I’m going to be blunt starting this review, Texhnolyze is a hard show to watch and, as a result, is just as hard to recommend. The reason why I say this is because the series tasks itself with presenting a complex world and cast as simply as it possibly can script-wise. No long bouts of exposition to clue the viewer in on how the world works and a near complete lack of dialogue in the earlier episodes make getting into Texhnolyze somewhat of a sink or swim experience. Those who are curious to properly know the context behind the strange, unexplained imagery of the 1st couple of episodes will make it through. Those looking for instantly appealing and an addicting storyline will be left high-and-dry if they don’t want to compromise for this title. Texhnolyze isn’t completely like Angel’s Egg, however, since it does eventually open its dark heart clearly for all to see and t is disturbingly beautiful to look at.
The world of Texhnolyze is bizarre in that manages to reflect on the characters living within it. The underground city of Lux is broken, dirty place to be, one where much of the infrastructure seems to be on the verge of collapse. Within the confines of Lux remains only a culture of utter chaos and violence as factions of differing ideals clash over their perceived supremacy. Watching it all unfold is a lesson in the many different things people will use as a crutch in order to desperately climb to an ideal future. From the idea that people should pin their hopes in technological advancements (in this case, the ability to merge man with advanced prosthetic in a process known as Texhnolyzation) to give them the cultural rebirth so desperately needed, to the separate ideals of the individual factions fighting for control over the city. Everyone has a role to play in this decaying setting, except for our main character Ichise.
Having known only his former life as a prize fighter, Ichise is left without a set path or any sense of identity as he slowly wanders about the crumbling city, unable to face any adversity without violently lashing out like an animal as he’s done all throughout his life. Even when enlisted by the Organo (one of the major factions of Lux) his lack of purpose stands in stark contrast with the rest of the cast, people who have nothing but their ambitions to keep them going in these desperate times. The world Ichise is a part of however is one where the hopes and dreams of everyone always come to naught, so striving for anything better is essentially the same as flailing pointlessly against the walls of a cruel fate. Some individuals flaunt their existence more than others, but who will be left to take notice? What will be left behind other then a pile of rubble? Through this Texhnolyze posits that there will be a time in which the efforts of the high-minded and the listless will be both equally crushed to dust and forgotten and thus mankind will die. The inhabitants of Lux inch towards their inevitable collapse, each day a messy combination of sex, violence, and finding sustenance to keep moving onwards for yet another day of sex violence and sustenance. If futility is the one constant amongst the cast, how they cope upon realizing the pointlessness of all they’ve done is what defines them in the end. Will they take Yoshii’s approach and spend their remaining days looking for that which is most amusing? Will they shift gears completely and look to something/someone else for their salvation? Or will they simply give up hope and rot away?
Not a show to pick up your mood! Though that’s something that works in the shows favor for me. It’s honest and confident enough with its core material to not add any distractions to the reality of the events by shoehorning in levity or fan-service of any capacity (there are some sex scenes/nudity but given the context of them they aren’t exactly titillating). One also should never expect Texhnolyze to really go out of its way to make anyone like or sympathize with these characters. That’s not to say doing so is impossible, it’s just that it got me to care about its cast of increasingly desperate individuals through characterization that is far more subtle than dropping a character’s sad backdrop on our heads all at once in the form of flashbacks. It manages to present the characters motives, philosophies and development without relying on shortcuts to get the viewer emotionally involved. It’s the type of characterization that makes the cast feel less like “characters” and more like humans by presenting their day-to-day activities with little bias, leaving it up to the viewer to find someone to root for. For much of the show there isn’t much of a semblance between heroes and villains save for perhaps Onishi (who strives to keep Lux from falling into utter madness without relying on underhanded tactics like some other members of his faction, the Organo), Yoshii who is essentially an agent of chaos, and the Class whose attitude towards the residents of Lux don’t become clear until the later episodes. It’s a tale of survival -often survival at the expense of others without really much room ethics. Overall I’d say the cast makes up for their lack of warmth with a surplus of depth, which is fine by me.
All of this madness and despair is compounded by the top-tier direction which enhances immersion considerably. Sound design and shot composition are work together harmoniously particularly in the opening episodes to give viewers a better idea of what Ichise’s confused new lifestyle is like. The series directors will make damn sure you know what it looks to struggle endlessly trying to climb up a staircase after losing a couple of limbs, or how it’s like to wander aimlessly throughout a city while having to adapt to complex prosthetic you never asked for whilst racked with bodily pains. Basic human functions are perfectly handled with bodily functions such as breathing, having sex or just listening to that fucking heart of yours still pulsating in your chest, all being presented their most raw way possible. The brilliant animation/art quality don’t hurt much either. The strong visuals and instantly remarkable character designs speak for themselves (this is Madhouse remember? what did you expect?), but the score is quite understated, only perking up noticeably during less slow scenes for the most part. When it is prominent you’ll hear an amusing variety of themes that ranges from guitar and violin solos to piano pieces that all fit the series perfectly and are great standalone works too. The standout piece for me is the ending theme by Gackt, which nearly brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it.
Texhnolyze is undoubtedly dense and as far as presentation goes, is as unforgiving as the setting it portrays. This is a title that expects a lot from the audience and will leave them behind at a moment’s notice. Everything about Texhnolyze is depressing, slow and often gruesome, but most of all believable in terms of its characters and its arguments. Stick it out through the mentally taxing start and you might never find a more harrowing, visceral think-piece regarding human civilization on its last legs.