Ergo Proxy Volume 6 : Deus Ex Machina - impressions and speculation

This is a moment I have been putting off for a wee while, partly because I have been busy but mostly because it signals the end of both the series and the last dub I am likely to hear out of New Generation Pictures for some time on an anime title. I have talked about how excellent the dub was on previous reviews of the series and this volume is no exception to that trend. So it was with mixed feelings I settled in to see how well the Ergo Proxy story concluded - on the one hand I deeply wanted to see how it all ended but on the other hand I now know that any future dubs are going to be much more variable in their quality. I also wanted to know whether they had played fair with the viewers in providing all the clues to let you work it out for yourself. But I'll get back to that further down.

First off this was a solid ending to the series. It wrapped everything up and while I think they missed one shot I'd have liked to see, namely the Boomerang Star itself in orbit, you end the series knowing that the Proxies have served their purpose and that the hard task of humanity rebuilding the Earth was now underway with the worst of the ecological disaster having passed. After all the drop ships descending from the skies in the final scenes and Monad's final comments underscore the fact the Boomerang Star is in orbit. Perhaps more importantly each of the main protagonists has discovered their own raison d'etre and this has arisen out of the experiences they all have gained on the journey too and from Mosk.

This is the central thrust of the series and has been what underlies alot of both the stories themselves but the character motivations has been the quest for meaning. The Proxies, all too aware of their proscribed function, were chaffing against the limits of what they were built to do. Both the responsability for safeguarding humanity plus the stewardship over the enclaves they had built with their deep sense of futility knowing that they were the backup plan combined with the return of the Boomerang Star and ultimately all their struggles become seemingly useless. They had awesome power to survive on the damaged Earth but they never could leave their cities without dooming the inhabitants and at the same token they could never find companionship within these communities as they were so removed from the general populace that even finding common ground to discuss things becomes difficult for them. The normal humans must seem highly venal and petty to them and it is easy to see why so many Proxies succumbed to some form of psychosis. While they had an inherent reason to exist in their inbuilt biology few of them made the transition to finding their own self actualised motivation.

This leads me to the first observation of the choice of names for the episodes. With the Proxies being so closely tied to the cities you can legitmately regard them as the gods from the machinery of the city. Strictly speaking the cities don't create the Proxies, indeed this volume makes it clear that the Proxies themselves create the cities, but they do provide the reason for the Proxy's existance. But we further find that Vincent/Ergo Proxy, who is distinct from Proxy One, is a god arising from the destroyed machinery of the city of Romdo. That pretty much the entire series has been Proxy One trying to create an enduring Proxy to survive the destruction of the Ark cities and to provide a punishment to the returning humans. Proxy One I think wanted a more blood thirsty punishment but isn't entirely unhappy with the more passive Vincent Law that he got - a living testament to the inhuman system engineered by humanity and cruelly discarded without care upon its return.

This is the malice of the creator he is referring to - the impossible demands that being a Proxy places on a psyche as well as the cavalier way humanity is prepared to destroy it all if it so suits them. From a pragmatic point of view the need to have a backup in case the Boomerang Star itself fails makes sense but there is definitely a strong undercurrent of callous malice that underpins it all. It also explains why so many of the cities have fallen. The demands of trying to satisfy the inherent purpose they were 'born' with contrasted with their inherently lonely status as an immortal amongst mortals is just impossible. The designers must have strongly suspected that was likely the case as a great deal of redundancy has been built into the cities themselves and also the means to destroy them if so required.

To that end we have the central citicality of the Proxy being required to keep the Wombsys functioning. It is no accident that Daedelus was researching the proxies - the hints are there that a clone of Monad was being used to keep Romdo ticking over while Ergo was away. This does mean that if you need to remove a city then simply destroying its Proxy will cause it to naturally die out or self destruct. Second is the vulnerability to direct sunlight that the proxies suffer from. Once the Earth is restored the proxies themselves dare not leave the protected confines of their city domes. Humanity itself would be able to spread from the cities proper ensuring that these articial gods can't retain control of the planet to themselves. Third is, of course, the Cogito virus. As I had suspected for a while this is a deliberately designed virus intended to remove the autoreiv support from a city and effectively destroy both the city itself and the proxy that is dependant on it. With all these safeguards built in it would have been very interesting to know what the reaction of the returning survivors is going to be to the sunlight immune Vincent/Ergo.

So the only great mystery left really is the question of exactly what was going on between Monad and Proxy One. Clearly the two had reached out to each other with Monad being the proxy of Mosk. Equally clearly Monad had offered to help Proxy One with his torment out of love for him - even though she expected the cost to be high to herself. Kazkis chastises Ergo about that choice back in volume three but I think the cost to Monad is not so much a personal danger but more that the Proxy she has come to care about will forget her. After all she is helping that Proxy literaly forget everything so that he can start again - splitting what was once a singular entity into two. We get the innocent Vincent Law/Ergo Proxy who ends up struggling to understand both himself and his purpose in life through the series. We also get Proxy One who retains the memory of exactly what he was created for and probably has the bittersweet knowledge that Vincent is getting the chance he can never have - the chance to define his life on his own terms and choose what he wants. Proxy One definitely feels the contraints and compulsion of his created purpose much more. It is interesting to speculate that this bittersweet recognition of Vincent's chance is perhaps what poisons Proxy One even more making the eventual destruction and downfall of Romdo a certainty. Daedelus and Raul's lapses into madness and despair seem to be entirely the result of his manipulations.

So we end up with three characters, all struggling against the circumstances of their 'birth', each representing an archetype. Pino is perhaps the easiest to describe being that of the entirely newborn tabula rasa. For her the struggle is to cope with all these newfound emotions and represents the optimism for the future in the shear unbridled joy she has in simply exploring and experiencing the world. Re-l is more rooted in the present - she represents the importance of truth and of accepting reality for what it is. Consistantly through the series she rejects the delusions and illusions that are spun for her. She finds the utopian predictability of Romdo boring when it would be very easy, in her social position, to simply accept the lie and enjoy the easy life. For her the struggle and her very reason for being is experiential truth. She wants to know what is actually going on and until she understands something she simply will not accept the polite & convenient fiction.

Vincent is very much about the struggle with the past. His problem is the crushing history of both what he has done and what he is intended to do, designed for it even. For him the series has been about accepting that past but choosing on his own terms what his path forward will be. It clearly isn't what he was built for, his surviving in the sunlight tells us that, and it isn't quite what Proxy One wanted who hints that his aim for Vincent was very much the Old Testament style wrathful god bringing justified retribution on humanity. Instead Vincent has chosen his own path - one more of living witness and explorer with Re-l, Pino and Kristeva. As a side note I doubt it is an accident that Kristeva is the AutoReiv from Romdo with a philosophers name left. Her thoughts on ideation through the rejection of the mother figure tie strongly into Vincent's struggle who must define himself through rejecting both Monad and Proxy One to become his own individuality.

There are other nice sly little references. The obvious one is Daedelus with his Monad clone growing wings and eventually deciding her fate by flying too close to the sun. A subtler nod is seeing Monad, or should we say Real Mayer, wandering around with a ball of yarn. She even leaves a trail of it behind her to lead Daedelus to where he needs to be. This is a direct allusion to the legend of Theseus and the Labyrinth who uses a ball of yarn to navigate the labyrinth, kill the minotaur and then safely navigate back out again. Daedelus in greek legend was the person who designed and built the labyrinth. We also have a curious name in the form of the episode title 'Bilbul'. This is a persian word meaning singer or poet and its presence on the penultimate episode title is probably a reference to the song of destruction now ringing through Romdo thanks to Proxy One.

We also have something that strictly speaking was presented some volumes back but it is only after googling that I became aware of it - Re-l's serial number of 124C41. It seems likely that it is a phonetic pun of 'One to Forsee For One'. It hints at Re-ls nature as a truth seeker but I think also obliquely references her status as a clone of Monad. After all Monad is a singular entity so the one being forseen for could easily be Monad just as much as it is Vincent. After all she is a clone of a Proxy, as the hint back in volume two implies with her medical treatment being a course of amrita cells. Indeed this leads me nicely to a general observation about the series - it has played pretty fair with the viewers always dropping hints and clues enough to let the viewer put the pieces together if they pay attention.

For instance the idea that Re-l is a clone of a proxy is hinted at back in the volume one. When Ergo attacks in her apartment he stops, transfixed by her and cries. This strongly hinted that there was some relationship going on between Ergo Proxy and someone who either was Re-l or looked very like her. By the series end once we put together the pieces of Re-l being medicly treated with Amrita cells and the final Monad appearance with the pale green eyes and you can put the scene in context and see they were hinting from the very begining at the series conclusion. This speaks to a carefully constructed and pretty consistant series. While the tone of individual episodes has changed markedly, take the episodes Smileland or Amanesis for instance as examples of the level of departure from the noirish cyberpunk tone the series normally inhabits, its backstory and history have stayed true. This tells me that unlike a certain famous mecha show from the nineties that the story as whole was planned and understood in general overtures from the begining.

That understanding has allowed them to sprinkle quite a bevvy of diverse literary, philosophical and mythological references throughout the series to hint at story intent. Indeed if you go back through these speculations for the series you can see how often the names have been very carefully picked to underline the story. It is this care and attention to detail that makes a series like this, which has strong characters and plot, such fun to pick apart and analyse.

All in all this has been a pleasure to watch. While I think RahXephon packs a slightly better emotional punch to it and the story doesn't quite reach the brilliance of either Boogiepop Phantom or Serial Experiments Lain it tells a uniquely philosophical tale. Combined with the strong visual design and a near impeckable audio experience and you have something that deserves to be widely appreciated. It isn't a ground breaking classic but it is extremely good. If you have taken the time to read through these entries and haven't bought the series, please do. With the state of the industry such as it is (at the time of writing it is in serious decline with funding drying up and issues in Japan over lack of payment to the creative people who actually make the stuff) we need to encourage the production of series like this. Otherwise if you have bought the series I hope you found these articles gave you a better appreciation for the show and were as fun to read as they were to put together.

Philip R. Banks
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