What They Say:
Tracking down the secrets concerning Kana’s death has led Yuko “Yasako” Okonogi into a new series of virtual rabbit holes. Like Alice through the looking glass, Yuko discovers that the digitally augmented world on the other side of her glasses is far more complex and confusing than she could have imagined. With shocking e-spaces filled with mysterious un-erased levels of data, and virtual creatures that act and think as if they’re truly alive, how many other secrets might these parallel worlds hide? Who is responsible for hiding them?
As new memories from her past begin to surface, she must now confront whether the e-spaces themselves are somehow affecting the real world and how this involves the “other” Yuko. Their destinies may be intrinsically linked as the real and virtual worlds collide in the climactic conclusion of DEN-NOH COIL!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language as well as a new English language dub, which is still a surprise to see produced for it. The show is one that works the forward soundstage well because of the usual of the technology side and some of their noises and movements, but a lot of it is mostly a dialogue based piece that’s fairly straightforward as well as some good scenes where the quiet and smaller sounds definitely work well to enhance the mood. The show has a few bigger action moments and some decent pieces along the way with the effects, such as the beams, but it’s fairly straightforward for the most part. What it does, it does well, but it doesn’t go above and beyond, which results in a solid effort that comes across cleanly and without problems with both language tracks.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes of this set are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Madhouse, the show has a solidly distinctive look that adheres to some of the usual norms of anime but skews just enough to the side to stand out as something not the norm, mostly in the character designs with the shape of their faces and the overall color design. The murkier tone of the colors here adds a distinctive feeling but it avoids getting problematic with the colors as there isn’t any breakup or noise that shouldn’t be there for the most part. The encoding has a lot of extra work to handle the digital noise of the actual show itself with the animation effects and that comes across really well, making it a treat to see it play out here.
The packaging design for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. As we saw with the first set, the artwork choices here aren’t the best and it just has a kind of low-rent aspect to it. We get a grouping of the girls from different places here where they’re all very expressive but there’s no real central theme. I like the background aspects with the city and the Null’s walking about, and it has a kind of creepy feeling as a whole, but it’s just not coming together well. The back cover works a couple of different angles for the various pieces, something that actually fits for the show rather than being awkward or problematic in its design. The artwork choices are a bit more action oriented and the brighter elements such as the lasers helps to give it a kind of proper vibrancy. The premise is covered well with the summary paragraph while the rest is given over to the usual production credits and the clean and accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty decent with a nice neo-futuristic theme to it with the navigation on the right as it uses soft blue/green with purple highlights for the selector. It breaks out the show with the usual format of the episodes by title and number with submenus for languages and extras where appropriate. What I like is that there’s a fun “defrag” kind of layer behind it of blacks and greys with some of the blue-green mixing in that moves toward the left to reveal the main piece of artwork. This dominates the menu to be sure, with the first menu bringing together pieces from the back cover without all the other widgets of animation around it so that it feels more complete and engaging. The layout is smooth and easy to work with both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu with no problems to be had in either forms.
The only extras included are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After such a long wait, the first half of the Dennou Coil series is one that was certainly intriguing. I knew nothing about the show going into it beyond its cult status and I got into the setting pretty well as there were a lot of interesting ideas there that you could see come to fruition in the real world as augmented reality begins to take shape. That’s one of the things I love about science fiction shows in that they’re guides to what will be and the kinds of challenges we’ll face with it. I liked the ideas and the characters have their moments but something about it just didn’t gel well for me as it felt like it was taking a far too slow of an approach to reveal the key aspects of what it really wanted to be about. We had a lot of layers of mystery, which work well enough in a weekly form, but when you look at it in halves like this you realize just how long it takes to get anywhere.
Unfortunately, the second half feels even more unfocused to me than the first in a way. There are what feels like a lot of character stories in the mix here, such as Haraken coping with what happened to Kanna, Kyoko being sucked up into e-space, Yasako learning about her past, and even Takeru and his brother and their seemingly very light and less than clear plans as they cause trouble until Takeru realizes they’ve gone too far. Add in things with Amasawa, Yasako’s grandfather, Densuke, and a host of other supporting characters and their stories and it just becomes complicated. And typically I like shows that work a number of stories in order to flesh out the cast as a whole, to give them meaning within it all, but Dennou Coil just doesn’t come together well. There are so many things going on and so many plot threads to keep track of, to the point where it felt like Isako was gone for half this season if not more, reduced from a seemingly main player to a third tier character, that the series simply becomes more and more unfocused.
Yasako is very much at the core of it and that works well for giving us something to anchor onto. Her struggle to save Kyoko in the early episodes here after her consciousness becomes disconnected from her body, trapped in e-space and being drawn toward the light where some very disturbing Null-based torii exist, is disturbing to say the least. Kyoko’s fear is well animated in her face and the intensity from Yasako clicks well as she knows what’s happening and how much danger her younger sister is in. A lot of this also ties back to the relationship the two sisters have with Densuke, an early kickstart to the problems with e-space and the viruses there, as he becomes probably the most key of players in all of this as he saves the day more than anyone else I think. It’s even reinforced with him getting just about the last big scene as well, even if the show ends on Kyoko of all people. Hope for the future, perhaps?
A lot of what I got from this show is that while there are a lot of issues going on, most of which centers around an event from Yasako’s past that she doesn’t remember, there’s more than enough blame to go around among a range of characters. And often on the adults, though there a few here and we’re being generous when we label someone an adult. This is made even more problematic when you remember that these are all sixth-grade students for the most part and that they’re acting so mature and wise for their age, and able to handle so much without a whisper of wanting help from someone who may know more, that it becomes kind of untenable. I get the whole aspect of kids connecting with tech better than adults, but there’s such a seemingly clear line here with it focusing on very young kids, and relative neophytes like Yasako, that i found myself rolling my eyes at times more than anything else. They’re all able to handle and process so much of what’s happening amid so many dangerous and life threatening engagements that it’s hard to take serious. You wouldn’t even expect such serious and stable reactions from most adults, all things considered.
The other area that kind of wore me down with the show is the whole augmented reality and e-space side of the show. There are some really neat things to explore in this realm and I wish more shows would dig into it, but this one ends up crossing over into a realm that feels more like magic than anything else. Yes, any science we don’t understand will appear as magic, but the way the show attempts to do things here in blending the two worlds and giving us a meager explanation as to why just ended up not coming together right. While there was a loose definition of how the show was working in the first half of the series, things become even looser here and it has an anything goes kind of feeling. It doesn’t quite go that far but that idea is there as people cross between. Which makes some amount of sense as part of what the show is trying to do is to get you to question what is real and what isn’t. But since it becomes hard to tell, you end up connecting with it less.
Den-noh Coil is a series that has some interesting ideas to it but the execution left me less than thrilled with it. There are so many character storylines going on here that it ends up feeling convoluted and messy, especially when some characters disappear for too long and others have forced connections that just don’t come together well. The show has a neat look to it and I’m intrigued by its approach to AR and what it wants to do, Maiden Japan treated this show better than I expected with it receiving a dub and fans of it will definitely like what they get there. The release is put together well technically and while it doesn’t have a lot in the way of extras, it’s the show that counts in the end and fans of it will like the end result.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.