What They Say:
In 2016, a meltdown of a nuclear power plant creates a big catastrophe in Tokyo. 20 years later, the city has become a ghost town due to the high levels of radiation. From that area a distress signal is received. The Self Defense forces dispatch three girls from the special unit Coppelion to search for survivors. But why aren’t they wearing any protection against radiation?
For this release, we get standard stereo/mono settings in 2.0 for both English and Japanese(and no French dub despite there being French subtitles). On the whole the audio quality is still good, albeit I did need to raise my initial settings, however getting surprised in this day and age when releases, DVD or Blu-Ray alike, don’t get a 5.1 Dolby Surround release in English at the very least. Aside from that, no issues on any of the three discs with the quality (no slow down, no poor synching with the video in either language), it is still a good quality, just one of those ‘what if’ scenarios, albeit every aspect of both language with the background effects (which is a major factor with a show like this considering the explosions, fights and gunplay involved) still make this a quality release.
Set in the standard PAL format (anamorphic), with 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio on a full screen format, Copellion is a series that seems to feel very gritty and down to earth and it transpires that onto the small screen. The animation combines some CGI and effects towards it but mostly if feels like a series that could have been done 10+ years ago – not that it is a bad thing, it is just the colour fits the series well – it is grey, a bit depressing with little bright colour, everything is in a shade of grey which showcases what type of series this is. There were no issues with slowdown or pausing to make the animation look scratchy and it flowed very well – definitely a different shade to what a lot of series have been like that’s for certain, but considering the plot, it works perfectly.
There was no packaging for this test release.
On all three discs, the menu setup is the same – shots of the show are played throughout with the menu options on the centre right – discs 1 and 2 having Play All, Set Up and Episodes, with disc 3 having one for Extras. Also when the DVD is inserted after the initial Kaze advert, there is a menu selection immediately for English or French (interestingly if you select Francais, a different advert appears compared to the English ones which advertise various trailers, the French one advertises an anime site and different trailers called ADN, Anime Digital Network) despite there not being a French dub (also the French menu only has Episodes and Play All, no set up for the subtitles as the English one has subtitles for signs and songs, as well as just in general). Each menu, however, is easy to navigate from the menu or from the episodes with no slowdown in selection but is pretty basic.
The only extras in this release are the clean opening and ending on disc 3, though there are trailers before you get to the main menu for Tenkai Knights in disc 1, Black Lagoon: 2nd Barrage for disc 2, and Berserk: The Egg of the King in disc 3.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Coppelion is a series that I had no knowledge going into so this was a blind watch – it was also a series that none of my friends were that familiar with either, so was wondering how a show which seemed a bit obscure got a UK release (albeit the anime is only 2 years old, the manga has been going since 2008) – the research showed it had a very interested premise, a Chernobyl like story but in Japan and with a few who can survive in it compared to the rest of the area, how did this come to be and is there a good story that goes with this 13 episode series?
The initial set up seems reasonable enough – we have three girls who can survive this contaminated world due to genetic modification but for the moment that is all we get. The focus initially is the three girls are trying to find people still around to be rescued and return them to her ‘vice-principal.’ It basically is told almost like a glorified school trip, and the girls’ lessons are in survival as they have all enhanced senses…we think. The three girls are Ibara, the leader who wants to save everyone and is the most combat skilled, Taeko who is trained medically and also has enhanced sight, and Aoi who…is pretty much the tag-along (at first) as she just seems to be there to try and enjoy food and get in the way most of the time. Despite this, the three are a team and get along well, looking for survivors – Ibara in particular whilst a smiling character seems to be the most focused, wanting to heal anyone even against orders and using vaccines when she can. The ongoing thoughts if the girls are truly human are present in this story when survivors they meet are in shock they can survive in this world without gas masks and oxygen tanks, and initially it feels like a survivor of the day series, where the girls track down various survivors, ranging from dying survivors, to former criminals, to estranged families. As early as episode 2, there is some complexity in who they want to survive, and some surprisingly deep stories for the one episode characters contained in 24 minutes.
In episode 3, they learn of a man who has been sending supplies to people still living in the area, who turns out to be the doctor who caused the nuclear meltdown by designing the power plant which caused this. This also leads to our antagonists, some rebel mercenaries known as the Ghosts/1st Division, causing radiation levels to increase by dumping radiation in various areas – at first, they just seem like general antagonists, but when more characters get involved, they become a real threat, because from episode 5 onwards, pretty much the plot kicks in. The Ghosts were soldiers who were left behind after Tokyo was sealed so now are trying to get revenge on the survivors – we get some new characters, a family who has a pregnant daughter named Ibuki, her father Gojiro, their friends Oyakata and Gennai (all become more involved as the story continues) and the vice-principal Onihei who has been sporadic in giving orders, sends a young man named Haruto to help the girls. Haruto is pretty much a character designed as a ‘what if’ person – if he was one of the girls, how would he react because unlike the girls who want to save all humans, Haruto despises them because of all the mistakes they have made in life. He sees himself and the Coppelion as superior though strangely not in a way that makes him egotistical, in fact he is downright calm and friendly most of the time, but very stand-offish when it comes to his points of view. The relationship between him and Ibara becomes quite interesting as he tries to learn what makes Ibara tick and so accepting of humans, and it becomes quite complicated…especially when the prime minister refuses to send any help until all of the 1st Division are killed (the Prime Minister is viewed as very egotistical and at a conference that Onihei is stuck with, increasing his own rage…)
From here, it is a series of mind games and traps sets by both units – Aoi for example gets kidnapped and held to ransom unless the Coppelion joins them, the remaining group all cause distractions, tensions between Haruto and Ibara (Haruto wanting to kill the soldiers, Ibara not wanting any more death leading to Ibara nearly getting killed but Haruto supplying some blood of his own to save her) combined with the time issues of Ibuki’s baby due any day…and the introduction of the Ozu sisters, two members of Coppelion who basically switched sides due to having grudges against Ibara…and just being generally psychotic.
The rest of the series is a race against time – the Coppellion having to fend off the Ozus who have their own special powers, whilst learning of what the Coppelions life cycle is (and explaining why the Ozus don’t care about human life), the relationship between Haruto and the group, the spreading radiation and trying to escape the capital before it gets too dangerous, Ibuki’s baby (and the revelation of the baby’s father), the revelation about Aoi’s powers, the actual history and past of the head of the Ghosts Kunikida (though not shown much he actually becomes an important character right at the end, everything told subtly throughout) and the final confrontation between the Coppelions and the Uzos. It actually ties in everything quite well in such a short series that was very impressed.
The strengths come from how they introduces the characters roles and their mission early, give just enough background in the first four episodes about how they came to be in this world and what caused it, and then bring us the villains so to speak and run away with it for the remainder of the series, making it feel longer than it actually is (but in a good way). The girls are basically clones and genetically modified ones, and this also causes the hate of the Ozus and to a lesser extent Haruto, that they don’t have a set lifespan and could die any moment, yet they don’t know when that will be. The comparisons between the groups’ showcases their mentalities, Ibara’s group are on the job but also happy go lucky and want to do the best for humanity but enjoy each other’s company. The Ozus are dedicated to each other, but despise humanity and due to their heritage, are completely nuts. Haruto is a nice in between them – a genuinely nice guy who does have the mental capacity to respect and even learn from other people’s opinions, but it takes a while to get to that as he has his own grudges against humanity. The characterisation is done well, and even the bits with characters who aren’t Coppellion each have their intrigue (Ibuki’s father for example seems non-important but actually has a vital role with the rescue as well as his history, Ibuki’s dad who saves the Coppelion yet is a member of the Ghosts shows he still cares for his wife and soon to be child, and the head of the Ghosts actually recovering his humanity subtly throughout the series after Ibara initially saves him, there’s a character named Granny Ayame who the girls save early on, and later becomes a vital character in the delivery of Ibuki’s child/ren helping Taeko deliver them). For a one cour series, it manages to tie in everything well in terms of background, plot, characters and action.
There are however, a couple of issues – mostly revolving around one character sadly, which is Aoi. For most of the series, she is basically the one who does nothing other than well, eat to be honest. She is the damsel in distress of the group, and not a particularly likeable or interesting one – she gets captured once, and then basically sulks in a corner when she is rescued – or she is whinging about any little thing (whilst understandable when she is captured, she is pretty over the top and selfish in comparison to Ibara and Taeko) – yet you can tell the series is holding back on whatever power she has. And when it is revealed…it feels like a real cop out. Not in terms of what she can do, but for the fact she got powers SPECIFICALLY to combat the electric/super strength powers of the Ozu sisters – basically new powers as the story demands. Granted, it works because of the size of the series, but it is really noticeable that the one character whose powers aren’t revealed and until then was pretty much very annoying, is the one who saves the day, and without knowing it too (she only seems to be able to do the powers under distress and after, she doesn’t seem to remember what she has done). I think it would have actually worked better if her powers were established early rather than this reveal as it really feels the show took the easy way out to make her seem useful by being exactly the powers needed for this situation. Taeko doesn’t suffer this way but her problem is different in that she is barely in focus – we learn of her sight powers in one episode…and after that, nothing more is made of it. She is put to the side to deliver Ibuki’s children and we just cut back to her very occasionally whilst the action is going on outside. It is a shame as Taeko seemed to be the nice mother like character of the three, but there isn’t enough of her to care about her as much as Ibara or Aoi who are much more vocal (for better or worse).
That said, the characterisation of the all-loving hero (Ibara) coming into conflict with a hero with a more darker edge (Haruto) does give some interesting conflict, yet it hardly comes to blows or even raised voices. Haruto has knowledge that Ibara doesn’t, but he slowly understands why Ibara cares about humans so much. The two seem to get closer to a strong friendship, perhaps even relationship until Haruto does something which cuts that off (though if there is a sequel, there is a strong hint about him because his powers weren’t full revealed, but there were hints there that there is more to him than it seems) but as mentioned, it is told surprisingly well in the time given. Ibara is a very strong lead, caring, strong, smart but can get bull headed about causes she cares about. The relationship between her and Onihei is interesting as well as Onihei is under orders, but at the same time cares about his group and is constantly frustrated about the ‘me me me’ mentality of his government and wanting to do things on the sly for the greater good. The setting is also very unique, a post-apocalyptic area which does seem realistic, and whilst the cloning/genetic modifications are a deus ex-machina, you get the feeling in the future this could be plausible so you go along with it…albeit with three school girls.
A story that comes together so well in a short time, it is definitely a series I’d wish I’d learned more about prior to this, and now may have to check out the ongoing manga and see if my suspicions are true…
Coppelion is a hidden gem of a series that is a dark world set realistically albeit with a little less realistic idea of three powered up school girls saving people. Despite the premise and a couple of characters which suffer from either less screen time or two much screen time, the development of the other characters, both heroes and villains, suggest this is a show that there is no real bad guy, as everyone has their own thoughts and mindset, what constitutes as revenge or helping, and the fact everyone can be worth saving, both physically and mentally. Coppelion teaches us that and runs with it, in an action packed but thought provoking series. Definitely worth a shot.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: November 23rd, 2015
Running Time: 312 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.