Most people will find it hard not to compare this 20 minute OVA to Voices of a Distant Star; indeed, in many ways Pale Cocoon is the spiritual successor to the landmark 2002 anime. Each of them has absolutely stunning CGI and an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. Even more significantly, both use science fiction motifs to tell extremely melancholic tales that leave me dazed and breathless every time I watch them.
Up to now, I had always believed that Voices was a one time good deal – a unique and beautiful miracle that could never be replicated. No other anime could fit such a touching story into such a short running time; no other anime could break hearts with characters it had only just introduced. After seeing Pale Cocoon, however, I’m not so sure. While the OVA lacks Hoshi no Koe’s sheer unbridled emotional impact, Pale Cocoon is a much more complex and thought-provoking work.
Many will take in the post apocalyptic world, the futuristic setting and the old newspaper clippings of human folly and assume that the OVA is another entry in a long line of cautionary environmentalist tales. This is not the case; rather, the movie presents us with a fascinating question practically untouched by any anime that I have seen.
Unfortunately, succinctly stating this question is difficult to do, as the very uniqueness of the OVA’s message eludes simple generalization. Allow me to say, however, that the OVA looks with a sad eye on humanity’s imperfection. It considers the shortsightedness and greed that so very often override our rationality, and then reflects upon our unwillingness to examine and understand our own ugliest mistakes. Then, at the end, the anime suggests that this depressing and “useless” knowledge of our own flawed heritage may be the most important knowledge of all. What’s most impressive is that the anime is able to do all of this and more in the time that most anime would take to come up with one coherent thought (i.e friends are precious, durr).
Because of the show’s brevity, it doesnt have the time to actually tell us how awful the world has become. This is where the animation comes in. From the understated character designs to their dismal metallic surroundings, the visuals work brilliantly at conveying just how far humanity has fallen into their “pale cocoon.” A fair bit of CGI is employed to help reinforce the artificial setting, but it never gets in the way and is unquestionably excellent whenever it is used.
The visuals are in turn complemented by the sound, which is used well in its own minimalist way. For the most part, the sound is dominated by computer noise intermixed with quiet, introspective dialogue. This doesn’t make for a particularly flashy OST, but it further reinforces the lonely mood that the director is going for. The generally quiet OST also leads well into the show’s climax, when a top-notch J-pop song blindsides you out of nowhere.
…but what about the characters, you ask? Well, what about them? If you ask various people what they thought of the characters in Hoshi no Koe, you’re bound to get a myriad of different answers. Surely, there’s none of the traditional development that you’ll find in lengthier titles, but a surprisingly large portion identify with Voices’s two characters anyway. The same will probably hold true for Pale Cocoon; the characters are effective not for what you know about them, but for the very ideas they represent. When the protagonist of Pale Cocoon secretly copies an old picture of Earth into a special folder on his personal computer, we all copy it with him.
Overall, this is a class act in every respect, and I’d recommend it to just about every fan of science fiction. The amazing power of Hoshi no Koe and now this proves, I suppose, the validity of isolated anime short films. Consider the turbulent, roiling waves of the ocean to a single, isolated tear drop; in many cases, perfection is only found in the small things.
The main story seems to be a classic; humanity's irresponsible actions (enviromentally-wise in this case) bring an end to the world as we know it. In the future, people are trying to recover archives of the past world, although this way they are forced to come face to face with humanity's mistakes and fate. An attempt to be atmospheric almost succeeds, yet there is too little information given and at times it seems that the artists didn't even look at what they were drawing. It is dissapointing that even though the idea is great, the anime itself is a waste of time.
Pale Cocoon is a melancholic and interesting piece that is more work of art than anything else. At the start, you may think it is yet another one of those short and preachy "save the environment" type shows. The dark themes, in animation, sound, writing, and characters pervade everything. And then the ending twists everything into a different perspective and elevates this short work into being truly memorable and with a powerful impact.
The animation is so dark and depressing, to fit with characters that are on the border of losing the will to live. The sound is dominated by the voices and ambient noise, with one song to steal the show at the end. And the story, while simplistic, is thoughtfully executed and manages to have a large impact. For only twenty three minutes, we get hints of romance, family, happiness amidst a crumbling world, despair, and finally hope. This is all done by everything clicking together in order to give us one vision, one slice of a world in all its ugliness and beauty.
Science fiction is hard to execute, and is doubly demanding when in short story format. Science fiction is about creating a world and breathing life into it, and in twenty three minutes, Pale Cocoon manages a smashing success at that. Breaking it down to the elements that make it work is silly. What really matters is that in a short period of time, there is immense impact, and a ride that manages to convey both darkness and wonder, through the eyes of people who want to dream in a reality where dreams have no chance of fruition.
I cannot help but highly recommend Pale Cocoon to anyone who even remotely likes science fiction. At twenty three minutes, it will be a waste of no one's time. But if, like me, you are looking for a short work of art that can really move you, this very well may be something you will want to remember.
The story is slow but it feels like it could happen in our time. They talk of how the world has lost its history because of something devastating and they have to piece threw the small ruminates of the archives in order to learn of the past. In the first part, we are introduced to the man male character and what his job is slowly, though it is still a lot of mystery. It made me want to know more.
The artwork is actually pretty nice, mixing 3D with the drawings well. Sometimes you can’t even tell that there is 3D. The artwork is dark, gray, and rather cold feeling. There really isn’t much to talk about other then that.
The music keeps its strange, slow, sad feeling al the way threw. There is one song that I would so want to have on my player. I won’t tell you what one but you will know once you hear it. There really isn’t much to say about it as well. It’s one of those shows that you have to watch to talk about. I would actually that anyone should watch this.
Sparsely plotted and atmospheric, Pale Cocoon tries to make the most of its short running time by avoiding the pitfall of a drawn out character history. Instead, it focuses on provide its audience with lush - if at times monochrome - visuals, and an engaging, if trivial, mystery. Refreshingly, although the world is described as a 'dystopia,' there are no cruel government agencies or propaganda, which makes the world of Pale Cocoon a little different, and all the better for it, as those tropes can often feel a little played out.
My main complaint with Pale Cocoon lies in its short running time. While the atmosphere it creates is engaging, and the characters possibly interesting, there is not enough time to explore them fully, and an oddly placed pop song really saps time that could have been better spent. If it was expanded even to three episodes to allow the viewer to really engage with the protagonist, and explore his relationship to other characters more fully, the show would score a lot higher for me. Instead, it comes off feeling like one of those OVAs that some first-time writer produces after getting their first break, only to find they're obliged to shoehorn in some Idol's song and chop up their story to suit the studio. Potential wasted, but still worth the short time it will take you to watch it.