The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Dennou Coil

Title: Dennou Coil aka Coil – A Circle of Children
Genre: Drama/Action
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 12 May 2007 – 1 Dec 2007

Synopsis: To the children of Daikoku City, daily life is enhanced by augmented reality glasses, bringing forth a new world of virtual pets, exploitable glitches and killer antivirus programs The latest fad is collecting metabugs, small bits of virtual rock that can be manipulated into numerous programs and sold at a sizable price. But rumors arise of the kirabug, a far more valuable object that holds earth shattering properties. In fact, it is said that the kirabug can unlock the doorway to “the other side”…

The Highlights
Art Style: Mellow colors that evoke the artwork of Ghibli.
Setting: Augmented reality has never been so whimsical yet so sinister.
Plot: Meanders at the beginning but then shifts to high gear in the latter half.
Themes: Explores loss and reality far more deeply than one would expect.

A children’s show usually follows a simple formula: a dose of entertainment, an external conflict, and a simple moral. The form of this storytelling usually means that internal conflict is kept at a minimum and mature theme are at most insinuated. Dennou Coil effectively follows this style while still moving beyond it, playing with ideas and moral lessons on top of its tried and true structure.

The series relies heavily on the nature of its setting, and what a marvelous city it is! Enhanced by the limitless bounds of augmented reality, Daikoku city and the area around it becomes a playground for the young protagonists, allowing them to experience the full joy of naïve adventures that no real world could provide. The art brings this further to life, rivaling Ghibli in its use of mellow colors and solid backgrounds to help tickle the imagination. At the same time, the setting implies a far more dangerous side to the augmented reality. By tastefully dropping these hints in a harmless manner, Dennou Coil is able to masterfully set up its plot for the latter half while still hiding behind the first half’s cute façade of adventure.

By establishing the scope of its setting in the first half, Dennou Coil jumps confidently into its second half, pushing the plot forward with what was insinuated earlier on. Characters vie to abuse the nature of the augmented reality for selfish reasons, and when these reasons are brought to the forefront, the series shifts focus to the problems of its respective characters. It is through these selfish motivations that Dennou Coil explores the ideas of loss and reality, and few can rival it in this respect. It treats its characters’ angst with a level of clarity that lays them bare, but does not simplify their emotions for easy consumption. The honest combination of events happening on screen and the struggles that lead to these events is Dennou Coil’s greatest strength, allowing it dig deeply into its themes.

However, Dennou Coil’s dual identity as a children’s show and a mature piece also results in a few shortcomings. In order to maintain its conventional narrative structure, Dennou Coil falls back on typical children’s show tricks. There is a lull of entertaining but remarkably unimportant filler in the middle. The villain is given a typical motivation with little characterization, existing for the sake of driving the story forward. Pacing in the latter half becomes quick and convoluted as it tries to juggle new developments and loose ends to maintain suspense. Particular plot points are waved aside by technobabble that is useful to those following but hardly necessary. Luckily, Dennou Coil never tries too hard to overshadow its themes, and the finale focuses on the quieter internal struggles instead of a glorified battle of hackers.

Dennou Coil may be aimed at kids and may have aired in a family friendly time slot, but the themes and lessons it conveys exceeds anything its fellow children’s shows can muster. Few series can set up such a far reaching setting and mix in innocent adventure while still covering topics that address much more mature audiences. It would be as foolish to scoff at Dennou Coil for being merely a children’s show; it surpasses that realm and becomes something much more.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Elineas

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