[Synopsis]: In the underground city of Lux three factions strive to gain influence over the city – the stern and professional Organo led by Onishi Keigo (Tsuchida, Hiroshi), the Salvation Union who value the human body and spirit above artificial enhancements, and the Racan, a group of rebellious youths. Ichise (Haga, Satoshi), an orphaned prize-fighter, has a near-death experience with some underground thugs and loses his right arm and left leg before he is left alone to die. A doctor picks him up off the streets and takes him back to her lab only to become a test-subject for her own brand of texhnolyzation – the mechanical technology of replacing or augmenting parts of the human body. With conflict between the factions looming, Ichise struggles to survive in the brutal and unfair world of Lux that surrounds him.
Texhnolyze populates its city of Lux with a number of characters, many of whom offer greater character depth and intricacy than the protagonist Ichise however it is for just this reason that it is so important to discuss him first and foremost. Not only is Ichise simple in terms of characterization but he is quite literally so – his behavior more befitting of a stray dog for the first half of the show. This animalistic simplicity is illustrated well in the first few episodes as he doesn’t even utter his first scrap of dialogue until midway through the show’s third episode. The show before that point introduces us to Ichise and defines him through his pain and rage which gives Texhnolyze a very unique and distinct presentation from the get-go. Even by episode 7 its hard to come up with more than a few descriptors for him as he wanders from place to place aimlessly, characterized only by the suffering he endures and the rage he exhibits.
Ichise is animalistic, instinctual, and just as confused as the viewer half the time. This isn’t an issue in and of itself however when the show attempts to illustrate connections between him and other members of the cast critical problems arise. Not only do his connections to other characters feel unbelievable but the viewer is given so little reason to care about Ichise himself that those relationships fail to offer significant meaning and leave Ichise feeling pointless and unrelatable. He bounces between periods of rage and somber introspection without much in between and given that the show reveals hardly anything about him before its midpoint there is very little to latch on to. This is crucial because, while not of Texhnolyze concerns Ichise primarily, he is the viewer’s main agent of exploring the world and the themes at hand and by the end a great deal of the show rests on his shoulders. The character dearly needs the investment of the viewer for the show to work and he falls quite tragically short of achieving this.
For a myriad of reasons Ichise is often compared to Berserk’s Guts, the most important of which is their shared purposeless desire to survive above all else. Why then is Guts such a phenomenal character while Ichise fails completely in connecting with the viewer? Both characters grow out of their aimless survival however the manner in which they do so is incredibly different. Guts steps away from surviving for survival’s sake and attempts to discern a greater purpose for himself – learning to live again and living for the first time. Ichise’s growth is dependent on the characters he meets and interacts with and as the show spends hardly any time detailing those attachments or why they exist his subtle evolution and why he is concerned with the well-being of certain characters doesn’t make a great deal of sense by the end. It is not the obscurity or simplicity of his character which causes Ichise to fall short but rather the show’s inability to legitimize his connections to other people and thus legitimize his own development and the conclusive drama of the show.
The rest of Texhnolyze’s cast is a shade more interesting and characters like Onishi, Doc, and Yoshii offer a moderate amount of intrigue. While a handful of the characters offer their fair share of individual intricacy they aren’t enough by themselves to prop up the entirety of the show which left the cast feeling predominantly weak. In the style of Texhnolyze, very little information is given out at any one time and this makes it especially hard to connect to any of the characters early on.
Something that becomes immediately evident upon watching the opening sequence of the show and the first several episodes is that Texhnolyze is very visually dark. Shadow and darkness dominates the screen early on and obscures almost everything in the frame save a few parts of the environment and the characters themselves. This atmosphere does well in setting the tone for the show and was quite reminiscent of Ergo Proxy’s initial episodes. Though darkness is pervasive all throughout the show, Texhnolyze’s depiction of light is very polarizing and stark – its daytime scenes almost blinding in comparison to those that precede it. This extreme contrast fits into the psychological presentation well.
Its subject matter aside, Texhnolyze is a very visually-driven show. This is best illustrated by its initial 5 episodes which hardly contain any dialogue at all, the first utterance of a word not appearing until 11 minutes into the first episode. This makes Texhnolyze’s presentation very sensory and visceral which supports Ichise’s raw emotional character in an interesting way. While this approach has its artistic and interpretative merits it is not the best means of conveying information and so the details and implications of what is taking place early on are very sparse.
The animation itself isn’t all that flashy however the environment is very immersive and detailed. Shots of dark alleyways and ominous buildings looming over streets full of shattered glass and discarded hardware give excellent shape to the nature of Lux as it stands and the kind of harsh world the characters are attempting to survive in. Texhnolyze also exhibited a great affection for close-up shots of the characters eyes which furthered the sensory nature of the visuals. The show certainly had an interesting visual approach and a unique one as well however it also added a great deal to the confusion of the narrative and its characters.
By this point it should be quite clear that Texhnolyze is a show with no sense of immediacy. The first episode is very cryptic and vague at times, often punctuating its scenes with a continuous flow of contextless imagery that later becomes slightly more relevant. Texhnolyze’s opening episodes could best be described as an extreme case of showing instead of telling – the early parts of the show focused on establishing atmosphere and sensory elements while visually illustrating scraps of information pertaining to the main characters for the viewer to extrapolate upon. This technique as I’ve stated before has its benefits however the lack of context and the overwhelming obscurity of some of the early scenes makes it hard to latch onto anything. Coupling this with the show’s incredibly slow pacing and Texhnolyze becomes especially hard to get into and lacks a traditional hook.
If Texhnolyze deserves any praise within its first 5 episodes it is of its portrayal of pain which is visceral and raw. Though we know very little about the characters at play or the world they live in during this time, the more simplistic elements such as their emotions and their pain are very evident and well expressed. I think its fair to say that Texhnolyze attempts to be provocative and so I think it is important to discuss how it handles it themes. With the appearance of more regular dialogue in episode 6 which is maintained for the remainder of the show, Texhnolyze begins to express itself on a more philosophical level, musing at the definition of true freedom and the concept of social hierarchies and the human condition. I believe this is where the strength of the show resides – in its ability to think introspectively though at times the events that take place within the narrative feel more like vehicles for delivering this thematic discussion. Near the end what I consider to be Texhnolyze’s most important theme of survival versus living appears which is depicted well by the dichotomy of Lux and in an ultimately less effective way, in Ichise himself.
The plot of Texhnolyze itself involving the three factions vying for power over Lux and Ichise’s own unfortunate lot in life at times becomes interesting however is marred by the lack of contextual information available for the greater part of the show. The conflict between the factions and what they each believe in is obvious enough but it is hard to feel invested in any of them or the outcome of their conflict. Even in episode 10 when a handful of plot elements converge and culminate the viewer is left in the dark as to the implications of what took place, never mind Ichise.
Whats more is that Texhnolyze’s antagonist characters come off feeling more like catalysts for the events that take place rather than individuals with goals or coherent aspirations – they make the show move however, with the exception of Yoshii who is revealed to have compelling reasoning near the show’s conclusion, there isn’t a great deal of intention to their actions. This leaves the major plot elements of Texhnolyze feeling very inorganic as the city of Lux and its populace are forced into action rather than it occurring naturally.
Texhnolyze has become quite renowned for its bleak and desolate conclusion and while some of that holds true I feel that the implications of its ending fail to reach the viewer as they come about in such a forced way and apply to a very unrelatable cast of characters, primarily Ichise. If nothing else Texhnolyze does an excellent job of portraying a world in the process of running down however when it comes time for all the rage and pain and darkness to mean anything it falls a bit flat. By that point you’ve sat through 20-odd episodes likely without being able to connect or really sympathize much with the world and its cast of characters.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about Texhnolyze’s soundtrack as it mostly serves to reinforce the visuals of the show rather than dominate them at any one time. The music is ambient, static, gritty, grinding, and echoing adding to the sensory feel of the show. As well as these things, Texhnolyze also made use of silence to emphasize certain scenes effectively.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
At the end of it all we are left with one question in regards to Texhnolyze’s worth. Does its unique visual presentation give it additional intrigue and depth or does it needlessly obfuscate already dull subject matter in an attempt to somewhat pretentiously enliven it? Obviously the answer to such a question is not so black and white as to be one or the other as both descriptions have some worth though I would slightly favor the latter. While Texhnolyze’s visuals were unique and interesting the clarity sacrificed to bring them about about may have ultimately been rather pyrrhic. Though this complicated relationship exists, Texhnolyze’s various failures are better attributed to a somewhat uninteresting plot progressed through artificial means as well as a somewhat poorly characterized protagonist.
I gave Texhnolyze a 4 because in an overarching sense it was uninteresting save a few character moments and plot developments. Its themes and occasionally entertaining scenes certainly give it some worth which spares the show from a worse rating. Ichise’s development while interesting in some ways is quite poorly defined in the latter half of the show and whatever drama or tension that depends on him falls very flat because of this
I would not recommend Texhnolyze to anyone who desire the instant gratification of having their questions answered early on – Texhnolyze drags things out considerably, leaving the viewer in the dark for very long stretches of time. If by around teh half-way point you don’t feel significantly intrigued by anything or attached to any of the characters than you might consider dropping the show because the conclusion of the show depends largely upon the investment of the viewer to work. The show will quickly lose the patience of anybody hoping for something immediate or fast-paced. Pacing aside, Texhnolyze presents a number of classic Sci-Fi elements and should appeal to connoisseurs of the genre. Its action scenes are few and far between and so I wouldn’t recommend the show based on solely upon them.