When the enormous, magnitude 8.9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated Japan's coastal communities in March of 2011, numerous anime shows, movies and events were put on hold for a while. If a title depicted giant waves, or mass destruction of any kind, television broadcasters thought it prudent to pull them from their schedules to avoid further traumatizing the populace (and rightly so). While this affected high-profile shows such as MADOKA MAGICA - - which didn't air it's final episodes until over a month after the disaster - - it also affected shows that were still just being developed at the time.
One such victim was a show called COPPELION, a series adapted from a manga of the same name by Tomonori Inoue. Because the story is set in a future Japan where a radioactive disaster reduced the population to a mere tenth of what it was, a lot of the crew involved thought it would hit too close to home. Flash forward to today - - over two years later - - and the first episode of COPPELION has finally hit airwaves, simultaneously premiering here in the states via VIZ Media.
The show follows a squad of three girls - - Aoi, Taeko, and their leader Ibara - - as they explore the decaying ruins of Tokyo, searching for survivors. They are a special breed of genetically-engineered humans called 'Coppelion' who are immune to the effects of radiation and therefore the only ones suited for the job.
Atmosphere is the real star of the show, though, and the backgrounds of the now-decaying Tokyo are lovingly rendered with the lush greens of reforestation (which contrast sharply with the rusty reds of street signs). Tokyo is referred to by the girls as the "Old Capital," in a neat and somewhat subtle bit of world building. The slow pace of the story invites you to contemplate the kind of people that help others in the face of disasters, and whether the obligation they feel makes them closer to angels or trained animals.
Unfortunately that pace is also one of the show's bigger problems. There's just not much urgency, even when survivors are found who are in desperate need of medical attention. You also have time to think about the inconsistencies in the world, such as why the girls are told that they can't communicate with HQ with their cellphones when they had radios the whole time; and why anyone thought it was a good idea to send these girls out in school uniforms with way-too-short tartan skirts.
The premise of these girls being elite agents, trained from birth to deal with such dangerous problems, stretches disbelief a bit, as well. Aoi, for instance, is whiny and weak, even going so far as to have a breakdown in this first episode. And why - - despite having been genetically engineered with such forethought as to include a love of animals in her personality - - did those mean scientists neglect to give Taeko better vision? The poor thing has to wander around a desolate wasteland with glasses on! Would the 'nerd chic' truly be worth it after, say, she falls and they break?
To be fair, when I looking back over these gripes, they really aren't too far afield of the conceits you get used to accepting with most anime. I guess they just come into sharper relief when paired with the bleak setting. Honestly, if the action picks up (and the previews suggest it might) as these girls learn more about what happened to Tokyo after the accident, then this might be one to keep an eye on.
Watch the first episode of COPPELION (for free) at VIZAnime.com and decide for yourself. Did you find COPPELION more engaging than I did? Do you already have a crush on one of the characters? Did I mispronounce something in the article? Let us know in the talkback!
Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd and has contributed to many nerd websites. You can find him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter .