Secret Santa Project Review: Texhnolyze, What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.December 24, 2009
The roulette wheel of fortune is a fickle beast. It can choose to see you go home a winner or it can clean you out without remorse. We had to choose between Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase, Millennium Actress, and Texhnolyze. There was no force on Earth that was going to make Narutaki casually watch Moon Phase; Millennium Actress was a solid choice but we had seen enough Satoshi Kon to easily assume we’d like it so it would have been against the spirit of the project. We gambled on the generally unknown: Texhnolyze. I myself had avoided it because I had heard it was relentlessly grim and obtuse by design which are two things I generally do not care for. We would both learn that my guesses on what this show would be like was all too correct.
To fully embrace the project, I felt Texhnolyze was the only option. I had literally never even heard of the show before and thus I went in with no expectations, no prejudice, and no idea what was going on. This actually became a running theme of the series, the “not knowing what was going on” part that is. Most of Texhnolyze in fact remains an enigma to me even after watching the whole thing and writing this now. But then again, I have no real desire to discover its secrets after all this. In fact, the only thing I can say for sure that was good about this show was that a Gackt song was used for the ending theme!
In the city of Lux, Ichise is a prize fighter until one day he angers someone enough to have them cut of one of his arms and one of his legs off leaving him to die in the street. When he is found struggling to live by a woman name Doc he is given cybernetic limbs. He does not accept his new limbs at first but as tensions in Lux grow to a frenzied pitch he soon finds himself involved in a apocalyptic prophecy only truly known to a young girl named Ran who he seems linked with. I think that is what it is about but I would hardly bet money on that fact. I don’t mind being dropped into a strange world and then slowly learning about it but Texhnolyze takes it too far by not giving me enough pieces of the puzzle. Shows like Haibane Renmei and Xam’d:Lost Memories do similar things but they give you enough information about the main story that you feel you understand what happened but still leave the impression the world still has many secrets it never revealed.
He was a prize fighter!? I just thought he was some schmuck they threw in the ring to get beat on. The first episode has almost no talking so you are left to interpret what is going on, and though the talking increases in further episodes, the requirement to figure out what was going on with little explanation stays the same. I believe in storytelling that “shows not tells” but this was too extreme. Heck, it’s not even clear the city is underground till episode 20. But despite that, the setting is where I would give the most praise for Texhnolyze. It was fully realized and quickly established as a city full of people vying for power and survival, an overall quite unhappy place.
Characters? What Characters? I felt like most people in the series were cardboard cutouts who played various roles without passion or interest. Their back stories, motivations, and feelings seemed like enigmas and the biggest enigma of them all was Ichise. He was like a silent RPG protagonist moving from plot point to plot point only going forward according to the flow of the narrative. At times Narutaki and I scratched our heads trying to figure out why he had done the things he did. Maybe I was missing the subtleties of his character but there were times when he killed people or changed sides that came out of the blue. The fact that he is mostly emotionless does not help. Some characters like Ran (the creepy girl), Doc (who rapes her patients), and Shinji (actually should have been in a Yakuza film instead of this TV show) displayed some amount of character motivation but they were minor characters and did not make up for the otherwise uninteresting main character.
Well you gotta admit, Doc atleast had character development! Probably more than anyone else, she even has a past. Now on the other hand, if you are looking for good characterization or motivation you won’t find that in the main character. Ichise’s actions are a mystery, I think even to himself, and sometimes so incomprehensible that I took to calling him “main character” because his connection to anyone and anything seems arbitrary. This approach quickly takes a toll when you realize it isn’t going to change. As Hisui said, few characters fair any better in that department. Many of them are quite interesting, but when nothing is revealed it becomes tiring. Even the connection between Ran and Ichise that is started in the first few episodes, and garnered my attention in the beginning, doesn’t feel like it comes to much. Though it is worth noting the very, very few moments of emotion Ichise exhibits seem to stem from her. However the connection, and Ran, virtually disappear in the middle of the series. Once it comes back at the end, it’s too late, if feels forgotten rather than purposeful.
The purpose of a work like Texhnolyze is to be analyzed. The major theme is being doomed to your fate. No matter how you struggle or fight what has been preordained shall come to pass no matter what you do. And in the world where Lux resides, it is a horrible and empty destiny. Not just for certain cast members but for the whole world. But even those characters who strive the most find all their efforts come to naught. Awareness of a prophecy only means you know how horrible your end will be. Everything in the city reflects this with slow decay towards oblivion. Everyone seems to know the end is near but still hopes on a certain level that it won’t come to pass. I understand this is part of the reason that all the characters are so muted and enigmatic but just because your characters fit a theme does not mean that I have to enjoy it.
Once again, the setting gives way to these themes of struggle, survival, and the futility of attempting to change. These themes are there, they are ever present even in the beginning. Texhnolyze could be, and is, described as bleak and depressing but I never actually feel the weight of that. Without a connection to the characters everything that happens is just this lifeless display of movement and sound.
This show was not for me for a variety of reason. First and foremost both of us at Reverse Thieves really like character based shows above all else. This show’s approach to characterization turned me off immediately. If I don’t care about any of your characters then I don’t have any interest in their stories no matter how grand or epically tragic they might be. Also I tend to dislike depressing works that extol the inevitability of fate. I would rather see people take the initiative to change what happens to them. Overall I see why people would like Texhnolyze. You either like the themes and/or enjoy building this narrative from the various pieces you were given. But all the things that make others fans of this show are exactly the things I dislike. Texhnolyze does everything it sets out to do and I just did not want to follow it on it’s journey to the conclusion.
Texhnolyze at first confused me, then it intrigued me, but then it passed my threshold for not know what the heck people were thinking. At some point you want answers. At some point you want to understand the characters. At some point you want to follow the story rather than just be dragged along by it. Atleast I do. For the most part the how and why of this world remains unexplained and actually becomes less clear as the story goes on. Even when me and Hisui would think we were on the right track, nope not even close. It didn’t jive with me one bit, Texhnolyze will remain a mystery to me and one I don’t much care to solve further. As I end this review, I am left with only one more thought: Atleast I didn’t have to watch Moon Phase! I still feel like a winner.