Bottom Line: For an anime series, Coppelion is confident with its trio of daring female protagonists, and its approach to storytelling about a human-caused disaster. But unfortunately, its lack of substance and sluggish storytelling will trigger impatience amongst its viewers.
Produced by Studio GoHands, Coppelion is a psychological science fiction series that revolves around three high school girls who are on a journey to find survivors in the abandoned city of Tokyo after a disastrous nuclear meltdown happened twenty years ago. Named ‘Coppelions’, these girls are dispatched from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and being Coppelions, they are the generation affected by the nuclear catastrophe who are now engineered to be immune to radioactivity.
Written and illustrated by Tomonori Inoue, Coppelion is a series not to be taken lightly. While it’s strange to see a bunch of teens simultaneously attacking the enemy whilst risking their lives to save survivors, Coppelion seems almost quite realistic if we respect the context of the story. In fact, it feels like an actual autobiographical recount, and because of Coppelion‘s realism, it’s no wonder that there has been a sensitive impact on its Japanese audience. The subject’s sensitivity is evident as the anime production was halted halfway after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster rocked Japan in 2010.
Visually, Coppelion has a highly-detailed yet stylistic grungy style that fits perfectly for the image of a lifeless world. The overload of depressing shades of black, grey and navy green colours with lack of bright colours sets the mood for the anime, and it’s obvious that the audience was going to be in for something serious.
Three teenagers fighting with explosives and rescuing survivors? Yes, please. The content may sound appealing but unfortunately, the story can be incredibly sluggish at times. It was going to be one long journey for the Coppelions — not much takes place as they spend most of the time looking for survivors, devising tactics to distract and counter the enemy, and escaping from the highly intoxicated fumes that linger in the city.
For the first time in ages, it’s refreshing to see such a strong female character like Class President Ibara taking charge in an anime. Ibara is strong-willed, daring and caring, and isn’t one of those leading ladies with split tsundere personalities. She’s the perfect leader for the Rescue Unit and along with her teammates, the wise Taeko and the happy go lucky yet irritating Aoi, they make the ultimate badass rescue team. Talk about gender equality!
Balanced out with many other characters like No-Sense’s philosophical persona and the members of the Cleanup crew (featuring the crazy Ozu twins and Haruto), it flourishes the anime back to life — to some degree.
In fact, the show focuses a lot on the characters and their adversity as each character has been affected by the nuclear disaster in their own ways — either they were the offenders who were behind the disaster or those who became the result of the incident (aka Coppelions). All characters have their own dark story, showing some form of bitter resentment towards the opposition as they dream and fight to secure normality in the world.
Undisturbed by common plot distractions like teen romance and rivalry, this allows Coppelion to focus on delivering the story, and putting the spotlight on the characters and how they behave in the washed up city of Tokyo. But even so, perhaps it was the lack of genre variety and an inconsistent active plotline that compels the anime to be stale — something that the average Otaku isn’t used to.
What on earth was Haruto and the Ozu Twins doing before they met up with the Rescue Unit? Besides the Rescue Unit and Cleanup Team, where were the other Coppelions and how were they coping with the ongoing discrimination and fate of saving survivors and eliminating the enemy? Coppelion’s story had the potential to be enriched by some form of political aspect, but it’s a shame that it doesn’t bother to offer the audience an insightful look into the backend of military operations and the world’s response towards the abandoned Tokyo.
Despite the series’ stagnant plotline, Coppelion has a few highly charged animated scenes which feature the Coppelions battling the First Division enemy with martial arts, explosives and high speed chase in army tanks. With fine cinematography direction and a grungy soundtrack that perfectly accompany these action scenes, it’s stylish action at its finest but it’s unfortunate that the action scenes don’t last long.
Overall: Coppelion is an average series that strives to be different from other anime by putting the focus on its characters and (autobiographical) storytelling. Although the series presented with serious plot-holes and can be heavily parched at times, Coppelion is a series that requests the audience to be patient with its story and the way it how unfolds. While Coppelion isn’t a series that can be liked by the majority of Otakus, the series’ realism will give you something to think about, and it will definitely make you appreciate what we all have in our respective lives.