Dennou Coil: Just How “Real” Is Virtual Reality?

The title of the post is, of course, the major theme of the last eight or so episodes of Dennou Coil, which I have just blasted through at mach speed (homework be damned). These episodes featured the death of Densuke, the finest pet who never lived, and Yasako’s torn feelings over losing what is essentially a series of 1s and 0s. And we can’t, of course, forget Isako, who created an entire cyberworld where she could be with her brother for eternity. The lesson to be learned, then (or at least the one I found most prominent) is that virtual reality and true reality are not entirely separate, or at least not as much as we think.

Consider Yasako: when Densuke dies protecting her from the Null, she is conflicted about what she should feel. Her mother, of course, has old-generation values and sensibilities: “It’s just glasses, honey. The real world is what really matters.” Yet even still, Yasako wonders, why does she feel grief over a collection of data on a computer network? She never held Densuke the way you would a real dog, yet her grief over his death is genuine and, although she tries to suppress it, she can’t get rid of it. The clincher to this mini-arc, then, would be Yasako finally, for the first time, holding and petting Densuke in the Loophole Nexus. It almost seems to say, through the magic power of symbolism (or possibly metaphor), that Densuke may be virtual existence, yet, to the perceiver, he is an existence. Computer programs haven’t gotten to the point where one can develop human-like affection for them, but I firmly believe that here, Dennou Coil is right: they may be cyber-existences, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real.

As for Isako, she learns the negative side of virtual reality: using it as an escape from the real world. The virtual world can be considered real, as we have just demonstrated, but perhaps it is not fully real. Isako, in creating a false Space to hold her grief over the loss of her brother, seeks escape from the reality of pain. Whereas Yasako recognizes her grief as being real, even if the object of her grief isn’t, Isako instead forces herself to reject the feeling of grief, seeking solace in a virtual construct, even though the object of her grief was real. Whether or not Isako’s brother was himself in her created Space (he certainly seemed to be, when he held back Michiko-san to allow Isako time to escape) or a computer program merely emulating human conciousness (which raises further questions, the most obvious being: can a computer actually emulate human conciousness?) isn’t the problem here; instead, she sought solace in the virtual rather than facing reality. The fact that she was manipulated by a vengeful Coil employee only furthers her resolve to escape, requiring friendship from Yasako, who can withstand the torment of grief, to escape…escaping.

For a series that started out fairly silly and episodic, Dennou Coul turned out to have some real depth. I figured it would, though, since it aired on NHK Educational, but the actual depth of the depth surprised me. Japanese kids get Dennou Coil to watch, which only makes me jealous of them, as there’s nothing on American TV that seems to respect that children just might possibly have an intellect in them. The Dennou Coil children themselves are fairly smart and adept, despite being in elementary school, so at least someone recognizes the surprising intelligence of children. But that’s a tangential rant.

I’m kind of sad that I put Dennou Coil off this long to finish it off, but I put everything off as long as I can once I fall behind, because I get caught up in the new and develop massive backlog. Such is life.

1 Response to “Dennou Coil: Just How “Real” Is Virtual Reality?”

  1. 1 Real Drive: Virtual Sexual Depravation « Anime wa Bakuhatsu da! Trackback on 10 May 2008 at 6:45 pm

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I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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a ridiculously long and only partially organized list of subjects


February 2008

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