What They Say:
In the not-so-distant future, a man-made catastrophic event has devastated a large region of Japan, forever changing the lives of its people. In the years since the incident, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force has genetically engineered humans to operate under the lethal conditions of the contaminated city. Today, three such humans set foot into the now forsaken city. The trio of girls are known as Coppelion, trained since birth to use all of their skills and resources to carry out their one and only objective: rescue those left behind
I watched the Blu-Ray discs for this viewing, which contained two language tracks—English and Japanese—dubbed in Dolby Digital 2.0. English subtitles are also provided. The audio quality was fine overall, but there were times when I had difficulty hearing some of the characters with softer voices.
The Blu-Ray discs were encoded in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 16:9, and they are gorgeous to look at. Visually, this is a beautiful, exciting show, but the characters at times looked too separate from their backgrounds. Part of this may be due to the fact that the backgrounds are photo-realistic, while the characters are more cartoon-y. It’s a vague visual aspect that’s difficult to put into words, but it’s definitely noticeable and even distracting at times.
Copellion comes packaged in a standard Blu-Ray case with a cardboard slipcover. The art on the front of the slipcase is different from the art on the disc. The cover shows the three main characters, Ibara, Aoi, and Taeko standing in a section of the ruined capital. The cover’s spine is done entirely in white with the show’s title written in black and a silhouette of the girls done in orange. The back cover is the same for both the cover and the case, featuring the standard show screenshots, series’ synopsis, cast and crew credits, and disc specifications.
The front of the case shows Ibara standing alone on a ruined road leading to the capital, holding her gun. The picture wraps around to the spine, which is otherwise the same as the spine on the cover. The back of the case is completely the same as the cover.
The discs come housed on center insets with the Blu-Rays first and the DVDs second. The inside cover is made to look like a corkboard full of pictures from the girls’ adventures, which is a nice touch.
Overall, it’s a good design (although I think that the art on the cover illustrates the issue of character and background separation that I mentioned in the Video section). It’s easy to read and visually arresting.
The menu on the Blu-Ray follows the same basic format. Scenes from the show take up the entirety of the screen. The show’s title rests in the upper right-hand corner, superimposed over a black and yellow “Keep Out” strip, made to look like police “Do Not Cross” tape. The menu options rest along the bottom in a similar strip. This setup works well in both form and function. It’s easy to use and it’s quite compelling visually.
Coppelion contains the standard clean Op/Ed and original trailers. The Blu-Ray discs also feature a bonus art gallery, which I enjoyed, but wasn’t enough to make this set stand out in terms of extra features.
Much like the protagonists, the show Coppelion suffers from an identity crisis. At times it wants to be a story about humanity’s hubris. At other times it wants to be a story about the heights and depths human beings can achieve when their backs are against the wall. And at other times it wants to be a story that questions what it means to be human at all. All of these are perfectly legitimate and compelling themes, but cramming them into thirteen episodes makes this feel like a disjointed, uncertain story.
In the undefined future, an environmental disaster occurs in Japan’s capital. The show never fully explains what caused the disaster, and all we know for certain is that the air is polluted to the point where survivors can only live within shelters and can only set foot outside wearing advanced Hazmat suits. The Japanese government spent years genetically engineering humans called Coppelion who are able to withstand this poison, and now a “Healthcare Team” composed of three teenage girls travel to the ruins of Tokyo to save as many survivors as possible.
At first blush, Coppelion seemed to be a small, intimate show that was more episodic in nature than serial. The first set of conflicts arose from the individuals the girls encountered and from the environment itself. This smaller focus created a slow and measured pace that allowed for some excellent world building, but kept me from fully engaging in the story. The series picks up when a more concrete antagonist arrived in the form of the 1st Division—the Japan Ground Self-Defense unit that was sent in when the disaster happened and was presumed dead. The Commander of the 1st Division has managed to survive in this wasteland, and is fueled by anger and resentment at the government that abandoned him and his men.
Although the 1st Division provides a sharper focus for the story, the main antagonists arrive closer to the end of the series. Kanon and Shion Ozu are twin Coppelion sisters and members of the “Clean-up Crew”—an Coppelion strike team with a different mandate from the Healthcare Team. It turns out the Ozu sisters were cloned from a famous actress who turned out to be homicidal and schizophrenic, and those traits were passed on to the sisters. They leave the Clean-up Crew and join the 1st Division, partly because of their destructive and homicidal urges, but also because they hate humanity for creating them and giving them a short lifespan.
While the show dealt with the question of what it means to be human pretty early on, the Ozu sisters bring it into focus, and for my money, it doesn’t quite work. As is often the case with anime, the show treats the viewer to long diatribes that meander into issues of psychology and philosophy, but do so on a very surface level. This question of what it means to be human also takes away from what I believe is the show’s main theme: the heights and depths we achieve when our back is to the wall. There is a tangential thread that connects each of the themes, but they don’t mesh well. The show drops one theme for the other and never quite ties them together.
Part of this may be the show’s pacing. As I said before, the show starts off slowly, but once it does get started, it moves too quickly, glossing over key moments and generally rushing the events. The show even forgets some characters for key stretches. Ibara stands clearly as the main protagonist, with Aoi coming up a good second, but Taeko just seems kind of there when she’s needed. While all three girls possess character arcs, Taeko’s gets the short shrift.
And don’t get me started on Aoi. She oscillated between complete uselessness and being their “Get out of Jail Free” card. Each Coppelion possesses an unique ability, thanks to their genetic engineering. Ibara possesses heightened strength, agility, and durability, and Taeko’s senses function on superhuman levels. Aoi’s powers don’t manifest until about episode nine, and even when they do appear, they are vague, almost like her power centers around whatever the moment needs it to be. She strays dangerously close to being a deus ex machine, which I could forgive except that her character is often more annoying than endearing.
While the character work, pacing, and thematic content are all a bit spotty, Coppelion does do an excellent job in building its world. Visually, the attention to detail is impressive, but just as much thought was put into the story itself. The writers clearly thought this situation through to its logical end, positing a believable world where this meltdown occurred and how it would affect geopolitics and the world economy along with the environment.
While Coppelion’s world building shines, the narrative, characters, theme, and pacing are all spotty. The flaws are never enough to make this show a failure, but added together they create a series that is solidly middle of the road. I enjoyed watching it well enough, but I doubt I will ever want to revisit it. Doctor Josh gives this a…
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: February 3rd, 2015
Running Time: 312 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen