Texhnolyze’s third episode is, well, another episode of Texhnolyze. Things are moving, but slowly, as ever. The boxer awakes and finds he is in the process of being reborn, while Kazuho rides the train into the city and makes a request of his companion. Angry factions swirl around the Organo, while the scientist seems bored of her everyday miracles. Things are slowly coming into focus.
We open with a scene that demonstrates Tehnolyze’s firm dedication to visual over verbal storytelling, as a harsh red line fades into the reveal of the doctor’s scalpel. We experience the boxer’s recovery from his own perspective; following that brief moment of lucidity, he fades back into dreams, and we see a mother and child running. Men stand staring at a giant construction monolith, and then we see the target of their interest; a man hung from the beams. The same focus on eyes and breathing-centered sound design overwhelm the senses here, as the man who is presumably the boxer’s father hangs dead in the air. “Don’t look” we hear, a charged phrase in a show where eyes seem to be the window to the soul. “Ichise” is his name, we learn, before a hurried jumble of images convey him remembering the events of the last episodes. It’s a naturally integrated flashback that demonstrates Texhnolyze’s self-imposed storytelling limitations at their best.
The episode’s other ostentatious elements of visual storytelling are a bit less uniformly successful. Texhnolyze often seems to draw attention to the artificiality of its own visual touchstones, in a less playful echo of something like Ikuhara’s style. Its version of the “look here” symbol might well be that damn floating goldfish, an absurdist touch that occasionally and seemingly intentionally undercuts the seriousness of the narrative. When Ichise actually wakes, he’s greeted by the woman eating steak and drinking red wine from a glass ornamented with a heart monitor – an extremely loud metaphor for her “eating of the body,” making him either a resurrected savior or her some kind of carrion-eating creature. And when he asks for water, the bringer of life, her compliance is afforded all the pomp of a religious ceremony, ending with him watching the precious fluid dribble out onto the cold floor.
These choices are aggressive and intentional, but I can’t really say whether they’re actually effective yet. Symbolism can serve a variety of purposes in storytelling, from thematically connecting specific disconnected ideas to creating an internal language of resonances or even just drawing attention to moments that the audience should be connecting in their minds. Eventually, this episode reveals that the bauble Ichise has been cradling contains his mother’s cells, and that those cells have now been integrated into his new limbs – in that context, framing the doctor as some kind of eater of souls makes sense. But does that choice actually make her seem more tangible as a person, or is the intent to make her the opposite – deliberately frame her as a character above the narrative? Symbolism is a powerful storytelling technique, but in the context of a show this ostentatiously theatrical, you have to wonder about the actual effects these choices provoke.
Various other scraps of information are revealed throughout this episode. We learn that Ran has indeed seen Kazuho’s future, but that he doesn’t want to know what she knows – in fact, he doesn’t want her to tell anyone. In this way, Kazuho seems almost aware of the larger-than-life narrative he has entered; he wants to simply live and make his own choices, not have his actions dictated by fate or a higher power. But even Kazuho cannot escape Texhnolyze’s mythic storytelling entirely, as his first crossing with the Organo man is embellished by that classic freeze-frame technique, marking them as some kind of fated pair.
The Organo man gets likely the most singularly compelling scene of the episode, as he runs into another pair of men dedicated to taking down his organization. We learn the meaning of that chant from the first episode now – apparently, these men are “flesh fundamentalists,” dedicated to fighting the texhnolyzed in spite of their own leader apparently being one of them. The confrontation between these three men is dynamic and thrilling, a strong mix of well-paced movements and dramatic single shots. The contrast of the Organo’s black-and-white color palette and the bleached walls of the city make for striking compositions, and the fight is clearly parsable in spite of also being composed almost entirely of beautiful single images. It’s an unexpected but welcome demonstration that this show can definitely operate in a variety of dramatic modes.
The episode ends on Ichise and the doctor, as she challenges him on his current purpose in life. “What do you want to do? Just screw up, having been born without meaning and then die without meaning?” Ichise didn’t want these limbs, but his mother’s presence makes them an inevitability. The doctor’s boredom with her current projects and desire for a more “organic chemistry” speaks to the larger quest of transhumanism, and her praising Ichise’s “obsession to live” seems to define him as an icon of the natural world, representing life’s most fundamental goal. Things have become more tangible, but only just. The episode ends where it begins, with the heavy breathing of a cornered animal playing us out.
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