COPPELION Volume 1 Review
Reviewed by: Linny
Synopsis: A nuclear meltdown on October 2,2016 leads to the evacuation and abandonment of the once prosperous city of Tokyo. It is now 2036. A sudden flurry of SOS messages from what is now considered a ghost town spurs the government into sending a rescue team into the highly radioactive ‘city of death’. This team is named COPPELION and consists of three high school girls who have no idea what to expect or just what lays in wait for them.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Coppelion starts off looking somewhat innocent with our three high school girls seemingly walking on their way to school, possible in the countryside, in the first few panels. It isn’t until the next page that we see the overgrown weeds and fallen electric poles which make it obvious that the girls are clearly in an abandoned city. Coppelion does a good job of dispensing enough information through the girls’ conversations without giving too much away or feeling like a wall of text.
The first chapter introduces us to the girl and their current mission to track down the source of a mysterious SOS call from the city. First up we have Ibara Naruse, the undisputed leader who is brave and unafraid to go against orders if it means saving a life. Next, we have Aoi Fukasaku who is extremely unhappy about being sent to this godforsaken and scary place and just wants to go back to the comforts of modern life. She loves to eat and seems to be the most timid of the three girls. Lastly, we have Taeko Nomura who seems to be the medic of the team as she’s carrying a medical bag with her. As the story goes on, we learn that these girls have genetically enhanced DNA that makes them impervious to the deadly radiation, and Taeko in particular has animal DNA which helps her bond with a stray dog they encounter on their adventure.
Coppelion dispenses its information quickly, rarely ever dragging things out unnecessarily, atleast within this first volume. We quickly learn about why these girls do not need to wear protective suits in such a highly radioactive city and they find the source of the SOS message within the very first chapter itself. Of course, not everything gets a straight and clear answer but that’s to be expected in order for the story to go on. As we enter the second chapter, you will notice that it seems to do a sort of ‘recap’, going over the last few panels of the previous chapter. This feels somewhat awkward and unnecessary especially now that the series has been completed and we are able to read the entire story in a single sitting should one wish to do so. This ‘recap’ is done in every single chapter and while we do get some different view angles in some chapters, it mostly feels superfluous at this point. This isn’t a huge issue but is definitely something unique to be seen in a manga.
The second chapter also starts to really,really drive in the horrors of nuclear power going wrong. It harps on and on about how misguided and wrong the people were to think their nuclear power plant indestructible, pointing out that all it took was a 5 second earthquake to cause the meltdown. There’s a sequence where a helicopter camera crew is trying to get an image of the now defunct and highly radioactive power plant. The man in charge of the crew is extremely insistent that they get a shot of it because he wants everyone to see the terror of nuclear power. It’s hard to avoid feeling like the author might have been/be extremely against nuclear power or maybe he was just trying to inject some extra drama into the story. Either way, it does come off a little contrived.
The rest of the volume documents the girls’ attempts to locate other survivors and the several dangers they encounter. From wild animals to mysterious armed humans, it seems like the girls face more danger from them than the radiation. New mysteries are unveiled as we learn how even the govt had stopped airdropping emergency rations five years ago believing it impossible for there to be any survivors left after 15 years in the radiation yet the survivors are apparently still receiving aid from a mysterious person. Then of course, the mystery of why anyone would want to remain in this toxic land, but that gets answered within the volume itself. The story mixes in a lot of action and mystery, giving enough answers yet maintaining enough enigma to keep most readers enthralled to the last page of the volume. Other than the hamfisted vilification of nuclear power, Coppelion manages to weave an intriguing tale about the horrifying conditions that can come about in a post apocalyptic city. Seeing our three mostly unarmed girls having to tread through this really eerily empty and crumbling ghost town is a chilling experience and begs the question as to why these girls were sent in with so few tools to protect and care for themselves.
As someone who first experienced this story through the anime adaptation, I have to mention that the anime does vastly improve the art and design of the manga. While the manga art isn’t especially unappealing, it took a while for me to adjust to it with the images from the anime causing constant and disappointing comparisons. Also as someone who dropped the show after a handful of episodes, I am debating throwing in my two cents about how the story developed in the anime versus the manga since i haven’t read or watched most of Coppelion. I remember being as enthralled by the anime as I am now by the manga as the story does have such a great start with a really dark opening mystery but then being really bored as the show continued. People have also mentioned being disappointed by the anime ending but seeing as how the manga continued way past the anime, there’s a strong chance that the mangaka got the chance to write a more fulfilling ending.
Overall, Coppelion holds promise for those seeking a post apocalyptic survival story with a Japanese/manga twist thrown in. As someone disappointed by the anime, I would still say Coppelion deserves a chance for having a great build up in its first volume but go in with tempered expectations of the development and conclusion and be aware it can get a bit preachy. Even though the story features three high school girls, there’s zero fanservice (atleast in this first volume) so that makes it feel like a serious tale rather than a cheap attempt at exploiting its female protagonists, especially with two of its protagonists coming off as smart and strong girls capable of handling whatever the city throws at them, without feeling like overpowered cliches. Here’s to hoping the mystery and thrills remain strong throughout and all the way to the end.