Review of Le Portrait De Petite Cossette
Scan through my past reviews and you`ll notice a dearth of Gothic Horror Romance. There is a reason for that, namely it`s not exactly my genre of choice. People overdoing the eye shadow, wearing cloaks, sipping blood and getting moody and breathless by moonlight usually indicate to me someone who`s taking him or herself far too seriously. Forget the vampires, it`s Anne Rice that usually has me screaming for the hills. You would think that Le Portrait De Petite Cossette would be a title I would avoid for that reason, but I find myself victim of relentless advertising. For the latter half of last year, MVM have been trailing this anime on most of their discs. The combination of moody visuals and atmospheric music has been working its insidious magic on me, and total indifference has been transformed into eager anticipation. I know I`m just setting myself up for a fall. Ladies and gentlemen, red silk lined cloaks at the ready, and let the Gothic Horror Romance commence.
Le Portrait De Petite Cossette is a three part OVA series that runs for almost two hours. Not having to be concerned about long running budgets and what is appropriate for television, means that this series promises to be visually striking and less restrained in terms of what can be shown.
Eiri`s story is described in detail above, and any more information would delve into spoilers.
Absolutely gorgeous! The animation simply oozes atmosphere and style. All the tricks in the book are used to enhance the gothic experience, moody lighting, odd camera angles, distorted points of view, shadow and silhouette, and even camera shake and blur. Taking the glass theme from Cossette`s goblet, many scenes are observed through glass, and the way that the animation distorts is very effective. Also given the portrait and art theme in the story, some scenes get a bright oil painting look to them that are unlike what you see in most anime. There is a moment in the first episode that I felt that they were trying a little too hard and just throwing all ideas at the screen just to see what would stick, but it quickly settled down into a unique and striking feel to the show.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer itself is typical for anime. The hazy feel to the show isn`t helped by the softness of an NTSC-PAL transfer, and the perennial problem of digital banding does mar a scene or two, but by and large the animation overwhelms any doubts about the transfer.
The sound for Petite Cossette impresses also, with DD 5.1 English and Japanese, as well as a DTS Japanese track. The music for the show is excellent, and the surrounds are put to use reflecting some nifty sound design. It all contributes to that spooky atmosphere and complements the visuals well. As usual I chose the Japanese track as my first port of call, but sampling the English dub revealed that those who would rather not read subtitles aren`t hard done by. Speaking of the subtitles, they are present and correct, no errors to speak of, although I did question the necessity of translating Le Portrait De Petite Cossette from French into English. Incidentally, there is an English language credits scroll at the end of the disc.
More and more anime discs of late have been released with extra features beyond trailers and animated menus, and Petite Cossette is no exception.
The trailers by the way are for Requiem From The Darkness, and Tenjho Tenge. You`ll also find the Japanese trailer, the US trailer (the one that has been on all the MVM discs) and the Japanese TV spot for Petite Cossette.
The big contribution is the Behind The Scenes featurette, which lasts 20 minutes and looks at the making of the OVA series, with interviews with the cast and crew. Naturally this is subtitled.
There is also the 5-minute music video for the end theme, Gem. Marina Inoue, who voices Cossette, released the track as her debut single, and as videos for debut singles usually go, it lacks a little in production values. There are also plenty of dark cloaks, black lace, veils, candles and black and white footage. I love the song though.
Le Portrait De Petite Cossette looks and sounds absolutely lush. The animation is just sublime. Everything from the character designs, to the worlds and the music just goes together to create a memorable viewing experience. It`s just a shame about the story, which I found ridiculous. You have to take into account my natural dislike of all things gothic. I`m predisposed not to like this sort of thing, but occasionally a story will come along that will shatter my preconceptions and utterly entertain me. Sleepy Hollow was one such film, that despite the spooky feel, corseted women, and dark sensibility, I found engrossing. Petite Cossette is nowhere near that vein (pun intended).
I think the main gripe I have with this is the inclusion of a staple anime cliché, that of the harem. Eiri is a young art student working part time in an antique shop, who finds and falls in love with the memory of a girl in a crystal glass. All nice and gothic so far. But Eiri is also surrounded by women, gorgeous women, one of whom definitely has feelings for him. Fortunately there is none of the comedy associated with the harem genre, but it still begs the question. Also, one of his female friends is a psychic, while another is an exorcist. Convenient!
Incidentally, secondary character development isn`t at a premium here, as these women all seemed to blur into one. If you like your gothic horror, then I`m sure that the story will seem satisfactory, albeit filled with coincidence and contrivance. Cossette`s tormented soul needs the soul of someone who truly loves her, so that she can be freed from her purgatory. That someone is Eiri, and he will have to suffer greatly to lift Cossette`s curse. But Cossette doesn`t count on developing feelings for Eiri herself. I must admit that while I watched this with a somewhat resigned feel, marvelling at the visuals, the audio, and appreciating the fractured narrative, it wasn`t until the final episode that I garnered some enjoyment of the story itself. There comes a twist that makes the earlier episodes worthwhile, and the eventual emotional payoff at the ending is worth it.
I found Le Portrait De Petite Cossette to be entertaining, if clichéd. Every anime fan should watch it just once to take in how beautiful the animation is, but I`d say only fans of Gothic Horror Romance Anime should blind buy.