The Portrait of Little Cossette

Those familiar with most daring hero of Japanese animation Shinbo Akiyuki through his works with studio SHAFT such as Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei are probably unaware of his other, lesser known works. There’s a reason for this, and that’s simply because these lesser known works aren’t terribly great. They’re directed fabulously, but often times Shinbo’s older work is just held down by some bad writing. Le Portrait de Petite Cossette, or the The Portrait of Little Cossette, or コゼットの肖像 is of a slightly higher pedigree than, say, Shin Hurricane Polymar, but it still suffers from what I will for now on dub as the “Shinbo OVA Curse.”

Cossette aims high, and at a place that I like. It’s a twisted love story between an older man and little, but kind-of-sort-of-ALREADY-DEAD girl. Our main man, Kurahashi Eiri works in an antiques shop and is fascinated by one of the antique glasses in the store’s collection. Within the glass he can see a figure of a girl going about her daily life–the titular Cossette. Through a series of crazy SoulTaker-like imagery, our cute Cossette comes to life by the end of the first episode, which is where their tragic love story spirals into pits of despair. There’s also some other characters who are really concerned with our main man–as they should be–but they really don’t do much.

I’ll go ahead and get the bad stuff out of the way. This writing is pretty confused. In the end, the story makes perfect sense, but there’s too many diversions. I think–on some level–the core plot is fine, but what takes away from it is all the extra stuff. While character dialogue tends to make sense, they do have habit of pontificating upon things that don’t really mean anything. Another thing that distracts the story is the existence of characters other than Kurahashi and Cossette–they do well to illustrate how people close to him feel about this whole thing, but the degree to which they get involved feels a touch pointless. On this same vein, the show doesn’t get to expand much on our cast of characters in its three, round-about-45-minute episodes, so they don’t leave much of an impression. Had the story focused more squarely on Kurahashi and Cossette, I feel it would have been better.

However, I don’t think that hurts the piece too much, as what really makes this is Shinbo’s direction. This is dark Shinbo. This is SoulTaker, and sometimes-maybe-if-you’re-lucky Tsukuyomi -MOONPHASE- Shinbo. It revels in twisted storyboarding, the old-style Shinbo colour palette (which is making a reappearance in Bakemonogatari), hard black shadows, and striking lighting situations, all set to creepy background music. It’s over-the-top. It’s good. What also helps is fairly good animation work. It’s nothing really spectacular, but it certainly does remind one of the days when “OVA quality” kind of meant something. There is some iffy 3D work here and there, which does cheapen the piece a bit, especially when the Golgo 13 skulls make an appearance. The character designs aren’t particularly memorable, but I like the realist look they have about them. Cossette herself is rather cute, in a sort of creepy, porcelain doll way.

Even though the direction is great, the writing does hurt because of what it could have been. Had the staff thought through the script a bit more, this show would have been pretty good, if not fantastic. It sadly gets distracted by too many weird, unnecessary things along the way. As I say in most of my reviews for these old Shinbo OVAs–watch it if you like the man’s work, as it’s pretty good in that respect. However, unlike Hurricane Polymar, Cossette’s decent enough that I’d recommend it with caution to certain people who may be into its subject matter. It’s not bad, but it’s not great.

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9 Responses to The Portrait of Little Cossette

  1. digitalboy says:

    Why the fuck are you just now talking about this?

    Petit Cossette is one of my favorite Shinbo works, and certainly my favorite of his OVAs. I always considered it to be like the SoulTaker in the way of ‘who gives a fuck about the story, why would I even let the subtitles distract me from the imagery’ kind of way (in fact, I have to this point only actually seen the show dubbed.) Easily the most gothic anime out there, and Cossette is one of the most frighteningly beautiful of characters.

  2. wah says:

    Because I just watched it? Why the fuck are being such a dick?

  3. DiGiKerot says:

    Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve seen this. I miss the days when Shinbo wasn’t primarily a comedy director, though I guess Bakemono is scratching that itch somewhat.

    I seem to remember Kajuras soundtrack for this being pretty nuts for some reason – like, unlistenably nuts outside of the context of the show.

  4. VZMK2 says:

    I THINK this aired on the FUSE network.

    Didn’t Geneon release this?

  5. I found that the vocal work on this was fairly impressive, particularly in the case of Marina Inoue, as this was her first time VA’ing and it doesn’t sound like a rookie’s work.

  6. Mike says:

    The most memorable thing about this OVA for me was Kajiura’s masterful soundtrack. I listened to it quite a lot outside its original context. For me this is an example of a show whose soundtrack is better than it deserves and helps make it watchable.

  7. drmchsr0 says:

    And now wah, you need to watch Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko.

    And then fanboy over how wonderful it is.

  8. digitalboy says:

    @wah: I had always assumed you’d seen it which is the only reason I never tried to cram it down your throat

    VZMK2: It did air on FUSE and they cut some stuff out to fit it on TV which pisses me off.

  9. TheBigN says:

    “I seem to remember Kajuras soundtrack for this being pretty nuts for some reason – like, unlistenably nuts outside of the context of the show.”

    I don’t know. I think stand alone, it’s one of Kajiura’s best works. It’s definitely not something to listen to if you want to relax to it though.

    As I said on MTF, writing felt secondary to me to the point that as long as the story made sense at the end, I didn’t really care, which it did. The imagery, animation, and music was more than enough to make up for that in my opinion. :V