Judge Joel Pearce is more than willing to put in the extra intellectual effort needed to follow and enjoy this complex anime series, now entering its third volume.
"Because I came from the outside, I can see a lot of things." -Yoshii
After an impressive second entry, I was looking forward to sitting down to this third volume of Texhnolyze, which is still about as ambiguous as anything I have ever seen. Each time that things seem to be coming into focus, something happens that completely changes the viewer's understanding of Lukuss and the relationships between the major characters. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit the potential viewership to those with the patience to handle this type of narrative.
When the show last left off, the spectacle of violence between the Organo, Racan and Salvation Union was starting to explode. All of this had been instigated through the political machinations of Yoshii, an outsider who seems to have some strange connection to the underground city. As the third volume begins, the first wave of this violence ends, creating a temporary breather for the Organo and Racan to figure out what happened and how to deal with it internally. Instead of the expected escalation of the conflict, this volume is mostly concerned with the internal workings and infighting of these groups. Their fighting hasn't completely ended, though; and the political tension is often interrupted by quick scenes of savage street violence.
The character focus is gradually starting to shift as well. A sudden character death in the second episode completely changes everything about where the series seemed to have been headed, and we start to learn a lot more about Onishi and Shinji. Yoshii takes the opportunity to begin explaining himself, making it clear (somewhat) that there is still a lot about Lukuss that we haven't been told. Ichise is still the wild card of the series, upsetting everyone's plans at the most interesting moments. He is starting to become slightly more talkative, though, and we now get to see a few glimpses of his past and future. Evidently, his destiny is so upsetting that Ran is deliberately trying to avoid him, and it certainly seems that the future of the city may be in his hands.
Although I haven't found this volume to be as compelling as the second one, there is still a lot to like about it. At first, all of the main characters seemed to be individuals simply wandering around the city of Lukuss, with no real agenda or logical progression. As the second volume unfolded, they were all being manipulated and controlled by Yoshii, the outsider who better understands what is happening than many of the residents. By the end of this volume, it has become clear that there is some other force controlling all of these characters. The characters are all hurtling towards something, but they don't know any better than we do what that destiny is. This is a dark, unpleasant world without any heroes, but each of the characters are still deeply human and sympathetic.
The biggest problem with anime DVD release schedules is that you have to wait a long time between volumes. When I buy a season of an American show, I usually watch it in long chunks over a week or two. This obsessive viewing schedule allows me to become completely embroiled in the series. Unfortunately, with anime, that simply isn't possible. It's not too big a deal when you have something simple and conventional, but it's a pain when you are watching something like Texhnolyze that demands a high level of intellectual engagement. Trying to get back into the series after two months was a difficult task; it took me an episode or two to fully reimmerse myself. I only mention all of this because the way the series has been released has a major effect on how it may be received in this case.
The pacing of the show still tends to be a problem. While I am impressed by the amount of time that the production team is willing to spend on the small details and quiet moments, the progression of the series still feels quite sluggish at times. While many anime fans will be willing to sit through some of these episode because of the quality animation and mysteries that the show presents, others will simply lose interest and give up on Texhnolyze completely.
The quality of the transfer is up to par with the last two volumes. The image nears perfection, with no noticeable weaknesses or defects. The audio is solid as well, although I still wish they had mixed it in 5.1 surround rather than stereo. The action sequences and music beg to roar around the entire room, and the front sound stage simply isn't good enough. The disc has virtually no extras, merely including another set of English dialogue outtakes.
Anime fans who have been intrigued by the first two volumes of Texhnolyze will not be disappointed by the direction the series takes in this third disc. There aren't very many answers yet, but it asks all the right questions and provides a few impressive surprises. Others with less patience or appreciation of ambiguity may find that it simply isn't worth wading through all of this to find out what will happen to Lukuss. Still, it is ambitious and unique, two characteristics that can make up for a lot of weaknesses.
Not guilty, though there are a few things about the whole series that still make me a bit apprehensive.
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