Coppelion – Complete Series Collection (Cert 12)
3 Discs (Distributor: Kaze UK) Running time: 297 minutes approx.
The Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster of 2011 was a terrifying moment in recent Japanese history, the effects of which are still being felt to this day. In 2008 a manga by Tomonori Inoue called Coppelion appeared which was scarily prescient in dealing with the subject of a country ravaged by a nuclear disaster.
This anime adaptation from GoHands which arrived in 2013 ironically finds itself turning that notion on its head, offering an idea not of what could happen but what has happened, exploring the extreme possibilities of the results of the fallout. Except with schoolgirl heroines.
It is 2036, twenty years after a nuclear meltdown devastated Tokyo, leaving it as a veritable ghost town with very few located survivors left. The Japan Ground Self-Defence Force have begun a project in which genetically engineered children have been raised to be impervious to the effects of radiation named Coppelion. Three girls from the Dispatch 3rd Special Force – Ibara Naruse, Aoi Fukasaku and Taeko Namura – have been tasked to find and rescue any remaining survivors.
Should the fertile and now oddly timely premise not grab your attention, the girls spend most of their time in their school uniforms as we shouldn’t allow a serious concept get in the way of a good old fashioned marketable fetish. And if you needed any further convincing as to why they weren’t kitted out in something more practical, a shot taken from behind in episode two of Ibara on all fours surveying the view from a hill top tells us everything.
Yet fan service surprisingly isn’t that high on the agenda, with a few tawdry moments like the one mentioned above being the apex of the exploitation on hand. The girls are skilled – well Ibara is exceptionally strong and a gifted shooter and Taeko has super vision and is a medic; Aoi is utterly useless – thus fit into the heroic role based on merit and success rate of their missions as opposed to helping a few kinky old pervs get their rocks off.
The opening few episodes see the girls, under the command of JGSDF Colonel and “Vice Principle” Onihei Mishima, fulfilling their remit and helping a young family to safety, save a lone dog from becoming feral and uncover a group who are responsible for dumping nuclear waste from around the world in Tokyo, since it is already contaminated. Along her way they encounter a group of survivors who have built their own shelter called Planet, a giant dome complete with its own garden and oxygen supply, free from radiation.
Providing a consistent thread of concern for the gamely trio are a renegade group of soldiers called the Ghosts of 1st Division, a platoon left behind when Tokyo was evacuated. Now mutated and condition to the toxic environment, they wreak havoc on any survivors they encounter in revenge with impunity and no fear of death.
And if that wasn’t enough the dreaded Ozu sisters, Shion and Kanon, a pair of maniacs and fellow Coppelion classmates of Ibara whom they dislike, have been sent out as the clean up group, but decide to raise hell instead. Thankfully, a male Coppelion, Haruto Kurosawa is on hand to address the balance for our girls.
Thrown in a heavily pregnant woman ready to drop and the girls have plenty to contend with. Suffice to say there is barely a dull moment in this series and the pace is kept lively throughout, saving sufficient time for world building and introducing daring, if unresolved, subplots such as the political hampering of their mission from the petulant and self-absorbed Prime Minister.
Where the show starts to falter is somewhere around episode five, shortly after the Planet survivors are introduced, as the tone starts to get lighter, sillier and the action sequences begin to border on the absurd. At first this was a promising look at a very real fear of the Japanese, and while it couldn’t heal any wounds or assuage of those fears, it would have won points for propagating the celebrated Japanese fighting spirit and sense of communal pride in rising up against adversity.
Instead, the focus seems to shift on Aoi who spends most of the show either crying like a child, flipping out over food or behaving like a spoiled brat. She seems devoid of any real special ability thus is ineffective in battle, nor does she have any natural skills to aid Taeko in her medical endeavours. So what is Aoi good for? Presumably she is the comic relief but she is more annoying than funny, making it a tragedy he wasn’t killed off when the Ghosts kidnap her in episode six.
The arrival of the Ozu sisters brings with them some fine escapist fight sequences as the crazed twins try to derail Ibara and co, making way for some steampunk silliness involving as giant Iron Spider. The Ozus are portrayed as recklessly mad, driven by a hatred for the Coppelion project, turning them into hyper pantomime villains, cackling away with their manic facial expressions and wild gesturing.
Visually the show is a mixed bag. The backgrounds and set pieces are superbly rendered with a pale pallet for the desolate and dilapidated buildings bustling with clumps of rampant greenery seeping eerily though the cracks in the stone. The character designs are conversely rather comic like against such stark backdrops, the thick black outlines and reliance on static shots creates a notable distance between them. CGI is used for the precisely replicated vehicles and blends rather well with the 2D artwork.
Coppelion is a series that seems to have it all but the makers are unaware of what they actually have. There is a thought provoking and topical story to be explored which becomes diluted for the masses and the scope for realistic action is supplanted by wish fulfilment daftness.
Fine for that rainy day popcorn distraction but definitely could have been so much more.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 3 Only:
Rating – ***
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