by Michelle Muscat


Writer: Tomonori Inoue

Publisher: Kodansha

Magazine: Monthly Young Magazine

Run: 2008 – 2016



Director: Shingo Suzuki

Writer: Makoto Nakamura

Run: October – December 2013

Various radioactivity alertness programmes and strategies have been developed. These encompass both the medical countermeasures subsequent to radiation exposure as well as longer term plans for bioremediation. ‘Coppelion’ provides a compelling glimpse at the wasteland left after a nuclear disaster and a peculiar new concept, namely that of the radiation-immune genetically engineered human.

Before delving into the fictional universe of ‘Coppelion’, it is worthy to note some relevant real life instances. In the wake of past nuclear disasters which led to large-scale release of radioactivity such as the notorious Chernobyl disaster back in 1986, and more recently, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, Belgium had announced precautionary measures as part of a nuclear emergency plan, which included providing the whole population with iodine tablets. Medical countermeasures to radioactive exposure include use of potassium iodide, prussian blue, DTPA (diethylenetriamine pentaacetate) and filgrastim1-7.

In the science fiction world of ‘Coppelion’ we are initially presented with three genetically engineered girls forming the medical unit Coppelion, after a large scale nuclear meltdown. Concepts of environmental toxicology are central to the plot progression and in various instances the viewer is presented with issues of waste disposal, such as waste being dumped in the wasteland of the nuclear incident; and at one point one of the girls is treated with hyperbaric oxygen. ‘Coppelion’ anime television series was based on a seinen manga by the same name, written by Tomonori Inoue and published by Kodansha from 2008-2016. The story of ‘Coppelion’ plays heavily on the elements of science fiction, namely rendering the teenage girl protagonists immune to the nuclear radiation and hence able to roam freely amongst the ruins without requiring personal protective gear.

In a classical comic ballet which premiered in 1870 and bearing a similar name, namely ‘Coppélia’, Dr Coppélius creates a life-sized doll. The life-sized doll or ‘puppet’ parallels are felt in the Coppelion story, which in turn give rise to ethically-charged questions with respect to the subjecting of these girls to genetic modification. The lead girl, Ibara Naruse, however, still retains hope and a positive outlook, in the inhospitable surroundings and challenging situations.

In practice, many biotechnology techniques have been put forth in an attempt to help decontaminate soil, such as for example, the use of immobilized photosynthetic bacteria coupled with anaerobic digestion and fermentation of lactic acid8. Scavenging-precipitation ion exchange methods9 form part of the growing initiative in ecotoxicology for bioremediation10. There are both severe acute and long term consequences to health arising from the dispersion of radioactive material11, 12, hence viewing ‘Coppelion’ is both entertaining and topical.

This review is partially funded through the Endeavour Scholarship Scheme


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