Review for Coicent / Five Numbers!
I recently lamented the lack of original OVAs getting released in the West, and here I am, reviewing two in close order. It’s still not an ideal situation, as Tokyo Marble Chocolate may be a new release but it’s a new release of a ten year old OVA. For my next adventure in short form anime, I’ve imported the twin-release of Coicent / Five Numbers! from Australia thanks to a convenient sale. It’s yet to receive a UK outing, although these 2010-11 sci-fi OVA animations from studio Sunrise have been out since 2011 on DVD and Blu-ray from Sentai in the US, and 2012 on DVD from Madman Entertainment in Australia.
In the year 2710, Shinichi is on a school trip to celebrate the anniversary of the capital, Nara. Although like all school boys, his attention turns to girls. Elsewhere in a laboratory, a girl with strange abilities named Toto is eager to get away from her captors and see the city for the first time. Then there is the laughing white deer, which steals Shinichi’s bag, and drags him along for the ride, just as Toto manages to escape. It’s a narrative certainty that the two are destined to meet, although with this crazy deer, absolutely anything could happen.
The doors open, and five people (plus one cat) are raised from their involuntary slumber to find themselves in prison. That they are in prison comes as little surprise, all are guilty of some crime, but what is surprising is that there are no other prisoners, no guards, just them in a facility with no locked doors, and apparently no way out.
You get the films in 1.78:1 anamorphic PAL format. The image is clear and sharp throughout, with no visible signs of compression or significant aliasing. Following on from shows like Freedom, the Coicent/Five Numbers! twinpack features cel-shaded CG animation, more fluid and detailed than conventional animation, but with characters that aren’t as expressive as their conventionally animated counterparts. It certainly does allow for fabulous background art and world design though, particularly evident in Five Numbers!
You have the choice between DD 5.1 Surround English and Japanese for both films, with optional English subtitles and a signs only track. The surround offers a fair degree of sound design useful for the action sequences in Coicent, but really delivering on the immersion when it comes to Five Numbers!. As usual, my preference was for the original language track, with its accurately timed and typo free subtitles, but I sampled the dubs for both films, and I have to say that Five Numbers’ dub is a lot more agreeable than Coicent’s.
You get one disc in an Amaray case, and the inner sleeve offers some nice artwork. The disc presents its content with static menus, and there is a jacket picture to look at when the disc is at rest in a compatible player.
Coicent gets the Japanese trailer for the short, and the textless credit sequences.
Five Numbers! extras begin with an Interview with Miyu Irino (voice of Noir-17) which lasts 11:16. There is also an Interview with Dai Sato (scriptwriter) which lasts 17:28.
You get the Japanese trailers for the short, and there are also Madman trailers on this disc for Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Summer Wars, and Squid Girl Season 1.
With episodes just 25 minutes long, you only get the one chance to click with a story, to buy into the characters, to really engage with the ideas behind it all. That is the beauty of the short form animation, but it’s also the risk. There is no second chance to salvage a story. This double feature turns out to be hit and miss for me, or rather miss and hit, although in both cases I had a little work to do to get used to the cel-shaded CG, never my favourite anime medium.
This was the weak story in the collection, although it suffers most from ill-timing, as it’s really quite similar to Tokyo Marble Chocolate, which I have just seen, and it pales in comparison. It too is a love story, a boy meets girl tale, and it too sees its romance enabled by a strange mascot animal, although this time it isn’t the comical mini-donkey, rather a laughing albino deer. Coicent also suffers from trying to do too much in its runtime. It’s building a future world, introducing a fair number of characters, and setting up an elaborate back story for one its protagonists, Toto. She’s apparently a resurrection of a centuries dead pop idol, some kind of android maybe, only she’s rebelling against the people who created her, trying to escape. So you have this diminutive old woman and her mafia family chasing after her, all while her brief encounter with Shinichi is going on, as they take a deer-top tour of all the Buddha statues in the city. Coicent is fun, it’s colourful, and I haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on.
This on the other hand is really quite good, making use of its runtime economically and efficiently to tell its story, develop its characters, and build its world. It’s essentially a locked room mystery, only this time the five characters trying to solve it are locked in the room. It’s enough time to establish personalities, set up and resolve interpersonal conflicts, all while they investigate what’s going on. The way the story unfolds, and reveals its mysteries is really well done. I certainly got an Outer Limits vibe from this story, no doubt helped by a delicious sting in its tail.
I’m not a fan of the cel-shaded CGI medium, but I do appreciate good short stories, well crafted and efficient storytelling. I wasn’t as thrilled by Coicent, but Five Numbers! is definitely worthwhile. You should consider seeking this double-feature out, either from down under or the US.