Pale Cocoon – Review
by Blake Zahari on May 09, 2010
In a dystopian future where humans have overpopulated and devastated the surface of the Earth and forced to live deep underground, Ura works in the Excavation Department that uncovers and restores records from the prosperous time that has passed him by. While Ura is fascinated by the past that is unfolded to him daily, his colleagues along with the general population become more and more depressed and disinterested over time. One day, Ura restores a record that motivates him to find out the truth about the world above the surface and attempts to visit the world he had worked for so long to understand.
Pale Cocoon is a short original story that is both simple and mysterious. Both of these traits could be taken as either positives or negatives, but as an overall package—Pale Cocoon fails to deliver the goods. Like many literary short stories, this OVA builds up a plot to an eventual epiphany or discovery by the story’s conclusion. It uses its characters more like set pieces that are driven by the story rather than the other way around. In this regard, the story does well. While not knowing too much about Ura as a character, the viewer feels as though he/she is him—not knowing what lies in the next record and wanting to know more about the lost past just as much as him. However, what Ura and the viewer are supposed to discover throughout the course of the OVA is lost due to some flaws with how the story is presented otherwise. It seems to be confused as to what it wants to say as the story is caught in a number of themes and motifs that were never elaborated or fleshed out.
Ura’s drive for information about the past and knowledge in general is contrasted greatly with every other human being around him. This is materialized in the character of Riko, Ura’s female friend and colleague. She is absent-minded and constantly inquires as to why Ura is so dedicated to his job. Like so many others, she too eventually becomes disinterested in gaining more information and becomes so depressed that she wants to quit her job. However, in a flashback that is seen through a video that Riko recorded, the viewer can see that she was quite lively before and enjoyed her job. This is what the story should have focused on. After all, records that contained images, audio, and video are primary elements within the plot, so it would have been a lot more interesting if the story focused on this seemed forgotten video involving the story’s primary characters and what their relationship had been. Instead, the plot chooses to center around the lack of any hope or faith in the current world. Ura being the only one with any hope left, is the sole person who can bring the story back to anything worth caring about. Unfortunately, the ultimate epiphany Ura has is not as satisfying as it should have been, leaving Pale Cocoon’s plot in a depressed underworld.
The visuals are adequate, but character design is lackluster. Ura and Riko could not look more generic, which kind of reinforces the story, but in the end—just is uninspired. Riko does not look too distinguished even from the second female character introduced late in the plot. The Japanese voice acting is what you would expect for this kind of production with an added bonus of hearing a japanese ballad type song. Like the visuals, the audio is audio is adequate, but nothing too spectacular.
Overall, Pale Cocoon is a story that may appeal to those that find a smidgen of the meaning behind the plot. To the average anime fan, it will feel slow and uninviting.