Cosplay doesn't get much coverage in anime, considering that cosplayers made up a pretty vocal and enthusiastic slice of the fandom pie, and cosplay is a rapidly growing otaku passion and hobby. And who doesn't like frighteningly real and barely there costumes on pretty girls? Hence I picked up Cosplay Complex, newly released from ADV.
We are tossed in the middle of the plot. The Cosplay Club at East Oizuki Academy works to make it to the Cosplay World Series, aided by Ikebukuro, an owl, and Delmo, a fairy addicted to sweets that is suspiciously costumed a lot like the white rabbit of CLAMP's notorious piece of fanservice, Miyuki-chan in Wonderland. Costumes lie at the center of this show. In fact, identifying costumes from their shows is a fun addition to the actual show.
Our central character is Chako, your typical ditzy teenage girl with wild pink hair. She loves cosplaying, and wants to be the best cosplayer in the world. However, she is forgetful, a klutz, and cannot sew well at all. All is solved through Delmo's magical power to turn into any costume, once provided with a sugary bribe. She even does breast implants for a sudden increase. The rest of the team is rounded off by Maria, the bespectacled priestess; Athena, her cute kid sister who technically should not be a member since she's not in the school; Jenny, a rabid Italian lesbian with cat fangs who loves Athena; Reika, the smart yet beautiful girl; and Gorou, the bald male president of the club who constantly tries to seduce Reika by reading aloud erotica.
Yes, you can tell this is going to be a light-hearted and fun echhi trip.
If I could give Cosplay Complex a category, it would be a hentai/cosplay parody almost at the level of Excel Saga's humor. Cosplay 'fights' are worked up to the level of wrestling matches. Other animes are constantly referenced intentionally, so when you're not picking out costumes, you're naming the anime.
The plot is fairly simple, but the episodes themselves feel like filler, but in a good way. Sort of like how most hentai or dating sim plots are filler and you know it, but it tastes good anyway. The first episode introduces characters and their situation (broke and not enough members) and goal (to win the Cosplay World Series!), the second has them working at a beachside coffeehouse, and the third climaxes with a cosplay showdown with the top school and last year's champions. If there is a lesson behind the breast-jiggling and blatant fanservice, it's the coolness of cosplay to make, wear, and then be seen wearing your creations.
Extras include a comprehensive, but not complete guide to the costumes worn by the characters and their origins ('Cosplay Identification 101'), very detailed annotated sketches, the Japanese opening, a clean closing, the standard selection of ADV previews, and DVD credits. There are two Easter eggs that I identified on the menu title screen, one that seems to be a Japanese promo trailer, the other the uncensored Japanese opening or ending. (I'll leave it to you to find them!) The opening and ending songs are catchy and upbeat, but I don't think I'll be picking up the soundtrack for "Cosplay Changing My World" and "The Cosplay Marching Song". The opening is nothing really special, just the characters wearing different costumes. I liked, however, what they did in the closing, which was showing photos of real life cosplayers against a corkboard background while the credits scrolled.
I have found that although I prefer subbed anime, watching humorous anime dubbed works best for me. The dub for Cosplay Complex was excellent! Comparing the two scripts, I preferred the dubbed speech, as it gave more emotion and detail to the scenes, making it flow more naturally. Delmo exclaims "Yeah, bitch!" to a cosplay opponent of Chako, dialogue that definitely is not in the subtitles, but is utterly perfect for English viewers like me. The only complaint I had was that there were a lot of untranslated signs in the second episode, so I felt that I was missing much of the comedy of those scenes.
The animation quality is excellent, and the style reminds me of Excel Saga, with bright colors and less realistic characters.
Cosplay Complex is divided up into three 'rounds', or episodes. It makes me wonder if there are any plans to expand this into a full 12 or 24 episode series, something like Comic Party. I feel there is great potential for this series, and I recommend it to fans of cosplay and parody animes!