This series is one of my all-time favorites and I’m sorry that nobody has seen fit to license it yet. Some shows seem destined to win awards and critical praise, but not to attract a real mass audience. Sometimes they are eventually recognized as true classics.
The story is an unusual variant of cyberpunk, a genre usually associated with dark stories about a lawless world in which hackers with few scruples battle cabals and power brokers who are even less scrupulous. Dennou Coil has some elements of this, but the overall tone is much lighter–partly because the story is told from the viewpoint of an optimistic child. The result is clever and thought-provoking, but also charming.
Dennou Coil / Coil–A Circle of Children
Science Fiction, Mystery, Adventure
There is nothing particularly objectionable here, but some parts of the story are likely to be frightening to young children.
The story takes place about 20 years from now. The setting looks much like present-day Japan, but the computer technology is much more advanced. Most people own “cyberglasses”
), which look like ordinary glasses but feature high-resolution video displays, high-speed networking, massive processing power and sophisticated sensors, all controlled by hand gestures. If you have a pair cyberglasses there is no need to carry around a laptop computer, cell phone or video game system. It can do the work of all of them.
Looking through the glasses one can see the real physical world, augmented by various computer-generated enhancements. Computer programs are generally represented by virtual objects that you can manipulate and control with natural hand motions, such as a can of “bug spray” or a “fishing rod”.
Most adults only put on the glasses to accomplish specific tasks, but children who have grown up with the technology take it for granted and wear the glasses most of the time. They rarely make much distinction between the physical and virtual worlds that they see.
The glasses seem to be like present-day game consoles: they are only supposed to run software approved by the manufacturer. This rule is widely flouted and there is a brisk trade in unapproved software.
Kids like to collect “metatags”
which look like trading cards and can do a variety of useful or interesting things. Some can serve as spectacular offensive or defensive weapons. There is no danger in this, at least in theory, because none of it affects the physical world and a child who gets in trouble can just take his glasses off. However there is a risk that the use of unapproved software could end up damaging the glasses.
Cyberglasses depend on a mesh network of wireless access points and servers that supply data about the local environment. These are maintained by a hodgepodge of government agencies, private businesses and individual homeowners. Naturally it is hard to keep all the servers oni
synchronized and up-to-date. Wandering into an “old space”
controlled by a server full of obsolete data can be very disconcerting.
These old, unpatched servers are havens for various sorts of viruses and malware that are called “Illegals”
. Some of these rogue programs have taken on a life of their own, and perhaps even become sentient. Old spaces are also a source of “metabugs”
, useful bits of rogue software which are highly prized because they can be used to create new types of unapproved programs.
is eleven years old and has just moved with her family to the city of Daikoku. Because her name is written with the kanji
for “gentle”, her friends call her Yasako
(“gentle child”). This seems appropriate since she is rather shy and non-confrontational.
Yasako’s little sister Kyouko
is a real handful. She follows Yasako around, ignores instructions, and rarely says anything other than unchi!
is Yasako’s beloved cyberpet. He exists only as an image displayed by the glasses, but he is very real to her. She can pick him up but can’t feel him.
Kyouko likes to play with Densuke too.
Yasako’s mother is well-meaning and pleasant, but she is pretty clueless about modern technology.
Her father seems a nice enough fellow, but he is rarely around.
Yasako’s grandmother might appear senile, but she is really nothing of the sort. She runs a business out of her home dealing in unauthorized software. The local children call her Megabaa
(“Glasses Granny”). Yasako doesn’t know that she is the head of the “Coil Cyber-Investigation Agency,” which is actually a group of kids who run errands for her and assist in her nefarious activities.
Yasako soon makes a new friend: Fumie Hashimoto
. She is a small, somewhat bossy girl and a skilled hacker.
Fumie has a cyberpet named Oyaji
, who she insists on referring to as her “servant.”
is another new transfer student. Because her name is spelled with the kanji for “brave” she is sometimes called Isako
(“brave child”) which annoys her. She is a quiet, unfriendly girl who is reputed to be a “Encoder”, a kind of überhacker. She clearly has advanced programming skills and can control her glasses without moving her hands.
Fumie’s archenemy at school is Daichi Sawaguchi
, the founder of the Hacker’s Club. He is an obnoxious boy with a tendency to bully.
is Daichi’s best friend. He is a gentle, easygoing boy who is strongly loyal to Daichi and sometimes serves to restrain him.
is the youngest member of the Hacker’s Club. The older boys bully him. Everybody
bullies him and he deeply resents it. His cyberpet Midget
collects information for him.
is President of the Biology Club. The other kids call him Haraken
. He is quiet and reserved, but competent and reliable. Despite its name, the Biology club seems mostly concerned with studying cyberspace creatures. Fumie is the vice-president.
Concerned by the proliferation of old spaces and the growing plague of Illegals, the city of Daikoku has deployed a program called Searchmaton
, or “Satchi”
for short. It is designed to hunt down and destroy Illegals and reformat the servers where they hide.
Satchi’s goofy appearance is supposed to be reassuring, but the children hate and fear it because it will mindlessly attack anyone possessing unapproved software, including children with harmless metatags or innocent victims of virus infections.
is a high school student and a talented hacker. She works part-time for the city, hunting Illegals.
is a boy from a rival school who encounters Yasako by chance and takes a liking to her.
is a mysterious and rather unpleasant fellow who seems to have some sort of alliance with Isako.
According to an urban legend, Michiko-san
is a ghostly Illegal who can grant wishes–and steal children’s souls.
Wikipedia entry (spoilers.)
ANN Encyclopedia entry.
Financial demands by the owners is probably the key problem, guessing by the stories of the megabudget that Dennou Coil’s creators consumed.
I can believe that they spent a lot of money on it. It’s a quality production. But my impression is that when it aired in Japan it got respectable ratings, but not megahit ratings.
I suspect that in R1 sales would be respectable (by anime standards) but not outstanding. It doesn’t hit the main demographic. It’s a bit too shoujo and a bit too cerebral. So it definitely wouldn’t justify huge licensing fees.
Still, if that’s the only problem it is reason to be hopeful in the long run. The producers’ original investment is now sunk costs. Sooner or later they will probably accept a reasonable offer.