Dennou Coil (final thoughts) ~ people are connected through narrow paths
March 19, 2012
There’s a rumor on the ‘Net about an anime called Dennou Coil (AKA Coil — A Circle of Children). In it children fight against cyber-lifeforms using the power of augmented reality glasses, metatags, and “codes”. Dennou Coil, which originally aired in 2007, can fairly be classified in the branch of Science Fiction called Cyberpunk. A common theme of Cyberpunk is the connection between computer technology (including networking) and what we call consciousness. Sometimes this can lead to a fusion of Science Fiction with Horror, after all, a common term for a disembodied consciousness is “ghost”. Dennou Coil follows this theme in Cyberpunk, and the horror aspects are specifically hinted at in the show’s OP, most obviously in the beginning.
The vast majority of the characters in Dennou Coil are children, one notable counter-example is the formidable Mega-Baa. Anime often focusses on child-aged characters, but Dennou Coil does a particularly good job of presenting a world of children in a credible way. The children are not mecha pilots or wandering the globe in search of adventure. They interact mostly with other kids, and those adults who do enter their world are usually parents or other relatives, or teachers at school. But I think there is also a social critique involved; the children in this show are very similar to the younger generations growing up now, who are being left to explore the cyber world on their own. Particularly since the mass popularization of the World Wide Web, adults have commented that their children understand computers better than they do. Dennou Coil, I believe is speaking to the fear that children, who are eager to explore the new technologies that become available, will be the ones hurt by the inevitable downside that these new technologies will bring.
The technology of Dennou Coil leans heavily on two key ideas that are practical today, augmented reality, and wearable computers, especially the so-called Heads Up Display (HUD). Augmented reality is the idea of creating an additional layer (a cyber-layer) on top of the reality we already know to exist. The device that actually kicked this technology into high gear was the iPhone (introduced in 2007 — the same year that Dennou Coil was broadcast). Essentially what is needed for augmented reality is a way of adding sensory data on top of what we receive from the real environment; smart phones, such as the iPhone, handed that capability to tens of millions of users. In addition to supplying additional information about objects in the real environment, the capability exists right now to interact with virtual objects that are superimposed on the real environment. The Dennou glasses of the show are an improvement over smartphone-based augmented reality, because they are hands-free, and they incorporate speakers for virtually augmenting the auditory sense. A commercial product similar to the Dennou glasses is expected in late 2012 from Google (often called “Google Glasses”).
Another technology that is prevalent in Dennou Coil is the “cyber-pet”. Many different types of cyber-pets are shown to exist. One episode specifically revolves around a missing cyber-hamster. Whereas virtual pets do exist today, the cyber-pets in Dennou Coil are much more advanced, because they have an independent existence in the layer that augments reality. Today’s virtual pets are local to some device, but the cyber-pets of Dennou Coil can roam the augmentation layer and thus become separated from their owners. Also seeing (or otherwise interacting with) someone else’s cyber-pet doesn’t require accessing their device, it merely requires being in the corresponding spot in reality, and wearing the Dennou glasses, as they are a part of the augmented reality layer. Cyber-pets, then, are our first step towards beings that have an existence “beyond our natural reality”; they can, in a sense, already be called “super natural”.
It is tempting to go through the various characters in Dennou Coil, because there were so many that were well developed and quite entertaining. The fact is, however, that dynamic characters, like those in this show, can only be experienced first-hand.
One last point: The production values are great. Honestly I wasn’t surprised at this because the show’s creator, director, and screenplay writer was Mitsuo Iso. Iso is justifiably famous for his work on “The Children’s Night” (episode 15 of RahXephon). He was the key animator for several famous action scenes in works such as Porco Rosso and End of Evangelion.
The characters are compelling, the Science Fiction is thought provoking, and the production values are excellent. If you can watch this show, I recommend that you do so.