This review is an old review transferred from another site I posted it in. I have tweaked it a little to fit more in the context of this site. So if you think you have seen this review before, it's possible, though unlikely since it didn't get that many views.
Anime Review: Dennou Coil
Sci-fi has always been close to my heart, but sci-fi animes have not really given me any kind of deep impact. Most of them are just silly excuses to have mechas or robot maids in them, both which cause me a lot of headache (namely for banging my head on the wall). Dennou Coil is different however. It's one of the few sci-fi animes that really delivers a totally plausible futuristic vision that has nothing to do with futuristic weaponry or robots.
The entire setting in Dennou Coil is mind blowing. It's also very confusing, so I'll try to explain it to the best of my knowledge. Basically, all around us exists a virtual reality that is made to resemble reality so much that it's indistinguishable from the real world. So what's the point then? Well, practically anyone can buy a pair of glasses that allows you to see this virtual reality. Also, one can go and buy virtual pets and other virtual programs and see them with your glasses as if they were real things. Think of it as Matrix that you can see with your glasses. Actually, Matrix was the first thing that came to mind, when I started watching this anime, so if you liked the setting in Matrix, you'll probably like the setting in Dennou Coil as well. Unless you don't like glasses.
This setting probably has endless possibilities, which is one of the most interesting aspects of this anime. You don't really know what to expect. Sometimes Dennou Coil is a fast paced action anime, with hacked virtual weaponry used for fighting, but mostly it is an slow paced anime that concentrates on exploring its setting and storyline. Sudden changes from dead serious to hilarious and just plain weird are also very common and events where mysterious black creatures, called illegals, appear are somewhat suspenseful. So the genre goes between action, drama and horror with comedy smacked in the middle of it. Quite a stew.
The storyline itself could have been better when considering all the possibilities that this setting would bring, but its good enough to follow. Basically, the main character Yasako just moves into the big town and for the first time sees the virtual world and its programs. Although she has had her virtual glasses for awhile (due to the fact that she was given a virtual dog as a gift), she is a complete noob in everything else that you can see with the glasses. When her dog suddenly goes missing, she has to ask the help of a "professional" virtual pet detective, a kid called Fumie, to help find it. Then all normality is thrown out of the window as Fumie shows her just what you can do with this virtual reality if you have the hacks for it. There exists a deeper, more mysterious storyline that starts to unravel as they battle against antivirus softwares and illegals. Although I think the story is kind of silly, but as it is kept a mystery to the very end, its very intriguing to follow. Guess even a bad story can be interesting if it's told nicely. Thank god it wasn't about aliens though.
The characters in Dennou Coil are not really interesting (most of them are actually annoying), but still they seem to fit the atmosphere of the anime. The main character, Yasako is like the embodiment of the viewer. Most of the time she is very confused about everything and I think her most used term is "What the heck is going on". Just so you don't have to say it. Her little sister is the exact opposite of her, as she seems oblivious to all the "dangers" of the virtual world and think of everything as a big game (like any sane person would do). However, she also happens to be the most annoying character of the whole anime, as her sane rationality is replaced with the illogical mind of a two year old. With the last hope of sanity placed on the shoulders of a kid still in diapers, the logical part of the anime was obviously left in the trash bin. Oh goodie.
With its setting and its huge potential, this anime is not without issues. There are a lot of things that I just can't understand. Like the fact that when they are fighting against the whatnot, why don't they just turn off their glasses. Its not like you are hooked to the VR world like in the Matrix, so you should be able to escape that world whenever you want. I can sort of understand the fact that illegals can take your mind away and leave only the empty shell, if you choose to let them (or fall asleep with your glasses on). But, its very hard to care for their survival, if they are stupid enough not to turn their glasses off in the face of danger. But again, the events are told in a way that this virtual reality is like reality to everyone, so if the viewer also considers the events real to them, it makes more sense. But still, the lingering thought remains, what is REALLY going on.
As I watched this anime further and further, I became interested if the application of this kind of virtual reality is actually possible. So I dug up some information about it and boy, was I shocked about what I discovered. Such application does actually exists on a minor scale, namely as a full virtual reality game based on Quake, called ARQuake. In this game you walk around in real outdoor areas wearing special glasses that draw your HUD and enemies, which you then shoot with your gun. It uses GPS to draw your "game world" and the player himself carries a laptop on his back. Based on what I read, the game was never made to the public, but only remained as a prototype. Still, knowing that gaming technology has reached this far is interesting when considering the future. Maybe soon we can see people enter the local store and clear it of all the virtual zombies inside before they can buy their groceries. The new age of virtual gaming may be right around the corner without us even knowing it.
Anyway, back to the anime. As I said earlier, the storyline could have been better, but its still good enough to watch. The setting itself is the main focus of this anime and should be viewed with that thought in mind. One should not expect awe-inspiring scenes, nor a heartwarming storyline when viewing this anime. But give it a chance and it will surprise you, guaranteed. I will recommend this anime to those who like to go deep into the experience of the anime and for those who like mysteries. Also, true sci-fi fans should have a look at Dennou Coil as well. Action and plot seekers should look elsewhere.