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"La Portrait de Petit Cossette": Gothic Lolita Romantic Horror Doesn’t Bore

by on September 22, 2005
 

You know, what with Gothic Lolita tea parties at various anime cons, Gwen Stefani openly chilling with Harajuku-district Gothic Lolitas in her music videos and manga like Godchild, Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase, and Doll all getting picked up for distribution in the States, it seems like it’s a safe bet that what started as a little fashion trend in the hip districts of Tokyo is making its way over here. Not sure what that has to say about the people who are into it (I mean, the word lolita is right up in the name of the genre, so I’m not even going to try to parse what it has to say about the people who are into it, both as observers and as participants), but I’ve got to say it does make for some cool-looking clothes, manga and anime. One such cool-looking and genuinely entertaining “GothLoli” anime is La Portrait de Petit Cossette, an Aniplex/Geneon project directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, whose background includes other GothLoli works like Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase.

The story is about Eiri Kurahashi, a talented art student who pays his bills by managing an antique shop for his globetrotting uncle. Lately though, his friends have noticed he’s a little out of it. Well, turns out one of the recent antiques brought in, a lovely wine glass, happens to be inhabited by the soul of a girl by the name of Cossette d’ Auvergne. Whenever Eiri looks into the glass, he can watch Cossette’s life like it’s a film. Being an artist, he starts sketching these visions, but being a regular guy, he’s also worried that he’s going crazy. Turns out he’s perfectly sane, there is just evil stuff going on. See, Cossette was murdered by an artist by the name of Marcelo Orlando. He was staying with Cossette’s family at the time and Cossette and Marcelo even fell in love with each other, but Marcelo loved her as she was then, not as someone who was going to grow up and become a woman, so he stabbed her right in the heart to keep her from ever growing older. Cossette’s possessions and items then all became cursed, determined to destroy Marcelo. Still with me?

Unluckily for Eiri, he’s sort of the reincarnation of Marcelo’s soul, or rather has taken his curse on himself by making a blood pact with Cossette. The plus side is that this will draw out the cursed spirits of these objects, allowing Cossette to purify them and eventually find eternal peace once they’ve been purified. The negative side is that even though the whole process happens in another plane of existence, it’s doing physical damage to Eiri in the real world. He’s getting worn down, pale, and there is a huge scar on his chest because of the process. But Eiri genuinely loves Cossette, and is willing to bare any pain for her. Cossette eventually falls in love with Eiri as well, leaving them both to make difficult decisions. Can Eiri sacrifice this reality so he can live with Cossette in a world between life and death, or will he decide to live and create art in this world? Can Cossette bear to use Eiri like a tool for her own salvation any longer, or has her love overcome her, making her wish for Eiri to live successfully in the living world as well? I’m not spoiling it, but it has a great conclusion. Very fitting from a philosophical and emotional perspective.

From the technical and storytelling aspects, Cossette is quite good. The animation, character design and compositing are pretty good outside of a few inbetween issues in the last episode. The character design is especially good. Cossette definitely has a beauty about her, but it’s creepy and unsettling, like some kind of human Bisque doll, while Eiri really does have an everyman vibe about him without looking like your usual anime normal-guy-type character. The backgrounds are outstanding, both from a color-usage perspective and an attention to detail perspective. It’s quite gory at points and the occasional moments of nudity feel more like fanservice than essential plot elements, but in spite of some visual excesses, it’s entrancing to look at.

Cossette‘s also got an interesting story that is well-told given the genres in play. The loose arrangement of time, the intelligent usage of establishing shots, Cossette’s haunting monologues, the range of characters and the concision of characterization really all build together into a unique horror romance. The governing philosophy is perhaps too close to the “deal with the life you were dealt” existentialism that crops up in every other anime these days, but it’s handled so artistically that it’s really a non-issue. It makes sense and feels natural here.

In Cossette, Yuki Kajiura, known for scoring .hackhttps://sign, Tsubasa Chronicles, Noir, Madlax and Aquarian Age, really gets a show where her style of European folk-like music works wonderfully, adding a lovely depth to the Gothic overtones. The end theme features vocals from Marina Inoue, who is also the voice of Cossette in the Japanese-language version. She not only does a lovely job of singing the theme, but her performance as Cossette is great, especially given that it was her first voice acting job. The rest of the Japanese cast also comes through very well.

The English cast is pretty listenable too from the acting side of things, but the actual mix on the English audio doesn’t have the same cinematic dynamic range as the Japanese mix, and it seems a little awkward as such. It’s easier to broadcast, but it’s not as enjoyable to listen to if you’re watching it on a home theater setup.

As far the DVD goes, Cossette‘s probably one of Geneon’s better releases. Not only does it have the usual nice video and audio quality, but it’s also got a DTS track for the Japanese audio and a good number of special features like the original Japanese trailers, the US trailer and interviews with the Japanese cast and crew. It also comes with double-sided poster of Cossette as well.

So, if you’re into the GothLoli trip already, get La Portrait de Petit Cossette. It does the gothic part better than its contemporaries (and is a little less lolita than some of them too, which isn’t a bad thing in my book, though if you’re sensitive to that at all, just turn back now) and it’s got an interesting and different story. If you’ve never even dealt with this kind of stuff before, just beware that it is rated 16 and up “for nudity and violence,” and if you’re at prudish, you might as well call it 18 and up. But if you’re up for some gothic horror romance with delightfully spooky design, this is it. It’s also the perfect anime for Halloween if you’re going to throw an otaku Halloween party, just in case you were curious.

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