Let’s return to the world of cosplay with the third volume of Complex Age. Is it good?
Writer/Artist: Yui Sakuma
Translated by: Alethea, Athena Nibley
Lettering by: AndWorld Design
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Now that her secrets are out in the open to her parents and having learned of her mother’s past, Nagisa is realizing that despite having such a strong love and desire for cosplay, she may not be able to do this forever. There will come a time when she needs to put that life behind her. She’s not the same person she was years ago and with people like Aya around, that horrible nightmare feels more like it’s coming closer and closer to a reality. Also, time for some romance!
The more I read Complex Age, the more engrossed I become with Nagisa’s story. At first, I assumed this was going to be a series about all of these characters and their lives in the cosplay scene, with Nagisa as our well-developed point-of-view character. But in actuality, this is Nagisa’s story about cosplay, friends, and dealing her social anxieties and coming to terms with her life as it is and will be. It’s her fears of coming clean about cosplay to the people she loves, why she loves it, and her own fears of growing too “old” to even be a part of her hobby. I read a lot of manga, and this is by far the most human, personal, and relatable. There are many elements we can relate to here; just substitute cosplay for your own personal hobbies and I could definitely see a lot of what goes on in this book hitting very close to home for many others.
But a story that touches on personal insecurities and realistic fears and concerns would be nothing if the main character was poorly developed. Thankfully, Nagisa is anything but–she is a very rich and nuanced individual, one that I feel has changed over the course of these three books. Our first look at her was at a person who was a snob toward other cosplayers who weren’t perfect, was jealous and upset quickly over someone who could pull off a look better than her, and was incredibly secretive of her hobby. While it’s not clear if her snobbery remains, Nagisa has slowly become easier around Aya who she felt threatened by and is trying her best to open up about her hobby to her parents, and now her boyfriend. However, she still has major insecurities around being open about what she likes, to the point where she projects upon other people what she thinks they’ll say to her. It’s behavior that I’ve done and behavior that I, and certainly a lot others, understand where it comes from. Of almost every character I’ve read in manga or comics, Nagisa easily feels the most real, like there could be someone out in the world right now just like her.
The writing overall on the book is still solid, but not flawless. The supporting cast remains one of the weaker points currently. They do well to support Nagisa’s story and character growth throughout the series, occasionally having their own strong moments too, but some just don’t make too much of an impression. Nagisa’s boyfriend, Senda, isn’t badly written though, and given what happens, I am quite curious to see where the series goes. with him The dialogue is strong, with plenty of good conversations that feel down to earth and relatable. Maybe a bit stilted in some areas, but not enough to detract from anything. The pacing is nice and there are no real issues with the storytelling either–everything flows well from scene to scene and arc to arc. I think the only other nitpick I have is that the cosplay aspect doesn’t feel nearly as strong as in previous volumes. It is definitely still there without a doubt and serves as Nagisa’s motivation and main reason for her happiness and insecurities, but it feels more subdued and not nearly as focused on outside of a bit with Aya and towards the end with Senda. It’s probably just me, but I wish there was just a bit more cosplay in this volume.
The artwork looks great and helped to add to the overall experience; the quality even somewhat improved in one area. The characters are drawn well, staying on model and being able to convey a lot of emotion and feeling in their facial expressions and body language (the last two chapters are especially amazing about this during Nagisa and Senda’s last scene). The art does well at depicting the various series that the characters dress up as and there’s enough detail put into the scenery and locations to make them feel lively. The creator still does a fantastic job at making some gorgeous and stunning scenes used to convey emotion or big moments, such as Senda researching cosplay online or Nagisa stepping in to protect Aya. A complaint I had with the previous volume was how often the backgrounds were blank, but here that didn’t feel as frequent.
Complex Age Vol. 3 continues to be an utterly fantastic, personal, and real experience of a manga. It’s a series that’s not just about cosplay and the cosplay scene in Japan; it’s about insecurities and worries about the things that we love, whether we’re growing too old for them or how they’ll be perceived by our peers and loved ones. This is a strong, human, realistic drama. The kind we don’t see that often these days and as such, if the topic is up your alley, you should be checking this out, especially for young adults.