Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: December 2007, 10

Monday, December 10, 2007

06:28:38 pm , 1011 words, 12004 views     Categories: Animation, Denno Coil, TV

Denno Coil epilogue

Denno Coil ended about a week ago, so I thought I would post my thoughts on how the series progressed since the last episode I blogged, episode 12. I try to avoid discussing anything remotely specific about the plot when I blog something, for one because it would be a spoiler, but more importantly because I find there to be no point. So I wind up trying to analyze what's being done with the directing or what is interesting stylistically.

There was enough going on stylistically and in terms of the directing in the first season to make blogging each episode rewarding. With the second season the nature of the show began to change. It was like the expository portion was over, and we were now moving into the main body, where we would finally get serious and explore the theme that Iso had hinted at in the beginning as being the driving force - namely, the theme of the interconnectedness of people. I found that I could probably not productively blog each episode anymore, since most of what was happening was happening mostly on the level of the plot and the character interrelations. It's best for everyone to make up their own minds about the story. It's boring reading about that sort of thing anyway. Best to just watch it. So I stopped blogging it.

The first 14 episodes had been entirely written by Mitsuo Iso. Starting with episode 15, the credit was shared. My guess is that Iso maybe provided the rough draft and someone else fleshed it out. All of the work must have caught up with him, preventing him from writing the rest, which is a shame. Much of the catchy quality of the show came from his writing, so losing that made a difference. The tone of the show seemed to change a bit. Suddenly the focus was quite clear, without the silliness and imaginative touches of the early episodes. That was an appealing part to me. Things also became a little repetitive. It seemed like we were going nowhere for a long time, stalling for time, and there was nothing really new being presented in terms of the cyber world or in terms of plot. I got the impression that things were being drawn out to fill in the space, when this climactic portion might better have been fit within a few episodes.

The quality of the show nonetheless remained at the same level, which in itself is a remarkable achievement. It may have gone down ever so slightly, but they put up a really strong fight throughout - the regulars like Toshiyuki Inoue, Kumiko Kawana, Kazutaka Ozaki, Yoshimi Itatsu, et al. Hiroyuki Aoyama even re-appeared a few times, as did Ayako Hata, Takashi Mukoda and Masashi Ando. At the very least, Denno Coil achieved an unusually high average level of quality for a TV anime. Real quality, as in interesting and nuanced movement by good animators, not just frame count or pretty drawings. The last episode unsurprisingly featured an impressive array of big-name animators, and I was happy to see young Shin-Ei animator Ryotaro Makihara (who I mentioned before) in ep 25. Tetsuro Karai appeared several times, so perhaps he pulled Makihara in. I was surprised that character designer Takeshi Honda never reappeared as an animator after episode 1, but I'm guessing there's a lot of tug-of-war going on among the big directors for someone of his caliber.

I quite enjoyed the second, more focused half for what it was trying to do, but it wasn't as captivating to me as the first half, where each episode was fresh and full of new ideas. My main problem was that the plot suddenly seemed to get stuck in third gear, rather than gradually ratcheting up. Also, the concept driving the plot became somewhat murky near the end as the explanations behind the cyber self seemed to push plausibility and border on philosophy. I really like how Iso used the concept to discuss issues of identity and mortality, but by the time the climax arrived, the balance felt out of whack and the climax came across as kind of forced and sudden, with lots of explanations suddenly falling from the sky. Perhaps the padding had drawn things out for too long. Dropping lots of mysteries at the beginning only to answer them all right at the end is a style of plotting that has never done much for me. I don't think the climax should have relied on sudden revelations, at least not so much. The characters' motivations should have been enough. Maybe things would have been different if Iso had written every episode, or if they could have done it all in 18 episodes or 20 episodes instead of having to adhere to these fixed numbers - 13, 26. Who knows.

In any case, Denno Coil was a rare instance when someone set out with an interesting, original idea for a TV show and got it made with solid backing from a bevy of the best animators in the industry. Mitsuo Iso the animator shone through in the digital wizardry of the scenes involving the cyber-gadgets and apparitions. These scenes achieved an unusual level of depth that went beyond the flat confines of the conventional 2D look of anime. It was these scenes that made the cyber world of Denno Coil come alive and feel real and immediate. Despite any shortcomings the story might have, the concept was very stimulating and convincingly fleshed out. The characters were fun and engaging, and they developed in a fairly convincing way over the course of the show in response to the events. The show addressed some serious questions without taking itself too seriously. The animation was consistently top-notch throughout while never stooping to being an end unto itself. The animation served the material and emphasized nuanced observation and craft over eye-candy flashiness. More than anything, it was a rare instance of a TV show that succeeded in creating its own self-contained world with its own unique rules and aesthetic. It was a real success on many levels.