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Blog: Running Backwards, Writer: Dan

Running Backwards: Cosplay Complex – Anime Review

This week, while scouring my DVD collection looking for something to perk my interest I decided quite early on to choose an Anime to review. But which to pick? Well as it’s exam season and everyone’s in the throngs of writing hell (Myself included) I decided it would have to be a short series, sorry in advanced to anyone who was expecting a detailed review of Full Metal Alchemist really within the 3-12 episode region. And that’s when I remembered Cosplay Complex…the utter bowels of my anime collection, I hate this series, and I think it knows I hate it as well…I first reviewed this DVD in 2007 and at the time I claimed it was the worst series I had ever seen so in the space age future of 2011 would there be any change in opinion at all?

Well the first the first thing that drew me to the series was the bold as brass banner across the top of the page decreeing “ADV Classic Collection”. “Oh” I thought” then it must be brilliant to have made it to the classic collection range, even the box blurb comes across as witty and sarcastic in a way most anime box’s really don’t this must be a pretty good series…I was wrong. There are three episodes (or rounds as they insist on calling them) that make up this complete series, in the industry it’s what’s commonly referred to as an OVA in much the way the UK and US have pilot episodes Japan has a habit of making pilots in two’s or three’s and releasing them on DVD, if their successful (Really successful) then they might just get a series. I should also say from here I will be using the term “Cosplay” quite often, essentially Cosplay is a Japanese hobby in which regular people make costumes from anime series and dress up as characters from anime for fun and to enter competitions to win prizes. Yes. There are people out there who get actively paid to dress as Sailor Moon for their job.

Anyway as I dipped into Episode 1 for the first time I decided to play it safe with the Dub, The Sub’s voice acting is absolutely abysmal, everyone’s voice is high pitched and screechy, and they only seem to get higher from there on in, whereas the Dub while bad is tolerable. The opening animation of the first Cosplay competition is quite well animated, but this is possibly the only quite well animated section and the character designs all seem particularly 1 dimensional throughout both this section and the rest of the anime. It’s at this point were introduced to Chacko a young high school girl who dreams of being a Cosplay Champion, though she can’t actually make any costumes herself…which is quite a problem when it’s pretty much required, you wouldn’t become a baker if you didn’t know how to bake cakes but you did know how to fix a washing machine.

With help from a mystical fairy who came from another dimension (Which I will discuss in a moment) Chacko takes the show by storm, and then the scene just ends. There are no smooth transitions in the whole of this series, it looks like it was all thrown together really at the last minute, and the next scene (Which is literally just cut in) is Chacko, the fairy and an Owl sitting around a dinner table eating cake. The fairy (Whose name changes from episode to episode) turns out to be responsible for Chacko’s winning streak as she can shape shift into any costume ever created.  At this point the scene jumps again and it is very briefly implied that the fairy and the Owl came from a different dimension or something like that (again there really not too clear) but why no one is even challenging the fact that a fairy and an owl are eating cake at the dinner table let alone freaking out, is completely beyond me.

With that plot hole glazed over there’s another scene break we are briefly introduced to Goru, one of only two male characters in the whole OVA, and for lack of a better word, he is only there to be a dirty old man, he basically spends the whole anime leering over the girls, and not in a funny Dragonball Z “Master Roshi” way, in a slightly creepy “Oh dear”  way. We’re also at this point introduced to Chacko’s love interest for the story a character who apparently isn’t searchable on Google, which must mean he doesn’t exist. His character is completely hollow and as far as I can tell he is only there to say Chacko is pretty and to float around in the background and look important.  If sudden nuclear apocalypse happens  and a copy of Cosplay complex was the only thing our future kind had to show how we as their ancestor’s were, all men will either be painted as enormously perverted  jerks or the equivalent of a balloon with a smiley face drawn on one side and the word “Plot” written on  the other. Geeze…

The scene then cuts again and were now in a high school in the “Cosplay club’s meeting room”, “Ahh finally the plot begins” I thought to myself…well not exactly. Instead were introduced to Jenny a foreign exchange student who has a really unhealthy addiction to children. In that every scene from the point at which she’s introduced to the last time you see her she’s trying to drag small children away with her. This anime isn’t just creepy in a “Well it doesn’t know any better” kind of way its creepy on a “This needs to be on a register” kind of way. 25 minutes in and apart from establishing the characters…or what you could call the characters episode one just ends! Thats it! Though to be fair it does end the episode with the introduction of another character to be fully revealed in episode 2…

But that’s just it really, because sitting down to watch episode two it turns out that the character who was introduced at the end of “Round 1” was just a red herring to draw people back to watch round two! Which is ridiculous on two levels the first being that if you sat through episode 1 and didn’t like it you probably stopped watching there and the second being that all three episodes can only be bought on one DVD!  And that’s not the only problem with episode 2, not only has the Plot disappeared completely at this point, Apparently the whole I want to be the Cosplay champion should have been bracketed with (But not that badly) because all Cosplaying has gone as well! which is a bit of a kick to the face if your show has “Cosplay” in the title! Instead for the full 30 minutes all the characters do is, go to the beach, to a temple shrine and then back to the beach where they work as Maids.

Ecchi, Ecchi is the word to describe this series, lewd is too strong as is sexy. But with no plot, bad character design and bad character acting all thats essentially left is 30 minutes of a group of high school girls and a pervert wandering around in Bikini’s (Which depending on your outlook I guess could be a good or bad thing) with no  real direction whatsoever. The photographer returns again as well, but only to stand around and compliment Chacko again. and just as there about to get together and turn this series around from being quite creepy and disjointed into a romance comedy. The episode ends again! With the same cliff-hanger as episode 1! Another mysterious character just randomly turns up and I personally was left with a sense of both confusion and misery.

Wiping the Tears of blood from my eyes I hesitated to play Round 3 there’s no way this part could be a knockout surely? I took a deep breath and pushed on and at 8 minutes in the most bizarre and wonderful thing happened. The plot turned up again! Suddenly Chacko was interested in cosplaying again and references from everything from Sgt. Frog to Black Jack came pouring into the series, as it turns out the character we were introduced to at the end of episode 2was actually relevant this time she was the head of a rival high school Cosplay team who came to challenge Chacko and her group to a Cosplay showdown and suddenly the scene just cuts again and their battling for who has the best Cosplay there are hints thrown out that Chacko may be from the same dimension as the Owl and the Fairy, some sinister shots of a woman in the audience are shown repeatedly implying that she may  be very important to the plot, the Cosplay battle looks like it’s coming to a head and then! It ends. And all the hints all the plot holes and all the other pieces of interest are glazed over by a final animation after the credits declaring the Cosplay competition ended in a draw but that the temas decided to work together to make the world more cosplayer friendly.

If this series were any more glazed it would be a doughnut, the fact that apparently this was only ever intended to be a 3 part series is the biggest annoyance of all because the people in charge of the series knew what they were doing when they produced it. They knew they only had 3 episodes to develop a satisfying storyline, so why they chose to basically ditch both the plot and the Cosplay aspects (Which I still don’t understand when Cosplay is in the title) about halfway through the first episode only to suddenly pick it up again nearly halfway through the 3rd Is a complete mystery to me. While roughly a third of the anime is anywhere near decent and the opening and closing music to the series is probably the best feature of the whole thing. This really is a DVD to miss, at time of writing you can pick a copy up on Amazon for a couple of pounds, which annoys me all the more because I paid £12 for my copy back in ’07.  Its certificate 15 which surprised me even more, but that’s largely irrelevant…Avoid this series like the plague!

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to burn my copy while dressed as Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion


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