was the quiz show episode because it’s such an unusual way of getting exposition across. 

I also really liked the Disney episode. One of the characters I felt like got shortchanged in the early episodes was Pino. She seemed a lot like a cute mascot girl, but that episode gave me a sense of who she was. She really is a nice person who wants to help people. She was just a child in danger of getting thrown away. 

There is another moment that I like in the last few episodes after both Re-ls reject Daedalus. He says, “When I look into her eyes, I want to see my reflection.”

This is one point I probably should make about those last few episodes. I do think they’re messy, but there are a lot of great moments. At one point, we see Raul limping down the street, and there is a voiceover from Pino. 

Re-l has a monologue where she says, “Once this clockwork paradise bored me. So I prayed for change. Any change. I now have to wonder if those awful prayers were the catalyst that woke the sleeping Ergo.”

Ashley: Pino really became a stand out character for me too, yeah. Seeing her learn and grow as the series went on, and that Disney episode is a highlight for her – I love the teacup scene for a lighter moment, and there aren’t tonnes of them in the show, huh? 

Agree on the game show episode – Ergo Proxy just cuts in on a lot of those episodes with zero transition, and so I remember experiencing a bit of whiplash at first, but when I watched it again I thought it was a pretty cool way to deliver exposition.

I think the first episode is one of my favs – I finished it with so many unanswered questions and was immediately drawn in by the detective/noir stuff. Upon re-watch, Monad’s struggle takes on a different tone too but above all, I think it’s the action sequences as they punctuate the investigations. They feel pretty explosive and fluid too, like a good chunk of the budget went into hooking the audience with that ep.

Next up for me was probably the Ophelia episode. I really enjoyed being confused at first, and then once I figured out the team were being manipulated I was suddenly second-guessing everything I saw, that was fun. 

Visually too, the emptiness and all the wide shots, or the reflections and mist, it all made for heaps of memorable compositions. The atmosphere and symbolism around duality is pretty strong here too and Pino’s ‘cooking’ is a nice little moment of levity.

Iniksbane: According to an ANN interview, the series composer Dai Sato said they wanted to “create an image somewhat like a darker breed of American superhero.” Do you think they succeeded? Do you think that is a worthy goal? Link to the article. Interview: Dai Sato – Anime News Network

Ashley: That’s really interesting – although, I probably don’t know enough about superhero texts to offer an opinion on Ergo Proxy’s success in reflecting that… but I think it’s fascinating that the end result made me think of things like Tim Burton’s Batman films from the 1990s.

Good question, I think maybe it is worth trying because it might end up in something really distinctive. So, to bring in superhero stuff to a noir/cyberpunk/dystopian story resulted in Ergo Proxy so that’s pretty cool. And that ‘darker’ idea seems clearly realised, as it feels like most characters are anti-heroes, villains or at least always at cross-purposes throughout the series. (Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit there though).

Iniksbane: Most famously, the show used real philosophers’ names along with referencing Descartes’ “Cogito Ergo Sum,” do you think this worked? I remember this being the most significant sticking point with Ergo Proxy. To put it kindly, people thought this show was up its own butt.

Even Sato, in that same ANN interview, said, “I thought that project was a little too fast-paced. We had a lot of ideas and things we wanted to incorporate that we couldn’t fit.”

As a story, I think you can completely ignore this point, and for the most part, the story stands on its own. I’m not sure if I remember the names of the philosophers that are referenced, and I don’t think it bears looking up. 

That said, thematically, I think the ideas of self-determination and free will are core to what the show is going for. And here is where I’m going to dip a bit into spoilers. 

Raul starts off the show talking about people filling their assigned roles and has a deterministic outlook on life. But by the end of the show, he’s trying to fight against Ergo Proxy. He rejects the “God” of their world. 

In particular, Raul tells the regent, “You have spent your existence seeking a god that betrayed you. I am free of your illusions.”  

This back and forth between fate and free will is a recurring theme in the entirety of the show. I feel the show solidly lands in favor of free will, but there is a lot of plot driven by characters who believe they are fated for destruction. 

So I guess I will end this with another question. Where do you think the show lands on that theme? 

Ashley: I think the individuals in the Collective could have been called anything and it wouldn’t have made any difference, definitely.

I don’t recall their dialogue as distinctive or even suggesting any of the curiosity you’d expect from a philosopher – by which I guess I meant, they pretty much towed the line and never seemed to question their own part in the dome and the greater plan. (Admittedly, they weren’t infected so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised).

For the theme, those final shots seem really defiant so that especially makes me think the show comes down on the side of free will. Bleak as it can be, and even with all the collateral damage. 

You mentioned Rual and I think he’s a perfect example of a character playing out the tension between those themes – he’s got quite a lot of development too, swinging from sympathetic and less so and then back again, from antagonist to maybe a supporting protagonist which I found interesting since Vincent/Ergo Proxy isn’t strictly a hero or even an anti-hero, I think.

Or at least, not until the end perhaps – when I guess his resolve is channelled along the lines of free will being worth preserving?

And done!

Hope you enjoyed this post and that you’re ready for the next part, which you’ll soon be able to read over at In Search of Number Nine 🙂

Anime OP-ED (September 2020)

Trying to do a new ‘monthly’ thing here at the heap, but knowing me, it might not work out exactly that way based on my posting ‘schedule’ – and me using that word is quite optimistic 😀

Still, hopefully once a month I can share an opening theme song and also an ending one too.

Ideally, I’d include a little paragraph (or less) which each song. Maybe trivia, maybe what I liked, and incredibly rarely, perhaps a bit of analysis. And first up I’m going to kinda cheat – and use the same show for both songs, since I’ve been a little busy of late.

And yep, it will appear that today at least, this post is also a poorly veiled excuse for me to talk about Ergo Proxy.

‘Kiri’ by MONORAL (Ergo Proxy, 2006)

I do love the grunge-soaked opening to Egro Proxy but this is an ace song by itself, separate to the visuals. I like how it’s almost a power ballad too – but of course, the downbeat feel that suits the anime perfectly too.

‘Paranoid Andriod’ by Radiohead (Ergo Proxy, 2006)

I remember sitting up a little when I first heard this, it was a fun surprise.

Of course, it’s not the first time that a UK or US band has licensed a song to an anime but I didn’t think that Radiohead would bite when it came to any such offer – and at first, it seems they didn’t (but after being shown a preview they were on board.) I wish I could find a little more about their reaction, but so far I haven’t been able to find much. (Trivia note – My band in high school wanted us to cover this and I was the ‘singer’ at the time… and basically, well, let’s bring out the word optimistic again, in relation to the possibility of me even being able to come close to doing such a thing).

And there we go, the first Anime OP-ED post complete! Next time I’ll actually use different shows for a bit of extra variety though.

Real Neat Blog Award

Firstly, thanks to Mia over at 9tailedkitsune.com for the nomination 🙂

I haven’t been involved in a blog-tag-chain-nom for many moons – not since I used to be a poet with my old blog, so it’s nice to get back into a community!

So, as many of you will already know, here’s the structure – I’ll answer Mia’s great questions now and then write up some of my own below, and finally nominate a few folks and see who else is able to jump on board.

1. Is piracy killing or helping the anime industry?

Harming for sure, I reckon – especially now that legal streaming is an option, making anime consumption about 1000% cheaper than it was decades ago. And (as I think we all know) the less income a studio sees from any given series, the less chance there is of getting a continuation of that series. (And of course, I want folks to financially support the artists they love.)

2. What anime are you planning to watch in 2020?

Gurren Lagan – it’s one of the more significant gaps in my knowledge of the Gainax filmography, so I definitely have to remedy that this year. For me, I don’t think I’ll enjoy it as much as Neon Genesis or Nadia but that’s truly not important; and I shouldn’t be comparing them too much, and especially not before I’ve actually seen the series!

3. What is your favorite anime quote and why?

This was hard! I had to go back to an old fav, Cowboy Bebop. I nearly went with Jet’s lesson from Toys in the Attic but instead, I’ll stay with him but switch to a different episode:

Men only think about their past right before death, as if they were searching frantically for proof they were alive.

– Jet, Cowboy Bebop

I think it’s one of my favourite quotes because I like how it illustrates something about his character – I see him as someone who looks back a lot, but hides it too. And for someone who is (rightfully) hard on Spike about running from the past, Jet also maybe sets an example throughout the series re: confronting that past. The quote itself (and the preceding mini-monologue) also works as clear foreshadowing of something that’s been foreshadowed for pretty much the entire series.

4. Who is your favorite anime couple?

Edward and Winry come to mind first if we’re going for romantic couples, though I always liked the way Jean and Nadia end up complimenting each other across the course of Nadia Secret of Blue Water too.

5. What is your favorite video game?

It’s tough narrowing these down to a single choice 😀

So, I think I’ll cheat here and mention a favourite video game from a specific console, which should help me narrow down the field… a little, lol. I’ll stick with the Sega Megadrive firstly, and then skip over some classic games like Sonic 2 and Streets of Rage 3 and choose Phantasy Star IV.

Phantasy Star IV was one of the first few JRPGs I played and it had everything you’d expect from the genre; turn-based battles, distinctive characters and long storylines but also an interesting ‘comic book’ panel approach to cut scenes, which I loved. There was also a macro feature you could use in battle and that was an amazing, time-saving perk that I hope more modern games revitalise.

6. If you could meet only 3 anime characters IRL (in real life) who would they be?

I reckon I’ll accidentally leave out someone that I’d love to chat with and come back later and want to change my mind, but here goes:

Ergo Proxy

This would actually be hard work, meeting Ergo Proxy, but it would be at the very least, fascinating to meet someone so vast… of course, I’d only want to do so under strict conditions I think.

Vash The Stampede

I think Vash would be a really fun guy to be around 🙂

Nausicaa

One of Miyazaki’s heroine traits is to have them transform adversaries into allies via kindness and that’s always impressed me about Nausicaa, so it’d be fun to meet her and maybe ask her to teach me how to ride the Mēve, though I’d probably end up chickening out.

7. Do you recall the 3 worst anime you have ever seen?

Not too well – but I have (like all of us no doubt) abandoned more than a few over the years: 7 Seeds, Coppelion and The Rising of the Shield Hero come to mind. Based on my posts about them, I think it was a mixture of predictability and what felt like a lack of tension within the early episode(s).


Okay! So here’s my questions – I’ve tried to come up with a mix of ones I think might be short or long answers but also, just a warning that the first one might kinda push everyone into spoiler territory:

  • 1. If you could tweak the ending to any series or film, what would you do?
  • 2. If you could replace any world leader with an anime character, who would you choose?
  • 3. What is your all time favourite anime action sequence? (doesn’t have to be a fight, of course)
  • 4. Which anime (film/series/OVA) did you find yourself thinking about long after it ended?
  • 5. What would you say is your favourite anime OST (or just one song perhaps) and why?
  • 6. Who is your favourite director/writer and what do you want to see from them in the future?
  • 7. Who are your top 3 character designers?

The Rules

  • 1. Display the logo.
  • 2. Thank the bloggers for the award.
  • 3. Answer the questions from the one who nominated you.
  • 4. Nominate 7 to 10 bloggers.
  • 5. Ask them 7 questions.

And now, nominating any one below who’s able to get involved (hopefully you haven’t been tagged too many times already), with thanks for being extra welcoming to me over these first with months of posting my reviews!

(Hope I didn’t miss anyone – also, can I tag someone back? If so, I’d tag 9tailedkitsune and get to seven :D)