Judge Sandra Dozier won't admit this in mixed company, but she actually kind of liked this anime. Of course, we don't mind squealing on her.
Ready! Set! Cosplay!
"Cosplay" is short for costume play, where people dress up to look like their favorite anime characters. Generally, these people are hugely into anime and make the costumes themselves, with materials they buy. They go to conventions all dressed up, where they can be seen and photographed by admirers. So Cosplay Complex is an anime about anime fans. How weird is that?
Frankly, I didn't like Cosplay Complex at first. It's a playground for perverts and fan service nuts, and the sheer frequency of blushing faces and bared everything-else can take your breath away. Plus, there are some elements of this original animation video (OAV) collection that I find so disturbing I have to remind myself it's fiction just to keep from gagging.
Still, I'm almost embarrassed to admit that these OAVs kind of grow on you. In a pervy, won't-admit-it-if-asked kind of way.
Facts of the Case
East Oizumi Academy has a recently formed Cosplay Club, but it won't last long if it can't find a faculty sponsor and one more member to round out the team…someone who lives and breathes cosplay and will help the club make it to the Cosplay World Series!!
Club president Gorou, the only male in the club, and copresident Reika (the sophisticated cool one) take care of the logistics, and club members Chakko, a girl with bright pink hair and a couple of cute sidekicks called Delmo (a sprite), Ikebukuro (fittingly, an owl), and Maria (the reserved one with glasses and dark hair), are free to cosplay at will. Maria has a younger sister named Athena who isn't officially on the team but likes to hang out with them.
Eventually, the team takes on Jenny, an Italian exchange student with the biggest set of…hair extensions on the team. She has two sprigs of blonde hair that stick straight up like antennae, perhaps to help her locate the objects of her affection, which happen to be little girls like Athena. Jenny isn't into guys, and she doesn't care for women her own age. Despite Athena's protests that she is too innocent for Jenny's affections, there is plenty of lechery on this front.
With their final member in place, the team locates a faculty sponsor, and they are off and running! First task: cosplay contest, both to make money for the team and to give their members practice. What they are doing attracts the attention of a confident cosplayer from a rival school, and they go head to head to prove who is better.
Of course, between their struggles for cosplay dominance, there are plenty of opportunities for jiggling breasts, swaying hips, peeks at underwear (including some blatant crotch shots), lesbian erotica, and tender situations designed to raise the mercury of your biological thermostat. The series is aimed directly at young, horny males.
I'm not a big fan of fan service. It's really something for straight guys, I think—I'm usually just kind of bored. Most stories that rely heavily on fan service, as Cosplay Complex does, have no substance to them other than highly polished butt shots. Yet, once past my initial shock over Cosplay Complex, I found that the characters and situations were actually kind of interesting.
The shock was over the character of Jenny, who has a fascination with the very young Athena. Grooving on ten-year-olds is creepy no matter how you slice it, and I was not able to warm up to this aspect of the story, even to see it as a backward jab at pervy behavior that no respectable person should exhibit, which may be what the creators subtly intended (somehow, I doubt this).
The interest was in the other characters, including the adorable sprite Delmo, who is about the size of an adult's cranium and can wrap herself magically around Chakko and be her cosplay outfit (a strangely sexy idea all by itself). Then there is Gorou, who is bald and wears reflective glasses that make him seem mysterious. He thinks of himself as quite the player, and he often narrates sexy scenarios aloud as he advances on the unsuspecting and completely befuddled Reika. They never quite make it to consummation, and this, too, is part of the allure. When one isn't laughing heartily at his larger-than-life image, of course.
Even though every type of anime-girl cliché is represented here, Cosplay Complex manages not to be too self-conscious in its presentation of these characters in half-naked situations. In fact, the directness of some of the sexuality, such as when a young widow advances on Jenny for a midnight tryst, is so free of contrived setup that these moments become freshly erotic in their telling.
The video transfer for these OAVs is excellent, and the glossy, colorful animation is shown off well. Sound quality fares equally well, and the 5.1 English dub is superb, with great performances and full use of channels for offscreen sound effects and dialogue. Additionally, for a three-OAV set like this, there are a surprising amount of extras on the disc, many of them hidden away from the main menu (arrow around on the main menu and extras menu to find them). Most are teaser trailers for Cosplay Complex and reveal some of the marketing push (in one, Chakko talks directly to an imaginary audience of guys, apologizing and confiding that she doesn't mean to tease them, and that the OAV will be out soon). Most welcome is a ten-minute segment that catalogs all of the outfits shown in the OAVs. If you get 80%, you are officially an anime geek.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One of the secret extras on this disc points out that Cosplay Complex was too risqué to be shown on television and was turned into an OAV instead. This is no surprise, and the storyline involving Jenny's fascination with kinder is probably what did it. Her character behaves exactly like a man would as she salivates and goes off into dreamland after a particularly exciting encounter…she may have an enormous chest to prove her gender, but her brain is 100% male. However, had her character actually been a guy, it would have been creepy and disgusting instead of just creepy and harmless, as it apparently is considered here. It's that old double standard…a 38-year-old guy and a 17-year-old girl is gross, but make the guy into a 42-year-old woman going for a 17-year-old boy, and it's a sexy romp. This is the one thing that drags down an otherwise fine presentation of fan service and soft-core sexy situations.
Connoisseurs of innocently flipped-up skirts, exposed panties, and flowery underthings glimpsed on the sly should make the time to check out Cosplay Complex. Other than the aforementioned over-the-top perviness, which may actually be a draw for some, it's pretty good stuff.
Although Jenny is being carted off to be…uh…reeducated by older women, the rest of the cast is free to go try on more homemade costumes that don't quite fit right.
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