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Denno Coil 13 – 26 (2007): Review

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(Note: this is the second part of a review of Denno Coil. The first part can be read here.)

It was slightly embarrassing last week, when I sat down to write a post about the Denno Coil art book I picked up in Tokyo, when I realised I’d never actually finished reviewing the series. In fact, it had been so long since I penned the first part, that I had to go back and re-read it to see exactly what i had said:

With still 14 more episodes left to watch I can firmly say that, unless it seriously jumps the shark, Denno Coil is set to be a remembered as a true classic in anime TV history.

Famous last words?

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Luckily not. In the remaining 7 or so hours of Denno Coil I can gleefully say no sharks are jumped and no fridges nuked. Even towards the end, when the main narrative starts to worrying lurch towards hints of the paranormal and mysticism it pulls it all back in the final episodes, revealing the truth to be a story of corporate buyouts, cover-ups and experimental software that would make William Gibson proud. In fact, to try and describe the series as Count Zero meets Pokemon directed by Hayao Miyazaki would be to do it’s elegance and originality a huge injustice, but there’s more than a drop of truth to the analogy. Never before has a story about children – and primarily aimed at them – held such strong and prophetic hard sci-fi credentials.

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But it’s not just the main story arc that makes DC a classic of storytelling. It holds off on it’s biggest reveals until the very end, and in lesser hands than those of Mitsuo Iso the season could easily have fallen into the trap encountered by so many 26-run series; the tedium of the filler episode. But even the stand alone stories told here are classics of the genre, with highly polished gems like The Last Plesiosaur and Daichi’s Hair Begins to Grow as standout episodes. Even A Record of Living Things, the now obligatory re-cap episode, this time told throw the eyes of a main character’s younger brother, remains a personal favourite, due to it’s witty scripting and the ever impressive character development that is one of the show’s crowning triumphs.

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And of course its not just the writing that impresses – the animation is faultless throughout. The immaculate character design is only rivaled by, and often beautifully contrasts with, the futuristic yet believable rendering of the systems of the augmented reality world the show portrays. Virtual pets, user interfaces and black market tools are all presented in such a consistent, feasible and elegant way that the viewer can’t help but feel that all of this is somehow inevitable – a high accolade indeed for any work of science fiction, regardless of medium or perceived demographic.

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There’s still no word on whether a second season is to follow, but surely considering it’s critical success and the bevy of awards it earned there must be pressure from NHK for more. Perhaps director Iso and Madhouse have decided the magic cannot be repeated and it’s memory is best left unsoiled, and perhaps they are right. Or more depressingly, perhaps the current faltering financial status of the Japanese animation industry can’t afford to make another such polished, intelligent and less obviously commercial production. Either way, if you haven’t experienced DC yet, make it the top of your list of must-sees. Don’t let it’s apparent childlike appearance put you off, Denno Coil is a masterpiece of not just the anime medium but the science fiction genre as a whole.

8 thoughts on “Denno Coil 13 – 26 (2007): Review”

  1. Wonderfull summery and recap.
    Denno Coil is probably my favorate animated show of all time, on reflection. Having just the right mix of humour, suspense and a story with lots of twists that is netherthless wrapped up very well.

    My admit I didnt like the recape eppisode they did though, but only from a technical angle; Everyone upto that point was completely possible with near-current technology!
    (Sadly, virtual pets cant film areas in real life without hardware without having a camera at the exact same point they are, obviously)

    Still a fantasic show and a great vision of the future.
    Especialy considering what Vuzix just showed off at CES a few weeks back;
    http://www.vuzix.com/iwear/products_wrap920av.html
    (if you look at the accessorys too…its quite clear what they are aiming at with those things)

  2. hmz..my post was erased..arg.

    Anyway in short;

    Denno Coil rocks.
    Recap eppisode didnt. (as before that point everything was pretty possible with just refinements to existing technology….but virtual pets filming real life? thats just silly)
    Story wrapped up well, and is a fantasic vision of the future.

    A vision that may come quite soon;
    http://www.vuzix.com/iwear/products_wrap920av.html
    (note the accessorys too)

  3. Whoa..sorry man, for some reason my spam filter decided to eat both your posts – apologies.

    I know what you’re saying about the tech in the recap episode, but within the DC tech-universe it *might* just work. Remember that the glasses don’t actually overlay graphics over actual reality, but *replace* completely what the user sees – more like a ‘traditional’ VR headset. Remember that episode where the kids go to teh scrap yard to look for metabugs and Daichi steps through the floor of the bus, but doesn’t realise he has until he takes his glasses off? So somewhere in ‘the cloud’ there is a constantly updating database of what is happening in all spaces (I mind-boggling concept, I must admit), so in effect Akira’s virtual pet could be an avatar for a snooping script that hacks this database, relaying back what is happening to it’s owner…

    At least I *think* that makes sense…;)

  4. No problem about the spam ๐Ÿ™‚

    Well, that would be a mind-boggleing concept indeed, because it would mean there would have to be cameras *everywhere*.
    I mean, its easy enough to imagine a database of buildings, with some areas out of date (and thus not in-sycn with reality). But to know where all the people are…and what their current pose is, and what they are currently wearing….that would take pretty extensive network of optical sensors!
    Of course, sound wouldnt be a problem though. I guess anyone wearing glass’s turned could be spied on from an audio standpoint fairly easily.

    Either way I’m not saying its impossible completely, merely it didnt quite fit the rest of the show for me, because untill that point, it was all pretty “near future” in terms of tech.
    If anything, 202X is pretty pessimistic compared to current developments!

    I’d even say the whole quantom-mind-link idea towards the end is actualy more likely then a database of absolutely everything and everyone precisely insycn with the real world ๐Ÿ˜›
    But thats probably just me ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Ahhh, but there are cameras/sensors everywhere….on people’s glasses! I think it’s explained at some point in the series, possibly in one of the opening voice-overs, that glasses are constantly updating information about their surrounds and sending it back to Megamass…

    The DC Wikipedia Page puts it better than me:

    “In order to spatially synchronize virtual space and real space, users of internet-connected dennล eyeglasses constantly upload the status of physical space to the virtual infrastructure. In the fifth episode, the protagonists encounter a sparsely visited junkyard of buses on the fringes of wireless internet connectivity. Due to obsolete AR data, the buses are depicted by dennล eyeglasses as being in far better condition than they actually are. The characters sometimes exploit the discrepancies of desynchronization when dealing with metabugs and illegals.”

    And yeah, I must agree it’s pretty mind-boggling. I was quite surprised when it was revealed the glasses didn’t use ‘standard’ AR overlay tech like you’d expect. but, like you say, it’s very easy to be conservative when predicting near-future consumer level technology…

    Thanks for the comments, i could chat about DC all day…;)

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