Art and Architecture of Texhnolyze

September 23, 2010

I still remain puzzled by what Texhnolyze is ultimately trying to say. Yet I believe the show is trying to say something. At the very least, sheer degree of attention to visual designs is worth appreciating, which may also serve to make a point about a partciular aspect of human nature. And that is what I will be writing about in this post.

Let’s first look at the surface world of Texhnolyze. Note that the anime takes place in the underground world of Lukuss, (or lux – light) before the main characters reach the surface world towards the end. Like how nymphs spend their time underwater before emerging airborne as dragonflies.

edward hopper texhnolyze

Above: Edward Hopper's Route 6 Eastham, Below: Surface world of Texhnolyze

The design for the surface world appears to be inspired by Edward Hopper’s paintings, which are known for their portrayal of desolation in late 19th century American cities and rural landscapes. This is relevant because it was a period of great technological inventions (like motor vehicles) that transformed America from an agricultural ex-colony, to a modern industrial nation. It completely changed people’s way of living and promised great modern life of simplicity and efficiency, but unfortunately alienating people further away; which led realist painters like Hopper to capture that alienation and stagnation through paintings.

And that is the kind of desolation Texhnolyze shows in its depiction of the surface world. Like Hopper’s paintings, Texhnolyze utilises saturated colours, and strong interplay of bright sunlight and directly cast shadow to create such mood, but also exhibits some very interesting animation quirks, like going through a repetition of street lamps in a dramatically linear street, or a very slow panning of a house in great distance (as if capturing its stillness). I mean, horizontal motifs such as street/railroad and capturing stillness has always been Hopper’s traits but it is nice to see its vocabulary translated in animated language, where an extra dimension of movement is added.

The resulting image we get is one that of loneliness. Buildings just standing there alone in a vast field of emptiness.

I also like how the inhabitants of this surface world are drawn as if they have no presence. They are always seen sitting, walking, looking, sort of ‘hovering’ like ghosts, with no facial expression, no emotion. If there is one emotion they exhibit it would be that of resignation.

They are merely content with this flawless way of living that has no poverty or conflict, but also no will or motivation to do anything. They are lonely beings slowly waiting for their demise while gazing at the perfect image of a flower. Hopper’s desolating style has been adopted to create a world where all that which motivates and wills us through life have withered away, imprisoning people with illusions of flawless image of life like that of a flower.

In some cases a drawing is lifted straight from the painting itself...

Design for the working room is based on Frank Lloyd Wright's "Great Workroom", which was supposed to be the leading example of simple/modern working life. "Forest of trees" of Frank Lloyd Wright looks more like cold and alienating prison bars in Texhnolyze

~~

Now let’s look at the contrasting image of Lukuss (underground world), where the vast majority of the show takes place. Since this world was originally created as a result of the surface people’s experiments, the actual buildings are very similar to the ones you can find on the surface world. But there is one opposing design feature that clearly distinguishes the city of Lukuss from the surface world, which can best be described as brutalist.

What do we mean by brutalist? It’s an architectural term originally used to describe unadorned usage of concrete, but the true spirit of the word lies in brutal ‘rawness’ of being true (to material/structure). In other words, the idea is to show what it is truly made of without covering it with paint or cladding, because it is better to look ugly than pretending to be something it is not.

The city of Lukuss is not made of brutalist architecture but it is of brutalist character. If the surface world paints its walls with colourful and glossy paint, then Lukuss reveals its exposed concrete walls as their ugly, withering form. If the surface world has carefully decorated and painted staircase handrails, Lukuss has rows of crude iron protruding out of concrete with its rusted surface. If the surface world carefully aligns its electricity posts in orderly manner, Lukuss is a jungle of electricity wires running across buildings. Drainage pipes, mechanical services, running sewerage, every gritty part of the city is left exposed without any attempt to conceal it. Texhnolyze captures this hideously cold and unforgiving city in stark lighting, pale colour palette, and gritty textures of exposed concrete, and anyone who saw Shigurui can appreciate the same director’s deliberately atmospheric direction here as well.

Can you hear the city's voice?

And that is what you ‘hear’ when watching Texhnolyze. You hear the menacing noise of air vents, electricity along the net of wires, and whatever wastes produced by the city flowing down the pipes and sewerage. And the still shots of the cold, ugly, concrete walls and crude irons almost appear as if they are speaking to us. What do they say?

I will get to that soon.

In any case, its fascinating how the city can resemble texhnolyzed limbs in a way. Especially the wires and pipes that connect the masses (like cords connecting between metal plating in texhnolyzed limbs). And just as the city is raw and brutal, texhnolyzation too can be brutal. Texhnolyzation is not always about hiding our human weakness and pretending what our bodies are not. Why? Because it isn’t important that our bodies are real or texhnolyzed. Does the fact that Onishi uses his texhnolyzed prosthetics make his beliefs and actions any weaker?

Even with different schools of thoughts like Organo, Union and Racan, one can still choose to remain determined and strong to their own ideals like Onishi, Kimata and Shinji. Or one can lose that sight and fall victim to illusions (like immortality, strength) like Kohakura and Haru. What is truly important is the iron strength of conviction in our own beliefs, that which moves us beyond any ideology and imposing perception.

To those who go astray from the light, let their sins be forgiven. To those who choose death over insanity, let their spirit rest in peace.

Kanno's evolution through texhnolyzation and Saginuma's perfect contentment. Two ideals taken to extreme. Either way, people who blindly follow such ideals are reduced to pitiful beings.

This is why, to me, texhnolyzation should not be automatically dismissed as another dehumanizing technological force found in your typical cyberpunk. Ichise later claims: I have changed not because I got this arm, but because I met you.

Here we have a human being who grew up with a shame of his father and deceitful eyes of those around him, but he is ultimately transformed when he meets people like Doc, Onishi, Tomoya and Ran. He learns to love and care for another and sacrifices himself to help others. And Texhnolyzation can be the brutal strength you need to dispel illusions and grab for the light as long as your spirit is willing, just as the technology in Kaiba can help one find the warmth and light.

Nymphs spend years under murky water before emerging airborne as dragonflies, soaring the sky freely. To question our self-made illusions which we call reality, and brutally tearing away your fabricated shells in an act of spiritual transformation. I wonder what those immobile Shapes are thinking of themselves as they see dragonflies freely fluttering in front of their eyes.

~~

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17 Responses to “Art and Architecture of Texhnolyze”

  1. 2DT Says:

    This reminds me of recent design decisions in real-life prostheses. Lately people are moving away from trying to mimic real limbs, and instead dealing with the material as it is and trying to make THAT attractive. There’s even a company using 3-D printing technology right now so you can customize your limb with all sorts of baubles and shiny things.

    It seems to be a point of pride among those who’ve lost body parts, not to hide it but to show that they’re still living just fine. But I wouldn’t know.

  2. chaostangent Says:

    The contrast between the subterranean and surface worlds of Texhnolyze is quite startling and though I had an inkling the vistas were based off other artistic impressions, I had no idea of the scale and the history to that. Really fascinating stuff.

    The idea of metamorphosis is central to the series so it’s interesting how you pick up on the nymph analogy – Ran’s denouement especially gruesome. The juxtaposition of technology and spirituality seems core as well, you have Ran wandering with the fox mask, Onishi believing he can hear the “voice” of the city, even Yoshii’s belief in rebirth to say nothing of the inhabitants of Gabe.

    The bleak, scorched earth setting is positively haunting, even more so in the closing credits with Ichise almost literally the last “living” human – that odd mix of depression and faint hope. There’s so much crammed into the series it’s difficult not to call it both Hamasaki’s best directorial work, and Konaka’s most poignant script. Certainly one of my all-time favourite series.

  3. gaguri Says:

    yay comments *dances*

    @2DT

    really? I don’t know much about prosthetics market but that sounds like more authentic choice. Why try to look like something it’ll never be anyway right? Not sure what I’d do if I had to replace my lost limb with one of those though. Do I try to conceal it with fake looking pink plastic, or bad ass designed WEAPON >:D (that’ll shut them up!)

    @chaostangent

    Mm I personally didn’t get much out of Gabe people, or ‘everyone is connected in a lain-esque way’ part. One thing I sort of avoided talking about here was that, although Texhnolyze is high on intellectual and sensual end, it wasn’t very emotionally powerful for me. And as you say, there is just so much crammed into this series, and I feel that it should have focused on fewer characters/ideas instead.

    But I liked the very last scene. The final image of the world is as you say, positively haunting with Ichise’s and Ran’s smile in falling snow. I think it’s bleak in that, the show is like a prophecy telling how we are going to destroy ourselves with illusions, but we will still have hope as long as people like Ichise/Onishi with the will and conviction exist.

  4. bateszi Says:

    The director of Texhnolyze is a really interesting guy. In both this and Shigurui, there’s a very deliberate focus on certain things; things like the human body, wounds and scars; and how people cope with being damaged, both immediately and in the long term. In many ways, he reminds me of David Cronenberg, especially his more modern films like Eastern Promises and A History of Violence. There’s a clear sense of beauty to the many horrible things they show us.

    Hirotsugu Hamazaki just creates interesting anime. Like you, I didn’t really get into his series in an emotional sense, but I find them utterly fascinating, and very visual. Images from them are burnt into my memory. I mean, I’ve only seen Texhnolyze once, and that was years ago now, but man, I can’t shake it. The surface world, Ichise’s final moment, Yoshii climbing down that long flight of stairs into Lux.

    This was a really good, fascinating article, gaguri, and about what has become, gradually, one of my favourite series. If you haven’t had a look into it already, you absolutely need to read Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame! – dystopian arcitexture porn doesn’t get much better!

  5. gaguri Says:

    I noticed that body part too. I haven’t watched any of Cronenberg’s films but I’m guessing his works would be on the lines of Artaud’s sadistic films (…like slitting an eye-ball). I felt similar jolt of uncontrollable pain time and time again in Texhnolyze, which makes it a very uncomfortable and intense experience.

    Blame! is one of those mangas that seem to have small, but very loyal cult following, so i’m very interested as well. gah you’re just adding more manga and manga to my readlist! (still haven’t read any of Matsumoto…)

  6. Omeca Says:

    In order to understand this style of animation you must have grasp of History, Math, Science, and Physics; not only that, you must have an educated opinion, of those subjects, in order to interpret this fantastic art work.

    I agree with your statement that the artist is trying to say ‘something’. Expanding on that, often I see artists using their art make ‘their’ statement. It is not often that the artist having no real statement; but the existence of the art itself, is in fact, the statement.

  7. Atmosphere Says:

    So I take it you decided to watch the show again. Do you deem it higher than a 6 now?

  8. gaguri Says:

    @Omeca

    Mm…I’m bit lost as to how to respond to this…but I’m glad to see you in a state of inspiration ^_^b

    @Atmosphere

    Haha, I gave it 7 this time and still can’t bring myself to give it higher (maybe in future viewings?…). I guess it deserves at least 8~9 technical wise, but just didn’t connect to it as much + some parts that I didn’t think worked as much.

  9. Shadowmage Says:

    The way I see it. Texhnolyze is a professor who is full of brilliance but is simply unable to convey his thoughts in a meaningful manner. The thing is that unlike academia anime is entertainment, so it is contingent on the creators of the series to present the narrative in a way that is engaging and to simplify the ideas into a more digestable form. The reason I rewatch something like Evangelion is because it is first a fun and well made action series before a psuedo-Christian, philosophical mind*#$@.

    Regardless, I’ll put back Texhnolyze on my “to see” list. I didn’t like the first few episodes all that much, but I’ll hit this up whenever I’m in the mood for something different.

  10. gaguri Says:

    I personally wouldn’t use the professor analogy myself. To me an anime like ghost in the shell 2: innocence is like professor, because it talks and talks about lot of ideas which no one cares about, nor conveyed very effectively.

    I guess Texhnolyze is more like a ‘misunderstood’ artist. It uses more visuals and atmosphere to communicate loneliness, coldness, strength, etc. but sometimes what it does can confuse us, its intentions perhaps not made so crystal clear like Tatami Galaxy. Anyway I don’t see anything wrong with watching more of Texhnolyze, it’s one of those series where rewatching only enhances your experience.

  11. mousoukyoku Says:

    Thanks for pointing out some aspects in this series where I would have been too unversed to notice myself.

    I don’t know if I’m telling you anything new with this, but I think it’s also important to point out that Konaka Chiaki wrote the scenarios for certain episodes and was the overall story editor, which means you can try to compare it to… the weirdness of his other works like Serial Experiments Lain or the movie Marebito for which he wrote the screenplay. He also writes sci-Fi horror in general for certain anthologies for example. Mechanization and digitalization and how they affect human interaction or humaneness in general always seems to be one of his topics.

    I definitely liked this series for what it was, mostly concurring with what you pointed out, but I just thought it could have been shorter while still achieving the same outcome and being more endurable.

  12. gaguri Says:

    I don’t know much about Chiaki other than his involvement in Lain but sounds like he’s lot more involved in literature. Thanks for mentioning the point about mechanization/digitalization. In a way, lot of artists/people involved in lain and texhnolyze are similar, like the producer who was very interested in this technology/human nature themes, and ABe who really knows how to express these traits.

    And I agree with your last assessment, it could’ve been shorter.

  13. mousoukyoku Says:

    I forgot to mention that he is a fan of Lovecraft and while I’m not versed in that field I guess we can also see that in Texhnolyze somehow. Or in The Big O, which I also liked even if it also turned out as a more or less uncut diamond. Seems to be typical for his writing style. From what I know by him I still consider Lain to be the most concentrated and refined work. Although I might be a bit biased since Lain was my first favorite anime before I got to know Utena…

    And since you also talked about ‘hearing’ the city in Texhnolyze: We also have similar ‘intrusively subtle’ sounds in Lain and I know from a friend that Konaka also wrote some sci-fi horror short story about sound waves, so I guess there definitely are recurrent themes in his style.

  14. gaguri Says:

    Hey what do you know, Lain was my first fav too :D. And yes, Lain was much more concentrated, and ‘connect with everyone’ theme was much more relevant as well (in Texhnolyze it was either added on haphazardly, or not integrated very well). And glad you noticed the ‘voices’ of Lain too. To me, it was like the overwhelming presence of the Wired oozing out to the real world.

  15. Curryp Says:

    I really like the way you write about anim, how you analyse thematics and emphasizing on subtles aspects.
    I won’t develop more since english is not my main language (and I’m seriously rusted…)

    In all case, keep it on !

  16. gaguri Says:

    Thanks I try my best :)


  17. […] veer into the ridiculous if not for a measured pace and careful attention to detail in the writing. Ha Neul Seom notes the contrasting brutalist and Edward Hopper influences in Lux and the surface world respectively, […]


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