Have you ever wondered if something was real? Have you ever wondered how “real” those friends and followers on the social internet are? Honestly, I have. These are questions I had several times when I was watching Dennou Coil for this year’s Secret Santa Project. This is the first year I participated in this project, and I have to say that I’m glad I did.
My secret Santa chose three items for me to pick from, and I decided to watch all three. Dennou Coil was the last on my watch list, and turned out to be a real favorite by the time I finished it. I had a lot of questions watching this, questions about how everything worked, what the kids considered real, and what wasn’t. Surprisingly, I found myself wanting to know the answers to those questions less and less, as I was immersed in what was going on and didn’t need to worry about what was the background of it all.
Dennou Coil is about several children living in Daikoku city. The city is on the forefront of the Augmented Reality (AR) revolution with much of it having the AR systems heavily used for many things from everything to self-driving cars to digital pets. All of this is accomplished by using cyber glasses. The glasses give the wearer another layer of “vision” so to speak. With this new layer, ordinary objects can take on new textures; three-dimensional objects can be “projected” into the space. One of the typical uses of the glasses is for the wearer to purchase cyber pets. These pets are merely computer programs that reside in the cyberspace, but interact with the wearer and others.
I found this very fascinating because I grew up in a time where there was nothing virtual. Grade school, middle school, and High School had no internet connections. Computers were used for things like playing Oregon Trail, and ran on floppy drives. I compiled Pascal programs on Apple IIe computers, which took most of the 45 minute class (5 minutes debugging, 40 waiting to see if it worked). So when you look at what I have even today in terms of computing power, I’m always a bit amazed at looking where I came from. Enter AR, and it’s almost a mind-blowing experience. I get it, but that’s likely because I have a pretty good imagination.
Dennou coil falls into a category of anime that feels realistic in its portrayal of the future. While the concepts and computing abilities of the glasses seem out of this world, they’re not outside the realm of possibility in the next 15 or so years. Storage keeps getting smaller, projection and screens keep getting smaller and more sophisticated, and there are even rudimentary examples of AR out in the world today.
So what does this all mean to Dennou Coil? The answer is: nothing in particular. What I believe it shows is the creator’s vision of what our future could look like in the near future. In 2006, facebook opened its virtual doors to the general public, and twitter was just getting started. One year later, when Dennou Coil was released, it’s hard not to see some of the same similarities between the two big social networks and the AR communication abilities in Coil. But at that time, these two social networks were just getting started. Their influences didn’t really kick in heavily until a couple of years later, yet the children in Dennou Coil show many of the same immersion into the internet that kids now grow up with.
So in the world of Dennou Coil, with its hunting of illegal programs, and looking in the virtual world to find the essence of those you have lost, there’s a lot that stands out. The character designs are simple and loose, backgrounds simple and enhanced by CG effects to show the AR textures. The easy going nature of the animation and the show give way to a rather simple plot that flows through the series’ 26 episodes through the end. Typically you get a lot of filler through 26 episodes, but even the episodes that seemed like filler, managed to tie themselves into the main plotline by tying into the rumors and urban legends that much of the show bases itself on.
Here are a few things I found memorable about Dennou Coil:
Densuke is our first introduction to Cyberpets and when we meet him, he just looks like a dog. Aside from being hit on the head a few times with the ugly stick (so ugly, he’s cute); he is introduced to us by having a bag dropped on him. While the average dog would have his back broken, Densuke just dematerializes and reconstitutes himself in another location.
To say that you’re not in Kansas anymore is an understatement. In a matter of minutes, you realize that you’re not in a standard sense of reality, at least in the sense of this anime. It’s a great way to introduce the viewer to the world portrayed in this show.
The Searchmatons, also known as Satchii, are akin to anti-viral and anti-malware software in today’s world. They manifest themselves as these big friendly pink blobs, and clean up the city’s problems with broken virtual constructions and also seek and destroy illegal items that could be used to destabilize the sanctity of the AR system.
Satchii is basically the enemy of all the children, because the kids tend to carry a heck of a lot of illegal items that are used for various unsavory exploits and fun. The Consequences of Satchii zapping you is rather severe because you have to pay money to regenerate your online persona since it gets corrupted when Satchii gets you.
The revelation that Satchii is really just a pet, was both satisfying and shocking to the whole of the story at about its halfway point.
In the end when the two main characters Isako and Yasako end up on the other side and need each other to get out, their apparent friendship was their ticket out. What I found interesting, was their relationship after their lives went on after the incident.
Isako’s mission to save her brother, and Yasako’s curiosities of the urban legends and the general missions her grandmother sends her on are fundamentally different. The crossing of their paths is coincidental, yet believable, as Yasako’s general curiosity gets her in the middle of Isako’s dealings.
After they get out from “The Other Side,” they go back to their own lives because Isako, admittedly, doesn’t know what it means to be friends. Their co-dependence on each other is only when they’re broken and lost.
I thought that the ending justified each of the main character’s personalities without compromising who they were as characters. In essence, they stayed who they were through the entire series, and there wasn’t a change just to have a change and fit a story.
To conclude, Dennou Coil didn’t compromise it’s “identity” for its entire running length. It showed me a possible and believable future that could very well be based on our current reality, even if it was released three years ago.
Thank you Secret Santa for recommending this to me.
**I also expect to write about Arete Hime when I return from my vacation, probably to be published around the Orthodox Christmas on January 7th.