It’s no surprise at all to find that many people cannot stomach Texhnoolyze, most commonly by the reasoning that it is ‘boring’. I can’t blame anyone for thinking so – it’s an incredibly slow and ruthlessly dense experience, and written by Chiaki J. Konaka who never seems interested in letting anyone watch his shows easily. I, however, do not find Texhnolyze boring at all. ‘Boring’ would imply a certain indifference and disinterest – ‘boring’ would mean that I didn’t care. Rather, I really enjoy Texhnolyze and find it wholly interesting, but I would describe watching it as ‘physically painful.’
In the first DVD’s interview with Konaka and Yoshitoshi ABe, the two of them describe how the intent of these early episodes was to create a dark and grinding experience. It was to really sell you on the bleak, hopeless, and outright painful outlook of the series and it was not necessarily meant to be easy to watch (the first episode famously has 14 minutes pass before it’s first line of dialog, and then there is only a little bit in the whole ep.) I would certainly say that they succeeded in what they wanted to do, although I would less thank Konaka for that, and more thank ABe’s brilliant art coupled with Hirotsugu Hamazaki’s brilliant directing.
If you’ve never heard of Hirotsugu Hamazaki, it’s probably because his only show besides Texhnolyze was the even-less-known Shigurui, but both series teem with his style. Hamazaki’s MO is sensory brutality. There is no need for words with him, because he expresses things with bodies. We don’t need a monologue about Ichise’s pain, and the struggle of having lost an arm and a leg. We see him stumbling around, breaking his nose on the pavement as he falls, desperately clinging to keep himself alive, and the brutality by which he lives. Ichise spends a lot of episode 3 naked, just as the guys in Shigurui are often shirtless, so that we can understand the working of their bodies. We can understand how this man with one arm and one leg can summon the fury to refuse charity, or how he has the strength to at one point ram an operating table into the doctor who is trying to help him, get her on the ground, and get his hand around her neck. Clearly, he has no good reason to do so, other than the sheer malice and will that drives him.
In the first four episodes of Texhnolyze, almost nothing is explicitly stated in regards to the plot until we get an explanation of what Texhnolyze actually is in episode four. Instead, we are only given one man who comes down from the surface to this city for reasons that we do not understand, as well as a man who has his arm and leg cut off for reasons that, even if we aren’t told, we can figure out all too well.
Texhnolyze has no intent of giving the viewer more than that. This isn’t one of those series where things are strange because they have some philosophical meaning. It isn’t slow and hard to watch because the creators wanted to express some pretentious art-school urge – Texhnolyze has no meaning. It is simply a story, just like any other, and it so happens that the story is painful to watch. There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to watch Texhnolyze. If someone doesn’t like it, it’s not because they are missing out on some deep meaning or seeing it at the ‘wrong angle’ – you get out of it exactly what it gives you. It is a dark, grinding, terrifying story wherein you might watch a man crawl on one arm and one leg in desperation, and the series doesn’t give you a reason to think that things would turn out okay for him. This isn’t the story of a man who gains super-powers because he was in the right place at the right time. The fact that he was granted advanced Texhnolyzed limbs on the whim of a scientist that the story calls the ‘Texhnophile’ does not alter the fate of what is to come.
The series only has one course to run. It will not change. I once explained the brutality of Texhnolyze by pointing out how in episode 11, halfway through the series, a girl who foresees the future tells the main character about the gruesome way that everything will end, and 11 episodes later, her precise prediction comes true. The physical pain caused by watching Texhnolyze comes from the fact that in order to enjoy it, one must endure it.