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In many parts of the world, anime is often still viewed as entertainment show for kids. For fans of dark, psychological-themed anime, though, this could never be more wrong. Each episode requires a massive amount of thinking and memorizing, parsing through not only the world and character building of the anime, but also the symbolization provided by both dialogues and directing. In itself, watching such anime is a fun challenge; especially for several very good ones proving to still be an enjoyable challenge even after the fourth or fifth rewatch.
Ergo Proxy is one of such anime. The sense of fascination that builds from the very first episode, the intriguing direction it heads to, the details put in building the world and characters, especially Re-l Mayer, its main heroine, sucks the viewer instantly through a maze of concepts and conflicts: AutoReiv, Cogito Virus, Proxy. Manglobe manages to deliver the sense of dark and dread into this anime through lighting plays and detailed motions in its animation, completing its sci-fi and mystery nature, giving the audience a great world to dive into.
Challenged enough by Ergo Proxy, or not satisfied enough with the mystery and psychological theme it provides? If you simply love the dark dystopian, post-apocalyptic setting, and its psychological if slightly philosophical plot that forces you to think every single episode through, then here are six anime that might give you the challenge that you crave.
Similar Anime to Ergo Proxy
1. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (Koukaku Kidoutai: Stand Alone Complex)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2002 – March 2003
A franchise renowned all over the world, Ghost in the Shell series was originally created by Shirow Masamune, and brought into the cinema by the hands of filmmakers such as Oshii Mamuro and Kamiyama Kenji. The series itself is set in a universe where the technology of full body transplant from flesh to machine is possible. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is an alternate setting of the original Ghost in the Shell movie series; focusing still on the heroine Kusanagi Motoko and the members of Section 9 dealing with crimes in the hands of those who misused the cybernetic technology, until one day they encounter a hacker named the Laughing Man, and are consequently dragged to follow his trail all over Japan.
The main heroine, Major Kusanagi Motoko whose body was cyberized at a very young age, might just be more badass than Ergo Proxy’s own heroine Re-l Mayer. The sci-fi setting gives a very similar vibes to Ergo Proxy’s world building, even if Ghost in the Shell focuses more to action and a special detail in cybernetics and mecha. Production I.G. delivers Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C in such a way to highlight not only its scifi nature, but also its more mature themes: violence, profanity, and sexual views. If you’re a fan of Kanno Yoko’s music, this series is a must pick-up.
Ghost in the Shell as a franchise has been largely successful, resulting in its many works in various media: movies, novels, manga, and even games. But Stand Alone Complex deserves its own shine as an anime series. If you decided to take up on its challenge, make sure you don’t forget to catch up with its glorious second season: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG.
Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex OP
2. Kara no Kyoukai (the Garden of Sinners)
- Episodes: 8 movies
- Aired: December 2007, February 2008, May 2008, August 2008, December 2008, August 2009, February 2011
Kara no Kyoukai might be one of Type-Moon’s most obscure series—perhaps because it was released as movie series and thus limiting the audience for people outside of Japan. Part of what many Type-Moon fans lovingly called the Nasu-verse, Kara no Kyoukai tells the story of Ryougi Shiki, a girl with a supernatural ability to see and brings end to everything with her “Mystic Eyes of Death Perception”.
Intrigued by a series of violent, mysterious deaths happening in their town, Kokutou Mikiya finds that Ryougi Shiki is related to those murders. Between Shiki’s split personality, the dangerous supernatural forces, and their growing intimacy, Shiki struggles to find her identity and where her place is with Mikiya. Set around the ‘90s, parallel to other Type-Moon’s works such as Tsukihime and Fate/stay night, Kara no Kyoukai highlights more mature, psychological, if slightly supernatural themes such as split personality, rape, drugs, murder and gore, as well as familiar philosophical concepts often used in Type-Moon’s works.
Throughout the movie series, again and again Shiki proves to be such a strong and interesting female lead, clearly not losing compared to Ergo Proxy’s Re-l Mayer, even if her weapon is mostly only a blade of knife. Kara no Kyoukai might lack the scifi aspect, but it definitely delivers the dark, psychological theme, referencing many religious and philosophical concepts that would definitely be a superb exercise for your brain. Its seiyuu line-up does not disappoint either; pairing Sakamoto Maaya and Suzumura Kenichi’s acting, as well as several other top-tier seiyuu such as Tanaka Rie and Hoshi Souichirou, Kara no Kyoukai brings thriller alive through its characters and storyline, leaving the audience satisfied by the end of its epilogue movie.
Kara no Kyoukai PV -Anime trailer
3. Wolf’s Rain
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: January 2003 – July 2003
For many anime fans who were teenagers around 2003, Wolf’s Rain probably brings a sense of nostalgia. Taking place in a pre-apocalypse society in the distant future where all wolves have seemingly gone extinct, Wolf’s Rain tells the story of wolves who take human forms and embark the journey to find their Paradise along with the Lunar Flower who is supposed to lead them to where it is, named Cheza.
The similarity that stands out the most between Wolf’s Rain and Ergo Proxy is not the scifi concept or the dystopian society both take place in. It is the theme of journey that the main characters go on to, highlighting its complex story and, what some of us might feel pretentious, concepts. Both shows play with a lot of symbolism that would leave the audience reeling in thoughts. Studio Bones provides gorgeous landscapes and detailed background, as well as amazing fighting scenes. Its soundtracks are definitely something to look forward too, as well—with Steve Conte doing the opening and Sakamoto Maaya singing the ending, as well as Kanno Yoko helming the music, this anime promises various feelings to deal with.
Wolf’s Rain -Opening HD
Any Animes Like Ergo Proxy ?
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2013 – December 2013
Adding more to the strings of anime set in dystopian, post-apocalyptic society, Coppelion offers a newer, fresher look of recent anime. Following the story of the three girls dispatched by the Self-Defense Forces for a search and rescue mission, Ibara, Aoi and Taeko get into the ghost town of Tokyo after a nuclear power plant meltdown 20 years ago. Called the Coppelion, these girls are born through genetic engineering, giving them natural antibody against the radiation for the sake of their mission, and various unique individual abilities such as enhanced physical strength and senses, improved regenerative ability, and elemental or spatial manipulation.
Like Ergo Proxy, Coppelion focuses on the dystopian society through the stories of female leads, balancing philosophical, psychological, and sci-fi themes with fighting scenes to reel the audience in. GoHands’ trademark animation and colors might make Coppelion feel brighter, but it doesn’t mean it fails in giving its audience the conflicted atmosphere associated with anime set in dystopian society throughout the story. The roles of military and government also gives it a similar feel to Ergo Proxy to a certain degree.
Those who love angela’s music would be delighted by the opening of this anime. Another appeal would be its seiyuu line-up, which includes Hanazawa Kana and Tomatsu Haruka, as well as Sakamoto Maaya and Suzumura Kenichi. For those who plan to jump into the dark, psychological-themed anime, Coppelion is a good one to consider.
COPPELION Promotion Video English Sub (Official)
5. Serial Experiments Lain
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 1998 – September 1998
As one of the older dark, psychological-themed mystery anime, Serial Experiments Lain still piques the interests of those who still haven’t watched it. Following the story of fourteen year-old Iwakura Lain, who received an email from her supposedly deceased school friend Chisa, inviting Lain to join her in the world of ‘Wired’, which is basically an internet-like connection in that world. Pulled along by her curiosity, Lain begins uncovering the mystery of ‘Wired’ and the organization Knights who stand behind it all.
Lain might not be a combat-familiar female lead, but she is definitely doesn’t lose in terms of strength and character’s interest compared to Ergo Proxy’s Re-l Mayer. If you enjoyed the dark colors and atmosphere or Ergo Proxy, you will definitely enjoy Serial Experiments Lain’s general vibe, as it plays with a lot of similar philosophical concepts and questions regarding existence that Ergo Proxy brought up. Watching Serial Experiments Lain once is not enough—in order to actually understand it, you would need multiple rewatch, and in each of it, you’d discover new train of thoughts to follow.
Serial Experiments Lain OP (HD)
6. Mardock Scramble
- Episodes: 3 movies
- Aired: October 2010, September 2011, September 2012
Yet another glorious sci-fi movie anime series, Mardock Scramble is written by none other than Ubukata Tow, who is famous for his works in mixing sci-fi and dark psychological theme. Set in a city called the Mardock City, the story revolves around Rune Balot, a former teen prostitute who got involved with a casino manager Shell, who later attempted to blow her up in a car. She is then saved by a scientist who reassembled her entire body using reinforced synthetic fiber, and begins to follow her desire for revenge towards Shell with Oefcoque, an artificial intelligence in the form of a mouse who could talk and turn into weapons, clothes, and any tools.
Similar to Ergo Proxy, Mardock Scramble is set in a cyberpunk futuristic world where everything looks blindingly gorgeous, but, at the same time, is also dangerous. Rune Balot is arguably one of the strongest female main characters, proving her versatility as she keeps standing up whenever she’s knocked down in every movie, despite her first line being a wish for death. Mardock Scramble deals with questions of rebirth, of what it means to be alive, and like Ergo Proxy, it requires multiple watch to get all the hidden gems in the story.
GoHands deliver gorgeous and rather emotional battle scenes, and, in both the second and third movie, breathtaking casino scenes. It does not shy from more mature aspects such as rape, sexuality, and gore. Also of note would be the seiyuu of Rune Balot, Hayashibara Megumi, who brings Balot into life flawlessly. The three Mardock Scramble movies are definitely a must watch if you like Ergo Proxy, or are simply a fan of anime with similar genre.
Mardock Scramble The First Compression - Trailer
Anime fans who thirst for literal brain exercise would always appreciate a good dark, psychological or philosophical anime that requires multiple watch—there is a particular enjoyment in finding out new things to understand with every rewatch. A good show does not only rely on the animation, but also in challenging the audience with its writings, involving them into a completely new world with thought-provoking questions.
Like Ergo Proxy, they have to pique the audience’s interest and curiosity, and then plays them as they play the main character. Those who enjoy strong female lead might want to give this genre a shot, as well—don’t let yourself be turned off by the fanservice (or lack of it); the character development is definitely worth your time.
If you enjoyed Ergo Proxy, and decided to pick one of the anime recommended above, don’t shy from sharing your opinions in the comments section! Not everyone could sit through a whole anime that requires you to think non-stop—but if you understand the enjoyment of it, and have more recommendation to add, don’t keep it to yourself. Anime of this genre tends to stay hidden gems in the midst of more light-hearted ones, finding them is like finding a treasure that might just change the way you look at life.