It is the year 2710, but some traditions never truly die: Japanese high school student Shinichi is on a high school field trip to a rebuilt Nara, which is celebrating its 1300th year of existence and the 2000th year of the capital's relocation to that area. When separated from his class, he as a run-in with a white deer, which steals his backpack ... and leads him to a strange girl nicknamed "Toto" after her incredibly long name. Little does he suspect the great adventure ahead of him amid the ancient temples and vibrant streets of Nara!
Okay, okay, we've seen this before, even in the days of the 80s one-shot. Boy meets girl, girl turns out to be "magical girlfriend", bad guys follow them around, hijinks ensue, et cetera. What sets Coicent apart is that, here, there is an attention to character and detail that is truly remarkable. It's well-animated, well-told, extremely appealing, and most importantly, has a lot of heart, leaving this head and shoulders above the vast majority of one-shot sci-fi OVAs.
Immediately apparent from scene one: the animation and art in Coicent are simply stunning. This far-future Nara is seemingly made half of ancient Japanese temples and half of skyscrapers that would be right at home in The Fifth Element, with lively parades of robotic dancing boddhisattvas, oni, and other deities: a heady mix of culture and futurism that is outright intoxicating. What helps here is having a basic knowledge of the history and geography of Japan: much like New Orleans in The Princess and the Frog, it could be argued that one of the main characters in Coicent is Nara itself, right down to those crazy, gluttonous, yet oh-so-cute sacred sika deer. (Having been to Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture, which also features semi-tame herds that interact with tourists, I can vouch for the deer's behavior and attitude firsthand!)
And then there's our main characters: slightly befuddled average joe Kakimoto Shinichi (and his overactive imagination) and the mysterious (and incredibly cute) Yamatototohi Momosohime ("Toto" for short). (PROTIP: Don't google her name if you don't want spoilers, though it's sort of obvious in context.) It's safe to say that Toto is certainly NOT a regular high school girl - she's never seen the ocean, and in fact, never even gotten the chance to see much of Nara itself, and watching her enjoy a taste of freedom is really one of the joys of this feature. All too soon, the forces that want to keep Toto under their control (a rather caricaturish old lady and her two possibly gangster sons) arrive, leading to a bit of collateral damage and, well, I won't spoil the rest, but needless to say, for only being twenty-five minutes, it's quite a ride. Shinichi and Toto are very appealing, and you'll find yourself very quickly rooting for them and the happy ending they deserve.
Staff-wise, I'm looking forward to seeing more work from director / screenwriter Shuhei Morita (Freedom, Kakurenbo) who is relatively new to the scene. The Japanese voice track is interesting, as Shinichi is voiced by Kensho Ono, best known as the Japanese voice of Harry Potter; Toto is played by Minako Kotobuki (Tsumugi Kotobuki from K-On!). The English language track features Vic Mignogna and Luci Christian, and doesn't feel quite as natural just because the setting is so intrinsically Japanese (and not entirely due to the ADR work per se), though the cross-casting of John Gremillion as the old lady is a real headscratcher.
The main reason I hesitate giving it that fifth star is an intrinsic problem with the format - it's just a smidge too short, leaving us with questions about the nature of Toto, and what is up with that old lady and those two brothers, or, heck, why they decided to rebuild 21st century Nara instead of some other century's Nara. Those are minor quibbles, true, but enough for me to hold back that gold medal. Still, this is hardly a deal-breaker in terms of watchability.
Coicent is proof that there are still creators out there willing and able to give us a finely told, charming, quirky, and well-animated story in the space of just twenty-five minutes, and for that alone it deserves a tremendous amount of praise. Sure, there are a few aspects here and there than aren't perfect, but this work is dazzling and funny and sweet-hearted, and it's a real pity there's only one episode.
A futuristic sci-fi romance steeped heavily in Japanese tradition, Coicent helps reestablish the viability of the one-shot as a valid anime format in the modern market without overuse of fan service or violence. If you're willing to ignore a couple of plotholes here and there, you may safely bump this up yet another star. Alternately, if romance isn't your thing, drop a star and just enjoy the animation for what it is. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Some violence but nothing that should bother older children or above.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming, subtitled, from The Anime Network
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Coicent © 2011 New Capital 2000-Year Anniversary Festival Executive Committee
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