The Physical Pain of Watching Texhnolyze 1-4

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.

20 thoughts on “The Physical Pain of Watching Texhnolyze 1-4

  1. I was really surprised that the non-talking of the first few episodes went away so quickly. I was expecting it to stay that way the whole time. I’d always wondered if that was the director’s artistic choice, acknowledgment that it was tough on the viewers, or the pressure around him building up.

    • I think it was just a matter of, they never intended for it to last, they just wanted to set the tone in those early eps. After all, by the time the story gets moving, the world has already become immersive and there is this certain level of understanding that you develop for how things work that you wouldn’t get if you had things spelled out for you. But of course, there was still to be a plot in there somewhere.

      The director really doesn’t have much to do with the fact that there was little dialog, that’s on the writer, and Konaka uses that in every show he does, from Lain to Ghost Hound. It’s always around the 5th ep that things start to make sense. It just happens that Texh’s director did a superb job with it. Lain and Ghost Hound had another guy who is much weaker, especially in the Ghost Hound case.

      Anyway, the hardest part for me was actually the 19th and 20th or so eps, because suddenly after all that’s happened, it plunges into THE slowest pacing of the series right there at the end, and that shit was painful.

  2. Excellent opening paragraph. I love the first few episodes of this show to death, pretentious as they may be. The focus on visual storytelling instead of expository dialogue is excellent – the scenes with Ichise struggling just to survive without his limbs are extremely powerful.

    • Indeed. The part where he is on the stairs and sees his whole self climbing them with ease, and then he just looses what’s left of his energy particularly resonates. I also really liked the moment where he tackles the professor just because you can see that primal vigor he posesses.

      • Right, the scene on the stairs has been etched into my mind ever since I first saw this series several years ago. I never knew the Shigurui director was the same person who worked on this, but I should have seen the similarities. They’re both brilliant at visually expressing human struggle and brutality; I’ve seen very few works of visual media able to evoke such compelling depictions of this, period, not just in anime.

        • :D Glad to see you’re an enthusiast! Yeah, it’s a real shame that Texh and Shigurui are all that he’s done, because I’d love to see more from him.

          I wonder, have you seen the live-action movie The Wrestler? I think it’s probably the best representation of this kind of thing ever made, plus it’s just an incredible film with a tight emotional grip.

          • Nope. I’ve been meaning to get around to it, since I liked Pi and Requiem for A Dream by the same director, but I’ve been lagging behind on movie releases for the last few years.

            And yeah, Madhouse just seems to hoard amazing seinen directors, but they likely can’t give any of them too much work otherwise they would probably end up losing too much money on these ridiculously arthouse shows which few people watch and fewer buy. Maybe they should spread the love? I really can’t see any other studio taking a chance on something like Texhnolyze, Kaiba or Mouryou no Hako, though.

            • hehe. I’m a big Aaronofsky fanboy myself, although my favorite movie by him is actually The Fountain.

              I dunno, Madhouse seems to do pretty well at realeasing at least 2 or 3 atrhouse shows a year. Last season they had Aoi Bungaku which was a pretty huge mindfuck. Who knows what they might come up with next~

              • They have a double whammy next season with Yojou-han AND Rainbow. Presuming the latter actually airs. Not to mention Iron Man. Sometimes, I wonder how they manage to make enough money to stay afloat. I guess music videos must really pay the bills.

                • It helps that their shows are also popular in the US a lot of the time. They do shit like Devil May Cry to pay the bills, and then they go crazy lol. Although I still don’t know how they have quite such ridiculous money to throw around. Production IG are the ones that rally get me though lol, no idea why they get so much higher budget than anyone else and yet can make a show like Seirei no Moribito that totally has no audience. It’s a mystery.

                  I think ti’s mostly because for both studios, they have appeal for people who aren’t necessarily ‘anime fans’ but tap more into that cult film fanbase and such.

  3. I’ll take a sneak peak at the show, even though I’m not a huge fan of shows that take forever to get to the meat of the plot.

  4. A great post, very eloquently written. I’m still wondering why we’re such suckers for punishment though, why do we like to watch thing that scares us, that depresses us, that makes us feel disoriented and claustrophobic, painful stuff? I know I love to feel that way, providing I can turn off the screen and that it will pass, but why? Love your blog, by the way, makes me wish I had more time for anime (last thing I watched was Toradora!).

  5. I loved. The first time I watched it was hard to follow, it was most definitely mind screw and I almost died crying for Ichise. A couple weeks later I watched again and the anime got a whole new meaning because this time I already knew the story and had a lot of empathy for the poor charas.
    I know it’s depressing, it’s weird, it’s painfully slow paced, confusing, wash all your hopes away but still is a beautiful piece of art and it’s darn philosofic. (whatever is spell this)
    Seriously, I loved it. I strongly recommend.

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  9. I just watched the first 2 eps of this anime, and holy shit, it’s an experience.
    You see the main character trotting on the street with both limbs cut off, no one cares about him, that, combined with the depressing artwork, tells you what the setting is; a dirty, piece of corrupt hellhole, where shit’s just normal. You can just FEEL the struggle the main character goes through as he trotts along, pitifully.
    I wish more dark anime were like this-just focusing on making the viewer FEEL the dark, rather than shoving it in your face like Berserk, Garden of Sinners, Akame ga Kill.
    I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned the cinematic scene transitions-more specifically, the greatly transitioned match cuts between each scene, whereas most tv shows/movies just use generic cuts to the following scenes.

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