If you frequently go to comic conventions, cosplay is very much the norm. You won’t bat an eyelid after a while when you see someone dressed as your favourite character from the comic/movie/anime/TV series you’re in to. But for the uninitiated, it is still far from the norm and can be seen as strange. This is what Nagisa Kataura must live with every day.
Whilst she appears to be an average 26-year-old temp-worker, her business-casual exterior is a front for her devoted cosplay habit. Transforming into her favourite anime and manga characters is Nagisa’s passion in life, and her hard work and creativity has earned her respect amongst her cosplay cohorts. But to the rest of society, her hobby is a silly fantasy, so she has to keep her two worlds separate. However, as demands from both sides of her life begin to increase, she may one day have to make a tough choice – what’s more important to her, cosplay or being “normal”?
This is not the first time fandom and cosplay has been examined in manga or anime. This aspect of fandom has had both its positives and negatives highlighted by various series (Genshiken, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions). But often with these series, they are usually framed in a setting where the hobby is more expected to be found (high school, clubs etc). Complex Age is placed in an average working environment – a great premise and if the last chapter is anything to go by should lead to some great moments as the series continues.
Nagisa makes for an unusual protagonist as the dedication to her hobby gives some interesting character moments. The level of pride she takes in her costume design makes her both snobby as she looks down on others who don’t put the same time and effort she has, and also high neurotic as she is not very good about taking criticism about her appearance and is also terrified that people will judge her for her hobby. It’s a tough job to make you feel both pity and frustration towards a character and Yui Sakuma pulls it off very well.
Sakuma’s art is also top notch with great detail being put into the costumes designed and making a great contrast between Nagisa’s mundane work life and the colourful world her hobby inhabits. There are some great subtleties to the art as well, in particular the great opening colour pages where Nagisa is reading the comments on her cosplay photos and affirming her belief that her costumes are perfect; the rather tired-looking Nagisa looking at the computer vs the bright and happy cosplay-clad Nagisa on the screen is quite the shift.
This is both a great examination of cosplay culture and why people are so in to it, and also a fresh take on the fandom genre that examines its clash with people who lead everyday lives. Well worth a look!
Complex Age 1 is published 23 June by Kodansha
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