Den-noh Coil

Alt title: Dennou Coil

TV (26 eps)
3.935 out of 5 from 5,136 votes
Rank #1,257

In a futuristic world, the virtual world is merely a layer on top of reality; within it, cyberpets are abundant and information is plentiful, and it is only visible by wearing special cyberglasses. In Daikoku City, this cyberspace is behaving strangely: cyberpets are going missing, dark entities known as "the Illegal" roam obsolete space that shouldn’t exist, and a large pink antivirus program known as Satchii wanders the streets, attacking both virus and pets alike. Sixth grader Yuko Okonogi has just moved to Daikoku City, and after cyberdetective children help her rescue her lost dog, she soon joins the others in a search for the truth behind these strange occurances.

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StoryThere is a lot that could be said about the sheer brilliance of Denno Coil’s setting. The series makes heavy use of “augmented reality” and presents a world where the line between the cyber-world and reality is blurred to the point of being indistinguishable. Anyone who has seen Serial Experiments Lain can tell you that this is far from new, but by having its characters use cyber-glasses for almost the entire show, Dennou Coil presents its world in a way that Lain (who had its characters plug in to a computer) could not. Dennou Coil’s “hackers” aren’t content to merely sit at a computer and type furiously; they literally throw their code at people, and dive for cover when they're attacked themselves. For the first few episodes, at least, the idea feels fresh and new. Sadly, Dennou Coil is far from perfect. Its biggest flaw, bar none, is an unhealthy fascination with the world it has created. In the episodes leading up to the ending, this is especially apparent. Characters drone on and on about their metatags and their obsolete spaces and their kirabugs and their cyberspace equipment and it's like something out of a Xerox manual. Annoyingly, the story is one of the biggest violations of the "show, don't tell" rule that I can think of in recent memory. Usually anime shows are guilty of not explaining enough, but here they explain and explain and explain until you wish they'd just shut up and talk about baseball or something. The standalone episodes that occur midway through the show are another annoying fault. After the writers set up the initial storyline and pique your interest, the show makes the bizarre choice of putting the main storyline on hold for about ten episodes. The standalone episodes aren't blatant filler, but the break in the narrative almost ruins the show by itself. As the novelty of Dennou’s world slowly wears off, ignoring the shallow characters, the uneven narrative and the overload of jargon becomes more and more difficult. By the time I hit episode 20, my interest had flagged to the point where I continued watching more to finish it than for actual entertainment. Despite being wonderfully creative and innovative at the beginning, Dennou Coil becomes downright tedious.AnimationThe character designs are all fairly unremarkable, and the down-to-earth backgrounds, while technically excellent in detail, don’t really stand out. Rather, the “virtual” parts added on by the cybernetic glasses are what make the animation shine. While they’re not exactly eye-candy, they’re innovative and cool enough to still make the animation a major strength of the show. A perfect example can be described as nothing other than what happens when a corrupt divx file starts artifacting (the first time, I literally thought something was wrong with my episode). The effect is used to show that something in the cyber world is glitching, and works wonderfully to remind us that the more fantastic visuals are actually images created by the glasses that the characters are wearing. Little touches like this make the cybernetic world feel like an immersive and cohesive mini-universe.SoundThere are a lot of children in the series, and consequently some of the voice actors suffer noticeably from Whiny Brat Syndrome. No one seiyuu is excessively obnoxious, but the voice-acting is bad enough to bring down the quality of the work as a whole. Music is unmemorable, but works fine at setting the mood for the show.CharactersUnfortunately, the anime focuses far too much on its setting and far too little on its characters. In essence, for a large majority of the show the characters are nothing more than tools used to talk about and interact with the anime's setting. Because of this, all of the characters (especially the mild-mannered protagonist) feel extremely shallow. While this problem is somewhat rectified by the ending, for the majority of the show you're forced to spend time with characters that you don't really know or like. As a result, Dennou Coil painfully illustrates an important point: world building, while nice, is no replacement for characterization. You can play chess on a pretty sparse board, but if you can't tell a pawn from a rook then you're out of luck.OverallIn spite of Dennou Coil’s numerous flaws, it's hard to completely dismiss the excellent premise. The beginning episodes (when the world is still fresh and hasn't been explained to death) are excellent, and while the standalone episodes do interrupt the flow of the story, some of them are clever enough to be entertaining in their own right. Throw in the nice ending and I might actually end up recommending the show to fans of cyberpunk. Still, this definitely isn't a show for everyone, and to me, at least, the flaws outweighed the strengths.


INTRO [Kira-bugs! Got to catch ‘em all!] Dennou Coil is one of the best family oriented action series I know of. Although it is aimed at a younger audience it also has a lot of attention in its writing, visuals, and storytelling, easily elevating it to something far more than a proxy battle anime. What sticks out the most is its great presentation of augmented reality. You know, like in Pokemon GO where the world around you is full of digital creatures you can only see and interact with by using a device. It does that here, plus it gives the players the motivation to look around for resources they have to gather so they can cash them in for digital currency and with it buy all sorts of weaponry. It’s not a throwaway gimmick, it builds an entire world around it and explores it in numerous ways, especially with the pocket worlds called Obsolete Spaces that resemble ghost towns made of two-dimensional buildings. They even bothered to include glitches and errors in the program for more realism in the unreal. It even becomes philosophical and existential at times, giving it a layer of depth you would normally not expect in such a type of a show. It’s never something nearly as heavy as the stuff you will find in Ghost in the Shell or Serial Experiments Lain since it’s overall light-hearted and optimistic in tone. But it’s also not like K-On where there is no actual conflict and nobody has to struggle for achieving something. VISUALS [According to a rumor on the net Miss Michico will get you!] Despite its age it also holds up in terms of animation and visuals by having very detailed body language and facial expressions, like they used actual actors to do the motions and then drew over them, plus very creative skirmishes when it comes to action. The setting in general feels very lively, despite being a village out in the boonies. The normal world is very detailed and the ethereal details that are added to it through augmented reality make it fun to look at and explore. PLOT [So put your grasses on, nothing will be wong] With that said it’s also a niche series since it doesn’t have the usual stuff that attracts most casual fans. Unless you really like science fiction, you won’t be drawn in by its simple and semi-episodic plot. Also although it has a lot of action it is never epic in scale, as is in Digimon or Yugioh. It’s not about saving the world from complete destruction; it’s more about simple skirmishes amongst children which almost never cause any actual damage or injury because everything happens in an augmented reality. That means for anyone not wearing those sci-fi glasses it comes off as elaborate LARPING. It is very important for the kids since it can damage their expensive glasses, but for the rest it’s make-belief and doesn’t actually affect the real world. Until it does in the second half of the series, when rogue AIs cause actual problems in the electronic systems. That is actually the worst part in the whole show. The plot starts as a silly scenario about kids playing with fake guns while hunted by a huge toy. Then it gets somewhat deep with stories around AI programs causing all sorts of trouble and making the kids ponder about serious issues. And then it gets dark with a murder mystery, people falling into comas by a cyber ghost’s curse, and an avenging youth out to deal with a cover-up made by a mega-corporation. It sounds like a cool escalation, from a silly slice of life to a weird combo of .hack//SIGN and Sword Art Online but the atmosphere doesn’t change much, it remains light-hearted, and most of the weird dark web stuff come down to obscure metaphysics that don’t have a plausible explanation, which is not like the explanations you were getting in the earlier parts. Basically the final arc will not be as thriller-ish as it should be and it won’t be that down to earth or even realistic compared to the rest of the show. It can be off-putting if you were in it for the silly kids LAPRING over digital peanuts, and not for the sinister megacorporation conspiracy that covers up crimes with bizarre metaphysics. A nice touch is the parents who actually notice something is off and eventually try to stop their kids from dealing with a game that becomes progressively more illegal and dangerous. How many shows bother to have parents, and how many of those shows with parents actually prevent the children from doing dangerous things? The main reason parents usually don’t exist or the kids are orphans is for allowing young children to do all sorts of ridiculous things that would normally be stopped by the adults. You have to appreciate the show for touching a subject almost any other anime sweeps under the rug. CAST [Boku Satchi!] The most average part of the show is its human characters, basically stock character archetypes of children. The lively one, the timid one, the brass one, and so on. Like in most such shows, they get fleshed out through their interactions rather their very short pasts or goals in life. It can be an issue for many who prefer characters being interesting from the very beginning because of something in their past or a certain superpower they have. You also need some tolerance with middle-aged women voicing 10 year-old boys. The support cast on the other hand, the cyber-creatures, are awesome! From cats that play ROCK-PAPER-SCISSORS with their ears to cyber-cops in the form of huge smiling toys, they are all very memorable and creative in the way they behave. Unfortunately most will just notice they are not firing energy blasts or have 52 evolution stages each and will not bother much with them. CONCLUSION [Cash in your rare Meta-bugs for powerful Meta-tags.] As a whole Dennou Coil is definitely standing out and I do recommend it, even when I know it can’t be unappreciated by most since it wasn’t trying to be too much of a single genre thus it has a hard time attracting any specific audience. It doesn’t have a lot of action for shonentards and it’s too smart for little children to follow properly. Most casuals who want a lot of action or plenty of character interactions instead of theme exploration or good directing can’t appreciate such a show, because they are not actually watching anime for the artistry and prefer easily digestible mainstream stuff. It’s why Dennou Coil went completely unnoticed during its initial airing and is considered a failure in terms of marketing. On the other hand a pile of shit like Fairy Tail is considered a major success because it made a lot of money despite having horrible writing and relying heavily on fan service.

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