Airing back during the Fall 2013 season, Coppelion is a series that has quite an interesting background. Originally set to air for 2011, it was delayed twice due to production issues and the unfortunate Fukushima Daiichi incident, the staff and television stations feeling that airing the show would be too insensitive with the content involved. Being relatively free of anything that constitutes as polarizing other than imagery, Coppelion is highly unlikely to offend any sensibilities, but as far as enjoyment goes, that is another matter entirely.
Studio: GoHands (Licensed by Viz Media)
Genre: Action, Science fiction, Drama
In 2016, a catastrophe occurs after a nuclear meltdown from the nearby Odaiba nuclear power plant contaminates Tokyo, forcing the government to order its citizens to evacuate. 20 years later, Tokyo has become a ghost town due to the high levels of radiation which the government has banned entry for anyone. When a distress signal is received from Tokyo, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force dispatches 3 teenage girls from the Dispatch 3rd Special Force Coppelion, who comprise the “Healthcare Team”. Due to genetic engineering, the Coppelions are immune to radiation while also possessing special skills. Thus the Coppelions journey to the ruined capital to find survivors.
If anything, Coppelion does show a great deal of promise in the premise as it details an abandoned Tokyo 20 years after a nuclear fallout and the JSDF deploying 3 teenage girls with genetically modified bodies called “Coppelions” to transverse the radiation levels in search of any lingering survivors. Not being a big supporter of the post apocalyptic or alternative history genres of fiction, the series actually does an adequate job of crafting the tense mood and fractured beauty of such a likely situation and makes for very good set dressing. Of course, not only does it aid in setting the backdrop, but the dramatic elements of the narrative as well with most of the story arcs juxtaposing the value of human life – something that the girls mediate on for themselves as well as the folly of mankind. Making this sound much more than it really is, the message is definitely present, but with it buried beneath a few humdrum story arcs and not all that poignant to begin with, I wouldn’t make the thematic bits a reason to stick around. Sadly, while most of the narrative is dragged down by the individual stories, it is ultimately the writing as a whole that seems to be the real problem especially in the realm of dialogue. Whether it be in the Japanese or English track, most the spoken lines sound more trite than they are supposed to be and in turn, does kill some of the dramatic moments. For example: in one of the earlier episodes, group leader Ibara tries to convince a woman to release her child for safety reasons, but upon refusing, Ibara goes about expressing her feelings in such an odd way the scene fails to convey anything. With many other examples abound, it is an issue that is hard to avoid or even say it improves upon over the duration.
However, where the story arcs and writing comes into questions, the characters are also a major point of contention that do seem to hold things back in their own way. Being able to sympathize with the fact that the Coppelion squad look like and are normal teenage girls cast into tragic heroine like roles, they really do live up to the position in the worst way possible. Aoi is whinny and unsure of her skills holding the other two back, Ibara is too kindhearted and reckless to a fault, and Taeko…well, she is actually capable. Out of the unholy trinity, Ibara is probably the nail that sticks up and can not be hammered down so to speak as her actions really do coincide with how insipid the writing is. Besides the aforementioned example and many others I can highlight throughout the series, she is the epitome of the self-sacrificial character that seems to never learn from past mistakes and when these mistakes occur, just plain frustrating to sit through. I wish I could put a more optimistic spin on this, but for Ibara as well as the others, the characters are just so boring and pitiful, they fit into the “doll” nickname perfectly and difficult to make any type of connection with or even like. Where most of the fault can be pointed at the writing, the characters where never all that compelling to begin with and just there to serve the indomitable need to please the male demographic.
Even though the script and dialogue falls to insufferable levels, Viz Media does at least get the English voice casting down pack. Despite being a very poor way to showcase the talents of individuals like Cassandra Lee Morris or Keith Silverstein, it was still great to hear them again and fitting with their respective roles. Of course, the original Japanese track is just as good, both only having to languish under a horrible screenplay. That point withstanding and as previously mentioned, the visual quality under the supervision of GoHands does turn out astonishingly well. I especially like the cel-shaded art style with regards to the character designs and use of vivid colors in creating the oppressive mood that can be felt from the nuclear enveloped Tokyo. The music composition is just as impressive by Mikio Endō that creates a nice sense of excitement and foreboding with the soundtrack arrangement. However, as impressive as Endo might be, the opening and ending themes by angela are even more so, my favorite being the ending theme that goes along so well with the overarching message of the show and not the mention the chilling vocal range Atsuko can reach.
Even with the amount of glaring problems that present themselves, I still did enjoy Coppelion to a degree and very glad to add it to my collection. For what it is, I certainly can get behind the concept, cool amount of details in the setting, and ideas that the show tosses around, but as far as what it turns out to be, not as nearly as enticing to watch and probably will drain any goodwill to finish it. This is not a complete dismissal of Coppelion as a bad anime series, but when it comes to translating well into the medium and what it struggles to get right, it is not worth the effort or willpower to stick around for the good aspects. If you are just looking for the post apocalyptic setting and motifs the series plays around with, I can think of and recommend so many other picks, but if you are just going into it as mere curiosity, it is a safe bet you can find much better productions.
Pros: Conceptually interesting, detailed artwork, soundtrack arrangement.
Cons: Vapid/cheesy dialogue and awkward phrasing, story arcs lack any excitement/worth, bland character designs, characterization is not realized well.