You can’t get much more Japanese than Cosplay Complex; bright colour, unnecessary animal friends (in this case an owl called Ikebukuro), cosplay, lots of blushing young girls with great figures (despite how much they eat) and enough fetishes to scare away the guy in the trench coat and matching hat who always walks by the porn shop scratching his palms with rusty keys.
The story begins with main character Chako and her friends dreaming of going to the cosplay world series – but one member short, and lacking any kind of sponsorship, the team just carry on working toward their goal. During this time, a blonde girl variously dressed as a wall, a bird and a furred animal, continues to stalk them, only to reveal herself as an Italian exchange student who would like nothing more than to join in their cosplay antics (and continue to indulge her Lolita complex by getting close to the teams youngest cosplayer, Athena). Meanwhile, Chako finds a love interest in the photographer, Tamiya, and everyone else carries on being silly. When Chako returns, things finally take off, as Gouro, the bespectacled leader of the team, makes it clear that Jenny’s initiation depends on her winning Chako in a cosplay face-off.
The second episode feels a little steadier, with more consistent humour and some minor character development. The main feature of the episode is Chako’s developing relationship with Tamiya, as they visit a local festival which celebrates the legend of a crane that fell in love with the man who aided it through injury. Rather than having time alone with Tamiya, Chako instead spends her time guiding him so that they can avoid certain members of the cosplay team, who pull out every trick they can to fix the two up (among them, the installation of a love bed in the middle of the woods).
When all is said and done, the team return to following their ambition, with the third and final episode following the cosplay face-off between the team, and the far more experienced group from Shin-Takarazuka (the current cosplay world series champions). Like the face-off in the first episode, this consists of each team sending out one person at a time in costumes that are judged against each other, but now the entire team is involved. What else? Well, there really isn’t much of an ending (with many ideas and threads left unresolved), so that’s it. In the end, Cosplay Complex isn’t a series that was ever going to blow you away with an elaborate plot or scenes of grandiose spectacle, but it does provide enough laughs and some likeable, if not believable or well-rounded characters, to smooth over the journey.
If you approach ‘Cosplay’ as something to test your anime, Japanese culture and video game knowledge with (helped by the ‘cosplay identification 101’ extra), or as a lighthearted comedy of a ‘traditionally Japanese’ style, then you can’t go far wrong. The major problem is that the constant fanservice and smatter of nudity panders to the worst stereotypes of Japanese culture and humour, whilst also being potentially offputting to the point removing any need to pick up the series at all (given that, aside from the fanservice and innuendo, there really isn’t too much else).
Depending on how much fanservice you can justify and enjoy, Cosplay Complex will either be a fun and playful addition to your collection (and if you’re buying Cosplay, you probably have a collection), or tedious and sexist.