Time to return to Complex Age and continue on with the troubles and insecurities of our lead character and her love for cosplay. Is it good?
Writer/Artist: Yui Sakuma
Translators: Alethea and Athena Nibley
Lettering: AndWorld Design
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Despite initial fears, Nagisa running into someone from work wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. It turns out that the person, Hayama, is also into cosplay and has been for many years now. Soon, Nagisa and her group have a new friend and things go well… at first. Then secrets come out and anxieties and insecurities start bubbling up. It even gets worse in Nagisa’s home life when her mother confronts her.
The thing about Complex Age that strikes me the most and what truly makes this such an engaging read is the humanity. These characters, Nagisa and Hayama, feel so human and real to me; so well characterized in their personalities, their interests, their concerns, and their worries. While the first volume showed Nagisa’s desire for perfectionism and her insecurities about there being people who are better and more naturally close to the character she wants to be, the second volume touches on an aspect that was only briefly mentioned before: her concern of being judged for what she likes. Nagisa keeps her hobby a secret, only letting her friends in and shutting everyone out about it, especially since she is both a woman and older than most cosplayers. She fears judgment, ridicule and harassment from it, and depressing as it is, her fears are not totally unfounded based on what happens to Hayama.
Hayama, just introduced in the final chapter of the first volume, is very well developed and characterized in the short amount of time we’ve spent with her. She’s in her thirties, past the age you’d normally expect to see cosplayers, but is huge into cosplay. While she can’t go to as many conventions as she’d like to due to her job, she puts everything into her work and strives to become the character she’s dressing up as, finding it is the only time she really feels like a woman. Her sincerity and enjoyment of her hobby is infectious and it’s truly easy to understand, giving cosplay a bit more meaning. It makes what happens to her all the more heartbreaking, being crushed and insulted by the words from her coworkers. What happens to her in the future will be interesting to read about and see play out.
Those eyes… they’re so blank! They’re staring into my soul!!
In the last review, I stated that the back cover’s description of the first volume was not very accurate to the content of the manga. The story never explored Nagisa trying to keep her cosplay life separate from her “normal” life outside of the last chapter. The story this time around feels far more focused on that angle, even if it is not approaching that in the most direct way. It explores that through Hayama and the nasty fallout that happens when her secret is exposed. It leaves a visible impact on Nagisa, which sets up her storyline with her own secret coming out to her mom and dad–the results of which are rather surprising, even tying into what I thought was just a small one-shot tale from the last volume that the creator wrote before the series. The story is very character-focused, so there isn’t much of an intricate plot, but it’s a tale that’s very relatable and should resonate with many people who are keeping their own secrets from family, friends, and coworkers.
The writing on the series a bit more improved coming into the second volume. I still maintain that it needs to spend a little bit more time developing Aya and Shiho, who feel like flat characters. Not bad characters, but that there’s not a lot to them outside of being new to cosplay and one being a bit more sensible than the other. When compared alongside Nagisa, Hayama, Kimiko, and even Nagisa’s parents, the two are just in need of some time devoted to focusing on their characters. But besides them, the characterization is rock solid and everyone feels richly defined and well thought out. The dialogue is very engaging to read, with some pretty down to earth banter between characters and not too much exposition delivered throughout. The pacing is quite nice, moving at a good speed that doesn’t feel too quick or too slow either. There’s just a lot of heart and emotion involving these characters and this story when it comes to dealing insecurities, drama and regrets and the writing does such a good job bringing it all to life.
And lastly, there’s the artwork, which still looks pretty good. All of the characters are distinct-looking in appearance, and not simply because they just have a different hairstyle than others. They have different body types and facial features on top of that, making them all different and unique in their own ways. The creator does a stellar job when it comes to depicting the characters’ emotions and feelings, through simple expression and changing their art style with glow effects, heavier inks, or light inking as well. It helps the tone and mood a lot, making the scenes that need to be strong and impactful exactly that. The layouts are put together relatively well and I had no difficulties following along with what was happening. The only problem I have is that at times the world and background feels somewhat empty due to featureless backgrounds and white voids aplenty.
Complex Age Vol. 2 is a strong and engaging follow up to the first volume. Improving in some ways and maintaining the quality of the last, the second volume dives deeper into Nagisa’s insecurities and the issues surrounding her love of cosplay and her desire to continue it. Between strong character writing and artwork, if you enjoyed the first volume, you’ll more than definitely want to continue with this one without a doubt.