(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?
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.
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.
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.
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.