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Cosplay Complex Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Sometimes anime is good. Sometimes anime is bad. And once in awhile, some anime is just wrong. Cosplay Complex is just wrong. So wrong that it has me in fits of laughter.

What They Say
Meet Chako and her friends from the Cosplay Association at East Oizuki Academy! They’re the hottest new cosplay team in Japan… fresh from a winning streak of local battles, they’re set to sweep the Cosplay World Series!

Yeah, right…

In reality, Chako and her fellow middle school students are barely able to keep their club alive. Feeble club membership and no adult sponsor might be the end of their cosplay dreams before they can even start.

But don’t you dare underestimate this group of spunky girls! They’ll survive a barrage of pervy newcomers, cosplay rivalries, costume disasters and dating mishaps in order to reach their ultimate goal of competing in the World Series. The clothing flies as the girls suit up (and strip down) for Cosplay Complex!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 bump at 44kbps. The track is a pretty solid stereo mix that has a good amount of forward soundstage directionality across it as the characters are all over the place. Dialogue throughout it is clean and clear and we had no problems during regular playback. The English language side is largely the same, just a bit louder in some ways, but otherwise a clean and clear presentation throughout that holds up well.

Originally starting its release back in 2001, the three episode OVA series is presented in its original full frame format. The transfer for this OVA series is fantastic as it’s full of lots of vivid and lush colors that are wonderfully reproduced here. With no cross coloration, the character designs and backgrounds just look very solid here and avoid the shimmering effect. Colors are solid throughout and backgrounds hold up well without breaking up. There’s a slight bit of aliasing in a few scenes during some panning, but it’s pretty minimal and doesn’t detract much at all. The transfer overall is pretty solid, but I disliked the way the opening sequence was handled. Since no clean version is available, the translated credits are laid over them ? in some shots but not others, with white text that has a heavy black border. The screen just gets a much to cluttered feeling with it.

Giving you exactly what the show is all about, the front cover has the trio of girls in varying costumes while the oversized head of the male lead serves as a prop that helps to push the comic angle a bit. With the inclusion of the mini rabbit-girl and the owl, the cover simply says that this is a strange show. The colors look good for it though as it’s pretty brightly done and quite eye-catching. The back cover goes for the costume feel and has a multi-colored piece of fabric being opened with a zipper, each area providing different bits of information like the summary, the features or a small set of pictures from the show. The discs features are easy to find and clearly listed (though the runtime is closer to 90 minutes than 75) and the layout overall fits the show nicely. The insert is actually a four panel fold out poster with a shot of two of the girls in full color on one side while the reverse side is a “Cosplay field trip report” by Kunihiko Fujiwara where he talks about his experiences at Anime Expo 2002 and what he thought of all the cosplayers there.

The main menu is a simple static piece that has pieces of bright colored fabric as the backdrop and a shot of Chako, blushing of course, changing out of one of her outfits with the sizeable logo next to her, all playing to part of the closing theme song. Individual episode selections are along the bottom along with the other usual functions. The layout is easy to navigate, colorful and with fast access times.

There aren’t a lot of extras here but there are some very useful ones. The first one is the “Cosplay Identification 101” piece that runs about five minutes. It takes stills from the show with all the outfits the characters wear and provides an onscreen listing of who they are. Most of the costumes are easy to figure out but a few surprised me and having this extra is really helpful. Another interesting extra is the Annotated Sketches, which again runs around five minutes. It’s basically a series of production sketches done as a video gallery but has lots of notes about the designs and what they were trying to do with them. The closing sequence is provided in a clean format while the opening sequence is presented in its original Japanese format.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The actual plot and premise behind Cosplay Complex is very simple. We’ve got a group of high school kids who have a club there based on Cosplay. They enter various competitions, such as the upcoming Cosplay World Series event, but spend plenty of time simply working on outfits, practicing poses and other things related to the hobby. The club is actually struggling to survive at the moment since they don’t have enough members or a teacher sponsor while also being derided as a truly useless or poorly conceived club by most of the other kids.

That doesn’t mean that the bulk of the boys won’t oogle them when they’re changing or wearing their skimpy outfits.

The fun is in the details. Leading the cast is the bright and bubbly and not altogether there Chako. She’s over enthusiastic but also goes into fits of depression easily when there’s problems with her costume. She’s the most outgoing of the group and just has that energy to go and do whatever needs to be done. Usually. Chako’s got a special friend in the pint size flying magical fairy kind of girl named Delmo that wears rabbit ears who can, handily enough, transform herself into costumes for Chako to wear. She’s also helpful in that she often increases Chako’s chest size, endowing her with breasts that defy gravity sometimes.

The sister team of Maria and Athena brings in the cute and innocent factor. The older sister, Maria, fills in the role of the quiet type with dark hair and glasses while Athena, who looks to be about twelve years old, provides fanservice for the lolicon crowd. She’s definitely the cute and innocent type (and she constantly proclaims as much) and is frequently taken advantage of. Ostensibly the senior girl in the group is Reika, the more composed of the girls. She’s generally calm and deals with the financials of the club and does a lot of good cosplaying as well while also dealing with the groups real leader.

That’d be Gorou, the only male in the group. He’s a cracked egg in many ways, starting with his bald head and glasses that keep you from seeing his eyes. He often acts like the maniacal leader of some evil group as he sets his cosplay girls into different events. He’s also an avid cosplayer himself, so he gets to join in the fun while utilizing all sorts of different artifacts from series to torture his members with. The cast is generally rounded out with Sachiko, a relative of Chako’s that she lives with, and Ikebukuro, the owl from the same dimension that Delmo came from. Both of those characters live with Chako and Sachiko.

The big changes come to the club when, after being stalked for a bit, Gorou introduces a new applicant to the club, an Italian transfer student named Jenny. She’s the blonde blue-eyed busty girl who is just so completely into cosplay. She’s up for the challenge and ends up going against Chako in a one on one contest to see who can master creative cosplay during a series of challenges of styles to wear. Gorou uses this to the clubs advantage and sells tickets to the event and plays up the fanservice elements for the many drooling schoolboys that want to watch.

The introduction of Jenny brings in one of the most wrong elements of the show. And element that’s so wrong that it continually had me in fits of laughter. Jenny’s got a thing for? young girls. So when she sees Athena, she’s just simply madly in love with her and continually tries to have her way with her. There’s so many wrong scenes where these two are active, often with Athena (supposedly?) looking innocent about what’s going on while Jenny looks bad. Watching Jenny taking Athena into the changing booth so she can get her to try on a swimsuit only to have the curtain drawn back and Jenny completely naked there and having just a certain look? it’s priceless. Especially since Maria is so upset over what Jenny does and keeps freaking out.

Reika sums it up best though with, “Quit playing grab ass over here, ok?”

Cosplay Complex plays along with a few standard episode styles. The opening episode does the introductions and then the new challenger formula well. The beach episode, which has the girls there doing training by working in a restaurant, covers a lot of the usual ground and the final episode has them dealing with a competing club from another school. What makes these episodes work so much better and not feel like standard series episodes is that the characters are so into their roles and the story lets them take the situation beyond “TV normal” with its humor and fanservice. There’s a great sense of energy in how this cast works together (in both languages!) that the humor is just spot on. And when you add in the various costumes and gags from some shows, it’s just priceless.

I have to say, at first I wasn’t sure what was going to go on in this series. But when early on in the first episode they did a brief homage to Gunbuster, I was completely won over. Having one of the characters later dressed as that as well as someone doing a Sgt. Frog outfit just made it all the more amusing. The costumes continue to come and come while Gorou’s own way of doing things is so up my alley. His reading of books, very erotic styled ones at that, at times when Reika is around and unsuspecting of things is hilarious. I couldn’t stop laughing at the situations Reika keeps finding herself in and the way his words play onto her. The best though is Sachiko’s scoring in the second episode. Way. Too. Funny.

In Summary: 
Cosplay Complex is a show that really just takes the norms and shoves it several notches higher when it comes to innuendo and fanservice. The comedy is spot on throughout once it gets into its groove and you realize how it’s going to play out. The show also manages to have a lot of replay value depending on how much anime you’ve seen. As you see more and more shows, recognizing the costumes (and often the moves and dialogue associated with it) adds more to this show. So if you’re unfamiliar with a number of the shows and then see them over time, going back to this show, you’ll find it even more amusing. When I saw the trailer for this I had no idea what to expect but I didn’t have high hopes. After it was all over, I wanted to watch it again right then and there. Cosplay Complex tickled my funny bone with a vengeance.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Cosplay Identification 101, Annotated Sketches, Original Japanese Opening and Clean Close

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: June 1st, 2004
MSRP: $24.95
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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