Once humanity realised it could not evolve beyond its present form, species-wide ennui set in as humans simply awaited their inevitable extinction. All those who refused to accept this meek submission were driven into the underground city of Lukuss and its satellite town of Gabe. The rulers of Lukuss – the Sage and the Seer – lived in Gabe; while the Class, an elite inhabiting a district known as the Hill, were given responsibility for overseeing Lukuss’ principal industry: the mining of a substance known as Raffia, a critical element in a process of cybernetic enhancement called Texhnolyze. Over time, however, even Lukuss and its inhabitants begin to succumb to lethargy and somnolence: the rule of the Sage and the Seer ends, Gabe is reduced to a ghost town, and the Class retreat into their enclave on the Hill. Infrastructure decay and meaningless violence grip Lukuss until the Organo, a confederation of crime organisations, imposes a peace of convenience on the city. The Organo, nonetheless, are still opposed by other factions: the Salvation Union, a quasi-religious group opposed to Texhnolyze; and the Racan, a volunteer society of younger, Texhnolyze-enhanced people who emphasise individual freedom. In this mix of socio-political tension and creeping entropy, Ichise, a prize-fighter, makes a precarious living. After one contest, however, he is mutilated for rejecting the advances of a fight promoter’s mistress, then forcibly fitted with Texhnolyze prosthetics. Ichise escapes into the city, encountering others who are circulating through Lukuss in pursuit of their own ends: Kazuho Yoshii, an assassin from the surface world determined to shake the city out of its existential lethargy; Ran, a strange, fey girl from Gabe, the Seer who no longer wishes to view the future; Eriko, a renegade doctor from the Class who specialises in a new kind of Texhnolyze prosthetic; Onishi, the leader of the Organo, who “hears the voice of the city”; and Kano, a charismatic Class overlord, who has his own visions of humanity’s future. As battlelines are drawn and hidden agendas emerge, Ichise becomes the unwilling fulcrum for a conflict that may decide the fate of humankind itself…

Conceived and produced by studio giant Madhouse, “Texhnolyze” first aired on Japanese television from April to September 2003. Animated with the muted colour palette and gritty aesthetics that will be familiar to viewers of “Wolf’s Rain” and “Ergo Proxy”, “Texhnolyze” is in many respects an experimental series that often eschews the established forms of anime narrative structure and character development. The first episode is almost entirely silent; the dialogue is often obtuse and indirect; and it isn’t until much later in the series that the audience begins to glimpse the meta-narrative that both drives the characters’ behaviour and influences relations between the various factions. Silence plays a big part in “Texhnolyze”, conveying the decayed landscape of the city and the sense of doom that overhangs its inhabitants. But patient viewing brings its own rewards as the narrative gathers pace and the intricacies of the developing situation point toward the fast-approaching final conflict. And it is in the denouement that “Texhnolyze” delivers its best magic: for while there is blood-and-guts violence aplenty, the deeply emotional and philosophically nuanced conclusion carries all the weight and import that the confused finale to the original “Neon Genesis Evangelion” series so conspicuously lacked. Bold in its originality, and daring in its preparedness to challenge the oft-unstated assumptions about the benign trajectory of human evolution, “Texhnolyze” conveys the loss of human spirit and identity amid the hyper-technologised environment of modernity, as well as the questions of meaning, purpose, identity, future, and ultimate fate that confront us all.

Text © Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.