In this heartfelt 13-parter, a trio of schoolgirls head into a post-nuclear-meltdown Tokyo looking for pockets of survivors. Only they’re not ordinary schoolgirls, they’re clones genetically engineered to be resistant to contaminated environments (even in really short skirts). And with escaped convicts, mysterious military types, evil mutants, super-powerful rogue clones and toxic fly-tippers on the loose, it quickly turns out that their visit to the no-go zone is going to be busier than a night in Vegas.
Initially, there’s something slightly lacklustre about the depiction of the three girls and the early stages of their mission, but as the plot thickens the series becomes much more involving. Interesting new characters emerge, such as a community of hardy survivors who live in a high-tech bunker called The Shelter, and Haruto, the girls’ male counterpart, a languidly cynical schoolboy who works as a one-man clean-up crew. There are some outstandingly fast-moving, dynamic fight sequences, and in the quieter, more reflective moments weighty themes come into play to do with the way these youthful clones, designed to be perfect, are having to sacrifice themselves to fix the mistakes of humanity – the sins of the fathers visited on the children.
Because it’s a self-contained story, the whole thing has a concentrated power which some more open-ended anime lack, and it steadily builds momentum towards a genuinely moving and nail-biting conclusion. Visually, Coppelion stands out from the crowd too. The use of extra-thick outlines for some of the character designs won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying the beauty of the show’s panoramic urban backdrops, done in a scratchy pen-and-ink and watercolour style full of movement and subtle detail. The imagery of the city returning to nature is haunting, making Coppelion one of those rare anime that really lingers in the mind. 8/10