I am currently in the middle of a love/hate relationship with Cosplay Complex
The initial concept of Cosplay Complex is a little self-explanatory. Airing in May 2002, the show is about an after-school cosplay club and their wacky hijinx. Hijinx including but not limited to cosplay competitions, summer vacation training, unrequited love, and tons and tons of fan service. With their helpers from the fairy world, the East Oizumi cosplay club sets out to become better at their trade everyday.
Oh yes, that’s right. Their helpers from the fairy world.
The phrase ‘I don’t know’ is going to become a common theme here. If only because this anime brings up a lot of issues I am unable to make sense of. The only real answer is that ‘it’s anime’.
Cosplay Complex brings to mind the image of a pitch meeting between the director and the TV network. The director wants to tell a story about a cosplay club. Cosplay is pretty popular, and it’ll have a lot of undressing and sexy costumes- so they’ve got the fanboy audience for sure. He already has the pilot episode written up and even character designs from concept artists. This cosplay school girl show is ready for the studio.
I imagine that this is where the director cuts in and suggests ‘that’s nice, but can we make her a magical cosplay school girl?’
The juxtaposition of this school club and these fairies seems awkward and out of place. Yes, the drawing style is suited for a magic shoujo genre. But really, why bother with the magical business? Without these two characters, the show still runs smoothly. It honestly seems like the show was finished and ready for screening, then someone ran in and hastily threw this subplot into the mix.
Why? Because it’s anime.
The main group of characters are a little easier on the brain. You have the typical female lead, the foreigner, the b***h, the glasses character, the loli shota and the bald kid who occasionally prank molests the b***h character. One thing I liked about this show was that the casts weren’t as typical as most animes go.
Chako fills out the very familiar heroine archetype in most animes. Cheerful, but clumsy. Considering how often this kind of character comes up (Cardcaptor Sakura, Absolute Boyfriend, Sailor Moon, Fruits Basket, Air), it leaves me suspicious to think that the female populace of Japan is a bunch of smiling, polite, fumbling monkeys. Stumbling on screen, Chako sports a wild mane of pink hair (which ironically, considering it’s a show about ‘modelling’, clashes with everything she puts on).
What’s also fairly common in anime (dubbed and subbed alike) is that I find it’s difficult to watch a lot in one sitting. If I do, I get a headache. I blame this on the voices. This isn’t a stab at any of the voice acting talent in animes- because I hold most in high regard. The fact that a full-grown woman can say ‘in the name of the moon, I will punish you’ without bursting into laughter is something to applaud.
My contempt is simply for the voice.
Chako’s voice is a prime example of this. A voice actress trying a little too hard to sound young, or trying to mirror the Japanese voice too much. It doesn’t help when the dialogue is riddled with stupid catch phrases like ‘give it the ol’ chako try!’ or ‘have a chako-riffic day!’. It comes to a point where you’re somehow admitting defeat to the TV and saying ‘Okay… I get it. You’re an anime character. You’re not real.’ However, there were times in the show when the voice actress sounded like she’d calmed down or just wasn’t pushing herself as much- and it came out a little closer to a real human’s voice. And Chako felt a little more relatable. Unfortunately, there are only glimpses of this.
With all the female characters, I was left a little bored with the eye candy. When you’ve seen one cleavage/panty shot, you’ve seen them all. Gourou is fine, but was designed to be more wacky than appealing. Patiently, I waited for Chako’s unavoidable love interest.
Half-way through episode 1, I met Kousuke. The blandest, most boring man in existence.
Compared to Chako’s bright pink headdress of a hairstyle and bubbly passion for cosplay, Kousuke comes off rather dull. Again, he seems like another hasty add in. Once the writer had finished with the cosplay club members, the rivals and a few cameos- the director peeped in and added ‘oh and throw in some unrequited love, fans go crazy for that s**t’.
Thus birthed was Kousuke the photographer. He is sweet and astoundingly stupid to any events going on around him. That might have been an actual character trait, had it not more likely been laziness on the writer’s part to just keep Kousuke quiet while the plot moved on without him.
The first theory was that maybe the writers wanted to focus more on the female characters. Make them more interesting means the fan boys will stay interested. But meet Gourou again, the president of the cosplay club. Unbridled passion and stunningly random, Gourou seems to have taken up all the personality in the boy department. Even if Kousuke is designed to be more attractive, Gourou’s simple symmetry keeps him pleasing to the eye. White uniform, red tie, cue ball head, dark eyebrows and glasses. I find him much more eye-catching than Kousuke the photographer.
This love and hate relationship I shared with Cosplay Complex was fairly exciting. Even when I knew what to expect, it’d surprise me with a bouquet of laughter and a box of a random plot twist or two. I didn’t mind the drunken nights of fan service, I was even tolerating the ex-girlfriend who kept calling to remind me about the fairy characters. Three episodes in and things were going okay with Cosplay Complex and I.
And then that was it.
Cosplay Complex only has three episodes in total. At first I assumed that it might have been cancelled after it’s third episode- for which I immediately blamed on the fairy characters. However, why bother releasing a cancelled anime from Japan to America? There was also the fact that Cosplay Complex was labelled as an OVA- original video animation. A set of episodes that served as a prequel to the soon to follow series. If these three were the prequel- then where was the series?
After some digging (ten minutes of google), my search left me with very little to go on. The Anime Network’s show and cast information, the half-assed wikipedia page, and the official Japanese website for Cosplay Complex. Apparently, the cut off at three episodes was purposely done. Why? No one seems to know.
Alysson Wyatt, a DVD reviewer for ANN said that Cosplay Complex ‘cuts off with so many loose ends, it seems obvious that the director intended to make more.’
My love/hate relationship with Cosplay Complex was fun, albeit brief. Frustrating only in the fact that the studio could have done a little more to make it a real hit. Kick out the fairy characters and keep it to one genre, maybe rehash Kousuke with some form of personality, and then actually move on to the usual series list of 22 episodes or more. Unfortunately, for now the three episodes of Cosplay Complex are a mystery. A stupid, anime mystery.
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