Dressing up as your favorite science fiction, video game or anime character is popular at conventions in the US, but it has not attained the level of enthusiasm in the States as it does in the East. Cosplay, as it is called, is a popular hobby in Japan, especially among women, where people work months on a costume that they will wear for only a few hours. There are books giving the novice Cosplay designer tips and hints, and even DVDs devoted to the sport. Now there is an OVA anime series that revolves around dressing up: the adult oriented Cosplay Complex.
The plot is pretty straightforward: East Oizuki Academy has a small Cosplay club. There is the not too bright but enthusiastic Chako, the quite Maria and her very young and innocent sister Athena, and the senior member of the team: Reika. In addition there is a Cosplay contest MC who hangs around with the girls, Gorou. Unfortunately they don't have a teacher to sponsor the club, nor do they have enough members under the school rules. So they have to recruit more players and a teacher, while preparing for the Cosplay World Series.
It sounds simple and cute, but the show is really very funny and off the wall. Though there is a lot of fan service, something that doesn't really do much for me, there are some odd things that they throw into this simple plot that had me laughing pretty consistently throughout the show. First there is Ikebukuro a sentient owl like creature from another dimension. He really doesn't have a part in the show; he just sits around and occasionally holds up a sign. At first I thought it was strange to have an oddly colored alien owl in a show with very few fantasy elements, but after a while just his presence causes you to giggle. Then there is Delmo, a fairy from the same dimension as Ikebukuro. She is has the ability to turn herself into a costume for Chako to wear, but she'll only do it for large quantities of food. Delmo also has the unusual ability to enhance Chako's natural attributes, giving her larger breasts. (Sometimes MUCH larger.) Delmo doesn't really solve any problems in the show, or win contests with her magic; she's just a small flying fairy that no one seems to think twice about.
One of the funnier scenes in the shwo was the flashback to Ikebukuro and Delmo's origin: They just showed up one night. That's it. No elaborate plot devices to explain magical creatures in a normal world. They just turned up without any explination, and no one seems to find that unusual.
Eventually the club gains another member, a busty foreign exchange student from Italy, Jenny. Jenny has the hots for young Athena, and is always trying to take her clothes off or seduce her, much to Athena's sister's dismay. Thinking back on it, I can't recall a large number of pedophilic lesbians in other anime shows, but this decidedly unusual character provides some of the funniest, though decidedly politically incorrect, moments in the show.
An irreverent show, this series takes a simple premise of a school-based
club and turns it on its ear. The jokes and humorous situations
fly by quickly, and even the fan service isn't too gratuitous and often
amusing. (Something that rarely happens in my opinion.) Well
worth checking out.
This DVD gives you the option of listening to the show in the original 2.0 Japanese or an English 5.1 dub. There are removable subtitles for the signs in the show, and an English translation.
I viewed this DVD listening to both tracks and, surprisingly, I prefer the audio on the English dub by just a bit. The dub was a good one, with the voice actors putting a lot of feeling into their characters, but the 5.1 soundtrack was able to outshine the stereo mix of the Japanese track. The rain in the third episode was much fuller and surrounding on the English track, and Gorou's narrations had an interesting echo effect that the Japanese track lacked.
Both languages sounded very clear and crisp. The slightest background sound was easy to discern. There was good use made of the front soundstage also. This was a nice sounding DVD.
The full frame video on this DVD looked great. There was very good definition with the lines being tight and very few digital artifacts. The colors were bright and vivid as fits the subject matter. I was very please with the quality.
This disc includes some fun extras. There is a Cosplay Identification 101 featurette that has stills from the shows and identifies which anime series or video game the costume came from. This five-minute reel is helpful when you know that you've seen a character before, but just can't quite place it.
There is also a six-minute reel of production sketches with annotations from the illustrators, the original Japanese opening, and a textless closing sequence.
I really enjoyed this show. It had me laughing through all three episodes. The characters are amusing, the situations strange and comical, and the jokes frequent. Heck, even the idea of a club where you practice dressing up in costumes to prepare for competition is decidedly odd. If you are a fan of offbeat comedy, be sure to check this show out. Highly Recommended.