Judge Joel Pearce is warming up to this robotic anime war.
"You just said you don't belong to anything, but that's a lie. You belong to this city. Without a doubt, so does your freedom."—Yoshii
In my review of the first disc of Texhnolyze, I was left with very mixed feelings. Despite some truly impressive animation and an intriguing world, the direction of the series felt up in the air, as if the production team was made up of some skilled animators with nowhere to go.
I was wrong.
In this second volume, things start to come into focus. There is a war coming in Lukuss, one that will involve each of the characters that we met in the first volume. How they all relate to each other is still not quite clear, nor is it clear who we can trust, but that is all part of the game. This volume follows the tension building up to the first few attacks of this war, which come from very surprising directions and prove that none of the characters are what they seemed. Ichise must learn to control his powerful new limbs, and is followed by Ran, who decides to help him out. The most surprising turn comes from Yoshii, who obviously didn't just come down from the surface to see the sights.
The most incredible aspect of this second volume is the political and personal complexity of the situation in Lukuss. What first seemed like ongoing tension between the Organo and the Salvation Union is now becoming more complex as the street gang has decided to enter the fray. To make things even more uncertain, the key players of these groups act independently. Onishi does not get along with the council. Ichise has not allied himself with any group. Shinji has bigger plans than his gang can even imagine. The ambiguity of Texhnolyze opens the genre up for this kind of uncertainty. It's not a question of how one of the groups will win, because I have no idea even who to root for at this point. The situation in Lukuss, unlike so many sci-fi series, doesn't seem to be an allegory of a historical situation or an extension of what's happening in the world right now. The underground world of Lukuss is completely alien.
It's still taking a while for me to get used to the pacing. It takes Ichise a whole episode to start getting control over his limbs, which would be far too long in a film. Here, though, it just means that his story slows down as the other stories advance. Besides, once he emerges from this state of fury and pain, it will mean a lot more to us after watching him go through everything he has. I'm not sure I have ever watched a series with this much tension, which has been building up through these first two volumes and finally begins to burst. When things do finally start to explode into violence, it feels almost like the visceral energy of Gangs of New York. Every detail that has seemed insignificant to this point now seems like it could become important.
Since the light of day in the city is controlled mechanically, the city isn't dependent on outside forces. It is self-sustaining, and seems to be coming alive. Various characters claim they are acting for the will of the city, though the implications of that are not yet clear. It's also unclear what the city wants, or who is really in control of it. Similarly, the texhnolyzed limbs that Ichise has received also seem to have a mind and personality of their own. At times, it seems that the limbs are training him how to act, instead of him learning how to use them.
Once again, I was blown away by the animation and the quality of the video transfer. Broad, clear lines and distinct shadows are reminiscent of film noir, which perfectly matches the tone of the series. The characters are drawn with a precision and detail that I have rarely seen outside of theatrical releases. This detail exists in both the major and minor characters. The transfer is perfect. It has none of the imperfections normally associated with animation transfers, and puts most other anime DVD producers to shame.
I do still wish that the audio had been produced in 5.1, but the stereo track packs enough punch to be acceptable. As there is more dialogue, it becomes clearer that the dub track of Texhnolyze should be avoided in favor of the original Japanese, which is far superior. The subtitles are timed well enough that you can easily read them and pay close attention to what's happening on the screen.
There's not much on the disc in the way of extras. There are a few dialogue outtakes. These are somewhat funny, but it would be more interesting to see several ways that the dialogue was translated, so that we would have a chance to see the complicated translation process that goes into anime series. Beyond that, all we get are a few trailers and the clean opening animation and a couple of trailers.
I am upgrading my recommendation. While Texhnolyze did start out a little slow, it has become clear now that the production team knows exactly what they're doing, and I think that the series is going to become something very special.
Not guilty. Bring on Volume 3.
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