Original Manga Creator: Tomonori Inoue, Director/ Character Designer: Shingo Suzuki, Series Composition: Makoto Nakamura, Scripts: N/A, Chief Animation Director: Makoto Furuta
Voice Actors: Haruka Tomatsu (Ibara Naruse), Kana Hanazawa (Aoi Fukasaku), Satomi Akesaka (Taeko Nomura), Yui Horie (Kanon Ozu), Rikiya Koyama (Onihei Mishima), Maaya Sakamoto (Shion Ozu)
In the year 2016 a meltdown at a nuclear power plant caused Tokyo to suffer huge radioactive contamination which has resulted in the city being put under a blockade. 20 years later and the city is still abandoned but there have been distress signals received from the former bustling metropolis.
The Japanese government allow the creation of a new unit in the 3rd Division of Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force which consists of people with special skills to enter the city and find the survivors. An academy was set up to train a new generation of people to be able to enter the city. We follow a team of three high school girls have been sent to the city.
They are Ibara Naruse, Aoi Fukasaku and Taeko Nomura.
These girls aren’t normal. They have been selected for this deadly mission because they are the results of genetic engineering, the results of gene-splicing from different people. They are impervious to radioactivity and some even have special powers. They also have a very short life-span and have inherited the traits of the people whose genes that have created them. Now the three dedicate themselves to saving people while other members of their Coppelion unit are engaged in other, more unconventional missions…
Much like Galilei Donna, this fulfilled the girls with guns quotient. The lack of seriousness and the inclusion of goofy action was much evident in the PV’s released ahead of the first episode which had schoolgirls wielding a rocket launcher to blow stuff up.
Even though it is a post-apocalyptic story I didn’t expect something as gritty as Fallout 3.
It had the carefree feel of something from the 80s where cute school girls had super powers and got into extreme situations. Something like Project A-Ko only it lacked the same intensity. It felt beautiful and laid-back.
For many of its critics there are these problems:
- The story was too slow,
- It featured no real political critique of nuclear power,
- The characters are school girls,
- The characters are mostly useless.
My responses to those would be:
- Learn to be patient,
- I sincerely doubt anime will be the place for serious political commentary the likes of which can be seen in the films of Koji Wakamatsu, Shohei Imamura and Nagisa Oshima,
The story is nothing new and nothing to take too seriously. It’s a melodrama about some super-powered school girls try to save lives and do a lot of crying and self-sacrificing. It explores what it means to be human and introducing slightly interesting tales of people living outside of society. It does meander a lot. The opening four episodes were sort of slow as a series of vignettes surrounding different characters played out before a larger narrative appeared and a story arc got going with the Ozu sisters.
Much detail is expended upon how the people sending distress signals cope living in an irradiated city and these details, while interesting, promise far more in terms of drama than is actually delivered. Despite the dangerous levels of radiation there is no real tension felt in the situation since the Coppelion are immune to radiation poisoning and everybody else has radiation suits and when the radiation does threaten people the meandering atmosphere strikes down the seriousness of events.
Any criticism of the political classes and nuclear power is light and mostly harmless. All politicians are stereotypically corrupt and inept and it is left to the citizenry and the girls to keep on keeping on. Any expectations for criticism were misplaced. I cannot think of any creatives in the mainstream anime industry who would dare grasp current politics and touching a political hot potato like Fukushima Daichi just isn’t going to happen. If a writer did have these ideas it sure as hell wouldn’t get adapted for the television. Couple that sort of reticence with the fact that the manga was serialised before the Tohoku Earthquake and Tusnami hit Japan on March 11th, 2011 and you can understand why this was never meant to be scorching criticism like The Land of Hope.
A typical Japanese theme of communitarianism and sacrifice for the betterment of the whole community emerges towards the end. Everybody can be redeemed and it is actually kind of sweet seeing people work together. The characters are all rather two-dimensional and act in silly ways but again, I never expected much. My favourites were Aoi and another set of Coppelion in the form of the Ozu sisters, Kanon and Shion.
These girls were totally cool and resented the fact that they were being used by the government to clean up a mess that wasn’t their fault. Unpredictable and viscious, they make decent antagonists and the battles only get exciting when they are around.
The art was the highlight of the anime with the scenery getting as much prominence as anything else. Animation studio GoHands are known for making good-looking anime like K and they deliver with aplomb in this anime.
The post-apocalyptic (can there be a post-apocalypse???) Tokyo landscape is given lavish treatment with highly detailed backgrounds that the camera pans around and focusses on to allow the audience to pick out details.
There must be places familiar to Tokyoites who will thrill at the sight of a famous street or building being subject to the merciless treatment of time and nature.
Time is given to show the decay and beauty of a Tokyo ravaged by radiation and abandoned by the rest of that nation. Weather plays a heavy part in the story and so weather effects are highlighted in long sequences so we understand what is going on. Weed choked buildings are crumbling, rusting and the girls wandering through the silent streets wonder aloud at what life must have been like in the past.
The final thing I want to point out is that it gets points for using the names of Japanese film directors from the golden age for its characters. It might sound like I’m reaching but take a gander, Haruto Kurosawa (Akira Kurosawa), Kanon and Shion Ozu (Yasujiro Ozu), Taeko Nomura (Yoshitaro Nomura), Ibara Naruse (Mikio Naruse), and Aoi Fukasaku (Kinji Fukasaku). Alas, no Kenji Mizoguchi or Keisuke Kinoshita.
Overall the anime is perfectly fine if you don’t expect too much from it. Beautiful to look at but a little light on content, it’s an easy way to pass the time and it was the last show of the Autumn 2013 season I watched.