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.
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.
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.
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.
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.