Ergo Proxy (エルゴプラクシー) is a 23-episode 2006 cyberpunk original-anime by studio Manglobe.
With the world dying due to pollution the last of humanity lives in a giant domed off city with help from automaton assistants. When several of the robots began going mad and killing people, not to mention the ones apparently gaining sentience, Intelligence Bueraru agent Re-L begins investigating the cause of the incidents while taking a bit of a road trip with an engineer Vincent, the robot child Pino, and Re-L’s own automaton Iggy.
If there’s a major component to a lot of cyberpunk its questioning existentialism and what “being alive” really means, while our last couple shows dont really have this Ergo Proxy makes up for them by having that as its entire thesis. The whole premise is people reacting, and reacting badly, to the fact their robots are gaining sentience while also having multiple characters question their own humanity in a classic Blade Runner conundrum. This is known as one of the thinkier series out there, very much of a part with things like Haibane Renmai or Key: The Metal Idol1
Not to say there isn’t any action. Oh heavens no, there’s actually a fairly decent amount of fights sprinkled throughout as they battle with the rogue android or other living beings they encounter during their journey into the wilderness. Adding to this is that Ergo Proxy was released at the best possible time for this kind of series, with show budgets in the early aughts skyrocketing and full CGI series looking great for it there is some striking animation and clean designs that would mostly fall away for the better part of a decade not long after this came out.
Like many other “thinkier” shows its biggest downside is sometimes figuring out just what the hell is going on as it likes to talk philosophical instead of directly quite frequently which can be confusing (aka the Ghost in the Shell problem). While there are some visual cues cleverly sprinkled throughout they aren’t something you’ll pick up on right away so you almost have to rewatch it to get all the hints about when various androids are “waking up” as it can make you look at their subsequent actions differently. Its other biggest hindrance is its 23 episodes long, which can be a bit much for a show like this. Much of the road trip which takes up the bulk of the show can sometimes feel like a bit of wheel spinning or covering the same ideas for the second (or third or fourth) time, if it was only one cour there would be a much tighter show to be had.
Weeb Level: Fairly low. Pino sometimes comes off as a standard young girl in anime type, and there’s some silliness during the midstages you wouldn’t see in a western cyberpunk, but its very much hard sci-fi first, anime second.
Content: Re-L does have a scene in her underwear while getting ready for a bath in episode 1, otherwise nothing overly sexual there. Violence is a bit harsher, with the most off-putting parts being the sometimes close up shots of them working on bio-mechanical parts in the androids.
Worth watching: Seek it out if you like GitS, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, or any kind of hard cyberpunk philosophy. Watch it if you want a slick sci-fi show with some great animation. Skip it if you like completely making sense of what youre seeing.
Where to watch: Originally licensed by Geneon it was picked up by Funimation in the firesale after they went under. Unfortunately it was one of the shows delisted from Crunchyroll during the split with Funi so its only viewable on Funimations site now, or on Prime if you pay for it per episode.
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