This is one of those shows that’s probably either going to make you go “man, that’s deep” or else have you thinking that you’ve never watched such utterly pretentious crap in your life. To be fair, I believe both points have some validity, but for the purpose of this review I’ll try to keep away from that sort of debate. Viewers will likely either love or hate Texhnolyze’s philosophical bent, but that’s certainly not all there is to talk about in relation to the series.
Personally, I enjoyed Texhnolyze first and foremost for its atmosphere. Calling it bleak is no insult; any piece of fiction that manages to convey that sheer depth of hopelessness is quite a rarity, but even if you don’t go in for that kind of thing, the quality of craft behind it can’t be denied. The world of Texhnolyze is basically a black pit of despair, and the really fantastic thing is that nobody ever needs to come out and say it – the setting does a perfectly fine job of speaking for itself. No commentary is required, no overly bloodthirsty scenes are necessary, in order to convey one simple fact: this city will swallow you up. For a medium which so many people complain (and rightfully so) about too much exposition, this anime is the very definition of “show, don’t tell”, and I have a great deal of respect for that.
Backing this up is the complete lack of dialogue during the first few scenes. We’re introduced to our main character immediately, and there’s no shortage of background noise, but it’s nearly a full ten minutes before a single distinguishable line is spoken. This is one title that doesn’t shy away from silence, and so few anime have the balls to go there, much less pull it off. Though not as extreme in terms of quietness, I admire anime such as Mushishi, Usagi Drop, and a lot of Miyazaki’s works in part for that very reason.
Lest you assume Texhnolyze covers the yawning gaps by hurling in an overly flashy soundtrack or depicting only the most explicit and shocking of scenes, allow me to reassure you. This is a gritty dystopian cyberpunk show, so things do get pretty graphic at times, but not once does it cross the line into shock value territory. In fact, Texhnolyze is in most ways an incredibly minimalist series, and that includes the likes of fanservice and violence for violence’s sake. The emphasis here is on psychological discomfort, not in-your-face onscreen action, so while I wouldn’t recommend this to any squeamish viewers, it’s nothing like Gantz or Elfen Lied in approach.
Alright, time to throw a few names around. I don’t necessarily think the people behind any given series are an accurate indicator of value, but in this case they’re entirely relevant in terms of the general style you can expect from this series, and there’s a lot of crossover going on here. Producer Ueda Yasuyuki is probably best known for Serial Experiments Lain, Haibane Renmei, NieA_7, and Hellsing/Hellsing Ultimate, while graphic designer Abe Yoshitoshi (who incidentally was first hired by Ueda to collaborate with him on Serial Experiments Lain, and teamed up with him again for both Haibane Renmei and NieA_7) is also responsible for the character designs here. Meanwhile, writer Konaka Chiaki, in charge of Texhnolyze’s screenplay, likewise worked on Serial Experiments Lain as well as several other similarly themed anime including Armitage III, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, Hellsing, and The Big O. As you can see, there are some definite parallels going on – about the only title I haven’t yet mentioned that often gets brought up in comparison to Texhnolyze is Ergo Proxy… and funnily enough, Ueda happened to have produced the music for that one.
In terms of story, I can practically guarantee that if you only enjoy fun or lighthearted affairs, titles that exist for entertainment value alone, or straight-forward plots that are all wrapped up in neat and tidy packages by the end, then Texhnolyze isn’t going to be your cup of tea. This is a series with very little joy in it of any kind, and is far more interested in asking questions than answering them. Like other surrealist shows such as Serial Experiments Lain or Boogiepop Phantom, Texhnolyze examines some fairly weighty philosophical ideas against a murky backdrop of crime and technology, and showcases some of the very worst of what humanity has to offer. While the surface plot is actually pretty straightforward up to a certain point – three very different gangs vying for control of an underground city – the execution is subtle, contemplative, and grows increasingly more allegorical as the story continues. The final handful of episodes are so surreal that I suspect most viewers must be forced to either fully engage with them or else dismiss them as intellectualist drivel.
More of an experience than any kind of traditional narrative, the main strength of the series for me turned out to be the aesthetics rather than the outcome of events. This is an extremely compelling show just to look at, and although I also found most of its characters fascinating, the visuals are still what stand out the most in my mind even several years later. The opening sequence is also truly excellent – as sparse as the rest of the anime in many ways, yet I never tired of watching it, and it’s always great to see a departure from the typical J-pop fare. If you watch nothing else of Texhnolyze, you should at least watch the OP.
Not a mentally or emotionally easy watch, it’s really up to the individual to decide if either the ideas behind Texhnolyze, or otherwise the style with which it portrays them, is worth it. For my money, I think the latter certainly is, but given the depressing nature of the show, I wouldn’t blame anyone for choosing something more… well, anime-ish, over this – or failing that, just something less morbid. However, for a bit of much-needed fun, I highly recommend watching the English dubbed version of Texhnolyze and then the intentional outtakes, all of which can be found on YouTube and are absolutely hilarious.
Question of the post: What are your thoughts on Texhnolyze, and is this something you’d be interested in watching at some point if you haven’t already done so? Why/why not?