From the same creators of Serial Experiments Lain, Haibane Renmei and Hellsing, this series stands out as a whole, having one of the most complex plots I’ve ever seen, a great and original art style (Abe!), dark color, good opening, ending, OST and a really alternative development. It’s the kind of series that if you don’t actually pay attention and put your brain to work, you’ll end up with a ? stamped on your face.
There are a lot of little references through the episodes, from books to folklore. One major thing we can mention is how you cannot avoid thinking on Dante’s Commedia when you see the disposition of the status: the upper word (heaven/Hades?) and Lux (the purgatory/hell?), mainly when is mentioned that the inhabitants had the “demon inside”, when Kohagura affirmed that it was probably the ninth circle and when is said: “If this is already hell, where are we going to?” What the hell? Well, you’ll understand when you see. Later on, you’ll think you’re reading Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation.
About Japanese folklore, references are vast and still not completely know, taking Ueda’s statement into account: “I’d also find it interesting if non-Japanese fans could get a feel for the sensibilities of the show, which are admittedly very Japanese”. The main thing we see is Ran’s fox mask. In Japanese society, the fox is considered to be the guardian deity of farming (rice fields) by some, because the animal eats field mice that often damage or destroy crops. This guardian deity signifies some special power in Gabe, which is an agrarian community as well. Makes sense considering that the white fox is brownish is summer (Ran’s hair) and white in the winter, when we think about hers double personality. Also seems truthful considering last episode Myth, and how the fox is an important part of that, from Aesop to Japan’s folklore. Throughout a millennium of Japanese folklore, the fox is depicted as the epitome of deception, able to transform into any shape or form it strategically desires. Due to its ancient mystique, the fox figures prominently, not only in popular folklore, but also in formal Shinto mythology. Thus, should you walk through the rural forests of contemporary Japan, you will no doubt encounter shrines wholly dedicated to this semi-divine animal. Kitsune (foxes) have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as his messengers (makes sense when we think Ran is a prophet).
It’s said that the statements in this anime are somewhat vague and virtually elusive, what’s in part true, but is what makes the show unique. The main characters, Ichise and Ran, are really the quiet kind. The first basically can only express himself through rage and the second, due to her powers, is much more a just-watching type. However, both of them, once attached to someone, are really caring – in their own way. Ichise is really loyal to Onishi and Organo, and Ran leaves Rafia flowers to guide the way of the lost ones and likes to hear Gurayama. Ichise had a harsh childhood, losing his parents in violent ways and having to fight with his own fists in order to don’t starve, so his personality is really not that surprising. Ran is a diviner who has problems accepting that what she foresees is real, for is always a dramatic ending, but, since her predictions are always precise, her quiet attitude is almost like an acceptance of her destiny. She reminds me Hinoto and Rika. Therefore, watching this show, don’t expect dialogues “yes or no” and learn to read in between the lines and the little actions – they speak much more than a thousand sentences. Never mind the words: sing! – is what said the gamin to Chaplin’s ingenious performance. Silence is an important factor of the development.
People the entire time struggle with their own destiny and the meaningless of their existence. Doc, realizing how her study was insignificant, Gabe’s elder, unable to protect the prophet, Shinji, the Freedom’s believer, climbing an inexistent better world… everybody is just trying to carry through, even while realizing the aimless of it all, and is exactly that will to survive that will end up destroying them. 痛い。生きたい。痛い。
There’s blood and violence for the sadist fans but even at that aspect the series is unique. When Ichise has his arm chop off, you don’t see a lot of gore, instead, you watch his image really distorted and enlarged, a painful expression reinforced by the shadows in his face and red covering the whole image accompanied by -not a loud and annoying scream but - a low and creepy one. A surrealist portrait of pain (and in sequence there’s an allegory with a reptile’s regenerative power).
(DON’T READ THESE PARAGRAPHS IF YOU HAVEN’T COMPLETED THE SERIES)
The entire time the human factor is put in comparison with the technology. Ichise all the time asks if “that” is his real hand – the same hard time Chaplin had with the feeding machine. Although his mechanics limbs are the most visible thing, his eyes are almost as important as. Doc took interest on him because of his optics, which were like the ones the original inhabitants had, the woman is the first episode goes crazy in sex because of these “demon’s eyes” and the weird images that appear on the view of the texhnolyzed. Doc is called Ichise’s second mother, referring to the fact that she gave his new body, which even had hers cells on it and welcomes him to this Brave New World (also adding a case of metaphoric incest to the literal one already showed). A bad ass techno by Juno Reactor on the opening, setting up the series’ environment, in contrast with the ending Tsuki no Uta from Gackt: a bland, peaceful and sad song that gives the human element. The flower is traditionally a symbol of hope, what is showed when Ran guides Ichise through the sewer like an Ariadne, and also appears on the ending theme - although the one that accompanies Ran is one that in Japan symbolizes death (death is hope?). We also see the contrast, and complement, between religion and science when a so called modern society has an augur in a so high appreciation. Having Ueda statement in mind, is almost like we’re talking about Japan itself, where one of the great industrialized countries has to deal with the opposites between the new and the traditional.
Not only about Japan, we can make a parallel between Texhnolyze’s world and the one we live today. For ages we’ve heard how science’s progress will lead us to a better world, a world of peace, how it will extinguish hunger, how death will be defeated and we will have some cool flying cars… what came was more destructive kind of weapons, extension of the line between poor and rich, and we still don’t have the damn flying cars… In texhnolyze’s world prosthesis have reached a point that we still can only dream about, and yet Lux’s dwellers live in extreme poverty and, therefore, that kind of prosthetic device is for few. On the other hand, Surface’s society is so developed that everything is already meaningless. Doc thought that kind of technology was the next step for evolution and, notwithstanding, she discovered it was all a lie, and fainted into emptiness like everybody there. Science development lost its meaning since nobody really gets its allegedly good fruits. Surface people only wait for death, without realizing they already are, their original purpose kept getting further and further until was not there anymore. Lasciate ogni speranza, voi che entrate.
We could make a parallel with economic issues, technologic issues, political issues and so forth. However, master pieces like this anime transcend exactly because are not attached to any particular theme. In Chaplin’s Modern Times, the first thing that appears is this: “'Modern Times'. A story of industry, of individual enterprise ~ humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness”. It doesn’t matter if is a modern metropolis, a futurist world or a rural society from the seventh century. People are people and is not the advent of a new robot that will change humanity – humans change humans. Lux, Raffia, Organo, Texhnolyze itself are just accessories. The main thing is about people searching for their path. In the end, Ichise says that was Ran that changed him, not his mechanic limbs, and wonders if he was able to change her too.
Two people that fight against their destiny trying to find their own path - the pursuit of happiness. When Ran body is gone, his mechanical part is able to reproduce the flower- hope- her image- death. And then we see the first, and only, time that this angered and lonely man is able to smile… as everything fades away.
tho' your heart is aching,
Even though it's breaking,
When there are clouds in the sky- You'll get by,
Smile through your fear and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through- For you.
Light up your face with gladness,
Hide ev'ry trace of sadness,
Altho' a tear may be ever so near,
That's the time you must keep on trying,
Smile- What's the use of crying,
You'll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you just smile.