- Titles: Dennou Coil, Cyber Coil, Coil – A Circle of Children, Denno Coil
- Genre: Science Fiction, drama, urban fantasy, school, makes Irina sad
- Episodes: 26
- Studio: MADHOUSE
Yuuko Okonogi is a nice girl. She’s caring and kind and always takes care of her little sister Kyoko. She has a Denopet dog named Densuke who she loves very much. I also grew to love Densuke very much! It’s her last year before middle school, and she just moved to Daikoku City, so she’s going to have to make friends all over again. However, thanks to Den-noh glasses, the world is much smaller than before. Kids can connect through this virtual world and share experiences to form bonds quickly. And besides, being such a nice girl, Yuuko will have no problem making friends. But is there more to this nice girl? A lot of strange things are happening in the virtual world lately. Urban legends keep popping up, telling frightening tales of digital ghosts and Yuuko seems to find herself at the center of it all more often than not. Is it really just a coincidence?
Oh my, I think I made my summary sound like a thriller. There are some unsettling bits in Den-noh coil I suppose but it’s mostly a drama. Don’t go into it expecting jump scares and gore. This said, my personal watching experience was absolutely riddled with anxiety. Except for that one episode where everyone grows sentient beards that developed their own advanced civilizations. It reminded me of that one Futurama episode where Bender is god. I wasn’t anxious then.
Maybe it’s because it was made by MADHOUSE but Den-noh coil looked particularly good to me. I might have enjoyed more interesting colours but otherwise, it’s great. The character designs reminded me of Ghibli which gave the show a very timeless quality in my eyes. And the backgrounds are fairly realistic, despite an entirely digital world being part of the story. Aside from the quality of the image, which you’re only likely to notice if you directly compare it to more modern shows, I think it’s very difficult to date Den-noh Coil by its visuals.
Den-noh coil stars a group of 11 year-olds. Grandma does have a role once in a while and I think one of the kids is 9 but for the most part, the characters are 11. I bring this up because they are very realistic 11-year-olds. For the most part. There is a 15-year-old with a high-profile government job as an engineer and top security access, despite still going to middle school. But for the most part, the kids seem like kids.
The relevant part of that from a production standpoint is the voice acting. Kenichi is Romi Park and Romi Park can do no wrong in my book. But everyone else held their own. In fact, I had to look up a few characters just to make sure they weren’t actually being voiced by very talented 11-year-olds. They were not. All adults. But they sound like kids. Without giving away too much, Fumiko Orikasa who voices Yasako has to go through a very emotional arc in the later episodes and she nails it. I was in a puddle from her performance.
Story & Characters
I pretty much never get the chance to discuss anime I watch with fellow fans before writing my reviews. But Den-noh coil was a rare exception. I tweeted out that it was a bit like a mix of Serial Experiments Lain mixed with the Constant Gardener and with a dash of Soul. I got a few replies comparing it to Ghibli which I agree with. One fellow blogger described it as mature and I wasn’t sure I agreed with that.
To me, Den-noh col explores 3 core themes. One of the most obvious ones is that it’s about dealing with grief and loss. And it approaches that theme in a gentle but honest way. It infuses the message with hope and closure. To me, you could compare the exploration of that theme to how it was achieved in My Neighbour Totoro or The little Prince. It’s that sort of story. Bitter-sweet but ultimately kind.
The second theme that really jumped out at me, is the search for a place to belong. It’s mirrored in all the aspects of the story. The illegals, digital “lifeforms” that are thought to be either computer viruses or relics of obsolete code, are trying to adapt and find a way to exist in a world that is evolving past them. That is the catalyst for much of the action in the series.
On the other hand, the kids are also doing this in a much more mundane and down-to-earth way. They are growing up. Next year, they will move on to middle school and a phase of their childhood will be gone. They need to let go of the past to find a way to exist in the future. Essentially, it’s a coming of age.
Finally, the theme that to me was most ingrained in the story itself, was the idea of connection. How modern technology both allows us to connect to each other in ways that were never possible before but can also alienate us from one another.
I read an article about an old-time con artist who pretended to be a medium. That doesn’t really matter. What matters is that there was a line in the article that really capture my imagination. It said that the invention of the camera had brought ghosts to life. Before then, you certainly had portraits but only rich families could afford to have them made and at the end of the day, they were paintings. They were imperfect.
Photographs were an actual representation of a person exactly as they were in that minute, without any artistic liberties or interpretation. And once that person was no longer around, these photographs remained. For a lot of people, this was the very first time they could actually see someone they loved who had passed away.
This got even more intense with the popularity of voice recording and finally film which put it all together. You could see and hear someone you would never be able to meet. It’s as close as we had ever gotten to necromancy.
Well, the internet is multiplying ghosts like never before. And the digital world of Den-noh Coil is an analogy for the internet. I mean think about it. When I am dead and gone, there will still be short-sighted tweets of petty replies I made when I was annoyed. Typo riddled thoughts on anime no one is interested in anymore but that meant a whole lot to me. Little clips of me gleefully hugging my dog when he was still around as if it was yesterday. I could almost feel it now.
But I can’t really feel it. And that’s the filp side of it. Den-noh Coil mentions a few times how Yasako can’t touch her own dog. In the first episode, we see her picking him up and running away so my brain just registered it as anyone picking up their pet. But Densuke only exists in the den-noh world. She can only see him through her (let’s face it, they’re goggle glasses). It’s the equivalent of making your avatar pick up something in a video game. Yes, you are picking up something but you can’t feel it.
Yasako loves her dog. She loves him in the same way all little girls love their pets. But she has never felt his fur. She can’t tell you how much he weighs. There is something theoretical in his existence. And that can be a little sad but also just a bit magical.
Wow, I blabbered on for a long time.
My point was that these themes are interesting. There is a lot to parse through. But they are themes you often see in children’s stories. And since Den-noh coil is told from the perspective of children, the exploration of these themes is often a little naive. For my money, this is a point in Den-noh Coil’s favour. It makes the messaging optimistic and gives the story a certain charm that would not have been there if the themes were explored in a deeper and more analytical way. Besides, there is a lot of room for the viewer to think about the questions raised by the series on their own. That’s great.
So why was I so anxious. Well, because of a character I have mentioned a few times. The first episode puts Densuke in danger and throughout the series, I was just worried for him. Constantly and non-stop. Now I am unusually sensitive when it comes to animals so do keep that in mind. But for me, that alone made Den-noh Coil hard to watch at times. I needed breaks because my poor little heart couldn’t take it. Honestly, if they had replaced the digital puppy with a digital human friend or something, I probably would have enjoyed Den-noh Coil a lot more. But that’s a me problem.
So after all these words, you probably don’t know what Den-noh Coil is about and whether you should watch it. So this is my best attempt at telling you what Den-noh Coil is about. It’s a little like Serial Experiments Lain in that it deals with classical philosophical questions through the lens of technology and specifically the internet. It’s occasionally like the Constant Gardener because there is a thriller mystery aspect that involves corporations wanting to bury their mistakes before public opinion catches up. And it also resembles a number of classic children’s stories that try to make sense of death and loss for kids that may not have been faced with it yet.
And there’s a good-looking teenage girl that rides a motorcycle and wears a skintight leather one-piece… It has a lot going on.
You might like this anime if:
You like classic sci-fi anime.
My favourite character:
It changed a few times. It’s Densuke if we can count him as a character despite having no dialogue. Otherwise, I guess it’s Haraken but I can,t guarantee that Romi Park doesn’t have something to do with my favouritism.
- Every time Kyoko yells dookie – take a sip
- Every time an illegal shows up – take a sip
- Every time it’s Oyaji to the rescue – clap!
- Every time anyone says “encoder” – take a sip
- Every time Yasako’s dad takes a bath – take a sip
- Every time Isako sits in a throne – take a sip
- Every time there’s a shrine – take a breath
- Every time anyone mentions Michiko – gasp
- Every time we see metabugs – take a sip
- Every time Daichi’s dad shows up – take a sip
- Every time Midget (the mouse cat…) is up to someting – hmmmm
- Every time Fumie argues with her brother – take a sip
- Every time Haraken gets out of synch – worry
- Every time there’s a keyhole – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.
8 thoughts on “Den-noh Coil – What if Ghibli had made SEL”
One of my favorites! You summed it up incredibly well. I should rewatch it…
Even in the small amount of time that has passe since I watched it, I like it more and more
You had me at SciFi but no, really, this sounds very interesting and intriguing. Also something i shall have to be careful when I watch it for tugs at heartstrings. On to the watchlist it goes…
It really is great and I’m a huge softie, if I can make it, you’ll be fine
I’m getting awfully squishy in my old age…
I loved this show from start to finish. I always viewed the beard episode as a Sandkings hommage (the Bender episode, too). [For anyone who might not know Sandkings, it’s probably George RR Martin’s most famous piece of pre-GoT fiction.]
Sacchi was awfully creepy.
And the treatment of grief was really poignant.
I don’t remember when I saw it (not when it was new), but it’s been quite some time, so I’m already fuzzy on the details. I remember remembering the show when Pokemon Go was the latest craze. To date I can’t remember many other augmented reality shows. Actually, I can’t remember any other but I’ve got this nagging feeling that I’m forgetting more than one. These kids can remain mobile while still playing with new technology. But there’s also a strange doubling of space: you can be “here” but not in real space. I remember being fascinated by this aspect and comparing it to .hack//sign. I could talk more about this if I could remember more, but all I have is very vague memories of Yonyon Nii-san.
Anime SF is very hit and miss with me, but this one’s definitely a hit.
Funny how memory works. Actually Den-noh coil is one of the pieces of fiction that got closest to using the actual explanation for memory instead of the usual chest of drawers/computer analogy.