As we head into the second and more intricate half of Dennou Coil, the show makes sure to re-familiarize the audience with our main protagonist and the general events of the story.
After three ‘filler’ episodes that give us a general sense of the world of Dennou and how it works, along with creative character interactions, we finally return to the main plot. Well, almost. Episode 14 surprisingly, isn’t another filler episode, nor is it an actual introduction to the second half of the story; it’s a recap episode.
I don’t usually have many problems with recap episodes – in fact, I was grateful for Dennou for giving me one, as it had been a while since I had watched the first eight episodes, so the fact that a lot of information was summed up was actually quite nice! And it’s not like the recap episode itself was terribly executed. On the contrary, what I did enjoy was how the narration was told from Fumie’s little brother, Akira Hashimoto. Combining witty jokes while smoothly diving into the meat of the first half, Episode 14 was fun to watch. However, its existence alone brings up one big question and some uncertainty.
Why do we need a recap episode in the first place? It’s not like the first 10 episodes of Dennou are necessarily heavy in any way. I’d even go as far as to argue that Dennou‘s first half is pretty easygoing and episodic in nature. In terms of the main arc, not much has progressed, so I’m confused as to why the creators decided to insert one in when the the first half lacks much meat. The second part is why Dennou inserted a recap episode after three consecutive ones of filler. It’s almost like they’re wasting a good 25 minutes when they could have easily jumped right back into the main plot. I wouldn’t have been bothered by this if the show was around 30 or more episodes, but Dennou is only 26, which means that there are only 12 episodes to actually focus in and develop the plot. It’s a bit worrisome and the last thing I’d want from a show that sucks you in so easily is for a ending that fails to stand on its own two feet, or ends up being rushed. What’s also unusual is that apparently, right after episode 13 aired, there was a mini episode that did the exact same thing as this episode. So you have two recap episodes, following one another, and narrating the exact same events. I also heard that usually recap episodes are inserted for production development in case the crew needs to work on other episodes, but from what I’ve heard, Dennou was in the works for more than 10 years, so I fail to see how this idea would apply to the show. But what’s done is done, and it’s not like the recap episode was a full loss.
The last bits of Episode 14 were perhaps the most intriguing, as we return to the enigmatic 4-4-2-3 a.k.a Isako’s Potentially Lost Brother storyline. Haraken is firmly told to stop sticking his nose where it shouldn’t belong (when frankly, it kind of does belong, considering that his to-be girlfriend is well, dead because of him) and we finally reach the title of the show itself. I wasn’t really questioning what Dennou Coil actually meant, but apparently it’s all tied back to some major event four years ago and has to do with the Illegals, Kirabugs, and whatever Isako is up to.
It’s here where I do want to bring up something I haven’t talked about in the previous posts, and that’s the idea of loss, escapism, and cybertechnology. I’m sure this will be discussed in the later episodes as Dennou continues to investigate the origins of the kirabugs and what happened to Isako’s brother, but for right now, I’ll say this. I do particularly enjoy how Dennou Coil manages to display cybertechnology as a root in the lives of children. That is, technology is at a level where it is so accessible that everyone uses it in one way or another. Whereas many shows would often say that this is harmful, I think Dennou shows that internet can be used for good just as it can be used for bad. Escapism isn’t necessarily a negative concept, as seen with these kids and their daily cyberbattles. We play games on the internet, get involved in social networking, create blog posts, and even write fanfiction. None of these activities are truly detrimental to the human mind, but at the same time, it’s important to note that Dennou states that all things must be held in small doses. The more we linger in the fabrications of reality, the more we depart from it – physically and mentally, at least from the show’s perspective. It’s something I personally have always found fascinating, even if it’s a theme that isn’t new or original; take .hack//SIGN, which is all about losing yourself in the net, or Serial Experiments Lain, which focuses on existentialism and the net’s effect on the human state. But whereas shows like Serial Experiments Lain or .hack//SIGN are incredibly morose and forlorn in their atmosphere, Dennou Coil is much more optimistic and kind. Lain and Tsubasa (towards the beginning) nearly had no one to support their depression and loneliness, but here, Haraken and Isako have a group of kids who are all actively watching out for them and lending their support. And it’s because the kids of Dennou Coil are so interactive with one another (as opposed to Lain, who is isolated) that the effect of the net is much more positive than negative. It’s a nice touch and is one of the stronger points of the show that really stands out in these cases.
But! I’m diverging from my point. What I really enjoyed was how Yasako was focused on in Episode 15; a refreshing difference from the usual group interactions we’ve seen in the past episodes. Yasako (whose directional capabilities match mine, to be fair) ends up getting lost in a different part of town and befriends Takeru, a kid who’s also being bullied/chased by the the bigger kids in the neighborhood. Takeru and Yasako end up going on a bit of an adventure to find more Obsolete Spaces and also investigating Yasako’s lost memories; a topic that’s been evaded or dodged by the show for a while now. I mean, it was obvious to me that 4423 – the boy Yasako befriended was Isako’s brother, but what really surprised me was the fact that he was almost devoured by a blackness in trying to save her, and that she also befriended an Illegal who was also looking for 4423. This last bit is a new twist to the story that I didn’t see coming, and I’m glad to know that Dennou Coil continues to have plot twists and surprises right up its sleeves. What was so special about this episode for me however, wasn’t just the plot revelations; it was the fact that Yasako was rightfully focused on, and we got to see a bit of her own story and her actually functioning in her own story. I’ve complained before that she’s often taken a backseat in most of the fun episodes because she’s relatively new to the whole idea of the cyberworld and hacking, but also because she has a very passive personality. That’s counterattacked in this episode, where frankly, nothing action-like happens – no cyberbattles or anything of the sort – but in exchange, we really see how important these memories are to her and it was just really nice to see her get some screentime to herself, rather than through the interactions of Fumie or Daichi.
Apparently, the fun has just begun however, with the reveal that Yasako might be an “Imago kid” or whatever the heck that means. The next couple of episodes look really promising as Dennou Coil continues to delve deeper into the mysteries of the Illegals along with Isako herself. I’m looking forward to some interesting answers and confrontations here! The show has been thoroughly engaging and solid for a good half, so here’s to the last half, hoping that it lives up to the same expectations.