Posted by psgels on 9 September 2007 with categories: Anime Reviews

Pale Cocoon: a twenty-minute long OVA, famous for its graphics. The setting is the year 2218, and it’s another one of those post-apocalyptical stories. The earth has been destroyed somehow, and people have been forced to move underground, and gradually forgot the past of a blue and green earth. Now, finally after an unknown amount of years, images and records from the past have been dug up and recovered, and our main character has been fascinated by them.

The graphics are indeed the reason why you should watch this, as they, combined with the storytelling manage to create a subtle atmosphere. It’s just unfortunate that this OVA could have achieved this even better if it extended its length to thirty minutes, because right now, it just forgets to flesh out its characters and setting well enough. We only see a tiny bit of the characters, but we never know how they spend their lives outside of their jobs. One particular character only appears through a voice, and we never see anything about him, despite the fact that he appears relatively often. We also never know what caused humanity to go underground in the first place, and why the surface became so uninhabitable.

Because of this, the climax unfortunately was ruined. The writers tried to be mysterious and pretentious, but because of that and the lack of development on both story and characters, the climax is just way too confusing and contradicting. I had no idea what went on, and that wasn’t a good sign.

The backgrounds may be beautifully rendered, but in the end, Pale Cocoon turned out to be lacking, even for an artistic anime. If you’re looking for something artistic, you could give it a try, but there are quite a few similar and better movies and OVAs out there. For example, even Kai Doh Maru, who also had a really confusing plot turned out more worthwhile than this one, simply because it did spend enough time fleshing out its characters. Wonderful Days also turned into a better watch, and its graphics were rendered even better; despite its storyline was mundane, at least it was coherent.

14 Responses

  1. Avatar maglor says:

    I have also found this OVA lacking in many ways.

  2. Avatar Martin says:

    I really enjoyed it but in a limited way – it looked pretty, the music was nice and it was an interesting idea. It’s a showcase for what is obviously a very talented animator, but not much more. I found it to be a bit similar in approach to Voices of a Distant Star actually.

    I read on ANN somewhere that the same guy is working on another movie later this year called Eve No Jikan. The promo art looks quite Shinkai-esque too – something to keep a lookout for!

  3. Avatar snog says:

    There are no contradictions in this story! It’s not pretentious. It’s not even complex! You didn’t pay attention. The storyline is coherent, its just not explicit.

    …it’s another one of those post-apocalyptical stories. The earth has been destroyed somehow, and people have been forced to move underground…

    These preconceptions are where you went wrong. The director leaves room for the audience to mislead themselves. But you’re supposed to be able to realise the truth at the end. I don’t know why you didn’t. O_o

    You might be the reason characters talk to themselves and explain things they should already know. ;)

    Anyway, the clever thing about the story is that you get to go through the same thing the characters do. We have the same false assumptions they have and the big reveal shows the truth to both the audience and the characters at the same time.

  4. Avatar panther says:

    Well seeing as this is fairly old im going to go ahead and spoil it (I think).
    The people we are seeing are on a moon colony I think. Thinking that they are on earth and hence can’t peace together any history. For some reason they were forgotten and left on the moon. Or maybe everyone is on the moon and were meant to go back eventually (like Wall-E)? The backstory isn’t really there but I think the point is the revelation of there dreary unhappy guilt drenched and confused existence being “taken out of context” so to speak (can’t express it very well) you know like people thinking OMG the earth is not flat, you can cook eggs (and pop tarts) in the microwave and eating your own body weight in meat every week is bad for you.

  5. Avatar panther says:

    sorry spelling bad (late)

  6. Avatar Helle says:

    I must confess i strongly disagree with this review. You have totally missed the point. I think you should probably rewrite it or just remove it, because you are basically taking a really good anime, which is supposed to open our eyes for the possible consequences of pollution, and dragging it down into the mud where it does not belong.


    You said:
    1. “We only see a tiny bit of the characters, but we never know how they spend their lives outside of their jobs.”
    2. “We also never know what caused humanity to go underground in the first place, and why the surface became so uninhabitable.”

    1. In my opinion, this is completely irrelevant in order to bring out the message of this anime. The characters are merely tools to cast light upon the actual point. Which brings me to my second quotation.

    2. I think you probably overheard the girl talking about human stupidity, and how they destroyed the earth. And in the video he restores, it’s also mentioned that the artist is looking down upon the rusty earth from the moon, which is where humans have escaped. We also see an old, restored piece of an article titled something about overpopulation. ALSO we hear about people moving further and further down and a climate-restoration-system. So basically we have got the clues:
    Overpopulation –> Environmental destruction –> Humans escaped to the moon (Isn’t it kind of hard to breathe on the surface there?) –> Humans are no longer aware of these facts, because they are ashamed of it and prefer not to know of the past.

    Then you have the ending where the guy resurfaces and see the restored, blue earth.

    Have you even WATCHED this?? I tend to agree with most of your reviews, this is not like you at all :P

  7. Avatar PL says:

    character development is never irrelevant. this is something a lot of “artsy” types forget. if the characters don’t compell, even in something really short, any point, theme, or insight the work may hold completely falls flat. It becomes just preaching. Then, add the “artsy” types tendency towards obscurity, over-stylization and obfuscation and you get drivel like Pale Coccoon. Maybe there is some secret point you are supposed to figure out from the clues, but if you aren’t motivated to look for them by strong characters, you wind up simply confused. Ultimately, Pale Coccoon is a very pretty light show with very little to say. “Pollution is bad,” “People hide from their secret shames,” these themes have been done so much better, for instance Dr. Seuss. And the movie for that story isn’t any longer than Pale Coccoon, but I know which one I’d rather watch. It doesn’t take “a retarded eight year old” to realize Pale Coccoon is a pretentious piece of tripe better watched with the sound muted and enjoyed for the pretty pictures. To see how a story with depth and mystery manages to capture its audience with strong characters in only half the time of Pale Coccoon, you must watch Comedy. Beautiful, stylish graphics in that story too, and it is truly a work of art.

  8. Avatar Machi says:

    I really do have to disagree with the idea of character development, course this disagreement lies more in the line of going outside just anime since I’m far more familiar with films. The gripe of so called hating “artsy” anime or “artsy” film with regards to ambuguity of characters, which may have been a “lack of development” because never sees beyond just pure action or perhaps snatches of them that it appears to be only on a supperficial level is precisely beyond the point at times. What you look at with the story is not so much identifying characters on screen as individuals but as a generalization a representation of a general mass, a film that especially comes to mind now is Jeanne Dielman, 23 du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. What we see on screen for three hours is a woman of whom we get no real motivation other than her doing her housework, yet we learn only snippets about her and very little “development” so to speak yet the film continues to remain strong and compelling without having to develop or guide us through by holding our attention with the character. Why? Because what we see with the woman, named Jeanne as the title says, is not so much her as an individual but as a woman who represents the wider general (women who are repressed by a patriarchal society during that time, and in a sense does continue to still resonate strongly with this time). Now as for Pale Cocoon I can see where Helle is coming from because we do see the same thing with the characters they too do not represent an individual but a general, a general of a society that may feel nostalgic or longing for a planet they may only have glimpses of through art… The characters do not necessarily guide us by holding our attention to their story but rather to the story or the narrative presented on screen of this rather empty environment that they and perhaps the unseen others inhabbit. You don’t need to look for strong motivated characters to guide you to enjoying a film or anime perhaps what you do need to look at is the backgrounds or just the images, akin to a strong difference in silent american and german films which goes “In American films the camera lights up the actor in German films the camera lights up the background” which applies to this response. Precisely because you may end up looking at the wrong thing if you focus on whats not being illuminated.

  9. Avatar Machi says:

    Okay maybe not just glimpses through art but articles, tales, opinions, etc in a sense its still rather vague, course signs point to what Helle mentioned (but hey factors surprisingly change and one of those factors lately to be noted is demographics dipping). In any case it does remain ambiguous, which does leave us as well to take the girl’s comment of humanity’s stupidity with a grain of salt for in the end you have this department looking at old articles precisely because they’re still unaware of the bigger picture and what they find can either be beautiful or ugly. Much like what comments can arise.

  10. Avatar HarlanEllison says:

    I often disagree with this blog, but we’re on the same page here. This short little OVA looks great, but the characters look as generic as they come, it doesn’t do a great job at making you feel attached to them in any way, and there are quite a lot of shots that are used repeatedly. This could have been fleshed out much better.

  11. Avatar tokyojesusfist says:

    I don’t think you should be reviewing anything, since you obviously lack the qualifications. Not only did you fail to pay enough attention to realize what’s going on (not that difficult), but you just don’t understand story-telling at all. In this story, characterization is of minimal importance, and questions like “what do they do when they aren’t working” and “what precisely caused them to abandon Earth” are simply irrelevant.

  12. Avatar Anon says:

    @psgel You should watch the episode again and edit your post…. Or delete the post and pretended you have not watch it. It is pretty embarrassing. It simply shows that you weren’t paying attention most of the time while watching anime. This isn’t the first time u messed up with the content.

  13. Avatar A13 says:

    “The writers tried to be mysterious and pretentious, but because of thatthe climax is just way too confusing and contradicting”
    “I had no idea what went on.”
    “Me don’t understand=BAD!”

    Please, educate yourself in order to be a decent critic. Or at least to try and not to embarass yourself.

  14. Avatar Verne says:

    My main problem with this OVA was that it didn’t move me as a viewer. The big reveal at the end should have been amazing, but I was just like “oh, that’s nice…”

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