My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from Coppelion, which aired during the Autumn 2013 anime season.
Everything is by and large as it was when I originally wrote them in the Hangers category when the show was airing. They have been sewn together and provided for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click through numerous pages.
Coppelion (Episode 1 and 2)
I hemmed and hawed a lot about if I wanted to pick up this series. There was a period of several weeks though where I did some work and lived in the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Zone though. So I finally decided I would just pull the trigger on this one. It should make for an interesting commentary post when all is said and done, at the very least.
Since the first and second episodes are really just dealing with character intros: We have our girl who eats a lot, the quieter animal loving one in glasses, and the edgier “Screw the rules, we’re doing this thing” leader. That’s fine for now, and the wasteland is otherwise rather desolate even with the Rescue The Child mission, so leaning on the more headliner parts of their characters is a fine enough way to keep something happening in the short term. I just hope it’s not all it has in the tank, as at the moment the writing is rather bland. Girl Who Eats A Lot could run into some problems for instance, given that I’m sure all those nice foods and packed picnics can’t last forever, and that could be an aspect to smack around.
I feel it’s terribly over stylized though, which more than knew going in and I doubly know sounds patently ludicrous in the same post I’m talking about Kill la Kill. But it’s a colossal difference in execution.
Instagram style filters are everywhere, it’s got shaky-cam, hue and saturation level settings are all over the place, character outlines go in and out of thickness, but I’m not really sold on any of its aesthetic yet. This is the kind of modern Hollywood highly digitally processed look that generally appears “better” in motion rather than when it’s sitting still. It’s a shame, as I think the backgrounds would be lovely and just fine without all the extra layers; they look otherwise spot on.
The differences and perceived inconsistencies in character reactions to the whole “human doll” thing between just these two episodes was rather jarring. It seemed to be a bit of a sticking and sensitive sore point for the cast when there was a whole “Would a puppet enjoy eating a riceball so much?” exchange in the initial episode, and then Aoi goes off exuberantly talking about french comic ballet history and then owning the concept as a representation of their nature.
I never read the original manga, but based on what others have been saying it looks like the show has been plowing through chapters? So the show is rushing towards something, and some of that characterization may have gotten bulldozed in the process.
Which is… odd, since Coppélia and its themes seems so important to Coppelion’s objective that the whole story is named after it.
Given that the trailers had car chases and a giant robot spider, I’m sure things are afoot. I just hope to eventually be more invested in the characters, if they really want to push this “puppet” thing regarding the true nature of the girls as hard as they are implying.
Coppelion (Episode 3)
Of the shows I am following, this is the one I dread the most each week. I watch it more out of a sense of obligation than anything else. I think I’ll be able to make an interesting discussion out of it and nuclear fallout by the end.
That said though, the writing in this show irks me. Statements like “Are they also a death row inmate like you?” are the sort of blunt expository dialogue that isn’t so much weaving me into the world as it is just telling me things. While stylistically there are swell ways and reasons for repeating a word or phase multiple time for effect, there is only so many times you can get away with saying “Monster Crow” in the span of a few minutes when referring to a stealth bomber without sounding really bothersome. And I don’t think that is a translation issue, as the consistency of how much such things are occurring is that this is a structural condition of the show itself. Which is a shame, as it clearly wants to have Highly Drama Scenes, but it doesn’t have the characterization and scripting to really get me invested in what’s going on. It’s just set pieces being executed. The show itself feels like an awkward puppet show. Which, despite the thematic links to Coppélia, I don’t think was the point.
Coppelion (Episode 4)
Oh, hello Coppelion. It is like you are here on queue.
Transcribing what happened in this episode is… difficult. We have more Very Dramatic Moments, most extravagantly showcased in the countdown timer surrounding the Professor.
Except the timer starts at under nine minutes, and skips whole chucks of it in extremely large places.
Suddenly it is under five minutes, four minutes, one minute, mere seconds, but without any of the actual timing to go along with it. Its so plainly manipulative that I can not bring myself to care.
If a television show wants to use a clock as a very direct means of enhancing and threatening a looming dramatic event, I think there is a very solid place for that. But the manner in which Coppelion continues to just desire to have Very Dramatic Moments without any care in the world at desiring to build them up in any way means they fall entirely flat. It just wants to race to the next Big Scene, because it figures if it throws enough in there, maybe one of them will actually stick and have a semblance of meaning.
Except the longer this show goes on, the larger my Teflon shield grows.
Coppelion (Episode 5)
The nice thing about Coppelion is that it airs on a Wednesday, where I have the shortest turn around time between watching it, processing what I saw, and thinking about what I might write about it for this post.
I’m actually also at the point where I need to take a few notes during it, or I would outright forget what happened.
We have more buckets of exposition dialogue, agency names and industrial partners, with the realization that after all the previous episodes (saving missing a kid, the Professor, etc) we are running out of ways to Raise The Dramatic Stakes. So we are thrown an overturned truck with a man who has a daughter in the back who is also pregnant, that way she can serve double duty and buy more time until the writing team figures out their next stunt.
To that end, our Highly Trained Coppelion unit… doesn’t really do anything we haven’t already seen before. Aoi yells a lot, Taeko remains the Quiet Girl by virtue of being shot, and Ibara gets to say leadership type things into the radio essentially by default. Her handgun remains an eternal Get Out Of Jail Free card by it now having the ability to shoot smoke grenade and remote detonated explosive mines in addition to its previous capabilities.
The “dolls” aspect of things comes up in conversation again, but I can not take an ounce of it with any of the weight they would like because there is not yet a single remotely human character in this production. The Prime Minister is a ludicrous caricature who will wear a gas mask but no other protective gear, and scream about how important they are while throwing a big old temper tantrum demanding our team of high school girls now needs to eliminate a highly trained military division. But I just don’t care about what is going on with either end of the conversation, because the production is so aggressive with telling rather than showing that they’re just cardboard cutouts flittering in the wind.
The Vice Principal’s emergency call to bring in the Cleanup Crew, which seems to consist of male student/s from the program that engineered our girls, will probably bring some sort of weird romantic drama. Which is probably the least likely set of affairs this show is equipped to handle.
Coppelion (Episode 6)
All things considered, we have had a surprisingly little in the way of genuine explosions so far in Coppelion. This week aimed to fix some of that while at the same time trying to ensure we get our continued dose of heavy handed Humans Suck speeches.
Aoi’s exaggerated shenanigans get her kidnapped by the renegade military members, which makes up the bulk of the episode operations. We link up with the member of the Cleanup Crew sent by the Vice Principal, who supplies a penchant for firepower while also giving grand statements on rooftops about why one can only see the stars in the night sky in places as devoid of people as the disaster zone.
Dialogue proceeds as usual, going along the lines of “These men do not fear death!” while never really giving us any reason to buy into that as a statement beforehand. The show functions like a really excited creative writing class student who wants to tell us all about how Totally Hardcore Awesome something is, and then only tries to cobble together the parts for that after the fact when the peer reviews come in and nobody seemed to have “got” it due to how front loaded everything is.
Given the way the writing in this show works, I really don’t feel anything towards the danger or set of injuries Ibara has acquired by the end of the episode. The plot armor of this team is made of borderline diamonds, so she will be just fine. I literally do not believe any attempt by this show when it tries to tell me otherwise.
Coppelion (Episode 7)
My computer actually crashed twice trying to watch this episode. It’s a very occasional problem it has with Hulu advertisements every now and again, where they force my CPU to 100%.
I like to think it was my machine rebelling against this show.
Aoi frets a bunch about how useless she has actually been, which is at least nice to see her recognize it. By locking herself in storage while everyone else heads out to try and deliver a baby, I’m sure she’ll have to come in to Save The Day soon.
On a similar medical note, Taeko waking from the oxygen sleep tank she’s been confined to for some time now and then immediately told she is needed to perform surgery on Ibara because That Is A Skill She Studied We Did Not Tell You About was pretty much par for the course. We don’t even get a surgery scene or any kind of tension of if it wouldn’t pull through. Just, pop, there we go, all better now. Here’s some exposition about how Coppelion blood transfusions work, which requires the recipient to be of the same year as the donor.
By the same token, Haruto’s gun containing a neurotoxin bullet that kills in five seconds without a follow-up antidote shot (naturally fired at the under one second mark) is also pretty much unsurprising in its use and how much of a lead brick this program feels like.
Coppelion (Episode 8)
Well Thanksgiving is in a week, so we may as well start breaking out more of the other members of the Coppelion project family.
That one of them has superhuman strength capable of hurling multigallon drums of waste and smashing support beams with their bare hand doesn’t really bother me. That her sister has been genetically spliced with electric eel DNA and thus can shoot energy beams is not really throwing me off my rocker either.
We are already rather far gone as it is.
As if acknowledging there is a dire level of material we really have available to work with and the consistent issues the writing team has with feeding exposition over staging actual scenes, this episode has a measurable uptick in the amount of fanservice on offer. Butt shots, crotch cameras, and the like are far more prominent and engineering their display to the viewer becomes the primary blocking of multiple scenes. It is though the production team has come to terms that this may be one of the only options left in the tank for them, as the show has thoroughly imploded in its attempts at drama, intrigue, or sociopolitical commentary.
On top of this, while this show has never really been particularly well animated, a number of clear shortcuts were taken this week when it came to physically moving folks around on the screen. Proportions are all over the place and there was a time when the Ozu sisters were laughing where I had to rewind and check to see that, indeed, it was two frames being swapped back and forth very quickly.
I think if Coppellion kept the backgrounds and some various incidental animations (smoke, etc), and just had the dialogue play over it like some kind of sound novel with pictures, it probably would be functioning better as a program.
Coppelion (Episode 9)
The editing in this show has always been a mess, but it felt significantly more jarring this time around. I feel we had at least two or three episodes worth of events cramed down into twenty minutes.
Even in the first two, we smash cut from Haruto outside, back to the Planet, then traveling outside, a wind event, chatting outside about the need to fly, and then back at the Planet planning for a two group split up. My sense of geography was being tossed all over the place.
Likewise, the show continues to not understand there is extreme benefit in actually holding on to your cards before you play them. Ibara mentions the Ozu sisters will wake up soon? Immediate jump cut to them doing so. Taeko breaking down crying and having something resembling a character moment regarding the delivery and handling of childbirth procedures? Boom, zip, resolved.
Sure these are things that were going to happen anyway, but it helps so very much to give them room to breathe and to keep the audience wondering when. Of course granny was going to call in to assist Taeko, but at least give the poor girl a moment in the show to get to sell the actual weight behind how she feels. Otherwise it’s like I’m watching an abridged version of a much longer show, all of the highlight reels but none of the space or smaller content to really make them worth anything.
On the extremely rare plus side, our consistently sentimental robotic butler No-Sense gets the full Mad Max treatment with battle armor and high caliber weaponry. He has been the best actual character in this show, so it is nice that he won’t just be left behind.
Coppelion (Episode 10)
Slow speed chases on the shallow seas via foot peddle swan boats and chibi characters on maps when explaining escape and rescue attempts.
Honestly, if Coppelion just went full on and actually embraced itself as a comedy rather than anything resembling an actual drama, we would all benefit.
No-Sense continues to be the best character in this whole production, with (comparatively speaking) the most understandable reactions and something resembling an actual arc to go with their purple prose dialogue. They have effectively paired the robot butler up with Aoi in what I can only imagine will turn into some kind of emotional scenario, and thus causing them to share lots of screen time together. And I still would more than accept that so No-Sense can give their opinions and reactions than I would tracking most of anyone else. I just want someone to drop a “Can love bloom on the battlefield?” line.
Aoi can also fly now, which is a routine enough ability I’m actually shocked we hadn’t seen it already given our forays into spliced electric eel DNA. Even as a dormant stress triggered ability, one would think would be something that she might have actualized when she was captured by the 1st Division way back when. Times were different then, I suppose. The times before she came to truly know No-Sense.
I had mentioned closer to the start of this series that it took all the worse kinds of lessons from the Hollywood lessons of digital effects shenanigans, and this virus seems to have played true in the trailer as well: they showed us what effectively seems to be the finale in the advertising, as the giant robot Wild Wild West spider at long last makes its arrival with few episodes to spare.
So that’s anticlimactic.
Coppelion (episode 11)
With how much The Wind is the enemy in this series, you’d think we were watching a television length reimagining of aspects from The Happening.
The Iron Spider sure wasn’t much of an opponent, at any rate.
For how much that giant mechanical hulk of metal was shown running around in the trailers, you would think the team was going to get more use of it than about half an episode. But, again, this is in keeping with the whole overblown and worst possible lessons from modern Hollywood this series has been so enamoured with, where you show a potentially exciting bit in the advertising that is actually from near the end of the piece that is far less interesting. Like many an overblown secret weapon then, it basically comes down to a video game miniboss battle of “Go for the weak point. Weak point closed? Go for another weak point to open that weak point.” End scene. Aoi is somehow simultaneously capable of not realizing a button is behind a sheet of glass while also being some kind of… Earth goddess energy bubble?
They figure that is enough excitement for one day then, as we switch from action mode into “emotional” mode. Which is to say, rain everywhere, loud music telling us This Is The Part You Should Be Sad During, and folks trying to give platitudes on science, the human condition, and all the rest. I honestly forgot that the current Prime Minister was even a character in this show, given how little they’re kept us in the loop regarding what is going on at that conference such a big deal was being made far earlier in the season.
We’ve lost some characters then, with at least a few more potentially on the rocks, and… I can’t say I mind all that much. Fewer folks running around will ideally slow down the number of rapid smash cuts and shaky cam to try and desperately cover up the animation.
…Aw, who am I kidding.
Coppelion (Episode 12)
We open with footage from last time of Haruto reaching out as he dies to The Wind. Which is unfortunate, as I did not really mind all that much when he died last week either.
Aoi coming to and yelling “Did Aoi screw up again?” though, well, at least she’s generally aware of her own tendency to do that. But, she did beat the Iron Spider with Bubble God Powers, so credit for that.
I mentioned during the previous episode writeup that I had generally forgotten about folks like the Prime minister and the conference, and low and behold here we are again. And Japan is being a giant wrench in the entire gear system of the international community. The Vice Principal’s “We’re not security guards, it is out duty to save lives!” remarks are the sort of thing that tends to happen in these stories, but, it has been so long since we’ve seen them and characterization is so thin across the board that it’s hard to really get any feeling out of it.
Ibara is shocked, shocked I tell you, at the notion that someone would suggest that the Coppelion were created for purposes aside from saving lives. Which dovetails a bit oddly as well with that fact that she had the hots for Hartuo for so long, and he was always all Humans Are Worthless up until maybe a few bits before the end. We’ve got a train coming though, and we have a baby to deliver on that train, so we have a full shootout and showdown and it’s… really oddly choreographed with a poor sense of proximity or geography. How on Earth the 1st Division made it on to the train after standing around on the platform watching Ibara chase it eludes me.
You know what’s a really bad way to guide a calm childbirth in a high pressure situation? When only person who knows how to yelling “You’ll find out soon enough!” over a walkie talkie to the person who needs to actually do the procedure when the one doing the delivery asks why something is happening.
Iron Spider 2: Electric Eel Revengance Boogaloo is next week, which I’m sure will be just as underwhelming as the last.
I feel bad for Coppelion, honestly, because the very nice array of website search statistics and the like tells me that a fair number of folks somehow consistently end up here here looking for material about it or the pictures I select, but if I’m being honest it does not even make a particularly good hate watch of a program, let alone when it comes to surrounding it all with actual blog writing. So I’m not really sure what kind of genuine internet need I’m fulfilling here. But, you can be the featured image this week Coppelion, in all of your train car barnyard going off the rails toxic splendor.
Coppelion (Episode 13)
Christmas Day, and I get to watch Coppelion.
I’d say this is like getting coal in your stocking, except coal has the capacity to become diamonds. No such hopes or luxuries exist in this void however. There is only more Coppelion.
Our Iron Spider Mach 2 Zombie DLC Reloaded is on the loose again, and yet gets shut down pretty much just as quickly as the last time. Not much in the way or trading blows or back and forth of a “Will out heroines really make it?” struggle, since they just do the video gamey answer again of just shoot at an environmental hazard and be done with it. Some final boss fight, and yet alarmingly apt from what I see from a lot of actual video games these days with their Quick Time Events and all.
Something is going on a the conference center, but we’re not really told what. I’m assuming it’s an argument about Division 3 just running off to the disaster zone, but apparently it’s something worthy of an act of treason given the dialogue? AWOL, maybe. Treason is a tall order. Geographically, there is also no sense of actual time or distance, as apparently it would take twelve hours to get from the conference venue to the Coppelion team by air. From where in Japan would that possibly be, given the aerial hardware they are using?
In other news, we reflect on Haruto’s “relationship” with Ibara, we speak of friendship with enemies, and in the mix we rember we had a childbirth to resolve. This was actually the only part of the episode I was really interested in seeing, even though there was no real chance this show was going to let a baby die. It doesn’t have the writing chops for that. Yet it disappoints even in this, as we do not even get to see any of the tension or drama that could be squeezed out of such a tense moment to pull off during the whole Iron Spider Jiggy Wiggy Wah Wah Dance fight. It’s just, pop, here they are. We have twins, congrats. I feel nothing, for the show itself feels nothing.
Taeko is gratefully offered the ability to be a godparent and thus name the kids, and she does an expected surprise and “Oh this is so sudden…” response… so Ibara just jumps right in, steals the thunder, and names the kids for her. And everyone is cool with it and we move right along. Which pretty much sums up a whole lot of how this show handles anything in a nutshell right there. No Sense gets to be a fully battle armored robot butler babysitter now though, so best of luck to him.
I originally put Coppelion on my docket for this season because I figured even if it was really bad, I could maybe finesse something of a reasonable end game commentary about it given my own time living and working in a nuclear disaster zone. But as a full package, the show is so dreadful that I’m not even sure anything I could whip up would even be a compelling desire for anyone else to read.