Two entirely different series, but I like where both are headed. As of ep 8, Code E is staying with exactly the same formula—very, very low-key progress though life and experimentation with shy, walking EMP weapon girl, the brainiac geek boy trying to help her live a normal life, and the hotheaded-but-very-smart rich girl after the brainiac and thus also trying to help. It isn’t exactly a speedy series, but the characters are appealing, the underlying concept is very interesting, and the style is pleasing.
It seems to be working—very slowly—toward some espionage, as some spies have shown up who are after the girl for their unique abilities. These are mainly a pair of mostly-comic-relief German twins who make the most unconvincing high school students ever, but are fun in that despite being comic relief they aren’t exactly incompetent. Another guy so shadowy he’s only had a few lines is lurking around, presumably to fill in as the more serious villain. Again, though, so low-key that there’s barely even any tension. Not quite Someday’s Dreamers, but close.
The other interesting addition is the competent traditional girl who, it’s revealed, also has the same ability/problem, albeit in a much less powerful (and therefore unintentionally hazardous) form. She’s initially a contrast in that she’s calm and competent, unlike the easily-flustered protagonist, but also turns out to be even more interesting for being far less socially well-adjusted than she seems—frankly, the girl’s got problems. If they actually go somewhere with that, it could prove very interesting, though so far it’s so low-key that it was more of an underlying aside than meaty drama.
I also like the soft art style and cute character designs, despite the lack of noses all-around. They look exactly like something else I’ve seen recently, but for some reason I can’t think of what (and looking at the character designer’s CV didn’t help). There’s very, very little animation (tells you something that it’s perfectly watchable on a big-screen TV at 300 Kbps), but it surprisingly isn’t a liability—it doesn’t feel notably static, just not that much happens.
On the exact opposite end of the visual spectrum, I’ve run out of Ergo Proxy until I see the box set on a good sale, but I like where it’s going. In particular, the conspiracy seems to be getting more concrete rather than confusing and abstract, a huge plus. Also, the characters are far more human than is the norm for this sort of thing, including the meek-looking trainee who turns out to be a much more major character, and more interesting, than he seems at first. Setting is also interesting as we learn more about it gradually, and it’s certainly a pretty series—beautiful art, unusual, sharp character designs, and expensive animation. Plus Piro, the cute-and-cheerful-yet-somehow-subtly-creepy little girl robot is great, and appears to be set up to be an ongoing character—watching her cheerfully following a fugitive around while wearing pink bunny pajamas and carrying a large bag of ammunition is the best incongruent imagery of the sort since Lain and her bear-suit. My only complaint was an episode that starts with a chatty fever dream section that goes on a little too long for you to mentally hang onto the hints that may or may not have been dropped in it.
It’s a long series, so there’s plenty of room to screw up, but so far it’s looking like it’s doing everything right within the genre. Also unusual theme music in the vein of a lot of Pioneer series of the era, with an alt-rock (or really more atmospheric) English-language intro, and a Radiohead outro, both of which fit quite well.
At the least, it’s intriguing enough to fork out for the box set, though not enough to do so at full price.