Cosplay is the act of dressing up like your favorite anime and video game characters, from the English words "costume" and "play". This is the pastime of our protagonists, a small club of teenagers who are working diligently to win the next Cosplay World Series. Can they win without sponsorship or support from their own school? Can the flaky Chako deal with the new exchange student, Jenny Mattel? Can elementary schoolgirl Athena manage to avoid having Jenny get into her panties? Can I turn off this DVD player yet?
I really wanted to like Cosplay Complex. You see, I happen to know a fair share of cosplayers here in the States, and while the scene tends to be uber-competitive and occasionally nasty, most of the people I've met there have actually been pretty cool. Playing dress-up is fun, right? So, therefore, a show about playing dress-up should also be fun, right?
Well, not quite.
The problem with Cosplay Complex is that it seems to have been made without consulting actual cosplayers. Therefore, while they get a few things right (the competitiveness, the difficulty of getting things done in time, et cetera), the creators seem more interested in getting the girls in awkward fanservice situations. Because, according to the logic behind this show, cosplayers are either sex objects or sexual deviants chasing after sex objects. I don't know about you, but equating the entirety of cosplay with "kinky role-play sex" seems pretty damn disingenuous, no matter what you think about the hobby. But, well, this show does just that. *sigh*
It's not all peeping and groping here -- but it's damn close. The characters are ridiculously paper-thin. Chako, our lead, is the inept, perky, pink-haired go-getter, who only gets by with a little help from her friends. The laughably named Jenny Mattel (she's a doll, get it?) is an amalgam of every blonde American cliche in anime (even though she's supposedly Italian), but with the twist that she also has a Lolita complex. There's also Reika and Maria (about as memorable as the average mannequin), obligatory "I am an innocent little girl" Athena, and the token guy, Gorou. Oh boy. Alone out of these characters, Gorou has something remotely resembling an actual personality, coming oh so close to cool, and then messing it up by being a complete goofball, since, in this anime, competency is apparently a mortal sin punishable by death. The inclusion of two pointless "fantasy" characters (Delmo, the "cosplay fairy", and Ikebukuro, the sewing owl) simply adds to the pervasive aura of unreality that permeates this show.
So, what's the point of the plot? In Cosplay Complex, the plot only serves to string together all the dressing room scenes, which are obviously the stuff of pubescent fantasy. (Because, cosplayers ALWAYS prance around naked in front of cameras, since we all know cosplayers = exhibitionists. HOW FUNNY!) It doesn't take long to grow tiresome, and it doesn't take much longer to be embarrassing. But the worst part is the whole thread with Jenny chasing after and undressing and having her way with Athena, which is played off as humorous (which it isn't) rather than creepy (which it is). There is one particularly inane scene where Jenny tries to get into bed with Athena, only to end up with Chako's mom Sachiko ... and proceeds to have hot lesbian sex with her anyway. That's about the point I dropped this thing like a hot potato. Granted, the third episode returns to the cosplay competition, but the ending is forced and very little is actually resolved -- it doesn't look like this show was very successful in Japan and I can't say I'm very surprised.
Technically, it's about what you'd expect from Wonderfarm. The animation is glossy and colorful, and a lot of attention is lavished on the very recognizable costumes. This was actually about the only thing I really liked about the show, but it's like putting pretty wrapping paper on garbage. It's still garbage.
While the initial flurry of costume references is amusing, and the animation and color design are actually quite good, Cosplay Complex quickly deteriorates into a forced comedy that can be summarized as, "Cosplayers are perverts!" Ha ha. Right.
While not the worst or most offensive series I've ever seen, Cosplay Complex is the opposite of Comic Party. A degrading, exploitationist, unrealistic look at what is actually a really fun hobby. Skip this one and go watch something else. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: The constant barrage of nudity, fanservice, and sexual deviance makes this entirely unsuitable for children and teens. The pedophile character of Jenny Mattel may be extremely offensive to many viewers, so consider yourself warned.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source
Review Status: Full (3/3)
Cosplay Complex © 2002 Cosplay Complex Production Committee
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