She’s built like a steakhouse, but she handles like a bistro! She’s out of control! You win again, gravity!
Readers wondering how on earth that quote relates to Coppelion will first get an explanation. The B-2 bomber we saw in episode three is the first thing that we see come episode four. That quote neatly sums up what’s happening: it’s a bomber that behaves like a fighter, but nonetheless manages to get downed by a bunch of school girls. I’m now sitting at the half-way point in Coppelion: by this point, I probably will see the series through to completion, as I bear no grudge against the series. Insofar, we’ve seen the Coppelion medical team shoot down a B-2 with a shoulder-fired missile, discover radioactive waste, encounter across a group of survivors who come under fire from the 1st Division “Ghosts”, former JGDF soldiers who were left behind after Tokyo was sealed off and become introduced to the clean-up crew. A lot has happened in the space of three episodes, and when I departed last, I promised that I would spare readers of my personal opinions about nuclear energy and genetics. Coppelion, at its halfway point, appears to be an adventure with neither destination or structure. It is still what I had thought of it earlier, resembling an open-world adventure game in structure and pacing. Exploration in old Tokyo is conducted at a very casual level, with the Coppelion team encountering occasional opposition.
- Let’s begin where I left off last time, where the girls where in hot pursuit of the B-2. A few minutes into the episode, the hunter becomes the hunted, and the B-2 takes on a role not dissimilar to that of a gunship. The following few moments are remarkably entertaining, even if there are innumerable factual inaccuracies: to the best of my knowledge, a B-2 does not have forward facing cannons, nor can it maneuver in such a manner. Moreover, missiles aren’t used by aircraft as anti-missile defenses to defeat IR missiles. Instead, flares are deployed to produce a decoy heat signature for the missile to follow.
- Someone is going to tell me that a Type-91 missile uses a combination infrared-ultraviolent image sensor and can defeat countermeasures like flares. This reminds me of a scene in Behind Enemy Lines, where Stackhouse and Burnett are evading a surface-fired missile. They note that they are painted, indicating that this is a radar-guided missile, and their countermeasures do nothing against it. However, a radio transmission notes they are deploying chaff, small metal strips that are supposed to scramble the radar and buy time for evasive measures. Later, when Burnett drops the fuel tank, the missile goes for the resulting fireball, suggesting it was a heat-seeking missile.
- I recently participated in a private discussion with a friend about Coppelion. He noted that the series wasn’t meant to have a serious atmosphere, and that what the vocal viewers thought was largely irrelevant. Much as how I enjoyed Behind Enemy Lines for entertainment value, I enjoy Coppelion for the same.
- Episode four deals with two major elements: the discovery of low-level radioactive waste in a pond dumped there by a company known as Yellow Cake for cost-cutting measures. Fearing that Denjiro might commit suicide, the girls go about trying to find him. They later do find Denjiro at a shrine with his helmet off, and he tells them to let him die as a means of atonement. For reference, low-level waste is actually a broad category for nuclear waste products that do not satisfy the criteria for being intermediate or high-level waste.
- “Never send high school students to do an adult’s job”. Ibara is supposed to be the most composed and qualified of the medical team and is the only one trained to use firearms, but even she loses it when seeing the radioactive waste. On an unrelated note, high-level waste refers to the byproducts of nuclear reactions, such as spent fuel rods. Presently, the disposal and storage of high level waste is only a temporary measure, and those who suggest space disposal have been met with criticisms, as failure of the launch vehicle would have catastrophic consequences.
- A countdown timer accompanies much of the second half in episode four, giving viewers yet something else to complain about. It’s a little intrusive, but I honestly do not understand why some are going so far to nitpick about such trivial details in an anime, or why realism is such a significant aspect in soft speculative fiction such as Coppelion. Personally, characterisation is a more valid point, although aside from the girls crying every other five minutes, I don’t think it’s nearly enough to stop me from watching.
- Readers have noted that I’ve stopped talking about Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us by this point in time. It’s a thrilling book, but as Coppelion doesn’t go beyond the “20-30 years after humans” stage, I can’t get into the discussions about what happens centuries after humans, which include the decay of metal and how plastics will persist for millennia after we disappear.
- Episodes five and six deal with the 1st division, which I will refer to as Ghost Company. I promise I wasn’t referring to Call of Duty: Ghosts, which was released a few days ago. A while back, I was debating whether or not I wanted Call of Duty: Ghosts or Battlefield 4, but I eventually realised that even with a solid multiplayer aspect, I enjoy single-player games the most and that buying either title at full price isn’t the best use of my money.
- Ibara’s pistol is capable of firing a diverse range of projectiles, from medical darts to mines.
- Typing out this discussion is taking forever, not so much because I don’t have things to say, but because I accidentally injured my wrist while lifting weights.
Discussions in other corners of the internet concerning Coppelion have been disappointing, to say the least. Early in the game, viewers were expecting something profound and moving, perhaps an anime that would speak of the ethics and philosophical aspects behind nuclear power and genetic engineering. Even though we were only an episode in, viewers were fixated by the fact that the Coppelion team lacked standard equipment. By the third episode, most viewers expressed outrage at the appearance of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit fielded by the “Yellow Cake” waste disposal organisation, citing it as unrealistic. Characterisation has also been noted as a point of contention in Coppelion: the girls seem far more emotional than would be expected of a spec-ops team, bursting into tears or becoming enraged quickly. The reason this is happening is because the anime is an adaptation of the manga, and with only one season to tell the story, things are being condensed into a shorter time span, leaving less room for building up moments. At the halfway point, I concur with limitations with respect to the characterisation. In particular, the series is a little too condensed, and probably would have fit better into a two season slot. As it stands now, I note that spec-ops teams would not do their jobs well if they relied on emotion rather than training, and part of being a first-response element is to get the job done. Thus, I find that the anime adaptation portrays the girls as being unsuited for their task as medics. On the other hand, viewers are a little too vocal about the degree of realism (or lack thereof) in the depiction of military hardware. Most viewers’ knowledge of military hardware probably come from mass media or from video games. My background stems from formal education in military history pertaining to Cold-War era weapons, but that is neither here nor there (I’m not complaining even though I’ve more background!). I understand that most viewers expect their anime to be somewhat faithful to reality (such as in Girls und Panzer), but the amount of complaints about fiction is is surprising, even though people know that this is fiction, where creative liberties and inconsistencies exist to be joked about rather than abhorred.
- As I am about to note, the Coppelion team may have their caveats, but the main attraction in Coppelion is the depiction of how survivors have eked out a living in a post-disaster Tokyo, and the experiences that the Coppelion team have when interacting with them.
- To the right is Onihei Mishima, a JGDF colonel and the Coppelion’s vice-principal. He lost his wife and daughter from the nuclear meltdown, but forgives Denjiro about the nuclear disaster. Acting as the coordinator for the Coppelion, he ventures into the field to provide exfiltration for the survivors the team encounters, as well as handling all of the logistics behind deployment of the Coppelion.
- Red-Cooked Pork Belly (紅燒肉) is a Chinese recipe that imparts a red colouration to the pork that is cooked. It is an incredible dish rich in flavour, and when I see what appears to be a whole roast pig here (along with Aoi’s ravenous consumption thereof), I am reminded of this dish.
- I can’t readily identify shotguns or some of the rifles here. However, I do see Colt M16A2s, Heckler and Koch’s MP5K, G36 rifles (also from Heckler and Koch) and Soviet RPG-7s. As a shooter, I prefer always having two weapons that complement the other to maximise my readiness. These weapons are typically rifles with optics and then subsequently, a marksman rifle or shotgun.
- The Coppelion team finally gets their hands on some serious firepower for combat against the Ghosts. I somehow don’t think that the Ghosts here are anywhere near as well-trained as the legendary Ghosts from Call of Duty.
- For one reason or another, Aoi gets captured by the Ghosts and needs rescuing. I found those moments ridiculously entertaining, far more than was expected.
- Light pollution permeates virtually every region of the planet, and only some places have truly dark skies. Even in rural areas, the glow from a city is enough to reduce the visibility of stars, making it very difficult to observe astronomical events from urban and suburban areas. I am an amateur astronomer who prefers fielding binoculars and have been stargazing since I was ten, when I received my first pair of binoculars: light pollution has steadily worsened since then.
- Haruto Kurosawa is a member of the Clean-up crew, the Coppelion Combat unit. Skilled with the use of guns and explosives, Haruto approaches the Coppelion job the same way I approach a first person shooter, and has no issue with engaging enemies with lethal force, contrasting Ibara, who prefers non-lethal methods.
- That guy to the left is the commander of the Ghosts. The division is unafraid of death, having been mutilated by chronic exposure to the radiation: when the commander removes his mask, Ibara expresses horror at what she sees, and the operation to rescue Aoi goes south when the commander orders one of his tanks to fire on him and Ibara. I’m going to be generous and say that the tank loaded an anti-personnel round for the purpose. Anti-personnel rounds are alternatively known as beehive rounds, and carry metal flechettes that are effective against enemy foot mobiles.
- At the end of episode six, Ibara is critically injured: despite being able to heal far more quickly than ordinary humans, like the Spartans, Coppelion are still subject to the same limitations of having a relatively fragile carbon-based vessel as a body. In Halo, to raise morale, Spartans lost in combat are only ever declared MIA, giving rise to the impression that they are invulnerable.
For its caveats, Coppelion is still fun to watch, not so much for the characters’ story or depiction, but for the world-building aspects. In their haste to drop the series, viewers have passed over the depiction of survivors, individuals who have made the most of their surroundings and provide the occasional insight into the flaws of contemporary society and the potential outcome it may have in the future. The portrayal of the survivors, coupled with the highly detailed backgrounds, confers a degree of immersion that make this series compelling. The way I see it, Coppelion probably won’t be a series I recommend in a heartbeat, but for what it’s worth, there are still some merits left in the series, with world-building being one of them. Individuals who can stomach Aoi’s constant whining (I find that hilarious) and enjoy Coppelion for the adventure will find it worthwhile to continue. Individuals who feel like putting their fist through the screen every time Aoi speaks have a valid reason to spend their time elsewhere, but dropping Coppelion simply because a B-2 handles like a F-16 Falcon is immature. While I wouldn’t say that this is the best anime of the Fall 2013 session (as I was originally anticipating), Coppelion remains reasonably entertaining, so I’m going to see where this journey takes me.