(Note: this review contains spoilers. If you do not wish to read them, stop at ***. Otherwise, proceed with caution.)
Coppélia. A story built around a life-size dancing doll. That was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the title of this anime. I was definitely thrilled. If this anime were to be anywhere near the realm of brilliance that is its ballet namesake, I was certain that I would really enjoy it. And hey! In episode 2, the series gave the ballet special mention – Aoi stated that their unit, Coppelion, was named after aforementioned doll. They called themselves puppets. Created through genetic engineering, members of Coppelion were manufactured to be immune from radiation. And speaking of radiation..
The meltdown of a nuclear power plant; catastrophe in the city; high levels of radiation; a disaster zone; a ghost town; a distress signal is received; a special rescue unit is sent to search for survivors. After reading the summary on MyAnimeList, my interest was further heightened. With the promise of a potentially good storyline and the lovely seiyuu couple, Suzumura Kenichi and Sakamoto Maaya, as part of the cast, I had rather high expectations for this anime. There was simply so much intrigue and mystery built up in just that one-paragraph summary. Not to mention the fact that the nuclear-induced catastrophe seemed awfully familiar, what with the relatively recent 2011 earthquake that caused the massive radiation leak in Fukushima.
Greeted with beautifully stunning graphics in the first few seconds of the opening episode, Coppelion got off to a very good start. The first episode introduced many interesting key elements to get the story going. We had diverse characters – righteous, Kyoto-ben speaking class president Naruse Ibara (played by Tomatsu Haruka), extremely whiny and not at all helpful Fukasaku Aoi (Hanazawa Kana), reserved and reliable Nomura Taeko (Akesaka Satomi). We had dark & mysterious – what or who caused the meltdown? We even grazed the top of a philosophical issue – a question of morality vs practically, as members of Coppelion are aware that they are not exactly human and Aoi asks whether or not they are just ‘puppets’. The cliffhanger at the end of the first episode provided the suspense that left me eagerly anticipating the next.
The anime set viewers (well, this viewer at least) up for one heck of a roller-coaster ride. And well, I guess it was quite the roller-coaster ride. Just not the one I was expecting. The anime brought in a deeper undertone in the first couple of episodes, leading me to suspect that there was something far more sinister going on. However, by the end of episode 4, it became pretty clear that the story was not going in the direction that I was hoping for. Because there was so much going on, the anime didn’t go in-depth and what resulted was a fragmented, case-by-case storyline that left me extremely unsatisfied. Even the characters weren’t able to make that much of a difference. Not only were the interactions forced (really, Naruse & Haruto.. I did not see that coming at all), but we also didn’t get to see much growth and character development (okay, Aoi managed to pull through that one time.. but after that, not really). To say that I was utterly disappointed would be a massive understatement.
For me, the plot & characters are the driving force of any one series. They are akin to the muscle & skeleton that enable a body to move. And although it was clear that Coppelion was not going to deliver in the plot department, at least there was Haruto (Suzumura Kenichi). He was, in my opinion, the series’ saving grace, and I found myself watching it just because I looked forward to the Haruto moments. For Suzuken, I persevered. And by about episode 7, I thought I was about to be rewarded for my patience, as the series started to get interesting. My happiness was short-lived, however, because the writers then go on to (mercilessly) kill him. If you already thought that everything was going downhill before, just wait till that episode – really, it reached terminal velocity free fall by then. *sigh*
Now I know this review does read as really forced and I apologise for that, but I really tried my best. Honestly, the series was quite a pain to watch and a lot of pain to write about. But I figured that the best way to ease the pain was to let it out. Anyway, moving on to the conclusion of this painful rant.. Breathtaking art, interesting concept, talented voice actors.. Coppelion had the makings of something really promising. But you know what they say – promises are meant to be broken. And that’s exactly what happened with Coppelion. Probably overwhelmed with such high promise, it simply fell flat and broke.