Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dennou Coil: Brats always interfere

Marathoning anime has its advantages, such as having a fresh impression of the previous episode or more to reference against. At the seventh episode, the opener and fourth have made the strongest impressions. What sets these episodes apart from the others?

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It's not that these two episodes are the only ones with any action. Yasako had a couple heart-stopping moments while on the run from one, and then two, pursuing Satchii's in episode three. A Satchii makes an appearance in most episodes, with ensuing hijinks. Episode seven may not have had a Satchii chase scene, but it had its own share of running and then a rescue sequence, although its effect was diluted by who the rescued was. It's not that there's no tension in the other episodes.

The first and fourth episodes feature the most world building. Related to that, they're also the most compelling. The premiere should necessarily introduce a significant amount of combat mechanics and demonstrate their utility. But in the fourth episode, the mysterious Isako and her dominant abilities demonstrate even more potential in explosive (literally!) conflict. We get to see what kind of damage can be inflicted, as well as the arsenal of combat tricks available, in all of its meticulously animated glory.

So much detail has gone into constructing the setting that it is easily the primary draw for me. It is thus disappointing when kids get in the way, although I suppose we are supposed to forgive them because they're kids. I will not, of course, because there are two fine examples of how to be a kid and not be stupid. Sadly, Yasako is neither of them.

Dennou Coil, episode 7Stop baby-sitting your sister and start being useful, Yasako!

Yasako makes for a weak protagonist at this point, although with 19 episodes to go, there's plenty of time to turn that ship around. She is weak because she functions as an observer. Fumie drags her around, she's an unwitting impediment to Isako who proceeds to bully her in a more malicious manner than Daichi seems capable of, and even Yasako's younger sister somehow manages to outrun her. We see the world through her eyes, which is great for world building, but everyone but her holds the initiative, which is bad for watching.

That Yasako starts at such a disadvantage to everyone, even her sister, can only mean that she's been set up for the obligatory, I'll get stronger before this is all over, style of development. We've all seen it before, and we all know that one of three things will happen: 1) her growth is well executed and thus compelling, 2) her growth is not well executed and thus arbitrary, 3) her growth is non-existent and thus viewers don't notice or complain vocally.

Mojos have been awesome in all of their appearances. Just thought I'd throw that in.

From a thematic standpoint, Yasako is being used in a heavy-handed fashion to exemplify the theme of distance, although more generally it is all about contrast. Satchii has this sinister air about it borne out of the dichotomy between its public image and its functionality. The Wikipedia article notes the gap in understanding between the adult regulators and the kids. The implications of Daichi's actions are lost on Fumie, although not on Yasako. The cold machinery of the virtual world is at odds with the children who run amok in it. As Yasako grows, she will likely begin to bridge some of those gaps, even between the virtual and physical worlds, if there is any significance behind her mysterious dream.

I'm not liking Kyoko at all. Sure, she's a brat just like Daichi and his clowns are, but Daichi is clearly set up as comic relief who may or may not betray Isako in the future if she's not careful. Kyoko isn't comic relief so much as she is irritating, while doing double duty as a walking plot device. Need to develop Isako's character? Have her bail the munchkin out! Need to set up a chance meeting with Satchii's administrator? Have her nearly get run over by a truck! And on, and on.

I have no doubt that she acts like any three or four year old might act, but by extension you may infer that I have a dislike for small kids. I won't deny it. Someone, and Yasako isn't one of them, needs to keep a tight reign on these little humans lest they be eaten alive, or wrecked by a Satchii.