Tehxnolyze: Volume One: Inhumane and Beautiful
Texholyze is a project staffed by much of the same team that brought Serial Experiments Lain to life; right away that should give you a clue as to what to expect of the tone and visual style of the final product. Exploring the implications of the loss and replacement of human limbs, and constructing a dark, nightmarish dystopia of a city to convey those themes, these first four episodes of Tehxnolyze provide the first glimpses of a powerful, visually stunning, and often deeply unsettling portrait crafted by director Hirotsugu Hamazaki.
Texhnolyze is nothing if not artistically ambitious. The show informs the viewer that it’s atypical from the very beginning with the haunting opening, nearly entirely devoid of lyrics, and pieces together with shadows of imagery and the frantic direction of a music video. If that wasn’t enough, the first episode itself thrusts the reader into the nightmarish city of Lukuss with little to no context; and even beyond that, the characters first speak dialogue only past the eleven minute mark.
What can be understood is that Lukuss is a city ruled by crime gangs and yakuza, where the main point of contention lies around the question of human limbs, and a technological substitute for them known as “Tehxnolyzation”. Pieced together through the fragments of events shown in the first four episodes–for hardly information is handed to the viewer explicitly–are the existence of an extremist group opposed to the technology, and the organization “Organo” which heavily endorses its use. Tension erupts into conflict; people speak of an inevitable war that looms between the two factions.
The show moves in long stretches of silence, in still shots of the surrounding city of Lukuss; in they heavy, laboring breaths of the struggling characters and the glazed stares of the denizens who seem more like walking corpses than human beings. The actual events that transpire are vague, and seem more like pushing the pieces into place for the rest of the series–whatever that entails–to pan out. On one hand, we see the story of how a boxer, Ichise, pans out from how his arm and leg is lost and the indignity and suffering he endures from it until he inevitably receives Texholyzation. On the other, we meet Yoshii, a kindly man from the “surface” who befriends a mysterious girl named Ran who has a strange ability to see into the future. Scattered amidst these two points are glimpses of Onishi, a leader of Organo, and the dealings he becomes involved with as a part of the organization.
Refusing to submit to the trappings of exposition, or most other devices seen in anime, Tehxnolyze provides a more visceral experience than anything else. It is uncomfortable and painful to watch Ichise struggling through the dregs of a city with his arm and leg severed; the direction is superbly crafted, balancing dreamlike surreality–as Ichise dazedly watches his healthy self coldly walk past him on a flight of stairs–to stark harshness, when he’s shoved aside on the street and tries to swing his missing arm in front of him to soften his fall. The use of music (or rather, lack of) contributes heavily to the atmosphere as well; much of the show takes place against background silence, furthering the impression of the show’s fascination with shadows and the existence of negative space.
Though the presence of dialogue and character interaction picks up after the first episode, it never becomes particularly heavy–the show continues to primarily rely on atmosphere and visual direction to tell its story. For what there is, however, the English dub does a more than satisfactory job conveying with as much impact as its Japanese counterpart.
Audio and visual quality is top-notch; the show is breathtaking to watch. The extras include a very interesting, informative interview with the creator/producer and character designer, a brief clip of a few humorous outtakes from the English dub, and the typical batch of previews.
Texhnolyze is not for everyone. It moves at its own slow, deliberate pace and according to its own tune, dark and gritty. It is not a show to sit back, relax and have fun watching–the visuals are manic, disorienting, and often deeply disturbing, and the show puts a lot of weight on the viewer to pay attention to the visual cues, refusing to spoonfeed them. At the same time, there is an immersive beauty to the dark city of Lukuss, and the human suffering of Ichise; in the interview included in the extras, it is mentioned that one of the central ideas of Texhnolyze is to deconstruct the typical anime device of underplaying physical suffering in lieu of celebrating human will, and the show accomplishes it remarkably.
Overall Score: 9.0