Japan seems to have a knack for courting nuclear disasters. First there was the Hiroshima bombing, then the Fukushima plant tsunami crisis and in 2016 (if this anime based on Tomonori Inoue’s manga is to be believed) Tokyo will be abandoned after a meltdown renders the area uninhabitable. Thankfully the Japanese have found a perfect solution for dealing with irradiated zones – teenage schoolgirls! To be precise, Coppelion are genetically altered clones that are immune to the effects of radiation. After graduating high school they are dispatched to the former capital where they patrol the contaminated city ruins, aiding any survivors who may be trapped there.
Coppelion follows the exploits of Ibara Naruse, Taeko Nomura and Aoi Fukasaku – a trio of young ladies who offer humanitarian assistance to Tokyo’s residents, at the behest of Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force. Squad leader Ibara, who is blessed with superhuman strength and sharpshooting skills, is the muscle of the team. Taeko’s expertize, on the other hand, lie with doing whatever the current episode’s plot demands. Need to identify a jet soaring through the skies? She has enhanced vision. Need a hound’s tracking skills to locate someone? Don’t worry, she can communicate with animals. Who can help deliver a baby? Fear not, Taeko has received medical training. Rounding off the group is Aoi the diminutive comedy relief… or at least I think that is her role. Much like Jar Jar Binks her antics tend to lean more towards annoying rather than endearing.
The show’s thirteen episodes can be broken down into three stories. The first tale sees the Healthcare Team commence their tour of Tokyo with a mission that has them searching for a missing girl. After that our heroines tangle with mercenaries who, via the illegal dumping of chemical waste, are adding to the city’s pollution problems. The final story arc, which happens to be the lengthiest, has Ibara and chums escorting a pregnant woman to safety. Standing between them and sanctuary are a pair of rogue Coppelion sisters and an army led by a gas mask wearing general (who looks like Sturm from Advance Wars.) Nintendo really should revive the Advance Wars franchise – I’m sure it would be better received than Metroid Prime Federation Force.
My initial impression of Coppelion wasn’t good, but the series did improve as it went along. The first two stories fell flat, as the emotional gut punch they hoped to deliver barely registered a mild stomach ache. Parents sacrificing themselves for their offspring and a scientist trying to atone for past mistakes could work, if the characters in question weren’t so one note and poorly written. The same applies to the show’s heroines and villains. The leads don’t have much of a personality and are prone to bouts of weeping whenever tragedy strikes (which is odd given that training in wasteland survival, should have toughened them up a bit.) The portrayal of the psychotic Ozu sisters is also inconsistent. One moment Kanon is using her sis Shion as a human shield and a few episodes later we are expected to believe that she cares deeply for her sibling.
Episode five is where the series started to improve in my eyes. It was from that point on that the writers abandoned the idea of telling poignant yarns and instead started to deliver mindless action. Normally that would not be a plus, but when an anime is so saturated with clichés, contrivances and coincidences having the excuse to turn off your brain comes as a welcome relief. On the plus side the car chases, gunfights and brawls were all enjoyable to watch thanks to the artistry of GoHands’ animators. The studio impressed me with their detailed backgrounds and character designs, which are drawn with thick black borders akin to what you would see in a cell-shaded video game.
My final rating is three stars. Coppelion isn’t essential viewing, but action junkies who can overlook its flaws should have some fun with the series. At the very least watching the anime taught me that when Atomic Armageddon strikes I should fly over to Japan. Getting rescued by schoolgirls in miniskirts beats the US alternative of dealing with Fallout 4 super mutants.