The Coppelion unit, composed of Ibara Naruse, Aoi Fukasaku and Taeko Nomura, are teenage girls who have been genetically engineered to be immune to nuclear radiation, are sent to an abandon and contaminated Tokyo after the JGSDF receives a distress signal from the city. After finding a survivor, who is dying from high levels of radiation, Ibara chooses to save the man and gives him a cure despite orders from her superior officer and vice-principal, Colonel Onihei Mishima, not to do anything. After the survivor is airlifted to safety, Aoi and Taeko questions themselves are they even human which Ibara assures they are. The next day, as the Coppelions continue to search the distress signal, Onihei shows a live news show the power plant that cause the nuclear meltdown. While Taeko goes to befriend a wild dog, Ibara and Aoi discovers a survivor’s body who died by suicide, only to be attacked by a feral wolf. After tranquilizing the wolf, Ibara and Aoi fears the dog Taeko befriended might be feral as well and goes to rescue her.
So reads the first episode summary, anyways. In Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, a compelling thought experiment is conducted. The text imagines what would happen to human constructs and monuments if humans were to suddenly disappear. In this book, nature eventually reclaims the land that humans had reshaped to their image, reverting things to what they might have been like before humans settled there. Within a handful of years after humans have disappeared, hardy vegetation forces its way through our pavement, and our buildings crumble from exposure to the elements. Wildlife reappear in urban regions, making their homes in what were once our homes and workplaces. I bought the book back in 2010 and found it an immensely enjoyable read. Thus, when I heard about Coppelion and its setting in a Tokyo evacuated following a nuclear disaster, I found myself drawn to the setting. I was most curious to see how an abandoned city would appear to Tomonori Inoue, the series’ author. The first episode has aired, and for the most part, the representation of a city without humans was a visual treat. Buildings tilt as their foundations have worn away. Weeds grow unchecked in both open fields and through the cracks in the city sidewalk. Animals have gone feral, reverting to their pre-domestication states as individuals without aggression are selected against in the post-human world. Coppelion is, in short, an anime about three high school girls immune to the effects of radioactive fallout and are deployed to rescue survivors left in the Tokyo area twenty years after a nuclear disaster renders the region uninhabitable.
- Depending on what happens, I may or may not talk about every episode. There definitely will be a talk about episode two, but beyond that, I may revert to my traditional “midseason discussion” and “final impressions” post unless the defecation really hits the oscillation in Coppelion. Apparently, not very anime fans have read The World Without Us: allow me to be the first to use make such a discussion, then! Even a mere four minutes into the anime, I am immediately blown away by how beautiful, yet haunting, the post-human city of Old Tokyo is, and doubly impressed by the fact that the depiction of such a world has some basis in science.
- I’ve never had the chance to discuss it, but I am a huge fan of haikyo, the practise of exploring urban ruins in Japan. These sites were once hotels, amusement parks and even entire towns that were abandoned, whether it was due to economic or other unspecified reasons.
- There is a military involvement in the anime, as expected, but for the most part, the groundwork is still largely carried out by the Coppelion team. However, I haven’t seen the Vice Principle or the remainder of the military forces with any sort of assault rifles or even submachine guns for self defense. The World Without Us proposes that domesticated animals would go feral, and some imported animals (like lions and elephants) may either adapt or die off in their non-native habitats. One way or another, the presence of wildlife may necessitate a weapon for self-defense.
- What we see in Coppelion is consistent with Alan Wiesman’s hypothesis: in around twenty years, mosses begin to cover the roads. New trees grow in home gardens, while vehicles and other metallic structures begin to succumb to rust and corrosion by wind and rain that strips away paint and protective coatings resulting in rust that eats through metal. Looking at the surroundings, the depiction is spot on.
- The animation is a little inconsistent in places, giving the girls heavier lines in some parts compared to the others. It’s a unique art style that reminds me of the cel-shading used in Borderlands and its sequel, unsurprisingly titled Borderlands 2.
- Buildings clad in galvinised steel would last a long time, so I’d expect the Tokyo Tower to last a little longer than the Eiffel Tower in the post human world. 230 years after humans have vanished, the Eiffel tower would begin corroding and weakening as a result of prolonged exposure to water, ice and lightening, leaving it to blow over in a windstorm. The four legs making up the base of the tower could probably survive for 800 years after the main spire has tumbled to the ground.
- Without any humans to run the systems responsible for pumping water out of the ground and heating the buildings, ground water would seep into the foundations of buildings, and temperature extremes would further contribute to the foundation’s weakening. In the floors above, shattered windows expose the building’s structural elements to the weather, compromising them.
- Discussions are presently raging about the girls’ inadequate equipment. I speculate that, being genetically engineered, the Coppelion team might not have a need for the same equipment as a black ops or hazardous environment team, allowing the girls to forgo weapons and puncture-resistance armour. The girls may even have enhancements similar to that of a Spartan II, allowing them to perform feats like Spartan John-117 (although only Ibara seems to demonstrate those traits, for now).
- The girls wonder what the implications of being a puppet on the Coppelion team are, suggesting that their genetic enhancements make them trans-human. This was a particularly interesting topic I wrote and presented about in my genomics course a year ago, although we’ll have to see more of the anime before I start talking. I imagine that my comparisons between Coppelion and The World Without Us will end on short order. Now that the anime has firmly established the setting, it’s time to knock things up a notch with a blast of actual story and move forward with whatever direction it will need to take. Bam!
- The episode ends on a cliff-hanger, and so, we’re going to wait a week before Taeko’s fate is revealed. Somewhere, I heard that this anime represents a prime opportunity to discuss the philosophical ramifications surrounding nuclear power; I’m prepared to respond (and most likely contest) what is being said. For now, all we’ve seen is a representation of what might happen following a nuclear accident, and discussions have remained aligned with my thoughts, so I won’t contest anything. Next post, expect comparisons between Coppelion, All Ghillied Up (from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) and Metro: Last Light to be made.
The first episode feels like an open-world game. The girls are assigned to explore Tokyo and respond to any distress calls that are made from within the area, in the process, encountering relics of the old city, an individual who died from suicide and feral dogs. The somber mood and atmosphere of the old Tokyo are offset by the girls’ bright and cheerful personalities. There have already been complaints about the wild differences in the character’s mannerisms in contrast with the desolate landscape they’re in: whereas I found that a more serious, Western-style approach (think burly men equipped with the finest survival gear and weapons) might have produced an anime that would have been equally interesting, I signed up for the sight-seeing. I’m not here to complain about the characterisation, which adds a bit of life into the series. I’m here to talk about how beautiful the environment is: in the absence of humans, there is an eerie calm over the city. Without human activity, subtle things in the background, whether it be the grasses swaying in the wind, leaves trembling on branches or the clouds moving across the sky, focus rapidly returns to that of nature. The animation captures these details well, reminding the viewers that the old city is gone; this is nature’s domain now, and nature works tirelessly to remove all traces of humanity from the landscape. Given what we’ve seen so far, emphasis has been on the environment and visuals so far, meaning there isn’t much to talk about in the way of plot. For now, however, I am reasonably satisfied with the visuals I’ve seen; if this first episode was about setting the stage for the story, things will get interesting as things progress, and I’ll definitely stick around for the journey.