Reviewby Luke Carroll,
Dennou Coil - Part 1
Imagine if the internet was 'projected' over the living world and you interacted with it using a portable device - glasses and visors which connect you to an augmented reality. In 2026, this technology becomes reality...
Yuko Okonogi moves with her family to Daikoku, home of an ever expanding tech network which makes up the interactive virtual world. Her grandmother runs an agency to investigate missing children who appear to have vanished from the 'real' world and entered the city's Dennou - literally meaning "electric brain" - a term used to differentiate between the virtual and 'real'.
A hacker culture is emerging amongst the children of the city. Yasako is soon introduced to Isako, whose powers for hunting computer viruses known as 'illegals' belie an agenda that might have sinister motives.
Written and directed by Mitsuo Iso - key animator on some of the most highly regarded anime of the last 20 years; including Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL, Perfect Blue, Ghost in the Shell and Porco Rosso. Dennou Coil is a critically acclaimed sci-fi action-drama which deals with the distance between people and technology.
Like a small quiet boy always missing out on being picked for lunchtime sports, Dennou Coil has spent a considerable time on the sidelines waiting to be licensed. Some might say its genre and story is too much of a niche to risk, others might just put it down to simply being overlooked or put aside in preference of bigger titles. Whatever the case, Siren Visual has (no doubt to the joy of a small army of fans) the pleasure of bringing this almost lost series to our shores. And like the small quiet boy that never gets picked to play, Dennou Coil secretly packs quite a pleasurable punch that will have you wondering why this series never got out here a lot earlier.
Set in the year 2026, the world of Dennou Coil is much like our current one, cars don't fly, people don't live on the moon and society still relies on manual labour for much of its progression. Technology in this world however has progressed forward to the point where many facilities and numerous infrastructures rely on programs to run their everyday tasks. It's very reminiscent to the world set up in Summer Wars, albeit one major difference — augmented reality has transgressed past gimmicky entertainment to become one of the most useful and important tools in society.
The way this is done is not entirely out of believability either. A virtual carbon copy of the world has been generated, by which wearers of a set of special internet connected glasses can see and interact with. By design, this virtual world is constantly on the mend as objects and areas of the real world change. It also isn't bug free, with viruses and glitches manifesting themselves in life-like forms, as old and new versions of the virtual world try to coincide together. To counter these issues, smiley faced anti-virus programs nicknamed Sacchi constantly search out and destroy any and all anomalies.
Their job however isn't made any easier by the many hackers and curious kids constantly trying to mess around and exploit the system for their own gain and amusement. We start to learn though that some of these children have other more personal and emotional reasons for toying with the virtual world, something the series begins to touch upon towards the end of these first 13 episodes. For the most part though, these episodes act like a small piece of a puzzle and as we follow young Yuko Okonogi and her entourage of family, friends, and virtual pets, we slowly get to see how each piece begins to fit together, and how close the real and the virtual world have actually become.
Directed by experienced key animator Mitsuo Iso and backed by the animation wizards at Madhouse, Dennou Coil is certainly a wonderful treat to watch. Utilising a less than colourful palette, the series evokes a more simple and natural feel. Don't think for a second though that the series lacks any detail as a result of this. The cast are wonderfully animated and the background art — especially the town — looks just as great. Even the usual jarring CGI is almost nowhere to be found, although the Sacchi's do sometimes look a little odd. Overall though Dennou Coil is very much like an all-rounder in cricket; not the best in any department, but certainly good in all of them.
The series also takes this approach with its audio. Appropriate background tunes chime in during action and flashback scenes, but are used sparingly in between. With a bigger emphasis on characters and their conversations, it's understandable. The opening theme "Prism" by Ayako Ikeda is a wonderful tune made even greater by its animation sequence, whilst the ending theme "Sora no Kakera" by Ayako Ikeda once again, is a bit slower in pace and probably the least enjoyable of the two. As with a few of Siren Visual's releases, Dennou Coil is Japanese only, however please don't let that detract you from giving it a go.
On the extras side of things, Dennou Coil features only the bare necessities of items. Included is the clean opening and closing clips, as well as three trailers for other titles in Siren's collection. Thankfully it would appear Part 2 contains an additional disc for extras that will hopefully make up for it all.
Over the course of these 13 episodes, Dennou Coil has laid out a lot of questions over the virtual system and how the cast all ties to it. The later episodes in particular have added another layer altogether when a sub plot suddenly gains momentum. How it plans to tackle these remains to be seen, however one can only hope the series doesn't go the way of many others and try to rush it all in a final flurry of ridiculous answers. It might take a while to get yourself into Dennou Coil, but once it grabs you, you'll find it hard to resist.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : A-
Animation : A
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Wonderful story, hard to stop watching once you start.
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