The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Pale Cocoon

Title: Pale Cocoon
Genre: Drama
Company: Studio Rikka
Format: 1 OVA
Dates: 18 Jan 2006

Synopsis: In the future, mankind has destroyed the Earth’s ecosystem and is forced to move into space colonies. After countless years, man has even lost its history and can only piece together their past with pictures and video files excavated in the massive computer archives. At first this effort is met with great enthusiasm and hope, but overtime interest fades as people realize that they can never get back all they have lost. Ura, an employee of the Bureau of Record Excavation, is one of the last people to continue uncovering the fragments of humanity’s past.

The Highlights
Visuals: Beautifully rendered.
Subject Matter: Really has no appeal to anyone but is interesting because it is so uncommon.

When I first watched this anime, I disliked it for its unengaging plot and emotionally dead characters, and then wrote it off with little thought. Upon second viewing, the plot was still unengaging and the characters were still emotionally flat, but I had a certain appreciation of how unusually empty the world was. Unlike most anime, Pale Cocoon did not portray the post-apocalyptic future as a dystopia, full of hatred, despair and wanton violence. It showed a world where people had effectively given up – where dreams met up with reality and then shriveled up and died.

The 23 minute OVA is not as depressing as it is devoid of emotion. The protagonst Ura has not lost his enthusiasm for his work unlike his colleagues, but he does not bring hope or enthusiasm with him. For him, uncovering the knowledge of the archives is an obsession. He is a perfectly functional human being with a job and a girlfriend, but he has found his own meaning in something society has realized is worthless. Ura is not a character one can really cheer for; what redeems him is the fact that he is the right character for the slow paced, highly restrained atmosphere of Pale Cocoon.

There have been people who have compared this work to those of Shinkai Makoto. Though I believe such comparisons are largely exaggerated, I admit that there is a certain brilliance behind what we see given the OVAs highly limited format. To visually represent the world, director Yoshiura Yasuhiro paints the barren setting in large strokes of gray and black with bright computer monitors being the only real source of light. Much of everything in the background looks photorealistic and what very little character animation that exists looks quite good. Also, the music is fairly understated until the very end and works with the visuals.

If you are wondering what you can get out of the experience. I’ll provide the short answer and say “almost nothing.” The anime is not entertaining, emotionally impacting or intellectually enlightening, but it is a glance into a well thought out narrative featuring obsession unmarked by any common stereotypes. The protagonist pursues his obsession, and the OVA makes no mention of whether this choice was good or not. Was what Ura found worth everything he lost? There is a certain beauty to his ambition as well as his sense of emptiness. So long as you can accept this, Pale Cocoon will be a worthwhile experience.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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