Home > Manga Reviews, Reviews > Complex Age, Vol. 2

Complex Age, Vol. 2

The cover to Complex Age, Vol. 2Complex Age, Vol. 2
by Yui Sakuma
Translation by Alethea & Athena Nibley
Kodansha Comics, 208 pgs
Rating: Older Teens (16+)

Getting older is never easy, but it can be especially tricky if you’re passionate about something whose primary demographic skews younger. Such is the case for poor Nagisa Kataura, a 26 year old anime fan and cosplayer. Nagisa’s love of cosplay has been something of a secret, a separate life from her day-to-day office job, but all that may change after she bumps into a co-worker outside of a convention while in full cosplay! Yui Sakuma’s engaging look at adulthood, passions, and societal expectations continues in Complex Age, Vol. 2.

The awkwardness of being into something that’s largely been viewed as a youth hobby or youth interest is palpable in Complex Age. The way society tends to view things and the reactions from those who don’t understand a specific hobby can be worrisome and upsetting for many. As someone eyeball deep in various hobbies that often have an age limit attached to them—like say reading manga—reading this series can sometimes be like looking into a mirror. Of course, it’s not the hobby that’s Nagisa’s problem, but her own insecurities about others’ perception of her. A fear which becomes justified when Nagisa’s parents confront her about her hobby.

Yui Sakuma’s done a wonderful job in getting across Nagisa’s emotional attachment to cosplaying, and how it fills a need and a void in life. The camraderie between her and her friends in the cosplay scene is wonderful and reassuring, and stands in stark contrast to the reactions to those outside of it. There’s a strong sense of a deeper appreciation for what each cosplayer is able to bring to the table, beyond just the pretty costumes. Sakuma delves into and explores the ideas of emotional attachment to the characters, and how cosplay allows the individual to explore different aspects of their own personality they may otherwise be repressed or neglected due to societal constraints. It’s a small thing, but it adds intimacy to Nagoya’s relationships and makes it more than just a fun little side hobby. It also makes the unfortunate revelation in this volume all the more upsetting and emotional. When people at Nagoya’s work discover that one of their co-workers is a cosplayer, there’s a sense of violation and objectification that isn’t present in the scenes when the cosplay photo’s are being taken. Of course, the worst of this comes from the male co-workers, something that further emphasizes society’s demands that people—women in particular—conform to certain arbitrary standards, and when they don’t it beats them down for not doing so.

Sakuma’s friend opens up about what cosplay means to her.

A lot of the emotional impact in Complex Age’s comes from Yui Sakuma’s lovely visuals. She does an amazing job at not only conveying character and emotions through body language and the eyes. She puts this to good use and shows how certain character’s are able to open up and feel more at ease while in cosplay then in certain other situations. Unfortunately, while the figure work and costumes are wonderful, the backgrounds leave something to be desired. Many scenes occur against plain white backgrounds and while it does focus readers on the characters and their facial reactions and body language, it also lends events a certain coldness as well. Something that sometimes saps the emotions from the scene. Arguably, the most memorable moments come with the inclusion of backgrounds that help reinforce the experiences of the characters. A shattering mirror when one woman’s secret is revealed, or the shot of her surrounded by a crowd of shadow-y, mocking forms carry far more impact than an argument that comes later on which takes place against a backdrop of white or grey.

Overall, Complex Age, Vol. 2 is a wonderful and surprisingly emotional read which I desperately need to catch up on. Yui Sakuma is able to convey a level of honesty and genuineness to material that could otherwise seem a bit fan service-y, not just visually but also emotionally. Instead, she gives readers a nuanced look of the ups and downs of being an older participant in a young persons subculture.

Complex Age, Vol. 2 is available now from Kodansha Comics. Review copy provided by the publisher.

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