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Ergo Proxy - volume one
voice cast: Liam O'Brien, Megan Hollingshead, Travis Willingham, and Rachel Hirschchild

director: Shuko Murase

100 minutes (12) 2006
widescreen ratio 16:9
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
The domed city of Romdo is a paradise. The last city left on Earth, Romdo is home to a culture that encourages consumption and where citizenship must be earned. One future citizen, Vincent Law (Liam O'Brien) is assigned to the AutoReiv Control Division, a group of workers charged with maintaining and where necessary bringing down the AutoRevis, Romdo's artificially intelligent robotic population. During one consultation, he encounters Pino (Rachel Hirschchild), a child AutoReiv infected with the Cogito virus that some believe brings the AutoReivs to full sentience.

At the same time, Inspector Rei-I Mayer (Megan Hollingshead) is investigating a series of brutal murders seemingly carried out by AutoReivs under the influence of Cogito. As the three paths begin to cross, it becomes clear that something monstrous is loose in Romdo, something to do with mysterious figures known as Proxies.

Ergo Proxy is not a normal piece of anime, and the first clue you get to that is the title screen. Instead of the standard bleak/ sweeping/ hard rock/ (delete as applicable) incidental music, what plays is Paranoid Android by Radiohead. It's a nice touch and a piece of gallows humour considering the series is so intimately concerned with what it means to be human.

The second clue you get is in the pacing. It's a restless, incident heavy piece that in its first hour alone has taken in AutoReiv/ human battles, societal intrigue, a political conspiracy, possible genetic engineering and what may be a virus that causes religious epiphanies. It's a heady mix and the combination of the likeable if confused Vincent and the regal and arch Rei-I makes for instantly accessible and very entertaining viewing.

In fact, whilst the animation, a clean, elegant mix of 2D and CGI is impressive, what really stands-out from Ergo Proxy are the characters. All three lead actors turn in excellent performances, as does Travis Willingham as Iggy, Rei-I's AutoReiv. Willingham is called upon to do everything from chatty, slightly bitchy office mate to blank robot to crucially, a subtly altered Iggy whose memories are suspect and in each case he not only nails it but drives home the alien, bleak nature of this world.

Combined with the script's frequent philosophical and scientific references, there's the sense of something unusually smart, and unusually densely plotted unfolding in front of you. This is a complex, tightly plotted series and I look forward to seeing where it's going. Highly recommended, not only for anime fans but fans of good science fiction.

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