Monday, December 10, 2007

Denno Coil - First Impressions

I thought that, after the angst and psycho-babble of NANA, I just want to watch a show that is light and funny and not all that deep. Denno Coil, a new anime aired by NHK Educational and animated by MadHouse (the same guys who brought you Paprika and Tokyo Godfathers), fits that description.

Official Website
Wikipedia Article

Promotional Trailer @ YouTube

Denno Coil DVD @ YesAsia
Denno Coil DVD @ Play-Asia

Denno Coil Audio CD @ Amazon

Children's Story

Let me just explain a little on what to expect about this anime. Denno Coil (full title: Coil - A Circle of Children) is an educational anime that is for children. Yep, you read it right. An anime that actually targets children as an audience, and I'm watching it. I've come a long way, it seems. It's set in the fictional city of Daikoku which uses augmented-reality technology (like virtual-reality) more advanced than anywhere else in Japan.

To experience both the virtual world and the real world, the residents of Daikoku have to wear mega-ne (virtual glasses) and see things in the augmented-reality world, such as "Illegals," which are dark fuzzy monster-like creatures that are actually unregistered programs that somehow found their way into cyberspace, cyberpets or virtual pets, and the city's powerful anti-virus program called "Satchii" whose job is to fix bugs in cyberspace and zap any unregistered programs into oblivion.

Intro to the Cyberworld

At first blush, we are introduced to Okonogi Yuko (nicknamed 'Yasako,' meaning "gentle girl") whose family is moving in to Daikoku City. While going around the city searching for her bratty, poop-talking little sister Kyouko, Yasako encounters a cybercat. But when she picks it up, however, Fumie, a member of the Daikoku City Cyber Detective Agency, demands that she give the cat to her.

Before Yasako could give it, a group of boys calling themselves the "Hacker Club" arrives. Their leader, Daichi, tries to take the cat as well, forcing Fumie to "pay" Yasako (i.e. give her meta-bugs) for the cyberpet. And so begins Yasako's introduction into the surrealistic world of Daikoku.

Educational Thrust

I told you it's a very light anime, although because it is at the same time educational, it does touch on certain social issues, like war, enmity, and discrimination, looking at these social problems from the viewpoint of how children might see them.

The questions asked are mostly rhetorical and viewers are supposed to draw their own conclusions, so while the show points out an issue it manages to encourage you to think for yourself.

That's a nice balance right there, because really, if you want people to learn, you don't want to cram down their throats your opinions about the world and then do an about-turn and expect them to exercise independent judgment. That's not teaching. That's telling people what to do, which is the anti-thesis of true teaching.

Animes like Denno Coil, instead, encourages learning by teaching viewers not what to think but how to think (thereby developing the all important skill of critical thinking).

Characters and Character Dynamics - Potential for Depth

Characterization-wise, each of the children does have his or her own personality and character that even match his or her name. For instance, Yasako means "gentle girl" and indeed, Yasako has a gentle, placid, even meek character, a complete contrast to Fumie who is quick to get into things, whether they are duel challenges or opportunities to show off her hacking skillz.

Another character whose name is descriptive of her personality is Isako, which means "brave girl." A highly skilled "encoder" (hacker), Isako spends most her time hunting illegals and looking for metabugs but her real motives are yet to be revealed.

There is a huge mystery about to show itself. At least, that is the impression you get from each episode, but the anime is in no hurry to reveal it just yet. Some people would consider Denno Coil as dragging because of this slow unfolding of the plot...but personally, I don't mind dragging shows so long as the animation quality is consistent, and that is something that Denno Coil excels in.

Top-notch Animation

In terms of animation, it is feature film-quality. Superb is the word I'm looking for. It's hardly unexpected when the animation studio is one of Madhouse's caliber and the main character designer is Takeshi Honda (the guy who brought you End of Evangelion, Millenium Actress, and the newest Studio Ghibli film Tales from Earthsea.)

As a matter of fact, it was the animation that attracted me to the series and not the premise of the story. Just imagine the character designs of Spirited Away or Tales from Earthsea. The characters are rounded, using simple, soft lines that make it easy to imitate movement. Rounded shapes are also appropriate, considering that the characters are mostly children -- who are admittedly round, now that I think about it (chibi!).

Fitting Soundtrack

The music is likewise praise-worthy. The opening theme, "Prism" and the ending theme "Sora no Kakera" (Pieces of the Sky), composed and performed by Ikeda Ayako, are great tracks that really fit the haunting quality of the opening and ending animated clips and the techie-feel of the anime's setting.

"Prism" especially is a great opening song featuring fantastic arrangement with just a few hints of electronica to lend it that "cyber" feel and lyrics that go like this: "Everybody is looking for someone; whenever you stretch your hands, the warmth that should be there is an illusion of your childhood, a sun that's shining too brightly to be looked upon; in these streets where the light is overflowing, there's always one shadow...the future is probably there."

"Sora no Kakera," by contrast, is a lot simpler with little to distract you from the artist's voice and the song's melody.

All in all, this anime is good with the potential to be great. If it is depth you want, then this is not the anime you are looking for. But if you are looking for good, clean, honest-to-goodness fun with great animation as a bonus, then Denno Coil is a must-see. Check it out. You might like it. I seriously had no idea this anime would be that good until I watched the first three episodes.

p.s. I'll be following this anime. Right now, it is up to episode 17 I think but the fansubbed episodes that are out are only up to 13 so I've got a lot of catching up to do. You can also watch streaming videos of the episodes at, a site that features streaming videos of animes that have not yet been licensed for English-language distribution.


Anonymous said...

I could not agree with you more,I fancy myself a "veteran otaku" and this kind of anime is really refreshing,light-hearted and just plain great.Your review is right on target so there is little else to be said,just like you I hope that more people watch this great series.