pale cocoon is a 23-minute OVA directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura and released in 2006. This unique anime follows the lives of Ura and Riko, members of the Archives Excavation Department in an underground colony that has been created to protect the human species after they the Earth has deteriorated due to overpopulation and poor environmental protection. In an effort to understand what went wrong hundreds of years ago, Ura and Riko are tasked with retrieving lost records from the past. However, as Ura goes above and beyond the call of duty for him, his co-workers are disenfranchised by his work and see little point in analyzing the stupidity of their ancestors.
Like many of Yoshiura’s other works, pale cocoon hypothesizes what could happen to humanity if current trends persist. Each character is plunged into an existential crisis, in which they are unclear about their purpose in the universe and confused by the mysteries it contains. While there are signs of hope for humanity’s future, its current set of circumstances remains bleak. Trapped inside an artificial prison made up of metal grills and exposed wires, pale cocoon offers a stark warning to its viewers: that everything they hold dear will decay, turn to rubble, and fade from memory if humans continue to advance with utter abandon.
In Pale Cocoon, humanity suffers an existential crisis.
Many of those who have been locked up in the artificial colony seem to be rooted in a deep depression. There are no plants, animals or signs of color. Instead, the facility is covered in metallic gray, wiring, and neon green screens. Every corridor and room is cold, dark and desolate, in which little life remains or at least thrives. Ura seems to be the only person who has any hope for the future of humanity and an interest in what happened in the past.
Riko and Ura’s other colleagues feel that their work of discovering Earth’s artifacts is a pointless undertaking as these assets have failed to help those currently living to increase their welfare state. Humanity is hanging by a thread, with the majority simply holding onto themselves rather than actively seeking solutions. Ura’s optimism is the only beacon that continues to shine.
Through Ura’s sense of curiosity, viewers are led on a path where they discover that not everything is as it seems. For decades (if not hundreds of years), the occupants of the artificial colony have been told that they live underground due to the poor conditions of the Earth’s atmosphere. However, after finding a record of Yoko Yamaguchi, one of the facility’s first inhabitants, Ura discovers that it is further from Earth’s surface than he imagined.
The colony, which is called the “Sea of Tranquility”, is located on the moon and the “Rust-colored Land” humanity once escaped from has now been reformed into its perfect blue. In a moment of clarity, both Ura and Riko realize that the reality they were occupying has been a lie, while also finding the hope humanity has long been searching for.
Pale Cocoon explores overpopulation and environmental catastrophe
Just as Yoshiura gave a warning about humanity’s fascination with artificial intelligence (Eve Time / Aquatic Language), he also focused his attention on humanity’s effect on the environment in pale cocoon. While the colony’s ancestors clearly made advances in technology, they were apparently unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to protect Earth and the creatures that inhabited it. Although this catastrophe is certainly a terrifying prospect, even more frightening is that those who live within the colony seem destined to make the same mistakes once again.
While Ura has understanding and passion for past events, everyone else feels that this knowledge only brings sadness. Fearful of the past and dissatisfied with their present, the members of the colony have fallen into a state of ignorance. The revelation that a fresh Earth waits on the horizon can bring a temporary glimmer of hope; however, Yoshiura seemingly highlights that humanity lacks a sense of foresight. Ura’s expression of shock and fear at what he has discovered may not only be due to the fact that his reality has changed, but rather that he recognizes that the cycle of destruction of his species will repeat itself once more.