The next digital revolution comes in the form of internet-connected, augmented reality glasses and visors where users telephone, e-mail, browse the 'Net, and care for digital pets in a world visually layered on top of our own. The center of this revolution is at the headquarters of the Megamass Conglomerate in Daikoku City, the most digitally advanced city in the world. Quiet, soft-spoken Yuko Okonoki moves there with her family when her father is hired for a management position with the Conglomerate. It is there that she joins her grandmother's detective club dedicated to recovering lost digital pets, and meets Yuko Amasawa, a child genius hacker who also recently moved to Daikoku. The two will unlock mysteries about the glasses that the powerful Conglomerate wants hidden in a race to solve the riddle of a tragedy that happened four years ago. If they fail, they may lose everyone they hold dear...
Despite what depressing statistics your national education system puts out, children are amazing natural learners. They normally just learn better outside of the classroom. When families move to a foreign country, the children normally pick up the language quicker than the parents, and when new technology rolls out, children will grasp the nuances of computers, the Internet, iPods, and video games that mystify adults. And in Dennou Coil, while the glasses are used as tools by businessmen and teachers, it is the children who take it a step further and make it an integral part of their social lives. It is also the children who figure out how to hack into the system, and who create elaborate urban legends around the cyberglasses. Most science-fiction tales feel futuristic by nature, but because of this Dennou Coil feels very modern. This sets it apart from every other piece of cyberpunk I've read or watched; the fantastic just doesn't seem so improbable. It feels like a story from tomorrow's newspaper.
Written and directed by first timer Mitsuo Iso and animated by Madhouse, Denno Coil is a rarity in anime: a series that pays close attention to how children act in real life, and succeeds in translating those observations to the screen, as opposed to the one-dimensional pip squeaks I'm used to seeing. Per Madhouse's long track record of animation excellence, the children also look and act their age. Yes, yes that's right anime fans, a show about middle school children with no detectable moe! Or much in the way of fan-service either, which is a treat for those of us who have grown tired of pandering.
The series is actually very similar in tone to anime like Haibane Renmei and Kino's Journey. At times it's very low key, with touches of childhood nostalgia and melancholy mixed with some truly frightening, tense and moving moments. The transition from slice of life episodes to tense moments of terror are well orchestrated to boot. I would often go from relaxing in the back of my chair, slouching, with my hands cradling the back of my head, to sitting on the edge of my seat and leaning towards the screen with my nose inches from my monitor within a span of three episodes.
I must confess, though, that I wasn't as absorbed in this series initially as my review and rating would suggest. "Why?" I wondered, "why do these kids go through so much trouble for something that only exists digitally? Why are they treating digital fantasies like real world threats?" I got my answer in a scene in the latter half of the series. Yuko, her little sister, her digital dog Densuke and her friend Fumie are trapped in a small room, with zombie-like viruses named Illegals scratching and moaning outside the door, trying to find a way in. Things look very grim for the girls, and all of them are frightened with no way out. "Why," Fumie says, hesitating, "why don't we turn our glasses off?" And she tries to, but she can't. The digital world, to her and the rest of the children, seems just as real as the "real world;" just as frightening as the "real world." The Illegals would still be there when they turned the glasses off, and not being able to see them is even more frightening. Reality and illusion is the core theme of this series, and it uses that theme effectively, especially with children, who naturally have a harder time than adults discerning what's real.
The animation is consistently excellent throughout, and the music is great. The characters are also well constructed and worth caring for. The world of Dennou Coil is convincing and realistic, though its technobabble may not make sense at first read. That's fine though- this is a show that doesn't spoon feed its viewers, and while a lot of things may not make sense at first, just wait. The story has a very complex puzzle at its heart, and waiting for all the pieces to come together is rewarding. My sole caveat is that the pacing of the show is erratic: it starts out with a bang before slowing down for some stand-alone episodes while the plot is put on hold. Some of those stand-alones are interesting- especially one about "digital beard wars" that has to be seen to be believed- but the story still feels stretched.
Dennou Coil is treat to watch regardless. With the R1 Industry in its rocky state, I'm not sure it's something any company would want to take a risk on because it lacks "commercial appeal." But if anyone does, count me in for a pre-order.
Intelligent and superbly animated, Dennou Coil will satisfy the appetites of fans who want something more from their anime. — Bradley Meek
Recommended Audience: Though there is little offensive material in Dennou Coil, the target audience is obviously for teenagers and up.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub.
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Dennou Coil © 2007 Mitsue Ito / Tokuma Shoten / CyberCoil Production Committee
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