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Coppelion (2013)

Following a nuclear disaster, the city that was once Tokyo is now a contaminated wasteland. Into this apparent ghost-town comes a trio of teenagers, apparently on a field trip. But these are not your average high-schoolers, but Coppelion- genetically enhanced artificial humans bred to have enhanced abilities and an immunity to the radiation. This particular threesome are part of the Self Defence Force's rescue squad, sent to bring back the small number of people who have somehow manage to survive in this forbidden zone.

Coppelion is a 13 episode anime produced by GoHands that originally aired in 2013. It was adapted from the manga of the same name by Tomonori Inoue.  

'Only Teens Can Save The Earth' is a common trope in Young Adult fiction from around the world,- From Ender's Game to Evangelion- and is equally prevalent in anime and manga. Post-nuclear scenarios are also particularly common in Japanese popular fiction due to the country's history. While it may rely on ideas that commonplace in all media, Coppelion still has plenty to recommend it, particularly to fans of Sci-Fi anime.

Many similar series would see the girls encounter monsters in the wilderness, but initially, it's the location itself that is the biggest threat. In time though we encounter the First Division- a menacing-looking squadron of Gas Mask-sporting former SDF members left behind after the disaster and out for revenge. Later still they are joined by rogue Coppelion who have turned on their former classmates.

Despite the serious situation it's heroines find themselves in, the series retains a light-hearted tone. This is mainly due to the girls' personalties, with their happy-go-lucky attitudes contrasted with the bleakness of the world around them. Yet although they are likeable and cheerful for the most part, it also doesn't go too far the other way either.  The characters are certainly less in-you-face and shrill than characters found in many other anime. The series does a very good job at balancing this lightness with a more melancholic thread running throughout, resulting in a mood that is best described at bittersweet.

The oldest of the girls Ibara is a particularly capable and strong character, although retaining a certain vulnerability to make her believable. The show does lose points, however, for having her rescued by men at a couple of vital points in the plot.

Coppelion is mainly character based, but when it turns its hand to action it equips itself well. The series is peppered with some exciting action set-pieces- with an extended sequence set on a train a particular stand-out. Still- we can't forget an honourable mention for the surprisingly thrilling pedalo chase. (Yes, you read that right.)

As with previous GoHands efforts, the series has a very impressive visual style. Beautifully designed backgrounds do wonders at helping establish the show's world. It's deserted, overgrown city streets are classic for the genre, and will likely remind you of previous visions of the future, perhaps none more so than the videogame The Last Of Us. These gorgeous backdrops blend with characters who frequently are surrounded by thick black lines, creating an arresting look. The use of CG is spare and is much better integrated than in the majority of Japanese animation.

Overall, Coppelion is an unexpected treat for sci-fi fans. It's unique mood and sumptuous visuals ensure that is not just another post-apocalyptic show. The story it tells is nicely self-contained (while leaving a door open for a sequel), which is refreshing in itself.  The end feels fitting for the series, and leaves us on a hopeful, redemptive note. If however, they do decide to make more some day... we certainly wouldn't complain.

COPPELION is available now on BLU-RAY and DVD from MANGA/KAZE in the UK and VIZ in the US and is also streaming via VIZ , HULU (US Only) and ANIMAX (UK)