12 Days of Christmas: Coppelion’s Countdown to Mediocrity

Spoilers for the early part of Coppelion.

It was about time for a good anime that reflected on the aftermath and tragedy of Fukushima. For the first few episodes, Coppelion, whose manga actually predates the disaster by a few years and now seems awfully prescient (along with Tokyo Magnitude 8.0), seemed like it was a serious candidate for that title. Its decayed and detailed backgrounds contrasted perhaps a bit too strongly with the thick-lined characters, a hallmark of the new Go Hands studio, but there was plenty of intrigue and sad realizations as we discovered that Tokyo had been ruined by a nuclear accident of some sort. There were scientists who were atoning for their sins, a few people who refused to leave their homes despite the devastation–just like in northern Japan at the time–and politicians and industry leaders passing the buck. Sure, the girls sometimes seemed a little too jaunty given the setting, but there was real pain and anguish in the people that they rescued in the early parts, and there seemed to be direct, pointed statements intended to resonate to a public still dealing with the memory of such large scale failure…

Then, in episode 4, the timer appeared.



The timer counted down how long until a certain character’s radiation suit gave out and he would die from the fallout poisoning. In its bombastic, over-the-top way, it was also intended to illustrate the brevity of life and the urgency of the situation. Instead, it was more like the cheesy bomb timer that the movie Galaxy Quest mocked years ago, that timer that you know will never actually reach 00:00–which, of course, it doesn’t, there or here.

Worse, this timer appeared in an episode where we discovered that somehow, stealth bombers had machine guns, lots of vegetation can exist in fallout zones, and these superpowered, radiation-proof schoolgirls can declare mission accomplished and treat all their outings like a school trip. It was, in short, the crowning moment where I could no longer take Coppelion seriously. And in my opinion, the show never recovered from that moment. For what might have been a semi-serious meditation on disaster, working together, and confronting the mistakes of the past, Coppelion became an action romp with cartoonish villains, silly characters like Aoi (one of Kana Hanazawa’s most grating roles yet), and a Vice Principal/Commander who looks like Saddam Hussein. Really!

Coppelion - 03 - Large 05Saddam_Hussain_Iran-Iraqi_war_1980s

I am the told the manga, which is available on Crunchyroll’s new manga channel, is considerably better. But despite its best efforts, the great post-Fukushima anime has yet to be produced. Coppelion turns out to be, sadly, just another anime.


Author: gendomike

Michael lives in the Los Angeles area, and has been into anime since he saw Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1999. Some of his favorite shows include Full Metal Alchemist, Honey and Clover, and Welcome to the NHK!. Since 2003 he has gone to at least one anime convention every year. A public radio junkie, which naturally led to podcasting, he now holds a seminary degree and is looking to become Dr. Rev. Otaku Bible Man any day now. Michael can be reached at mike.huang@animediet.net. You can also find his Twitter account at @gendomike.

4 thoughts on “12 Days of Christmas: Coppelion’s Countdown to Mediocrity

  1. Thanks to you, I burst out into laughter whenever I see the vice-principal. It’s like a batsu game moment every time! XD

  2. I always thought that Mishima’s mustached character design was based on Masahisa Sato, a JSDF officer-turned-politician who’s nicknamed for his mustache… but now I can’t get that image out of my head… oh man.

  3. Well I am sorry to hear that the anime is not well done. There’s a couple of other manga that is similar to the premises of what Coppelion talks about, of which I am sure the anime version doesn’t do the manga version justice.

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