Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dennou Coil

Dennou Coil; animated science-fiction series, Japan, 2007; D: Mitsuo Iso, S: Fumiko Orikasa, Houko Kuwashima, Aiko Hini, Akiko Yajima

In the future, people wear special cyber glasses that enable them to receive Internet access where ever they go and interact with virtual things that are scattered throughout the city. Yuko moves to the city of Daikoku, attends an elementary school and joins her grandmother's cyber investigation agency. She meets a friend, Fumie, but also a girl who despises her, Isako Amisawa. However, among normal virtual infrastructure, there is still some "obsolete space" left where "Illegals", a form of modern Internet viruses, roam free. It is revealed that Isako was chasing after "Illegals" because she thought she could bring her brother back, who lost his soul in the "obsolete space", but she was just tricked because her brother died years ago in a traffic accident and existed only as a hologram to heal her while she was in shock. The trick was orchestrated by Nekome who wants to sabotage Megamass' cyber glasses in revenge because the company forgot about his father's inventions. Yuko's soul goes to the "obsolete space" and brings back Isako, who finally accepts that her brother passed away.

"Dennou Coil" is a quiet warning on the people's internet addiction that might lead to a self-emerged, self-absorbed state in a virtual world, while forgetting how it is to live in their world. The futuristic setting is interesting, showing how people using special cyber glasses can see that virtual "layer" added around the real world (virtual pets, popped up screens...), which is so realistic that sometimes they can not even distinguish a virtual, fake wall from a real one, yet this anime series is exhaustingly slow, dry and tiresome, which aggravates its viewing. The characters go on and on about "illegals", "kirabugs", "metabugs", "metatags", "obsolete space", "Null" and others for so long until this whole excessive glossary -  necessary to follow the storyline (and sometimes not, because the status of illegals is never clearly explained in the end) - starts to become an overkill. It reminded me of biographer Darko Hudelist who commented on the late president Tuđman's writing: "He wrote difficult, hermetic, often not clear enough, and yet without a real point because his overlong and ponderous sentences in most cases did not lead to some especially deep thoughts".

Even though it had a silly premise, episode 12 is one of the few ones that actually connected to the story at any level, by showing a humorous illegal virus settling on one boy's chin, in the form of an virtual beard ("His beard is an illegal"), but the majority of the storyline wonders off into "filler" territory, while episode 13 is shamelessly sentimental and sends a questionable message that kids should spend more time saving a virtual animal than a real one. Characters come and go (one of the better ones was Akira in episode 14, who made secret video recording as proof of his "sister's cruel treatment" at home) and it takes all until episode 16 until a plot finally starts to kick in, which is problematic for a show with only 26 episodes. Even though the finale is easily the best part of "Dennou", even its last seven episodes are not equally as engaging. For instance, episodes 18 and 19 are wonderfully suspenseful when the eerie illegals, shaped as black humanoids, start entering a shop during night, when the three scared girls are inside. But later episodes are again less interesting, dragging on with techno babble. Neither is it clear why the kids would not simply turn off their cyber glasses when they feel threatened by virtual beings - every person would simply turn off the TV if he or she would feel something on is too much to handle, so why not here? Unfortunately, the reason is never given, nor even tried to be given. However, the plot twist in the final two episodes is admirably touching and satisfying while Yuko's monologue about what's real or not in episode 24 is pleasantly philosophical, concluding that "everything that causes pain is real."


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