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Entry updated 15 November 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2003). Madhouse. Directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki. Written by Chiaki J. Konaka. Voice cast includes Satoshi Haga, Takashi Inoue, Shizuka Itou, Shizumi Niki, Kaijiro Tanaka and Hiroshi Tsuchinada. 22 25-minute episodes. Colour.

The Underground City of Lux is controlled by various gangs, several of which are united under the Oruganu, led by Keigo Onishi (Tsuchinada) who is trying to prevent Lux collapsing into anarchy. Claiming to hear the "voice of the city", Onishi is actually hearing a young girl, the seer Ran (Itou), who knows the horrors to come (see Precognition). Lux was created both as a dumping ground for undesirables, to allow the surface to become a Utopia; but also to mine raffia (a substance derived from corpses) which prevents the rejection of artificial transplants. Raffia is sent to The Hill, wherein reside the city's rulers (the Class), then on up to the surface world (whose appearance recalls small-town America as painted by Edward Hopper): however, raffia is no longer used by the surface-dwellers, most of whom have nearly faded away, seemingly ghosts, steeped in ennui and despair (see Entropy).

The Class and many inhabitants of Lux are texhnolyzed, that is, have mechanical body parts (see Cyborgs). A Scientist working for Onishi, Eriko "Doc" Kaneda (Niki) is improving texhnolyzation: she uses a young fighter, Ichise (Haga), as a guinea-pig, replacing a leg and an arm cut off following his dispute with a promoter. Doc is an exile from The Hill but believes, wrongly, that they will accept her back when she shows them her innovations. The Class's ruler, the solipsistic, inbred Kano (Tanaka) sees Texhnolyzation as ushering in the next stage in human Evolution: he is turning people into more thoroughly cyborgized "Shapes" by attaching their head to a sac (a disturbing image when shown), then encasing them in a mechanical body (see Brain in a Box) recalling Doctor Who's Cybermen.

The story initially centres on Kazuho Yoshii (Inoue), an atypically purposeful (but unstable) surface dweller who provokes a gang war in Lux; but later the plot focuses on Kano's ambitions, which result in the Shapes invading Lux: they kill everybody, only to be immobilized themselves – literally taking root. The entire underground population appears to die, whilst the surface dwellers are approaching extinction.

The Texhnolyzed, the Class, the Shapes and maybe the surface dwellers are all varieties of Posthuman: it does not end well for any of them; but unmodified humanity fares no better. Viewers seeking hope could consider the metaphorical intent of a recurring dragonfly motif, which might hint the frozen Shapes are larval stages awaiting metamorphosis.

Created by the team who produced the excellent Serial Experiments Lain (1998), Texhnolyze has many impressive moments, but the show's impact is undermined by the early focus on gang Politics and an unrelenting bleakness which almost teeters into absurdity. Additionally, whilst Onishi and Doc are interesting characters, Ichise is a flat and colourless lead (though he does punch Kano's head off). Nonetheless, this is an important and influential Cyberpunk Anime. [SP]


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