On the verge of its tenth anniversary FUNimation has released the cyberpunk anime Texhnolyze. Originally released in 2003 the show was produced by Madhouse and released with 22 episodes. The series came out in the States years ago under Geneon, and I had it on my radar, but never checked it out. The second go around I managed to snag a copy. How does this cyberpunk romp standup to scrutiny?
Texnholyze takes place in a dark future where humanity lives above and below the surface. Life is hard to be sure but a technology known as Texhnolize makes things a little easier. Lose an arm? Lose a leg? If you're wealthy enough you can get the latest in prosthetic technology with a mechanized appendage that is top of the line. In the case of one of the main characters for the show he winds up with an arm and a leg in need of prosthesis.
The show starts out by introducing us to Ichise. He's a pit fighter in an underground city known as Lux, and he seems to be dead inside. It's obviously a miserable existence and it's clear from the outset that he doesn't value life all that much. Then again he gets in the ring and beats the snot out of people for the prestige and prize. Soon enough he pisses off the wrong people and finds himself on the wrong side of those he fights for. The organization takes his arm and leg off and leave him for dead. Ichise's fighting spirit keeps him alive and he happens to be found by a talented doctor looking to experiment in Texhnolization.
The other main character we're introduced to is a young girl with the ability to see into someone's future. Granted these visions are just a possibility, but the ability definitely sets Ran apart from everyone else. Both she and Ichise are quiet, somber people, and they really fit in with the tone of the series. The downtrodden atmosphere, the miserable trappings, and subdued dialogue really set this show apart from others. As evidence of that, the first ten minutes of the opening episode do not contain a bit of dialogue. If I were to tell you that this show was made by the folks that brought you Serial Experiments Lain, I'm sure none of this would surprise you. Both are surreal in tone and Texhnolyze in particular feels super unique.
Once the characters are set up there are events in motion after their first introduction that brings about a revolution of sorts. There's class warfare and varying factions vying to take each other down. Needless to say leadership is the pits and the powers that be deserve what's coming to them. There's all kinds of despair. There's bloodshed aplenty. And finding themselves in the middle of it, Ichise and Ran form something of a tragic dynamic duo. Their relationship becomes a focal point for the series, but it's the story itself that will keep viewers engaged.
Texnholyze is a fascinating series that really struck a chord with me. The dark, depressing atmosphere combined with some bloody good action makes it stand out. I really got into the tone of the series. Chiaki Konaka's writing really plays heavily into the direction of the show. Anyone that enjoyed his work on Serial Experiments Lain will greatly appreciate his influence in this one. It's a little darker than the former, but the melancholy and deliberate pacing give you the sense that something is just about to happen in the next frame, or maybe the frame after that, or that. In other word the show keeps you glued until the bitter end.
If you missed it the first time then FUNimation's Anime Classics release is just the ticket. This is an affordable release for a great show that avoids being cliché and predictable. Check your expectations at the door though. This one is a thought-provoking series that will test how much you can take at times, so it's not for everyone, but it's crafted so brilliantly that giving it a pass should be a crime. Highly Recommended.
Texnholyze is presented on DVD with its original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The show looks good, but not great here. The transfer comes right from the original Geneon DVDs as is the case with many of the Anime Classics line coming from FUNimation's license grab. The quality of the video is tough to consider because the original production intentionally left in drab colors, grain, and elements of artifacts. The show doesn't look any worse for wear, however, so I suppose that's a good thing. The picture pings from sharp to dull, clean to cloudy, and all other spaces in between. Overall the show is stylized and the DVD reflects that.
As with the video, the audio receives the same treatment as the original release. That is to say this set includes 2.0 stereo mixes for English and Japanese. The tracks are good for what they are, though again with production they are far more muted than other series on the market. There's a lack of presence on the soundstage but the dialogue is clear and sound effects pack a wallop. As evidence of that fact, in those silent first ten minutes of the series everything from ambiance to the sound of fists connecting with flesh really ring through. Too bad this one didn't have a 5.1 mix, the show would be benefitted greatly from the immersion.
For bonus features Texhnolyze's Anime Classics release gets some pretty good stuff. Aside from the ubiquitous clean animations, there's also some interviews with members of the original production staff and some rather hilarious outtakes. Kudos to FUNimation for seemingly retaining the rights to the original features.
There's really no beating around the bush: Texhnolyze isn't for everyone. It's dark, moody, bloody, and downright weird at times. It's a depression show to watch at points and in many ways it's the anime equivalent to watching a train crash. With that being said it's absolutely one of the most unique and thought-provoking shows that I've ever watched. I was glued from start to finish and I'd recommend it whole-heartedly, especially if you appreciated Lain or Konaka's other works. It's a great show that receives an affordable release from FUNimation. Highly Recommended