Texhnolyze certainly doesn’t make it easy on you. The show’s pacing is almost unbelievably slow, its storytelling cryptic and uninviting. There’s virtually nothing you could describe as exposition here, and many events go beyond the unexplained and into the realm of the wholly symbolic. You get the impression the show is almost sneering at the idea of being engaged with; like the audience needs to earn its approval. And the overall experience is so stifling that it feels most evocative of The Flowers of Evil; not that the two have anything in common story-wise, but because they are both utterly dedicated mood pieces, and that mood is Oppressive.
In short, I can understand why Texhnolyze might be a somewhat polarizing show. It is very specifically going for an aggressive style of aesthetic prioritization which demands a whole lot of the viewer, and doesn’t necessarily reward that investment. This is a niche show for a niche audience; it is playing in one specific field, and when you’re aiming for something as unfriendly as this show’s style, the stakes are fairly high. If you’re not going to be enjoyable, you better be good.
So far, I’d say Texhnolyze is treading that line somewhat shakily. The first episode was excellent; this second, lacking the first’s visual cohesion, underlying beauty, and minimalist storytelling, is definitely less strong. Many shots here are more simple and efficient than the first’s otherworldly landscape; as the world here comes into view, evocative mystery fades into scifi thriller fundamentals.
We learn a lot in this episode. We learn about the Organa group, seemingly headlined by a procession of well-dressed men flanked by evil-eyed sycophants. The Organa group are one of several violent organizations jockeying for power in the city of Lukuss; another, the Salvation Union, seem responsible for the attack on the stranger (who eventually introduces himself as Kazuho Yoshii) at the end of the first episode. The Organa group seem to have ties with the decrepit city, known as Gabe, where settlers first came to this place. The population has left Gabe, but the Sage who met Kazuho remains, and seems allied with the Organa side. And so by the end of this episode, the Salvation Union are attacked, as Organa men flood their facility in a wild tempest of dark fumbling and bright muzzle fire. Texhnolyze certainly knows how to make violence ugly and sudden.
We learn the name of the old voyeur who employed our boxing friend – Aida, a subordinate of the Organa group. When an Organa leader comes and witnesses the spectacle of the boxer’s death, he gives the man a reprieve; but left with one arm and one leg, the boxer can only drag himself helplessly through the tunnels and alleys of the faded city. His presence is inescapable in this episode, his tortured face and haggard breaths consuming as much time as the rest of the story altogether.
We are meant to feel his pain and desperation, but in truth, I often felt ready for the show to just get on with it. His terror comes through in well-constructed single moments – reaching to shield himself with an arm that isn’t there, looking up stairs and bitterly reflecting on his current helplessness. Texhnolyze splits the difference between dynamic shot framing and grounded perspective shots, and the end result is this man’s struggle feels more like the first act of a sermon than a felt experience.
We also learn the meaning of the show’s title. “Texhnolyzed” limbs are those that have been replaced with machinery – early on, a roboticist woman warns an Organa chief that “your Texhnolyzed legs won’t last forever,” and later, that same man states that “Cattle will never receive the benefits from Raffia. Cattle will never be Texhnolyzed.” The boxer is the cattle he’s referring to, but it seems like his prediction is a little off – the last shots of the episode show the roboticist standing over the broken man, seemingly preparing for the act of resurrection the show’s cover predicts. I’m ready, frankly; atmosphere is well and good, but Texhnolyze’s mix of languid plot movement and self-conscious symbology leave me with not that much to hold on to.
Which is where I’m at right now. So far, Texhnolyze seems placed somewhere between Flowers of Evil and Yurikuma Arashi – all the slow, atmospheric building of Flowers of Evil, with all the narrative-as-symbol distance of Yurikuma. That’s an awkward place to be; Flowers of Evil only works because the emotions of its leads are so tangible, and Yurikuma only pretends to work because it moves so quickly. Everything is still either a mystery or an archetype so far, and stories demand more than that. Hopefully the third episode will offer something to actually pull me along.
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