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You need to be watching Dennou Coil

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In this so-called modern age, the thousands of miles that separate countries are irrelevant; a shrinking distance covered by mere flickers of electricity. Obviously, our world is merging and cultures are overlapping, yet the distance between you and I remains the same.
Though we may have transcended the physical landscape, the emotional complexity of human nature is still our greatest struggle; our uncharted and unpredictable feelings wedge us apart and create a journey larger than any number of miles could possibly achieve.

In a near-future saturated with baffling technology, the distance between loneliness and friendship is as ambiguous as ever. Many people are weighed down by a past tragedy, wracked with insecurity, feelings of guilt and shame, unable or unwilling to move on. The beauty of forming friendships against all the odds, being capable of opening your heart to another, that is the real journey, and that is quality of Dennou Coil.

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It’s funny, well-animated and exciting, yet its finest touch is its comradery; the warmth and caring that underpins almost every motivation. It’s a series that flirts with utter heart-break. Both Isako and Haraken fall into this category, their ice-cool facades failing to conceal deep emotional insecurities. Such honesty is only possible with a cast of children, their clear emotions not influenced by the cynical reality of adult life; they can escape into the virtual world and swim in a dimension of imagination.

Too much escapism though, especially in Dennou Coil’s visceral world, can be dangerous; children are arguably losing their grip on reality as their minds become confused by the vague lines separating “the wired” from the real; the story (as of episode 18) appears to be building towards the salvation (or indeed, loss) of kids who have somehow become trapped in the virtual world. There seems to be a very vague understanding of the consequences of creating an “augmented reality”; there is little to no information provided on the existence of “illegals” (lively forms of black energy) or metabugs, almost as if the adult creators are irresponsibly turning a blind eye to an entirely new dimension of life.

This imposing level of detail has crafted a breath-taking world, as befitting of a series that has been “in development for over a decade“. In particular, the animation and art (especially the claustrophobic depiction of Daikoku City, where the phrase “concrete jungle” is appropriate) is a joy to behold; clearly, the production values are well above the typical anime series. And quite frankly, there is nothing “typical” about Dennou Coil; it’s so completely divorced from cliche anime stereotypes that it will probably alienate the vast majority of otaku looking for their “hot girls” or “hot mecha”. It’s directed and written by Mitsuo Iso, whose “The Children’s Night” episode from RahXephon (15th episode) was many people’s favourite instalment.

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Ultimately, the usual complaints don’t apply to Dennou Coil; it’s so well crafted and confidently directed that any dissatisfaction is the result of peculiar personal tastes. As we see it all unfolding from a child’s perspective, it’s perhaps best to describe it as an experience; whimsical, surreal and dreamy. Yet one can’t help but feel utterly compelled by the themes of comradery and friendship that underpin the science fiction, these kids trying to enjoy their “last summer” before heading off into the big wide world of adults.

Comments

Ivy says:

Oh yum looks delish!

Actually I have a confession to make. I’ve had dennou on my HD for the last six months and I’ve been waiting for that little push to get me started. Thanks I think you just gave me that little oomph that I needed, since its been getting such great reviews all over the blogsphere its about time I start watching it.

Nemo_N says:

I have Dennou Coil sitting in my HD too!

I was thinking about watching it in the near future, before it ends, but I have to get in the mood for something like this (I’m usually into more “shallow” stuff).

BTW, I haven’t read most of this post because I’m afraid of spoilers; are there any?

Outlawstar says:

Oh man I want this so bad.
Im just trying not to think about it cause Im waiting till its released overt here on dvd.
Really like lain, which is only a good thing, now if only more anime of this breed came out on a more regular basis.

World of Anime » You need to be watching Dennou Coil says:

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Equitan says:

I’ve been watching this series and really do agree with you. Easily the best series I’ve watched in a *long* time. I love the lack of usual anime clichés in this series, love the characters, love the animation, and probably most of all I love the series’ enchanting world.

I don’t know if you’ve gotten there yet but episodes 12, 13, and 14 are an ever so slight dip in the story. Not that they’re bad, but they’re almost filler, as the series moves away from its main plotline for a couple of episodes. 14 is actually *gasp* a recap episode (haven’t seen one of those in a non-mecha series in a looooong time). Still, the last five minutes of that episode, where it was new footage, got me pumped up again for the rest of the series. I’m trying to hold off now until all the episodes are subbed and then watching them in a few big goes. But I really don’t know if I can hold on ^^

bateszi says:

@Ivy: Do it, you won’t regret it. It’s a cut above the mediocre standards we’re used to seeing from TV anime. There are no animation tricks or cliches, it’s just a straight up, great anime. Let me know how you get on with it!

@Nemo_N: No real spoilers or episode summaries, it’s more a exploration of the themes running through the series and me trying to say why it’s good. Besides, it’s not really the kind of series filled to the brim with shocking twists anyway, not in the same way as Code Geass or something like that.

@Outlawstar: It’s not even licensed for a US release yet, so you may be waiting for a while :( Also, since it totally snubs the stereotypical anime school setting, it’s not likely to capture attention in the same way as something like My-Hime.

@Equitan: I’m keeping up with the fansubs, so I’m going to watch episode 19 very soon. I’ve got absolutely no idea where it’s all heading, but I love it anyway. It’s actually one of the few series I have the enthusiasm to watch almost as soon as a new episode is released.

Episode 8 is probably my favorite right now, I loved that whole festival scene, the way the personalities intertwined; it was so carefree and fun and under-pinned with that tension between Fumie and Daichi. The series kind of transcended its science fiction premise and came alive for those scenes, only for Isako to pull the rug from under everyone.

kauldron26 says:

im in the same boat with IVY, i havent had any motivation whatsoever to watch it even tho its been o my hdd forever. it seems nice to look at, but it doesnt seem like its dark or compelling. the thing is that after toward the terra, i have been deleting so much shit off my hdd. i have decided that the only way i can remain an anime fan is if i stop watching mediocre shows and do all i can to avoid them. mediocrity is the main thing that actually kills the passion i had. after terra everything just seems like crap. im burnt out of anime… i’ll be taking a break until something great comes along. moribito just pushed me over the edge because i was anticipating it like crazy, and the disappointment was almost overwhelming.

bateszi what did u think about serei moribito?? i left my thoughts/review on ur moribito posts.

Kim says:

I know you said you were thinking of doing one but I am still ecstatic to see such a great entry on Dennou Coil.

I love that the characters act like real children. As children it is harder for them to separate the real from the “imaginary” Dennou world. Of course at the same time they are able to see the cyber things as real because they have more vivid imaginations than adults. Thus a virtual pet to an adult is just a virtual pet but to a child it’s a real pet that they love.

However I think Dennou Coil is also trying to show that too much contact with the Dennou world is dangerous to a child’s mind. A child needs reality in their life and that is something that the cyber world can not give them. If you get too involved with the cyber world you might even have trouble connecting with real people. We have Isako who is so easily able to connect to the Dennou world and yet she has trouble connecting with children her own age. So while the Dennou world is fascinating to me I think I am even more fascinated by the relationship between the characters such as Isako and Yasako.

@ Outlawstar- I hope the show gets licensed but I’m actually not so sure that it will.

Equitan says:

Ahh, that *was* a real nice episode. Had to take a screenshot of this scene – – because I thought it encapsulated so much of what I like in Dennou Coil.

I have to say I thought episode four the best anime fight / battle I had seen in a long while too. I can’t think of anything between that and Rock Lee / Gaara that I enjoyed so much (mind you I don’t watch the likes of One Piece, or Bleech, so take that for what it’s worth). It was just a tonne of good ol’ fashioned fun that episode.

Like I said, I’m trying to hold out until the end of the series now but if I find myself with one lazy Sunday and nothing much to do I’m fairly certain I’ll find myself booting up a few episodes.

Xerox says:

I watched it up to episode five, but haven’t gone any further. I really need to be watching this. I really, really need to be watching this. I think I’ll wait for it to finish and marathon the thing like I did Toward the Terra. Considering how extraordinary Terra was, and how good the first five episodes were, I won’t be disappointed.

Truth to tell, I wasn’t blown away by the concept or the characters, or the animation, and like kauldron, I was lacking the motivation to watch it. I think I’m going to be taking it easy after Gurren Lagann. The whole experience of watching it, blogging it, almost living in the series itself was too monumental, too mind numbing. It’s almost like I’m waking up from some coma, seeing and sensing for the first time.

And, God, I want a pair of those glasses!!

bateszi says:

@Equitan: That’s a really evocative image (for some reason it reminds me of Spielberg’s A.I.; at least, the part of it that was good anyway!). I must admit I tried to snap something from that episode for this post, but in the end I went for the flashy action moments instead. You’re right about the action too, it’s really fun yet retains a logical progression; the action in Denno Coil doesn’t really get my adrenaline pumping in the same way as something like Black Lagoon, Naruto or Gurrren Lagann, I’m more fascinated and caught up in the story and characters to allow myself to focus on much else.

@kauldron26: I’m not sure if you read this post or not, but Dennou Coil is far, far away from mediocre; you should be able to tell that just be looking at the minute detail and quality of art placed on every frame of animation; this is 10 years in the making, a labor of love. To be honest, it sounds like you’ve been watching too much soul-destroying GONZO anime, so a break from anime is definitely a good idea. Not everything has to be “the best”; I try not to rank anime simply because if something is excellent, that’s it, there is no better than that. And that gives me a good idea for an editorial :)

As for Seirei no Moribito, I’ve got the last 5 episodes sitting on my machine. I’ve enjoyed the series so far (especially the soundtrack), but I understand why some people won’t be feelin’ it.

@Kim: Yup, a lot of the series seems to be about the dangers of escaping reality, the irony that advanced communication technology only serves to further drive us apart from one another. I definitely feel that isolation through escapism is one of the major issues we’ll be facing in the future.

In many ways Dennou Coil reminds me of Haibane Renmei; not only is the animation style very similar, the relationship between Isako and Yasako is a lot like that between Rakka and Reki. In this sense, it’s Yasako’s mission as a friend to help Isako carry (and eventually, lift) her emotional problems.

@Xerox: I understand how you feel, I was so caught up in Terra and Gurren Laggan that I basically ignored the autumn anime season for the first month or so. It’s hard to start again after finishing what seemed like such an epic journey; I’ve been blogging for nearly two years now and that spring season was probably the best I’ve ever seen.

omo says:

Personally I think Denno Coil, while a solid and excellent show all around, is not really prime entertainment. It’s a little overhyped because the story itself never diverges from the mode too typical for primetime children’s television, so people looking for something a little more engaging (like people who compares it to Lain, for example) might find it disappointing. The narrative doesn’t exploit the thick mood and imageries the show itself puts for us to see, but merely shows it to us. The not-so-subtle interpersonal drama and the peddling plot occupies too much of the show’s time. I think it would’ve served better if the show spent more time digging into the rich setting and the characterization that’s already before us by episode 6 instead of just fluttering from episode to episode, trying to play it out as a mystery show but failing at it.

Martin says:

I’m so glad you’ve taken the time for DC because if anything can sweep aside the apathy and reaffirm your faith in the medium, this has to be a prime candidate! I must admit I’ve let my viewing of the show slide a bit after the subbing of the episodes went on hiatus a while back. If it’s back on track though I’ll be playing catch-up this weekend – it really is one of those shows that you can marathon several eps in one go without getting bored.

There are so many facets to the series that I can’t list them all in one comment – it has an innocent sense of childlike wonder and profound observations on relationships in today’s world without being simpistic or patronising, as well as looking and sounding fantastic. I feel like I’m doing it a disservice in leaving it there – in the same way that saying it’s “Ghibli-meets-Lain with the awesomeness factor cranked up to eleven” only goes halfway to describing how unique and refreshing it is.

I can only say again that I’m glad you’re enjoying it too – I thought that festival scene was excellent as well. At the time of writing it looks like the subbers are able to get back on track too now that #19 is available. I can’t wait to get back into it!

bateszi says:

@omo: Interesting views and I agree that Dennou Coil regularly favors depicting the almost pointless adventures of childhood over delving deeper into the more ambiguous subtext, but I suppose that’s a part of its charm too. It’s so free (I’m tempted to say light-weight) and easy that it would perhaps lose a lot of its magic if it became bogged down in SAC style techno-babble; to this end, I think I prefer how it shows rather than tells, allowing us to interpret the themes at our own pace rather than constantly playing catch-up with the dialogue. Because it approaches situations in a very child-like fashion, often the more obvious paths and answers are somehow convoluted.

It would be interesting to see if the series would be better or worse limited to 12 episodes rather than 26; obviously a lot of the side-stories would be removed, leaving us with a much more focussed drama but less of an immersive world.

@Martin: Cheers! I was driven by an innate need to recommend Dennou Coil, especially amongst all of the fan-fare surrounding the new Autumn season, it’s a show that needs recommending. And I think fansubs are back on track (three episodes released over the last week or so), especially now they can probably sense the home straight and it’s stil airing in Japan too (with another clip episode coming this week).

Moshi says:

Yeah the festival scene was pretty good, need to get back into this.

griever says:

Hmm…I’ve heard of this series, but I haven’t had much motivation to watch it. I’m still a bit hesitant, although I tend to like series that the mainstream fans probably wouldn’t like (mostly so I can avoid the narutard phenomenon). Your post, while very well written and persuasive, still hasn’t pushed it into the “must watch” for me, I’m afraid. But I’ll put it on my “to watch” list and try it out. (^-^)/

Owen S says:

Hah, I remember that post I made about the festival. Good times. Gotta agree with omo about the mystery show thing — “incident of the week” doesn’t really cut it anymore, not when you’ve got all that pre-pubescent angst to tap into.

Incidentally, bateszi, have you ever considered checking out Shugo Chara? It’s targeted at kids, like Dennou Coil is, but mahou shoujo instead of sci-fi. Consistent, (so far) solid entertainment material that has quite a bit of depth, at least if you’re measuring by DC’s standards.

bateszi says:

Reading through these comments, it’s clear the festival scene resonated with a lot of people. In hindsight, I’m tempted to say it’s arguably the finest 5 to 10 minutes of Dennou Coil; the subtly and unspoken emotion of the character interaction is utterly compelling. It’s definitely worth looking at Equitan’s screen-cap too, which beautifully encapsulates the magical and exciting clash of (very natural) tradition and modern, almost surreal technology.

@griever: As long as you give the show a fair chance, I’m happy.

@Owen S: “Shugo Chara” hadn’t even registered on my radar until you mentioned it above, and an interesting review was also recently published on Cinnamon Ass. I’m definitely tempted to check it out, along with the highly acclaimed Princess Tutu.

To be honest, when it comes to these magical girl\moe\kyoto animation\whatever girl series, I find it hard to separate the real praise from opinions coloured by the fawning (read: superficial) otaku masses.

Kim says:

I just want to say that Princess Tutu is amazing. I am not really a fan of magical girl shows but this is definitely not your typical magical girl series. The only thing is the show starts off what feels like “MOTW” but if you watch it to episode 7 you will see that there is a lot more to it.

Michael says:

A constant visitor of my site often plugs this series in, also. After Gurren-Lagann, I have got to find another anime series to brood on, and this seems to be it. If Bateszi recommends … well …

(Sorry for not visiting your site often now … there was a time you barely updated and I totally forgot. >.>)

omo says:

I think the slice of life aspect of Dennou Coil is ruined by the mystery element, so it’s actually the opposite of what you think I’m implying batezsi. On the flip side because it approaches the resolution clumsily (perhaps like you said, childlike?) it really screws with people that didn’t want to wait through 4 episodes (namely ep 14-17) to see not a whole lot happen. The transition just doesn’t work very well.

But don’t take it the wrong way–that’s all behind us. DC can make all that go away with a good climax and conclusion. That is, if it can top ep 19-20.

Chris N says:

Just discovered your site. Nice, well written review! I’ve never heard of this anime before, but I’ll be sure to track it down now.

That Girl Hates You says:

gotta say it again, thanks for getting my attention on such an awesome anime.

I’ve been watching it so far on youtube and once I am able to buy it here, I will defently be buying this once it hits here.

And another thing the anime reminds me of Lain. Maybe this can be something to show someone before having them see it.

helane says:

wait until you get to episode 26

onizuka says:

I love this series, but yuko okonogi, the main heroine really pisses me off.

amasawa-san was bad arse, she was cool. she went out in style.

Johny says:

I finished watching this series a couple of weeks ago and still can’t find the right words to describe it. It just that awesome. Moments of fast paced action interwine with moments of uncontrollable laughter (“beards” that launched nukes = priceless) only to be followed by something more serious and touching. Dennou Coil is truly a masterfully executed piece and I could only wish for more anime of such greatness.

[…] de trancher car chacun a ses qualités propres. Mais le plus original des trois est sans conteste Dennou Coil, et comme c’est aussi le moins populaire, je le conseille vraiment à ceux qui ne […]

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