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Coppelion Episode 1 Review: Nuclear Disaster Mixed With High School Girls
On October 2nd, the first episode of Coppelion aired in Japan and was simulcasted by Viz Media here in the United States. I wouldn’t be surprised if Viz Media eventually did a dub for it, but we’ll see if that happens or not. I didn’t really know a whole lot about Coppelion, so I decided I’d give the series a try. While the first episode did feel a little slow in pacing and action, it served its purpose as an introduction to the characters and setting, and did so in an organized manner.
The episode starts with a ruined roadside reclaimed by nature, the kind of image you’d expect to see while listening to Ron Perlman’s War Never Changes monologue from Fallout. We see a girl walking along the ruined road, with two other girls following behind her. The three girls are Ibara, Aoi, and Taeko. The trio take a break to get a look at their surroundings, while the Ibara examines the water and then gets a phone call from someone she calls the Vice Principal.
After giving the Vice Principal the lay of the land, the three girls are ordered to go into the city itself. In the next scene we see the ruined city, reclaimed by nature with weeds and plants growing out of control. Apparently it is the job of these three girls to go into the city and find people who might still be there. It seems like an odd choice to send a bunch of girls dressed in high school uniforms into a ruined city, given that a team of professionals would probably be better suited for the task. They get an SOS signal and the Vice Principal orders the trio of girls to investigate it while he stays topside in the safety of his own helicopter until they can find a place to land.
Eventually the three girls come across a bridge and a river. Ibara sets up a smoke flare to indicate that it is a big enough space for the Vice Principal’s helicopter to land. They stop to take a break, while Aoi pulls out a bunch of food. She starts to eat what appears to be rice balls enthusiastically, very enthusiastically. Rather than eating, Ibara chooses to stick herself with a syringe full of nutrients. This was at the point where a red flag was raised in my mind. Unless it is for medical reasons, most people usually do not stick themselves with needles to get nutrients.
Ibara, Aoi, and Taeko hear a noise among the grass. Upon investigating they discover that there is a guy in a hazmat suit and gas mask. He is crawling around on the ground, and appears to be in a lot of pain. Ibara jumps down and approaches the masked man. In this scene the reason for the city being in ruins becomes clear: a nuclear disaster of some sort. In that case, how can Ibara, Aoi, and Taeko run around the city without suits and not die from radiation? Given various tropes used in anime, I’d say they are probably genetically engineered or something.
Ibara decides to help the man by loading a special bullet into a gun and then shooting him with it. Mercy kill? Nope. The bullet apparently contains some sort of cure-all known as Aether. So basically Rad-Away in bullet form. The helicopter lands, and the Vice Principal has his men load the recently treated masked man onto the helicopter. Before leaving, the Vice Principal criticizes Ibara for using the Aether on that guy given that it is only intended for people with much more minor cases of radiation sickness rather than severe ones. Apparently this medicine is very rare. Ibara responds by telling her commanding officer to make more of the medicine while pointing the gun at his head. He takes this surprisingly well, and then he and his crew leave. On board it is revealed that the three girls are known as Coppelion, and that they are genetically modified and are immune to radiation. Called it.
We jump immediately to the next morning, where Ibara wakes up from sleeping underneath a desk. Not the most comfortable place to sleep, but I guess one doesn’t have many options when choosing to take a nap in the capital wasteland. The morning begins with Taeko finding a dog that is watching the trio of girls. Apparently dogs and birds have adapted and can survive in the highly irradiated city. As the girls explore the city, they watch a TV broadcast of the Vice Principal talking to the media about the efforts of the Self Defense Force and the protective suits that they wear. As an added bonus, for lack of a better term, the Vice Principal decides to show the media what the epicenter looks like.
Supposedly the epicenter is still highly contaminated. How contaminated you ask? Well contaminated to the point that it is still producing mist filled with irradiated particles due to the proximity of the ocean. Shrouded amongst the mist is a large structure of some kind, whatever it once was it is the reason why the majority of the city was destroyed and contaminated with lethal levels of radiation. Ibara, Taeko, and Aoi continue their exploration mission as they follow an SOS signal. The SOS signal turns out to have been triggered by the same dog they found earlier. Taeko stays behind to see if she can get the dog to not follow them, as apparently her genetic were modified to allow her to be good with animals.
So the other two girls follow their device to another SOS, only to find a dead body. Further investigation reveals that it was a suicide. As Aoi freaks out in the corner, she spots a pair of glowing blue eyes inching closer toward Ibara. Ibara sees it just in time to avoid being attacked by the wolf with glowing blue eyes. Well since radiation doesn’t make your eyes glow blue, this thing is either a genetic experiment gone wrong, the radiation is caused by something that isn’t nuclear, or this wolf was imported from Arrakis. Either way, it is clear that the wolf is looking for a meal. Ibara shoots the wolf with a tranquilizer bullet from her gun, which successfully knocks the wolf out.
The episode ends with Ibara trying to contact Taeko, but isn’t able to get a response. All that is left is the other walkie talkie covered in blood. Although it is implied that she is dead, you can never prove a character is dead unless you see the body. Ibara and Aoi decide to try and find Taeko.
Coppelion offers a very interesting idea for an anime, but it seems to rely on some usual tropes of having one or more characters that can do something other people cannot. But the story is interesting enough to overlook the not-so-original component of it. Although I question why they insist on sending these girls into a city filled with possibly hostile animals without some kind of armor and more than one weapon. Visually the ruined landscape is gorgeous. The color choice is excellent, and all the backgrounds are lively and vibrant. There is, however, one glaring flaw in the animation. In certain close up shots the black borders around the characters become far too thick and is both distracting and off putting. In those scenes the characters look like they were placed there by a bad photoshop.
Overall, Coppelion has me hooked and I want to continue watching it to find out what happens next. The first episode was interesting and engaging despite the slow pace, but it gradually introduced as to the story piece by piece rather than forcing it all down the viewer’s throat in several minutes worth of monologues. If you want to check out Coppelion for yourself then go here to visit Viz Media’s streaming website, Viz Anime. Viz Anime provides viewers with a great variety of series to watch at any time free of charge. New episodes of Coppelion will be uploaded every Wednesday.