Dennou Coil is a sci-fi series from that particular studio I have a love-hate relationship with, Madhouse. It's one of those uncommon anime that's not based on anything and was entirely studio created. It did get manga and light novel adaptations, however. I can't even give a good guess as to its quality since Madhouse has made both some of the best and the very worst anime I've ever seen. Let's take a look.
Dennou Coil takes place in a futuristic world where people can use glasses to view and interact with a world of cyberspace. Our protagonist is the young Okonogi Yuuko. Her family moves to Daikoku City. Yuko quickly encounters a strange black being from cyberspace called an "illegal." The story revolves around the mystery of illegals, obsolete space, and a young encoder named Amasawa Yuuko who seems to have plans for the illegals. The series has some interesting ideas, but it also has its problems. There are some really clunky exposition moments. The most prominent happens towards the end of the series when the main antagonist explains their motivation to their accomplicewho already knows the informationfor no good reason. It's just awkward and stilted. To be fair, most of the dialogue sounds perfectly natural, but there are occasional moments like that. Another issue is that there's quite a bit of filler that doesn't tie into the main narrative and just serves to pad the series. There are some episodes that don't have a single important event, most notably the mustache and Nessie ones. There are other episodes where roughly five minutes will be important and the rest won't be. The biggest issue is the emphasis on romance. Most of the characters are 6th graders, forcing romance into their dynamics isn't just nonsensical (since kids that young are, at most, just starting to understand what love is in a very shallow and simplistic way not having real romances and certainly not having romances that are treated as serious) but it's not relevant to the plot nor organic. It's pretty forced and everything would have worked better if the relationships had been left as friendships. On the positive side, there are some really good emotional moments, when they aren't shoehorning in romance, the world is developed and interesting and the narrative itself, when they dispense with the filler, is really engaging.
The characters, putting aside the very stupid romantic elements, are mostly well done. They have some interesting dynamics and the major ones do get some good development. There is one major exception, Yuuko's younger sister, Kyoko. She is one of the most obnoxious, pointless characters I've ever seen. Her role mostly consists of getting into trouble and having to get rescued, tormenting Yuuko's cyberdog, Densuke, and pointing at things while saying "poop." They could have replaced her with a Labrador wearing cyberglasses and it would've been an improvement, as the Labrador would have been cute and not said "poop" constantly.
The art is pretty bland. The characters and backgrounds are really minimalistic. It wouldn't bother me too much, except that the cyberspace elements tend to be really boring. You've got spheres, cubes, robots that look like inflatable toys and vague blobs. You'd think cyberspace would be more interesting, but it is supposed to be fairly new so I guess it makes some sense that it's not quite there yet. It's also entirely possible that the artist team was just lazy or that Madhouse thought the minimalistic aesthetic would be the best for this type of story. On the positive side, Madhouse does almost entirely refrain from their usual fan-service, probably because most of the characters are children, although they do have a little bit with the older Tamako.
The voice acting is pretty good. Kuwashima Houko, Orikasa Fumiko and Paku Romi all give good performances. The major weakness is Yajima Akiko, not because she's a bad actor. She was actually stellar in Blue Drop and good in both Berserk and Gundam Wing, in spite of playing an annoying character in Wing too, The problem here is that she doesn't have much to work with. She says "poop" in an over-excited voice a lot. The music is subdued and quiet for most of the series, but it's pretty effective.
The Ho-yay factor is a 2/10. There are some scenes that do lean a little towards the homo-erotic, but nothing substantial.
And that's Dennou Coil. It has some things it does really well and some really annoying aspects. In the end, I did like more about it than I disliked. My final rating is a 6/10. It's a decent piece that could have been much better with some more effort. Next week I'll end my December reviews with a look at Kitakubu Katsudou Kiroku.