We live in a world that's ruled by epics. I recently watched the Dune miniseries from 2000, and while I enjoyed it, I was also a little exhausted by the end. I love serialized anime; I want my characters to grow over the course of a season. But sometimes, you need a little bit of heaven in a tiny package -- a quick reminder that the world can be a beautiful, fun, romantic place. No huge scope, no universes to destroy, no worlds to conquer -- just a light-hearted romp.
That's what I found in Coicent.
Coicent, released in the last year or two on DVD in the US with a lesser short film called Five Numbers, is darn close to the perfect OVA. With expert animation we rarely see outside of the movie theater and a sweet, winsome plot, it's a great way to spend a half-hour. While perhaps not as brilliant as On Your Mark or Voices of a Distant Star, my gold standards when it comes to short films, it is well worth tracking down.
Several hundred years in the future, a celebration is unfolding. The city of Nara has been rebuilt in 21st century style...and even in the future, Japanese students go on field trips. Shinichi is awestruck by the beauty of it all, and his classmates are taken with the idol singer at center stage of the proceedings. But Shinichi's day is going to turn wild...the city is known for its overly friendly deer, and one steals his backpack. The chase after his lost bag leads him to beautiful Toto, an endearing, naive girl who's never seen the sea (an oddity for someone living on an island). But she's on the run herself, not from deer but a couple bizarre bruisers out to capture her. Can Shinichi overcome the goons, win Toto's heart, and find out exactly who this mystery girl really is?
"Bright" and "colorful" have become overused adjectives for the anime world of the last several years as digital animation has taken over with its bold color palate. However, good lighting and vividness can't compare to skill and detail done by experts on a good budget. Coicent will remind the viewer of what anime can look like when funded properly. It's easy on the eyes, that's for certain. The rest of the A/V package acquits itself nicely, too.
But Coicent is not a vapid exercise in visual excess. Coicent knows when to show off -- the crowd scenes dazzle, and Nara of the far-flung future is an awesome place to behold -- but the simple love story at the heart of the affair is good-natured and goes down easy. Have you seen its like before? Sure. But Coicent tells an ancient story well, adding twists and turns that should please both the romantic and the novelty seeker. Even the bad guys of the piece have personalities in their one-dimentionality. While Coicent is first and foremost a lover's tale, it's also got enough science fiction and action thrown in that you can't go wrong. And for those who are interested in Japan, the details are fascinating...even those deer that are a little too eager to pluck food out of your hand.
I don't want to spoil anything more, since it's not as if a half-hour one shot has a lot to spoil anyway. I concede that this isn't going to be the best anime you ever watch; it didn't hit me as deeply as my top titles have. If love stories, even exciting and thrilling love stories, make you gag, this won't scratch your itch...or shut down your gag reflex...or whatever. But if you like short films at all, have a romantic bone in your body, or enjoy fantastic visions of a future that isn't a dystopia, Coicent should be at the top of your list. Easily found for free legally streaming via Hulu and other sites, it's a freebie you can't afford to miss.
Coicent -- mild violence -- A