Anime Reporter brings the word on Coppelion, the complete series (episodes 1-13). This series is short but packs quite a lot of punch as it follows three genetically engineered teens taking on the dangers of a radioactive wasteland to save any survivors still trying to survive a city long ago ravaged by nuclear disaster.
These teenage girls are modified beings known as Coppelion, which is used as a reference to puppets or dolls. Able to survive the toxins and radiation which nuclear disaster has created, each of the girls also has their own unique ability which helps them navigate perilous situations as well as overcoming all sorts of terrible foes. Because these girls are more resilient than the average puny human, they don’t need air filtration or any of the protective gear that most people would need to survive there for any amount of time, it’s nonetheless still not totally clear why they’re constantly decked out in skimpy school uniforms. Yes, the special-ops style training they undergo is referred to as a high school and yes, they use titles such as vice-principal and class president for rank, but there really is no rhyme or reason behind this school-motif. Now, it’s possible that you’re thinking some along the lines of “Why take it so seriously? It’s hardly the first series to include a random visual theme or even a random school uniform here or there” and this would be fair. My only problem is that this series takes itself incredibly seriously. Characters are laden down with guilt and sorrow and feelings of injustice while roaming around a sepia-toned ruin of a once great city and carrying on near-constant struggles for life and death… so the whole ‘let’s dress them up in skimpy schoolgirl outfits’ decision seems to be one that could have passed without comment on a much lighter series, but not in this drama-fest.
While drama certainly is the name of the game here, it’s undoubtedly got its fair share of action, with many a chase scene, shoot-out and explosion to keep things moving steadily. That’s not to say that this is perfectly executed though. The action is occasionally over-the-top, brimming with helpful coincidences and perfect timing, which again, is hardly unusual, but clashes against what feels like an attempt for utter melodrama. The speeches and moments of characterisation are built up so quickly that it’s hard to digest any of it at all. Characters seem to be built up almost entirely of tropes and tears, rather than of much originality or sincerity. The relationships that build up honestly feel quite a bit forced, while the occasional attempts at humour in between all the serious goings-on seem wildly out of place.
In terms of animation, Coppelion stands out a little bit. It focuses heavily on thick dark lines for its foreground characters while landscapes and background characters alternate between very detailed, realistic renditions and somewhat unfocused shapes and figures. It’s just a little distracting from time to time but it’s also certainly an interesting technique which is often well-implemented.
All in all, Coppelion is a story which flips and jumps from tragedy to coincidence to sci-fi action without ever really landing on its feet. It feels unsteady, unfocused and weighed down by its own attempts at drama. Action fans will certainly find better, more gratuitous action elsewhere, drama-seekers will find more acutely spun tales in other venues and enthusiasts of animated girls in school uniforms will, well, I mean, you’re currently reading this, so presumably you know how the internet works… Coppelion is not a particularly bad series, but it fails to stand out as much as it should and while I’m sure many will enjoy it, I’m just not so sure that many will remember it.
Coppelion: the Complete Series is available on DVD in the UK and Ireland from the fine folks at Manga Entertainment from November 23rd 2015.