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A trio of cute school girls travel to wasteland Tokyo to save survivors after nuclear fallout. Unlike those currently living there (and the army who work with them) they don’t require gas masks to survive. Bizarre, no? Well, they’re Coppelion, named after the doll-maker Coppelia whose dolls came to life.

So that’s really as far as plot goes for these 13 episodes. Preferring to eschew the mystery of scientific advancements that have brought humans near superpowers, each episode focuses on saving different survivors and taking down people who want to use Tokyo’s tragic state to their advantage. Half way through, an arc develops with the arrival of more coppelion, some are good, some are psychotic. There’s also some great shots of girls in skimpy school skirts (in some shots you could probably see their breakfast if the camera was any lower) if you’re into that sort of thing.

I’ve got to say that despite a promising premise and some interesting animation, the show falls flat. A combination of bad dialogue, strange plot choices and so many missed opportunities to explore the psychology of a society that would spend so much time and effort to save a few hundred people really dampen and drag down the show. This could all be forgiven if it didn’t take itself so seriously. For every decent moral dilemma, there’s a horrific line that sinks the entire episode (“No matter what, I’ll always love science!”). If it wasn’t so maudlin, you could probably laugh at the whole thing but it’s clear they want you to take it seriously. Actually, you still can laugh at it. In one scene, a character goes “Oh, I just remembered she has one of my new bombs in her backpack!” and “Hey Presto!” the bomb falls out of her backpack and saves her life. Deus ex machina or what, eh?

The other major problem is the main characters. The three main Coppelion are a bit like the Powerpuff Girls, without the charm. They each have their own superpowers of sorts but besides team leader Ibara Naruse they’re rather useless. There’s also a professor who takes care of them and gives them orders. They also have a rather strange aptitude for crying. Like, in every episode. Whether they were going for Clannad levels of drama, I don’t know but the girls certainly behave as if they were. With the arrival of more Coppelion, there’s the opportunity for extra interest but they’re all rather dull, even the two psychotic sisters.

With a penchant for melodrama and a script that consistently kills the mood, Coppelion is a great opportunity ruined. Although it’s not terrible and some of the action sequences are quite exciting, the show could be far less confused, or at the very least a bit more fun.