I have a deep passion for retro anime, especially when it comes to the 80s and 90s. No big surprise, because that’s the anime that was culturally relevant when I was a youngster. For old farts like me or people who just have a fascination for these oldschool anime, a show like Cosplay Complex is a must-watch experience.
This 2002 anime centers around a high school club dedicated to professional cosplay. It’s led by the overly-passionate (and bald-headed) Gorou, who is joined by a handful of eccentric girls. This includes the protagonist Chako, a rookie who is aided by a cosplay fairy that can transform into any outfit. She can even alter Chako’s breast size… for the right price.
Cosplay Complex has 3 episodes about 30 minutes each, which see the cast take on various contests and briefly head to a beach resort for a “training arc”. The storylines are fun and manage to fit a surprising amount of characterization in. I was especially fond of Gorou, whose gags are absolutely hilarious and executed with remarkable confidence; he’s a delightful goofball. The sisters Maria and Athena were also fun because they often don similar outfits in spite of their big age difference. Maria gets very protective when other people try to “borrow” Athena though.
Much of the comedy relies on references and fanservice, both of which are handled quite well. Referential humor is often looked down upon, but it just fits so perfectly in a show all about cosplay. The girls are constantly dressing up as other characters or wielding props from anime that had been culturally relevant in the past decade. Sometimes it reaches back even further for inspiration, so even senior anime fans may spot a few shout-outs to series they grew up with.
The cosplay aspect is handled excellently. Costumes are recognizable and iconic, but never so perfect as to be complete clones. Wigs are also rare and the artstyle remains largely consistent, so you always recognize the characters for who they are. I realize that it takes effort to be deliberately inaccurate like this and I greatly appreciate how that adds to making Cosplay Complex feel authentic. My favorite cosplay is the one below, where Chako teams up with club member Reika to do a Lina & Naga collab. I adore the little plush Gourry.
Fanservice is also plentiful throughout all this. The girls are often seen changing or donning sexy outfits, with plenty of pantyshots and lewd mishaps on top of that. The entire training arc at the beach is also an obvious excuse to have as much sexy comedy as possible.
It’s undeniably indulgent, but the character designs are cute and it’s all presented in a cheesy, lighthearted mood. The only questionable element is the Italian transfer student Jenny, whose comedy mainly revolves around her being a lolicon who is not at all subtle about her intentions to act on that attraction. There is one “joke” in there that’s literally just her attempting to rape a minor and how that backfires, but the twist it’s given doesn’t exactly lead to an outcome that is any less uncomfortable. Her design, personality, and role in the story are fine, so it’s just really just this one trait that they should have given more consideration.
The downside of the comedy being so referential is that it severely dates the series. If you’re into newer anime or have only seen a few of the classics, then a lot of the appeal of Cosplay Complex will be lost on you. The artstyle and fanservice will still be great, and you may still enjoy some of the more general comedy, but this really is a show that gets better the more familiar you are with anime from the past millennium.
With that said: if you are a retro anime afficianado and have not yet seen it, then Cosplay Complex is a blast. I had a lot of fun with it and would rate it a solid 8/10 if it wasn’t for Jenny’s creepier moments.