When anime studio Manglobe closed down, many were quick to cast their eyes back to their classic series Samurai Champloo as their irrefutable masterpiece. But for me, that status has to instead go to Ergo Proxy – a series that seems, even now, to divide people into those that love it, and those that see it as the epitome of mid 00s, post GITS SAC overly-thinky posturing.
In a way, I think, it’s easy to forget that the show *was* actually made in 2006 – it’s certainly aged better than most shows of that era. And while the animation quality across the show varies to shocking degrees, in its finest moments, it shows a level of visual realism miles above most other shows airing at its time. Director Shuko Murase has a few particular directorial quirks he likes to use, embedded deeply in the visual language of live-action cinema and Ergo Proxy builds on the style he laid out in Witch Hunter Robin to deliver a few classic frames that offer a real three-dimensional depth of field that few anime since have achieved in quite the same manner.
I could go on all day about Ergo Proxy as a show, and the thematic weight it tackles (or at least attempts to) – but this post is about the opening theme ‘Kiri’, by Monoral. The old joke always went that in a show that used Paranoid Android by Radiohead as its closing theme, it should only follow that the opening should sound so unmistakably like another giant of Western rock music: U2. The song feels part of a neat sub-lineage of English-language themes in anime, following on from the likes of the Lain OP – a world of greys and blues and transitory mediums between digital and human. A plunging, driving beat adds this constant sense of forward motion – nicely pairing with how the show spends the bulk of its length ‘on the move’, its core characters sailing out endlessly into the post-apocalyptic wastes of the show’s worlds.
Through it all, this constant plaintiff to ‘come and save me’ – offered up again and again, but seemingly without answer. And yet, for all its icy, tundric coldness, there is a warmth to the song too – a lovelorn paen to the one that ‘completes’ us as human beings. I’ve always felt that for a show so rooted in perpetual twilight and overwhelming grey, the chorus of the song remains one of the most uplifting in anime openings; this immense, empowering cry.
Just as the show itself is the story of a journey, both externally – in the real world – and internally, within ourselves, the song too represents a journey. When I first watched Ergo Proxy, I was between jobs – killing time endlessly over aimless summer days that never seemed to end. The only forward momentum back then was the progress of whatever given show I was watching at the time, and of all the series I watched over that endless summer, Ergo Proxy always seemed to sum up the ennui of that time best – introspective, deeply thoughtful and perpetually asking: what is our raison d’etre?
In that perpetual ‘come and save me’, there was comfort – in the show’s exploration of the self, there was comfort. And by the end, a self-enclosed story – tucked away at a certain point of time, but on hearing those same refrains of the song once again, perfectly recalled. Ergo Proxy itself isn’t a particularly nostalgic series – but its OP, for me, now always will be. I feel like it’s still out there, asking the same questions, always unanswered…