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Le Portrait de Petite Cossette
A region 2 DVD review by CNash
 

"I met the spirit of a girl. And then, I somehow inherited both the soul
and the destiny of the man who killed her. I believe I'm entering the
realm of insanity, but I'm fine with that... because I fell in love with
her, and this is what she wished for. But still..."

Eiri

 

One of 2004's standout animé OVAs, Le Portrait de Petite Cossette, is released this week courtesy of MVM. Cossette has a predominantly "Gothic Lolita" style, which basically refers to one or more female character wearing Victorian-style dresses with a modern "Gothic" look. As a story, it's a gothic horror fantasy, with some minor noir trappings, and features some disturbing and graphic scenes and surreal imagery. It's based on the manga of the same name by Asuka Katsura. This release contains all three 35-minute episodes.

Art student Eiri works part-time at his grandfather's antiques shop in a quiet corner of modern-day Tokyo. One day, his grandfather sends his latest acquisition in – several items of European furniture and glassware, one piece of which is a beautiful Venetian goblet that shines in many colours when held up to the light. Eiri soon begins to have visions of a beautiful, blonde-haired girl – named Cossette – seemingly trapped inside of the glass; he finds himself falling in love with her. During a particularly powerful vision, Eiri enters into a "blood pact" with her, and unwittingly takes on the responsibility of atoning for the crimes of her murderer. Only when she has been fully avenged, can her spirit leave the glass.

Eiri becomes trapped in a nightmare world of supernatural illusions. Forced to suffer great pain in order to atone for her murder, he nonetheless remains spellbound by her beauty and very much in love with her. His love soon becomes an obsession – Eiri takes to spending all his time at the antiques shop, talking with her through the glass. His friends notice that something's wrong, and are naturally concerned, but don't know what to do about it. Meanwhile, Eiri becomes increasingly tangled in the story of Cossette's life, and the mystery surrounding her death... and her murderer.

It's only in the third episode that the true message of the animé is revealed. Not giving too much away, it's the great wisdom that true beauty lies within, and that portraits can only capture the superficial surface beauty of the subject. It might be a cliché, but the tangled web that the story weaves as it guides Eiri (and the viewer) through the nightmare realm of Cossette's purgatory only serves to reinforce the message until it's spelled out at the end of the series. And even if you don't have much love for the genre, I guarantee that you will be blown away – if not by the story, then by what dresses it up.

Because visually, Cossette is stunning. As you'd expect from a production marketing itself as "Gothic Lolita", there's all the hallmarks of the genre – Cossette wears long, flowing gowns and Victorian costumes almost exclusively, and while the real-world setting of Tokyo is drab, grey and nearly always raining, Eiri's antiques shop is full of gothic atmosphere, with intricately-patterned antiques and a multitude of ornate glasses and paintings. Landscapes and environments in general are very well drawn – shots of the real world seem almost like paintings, while Cossette's world of surreal illusions is bursting with colour and great environment design. The characters move very fluidly – sometimes, I thought, aided by CGI. They're all very pale, Cossette especially, but that's to be expected of the genre. The production employs the overexposed lighting technique that's almost becoming commonplace, but it works better here than most of the contemporary animé that have overused the style.

Music is provided by Yuki Kajiura, who garnered critical acclaim for her soundtrack to .hack//SIGN. Like her previous work, Kajiura blends haunting and choral vocal performances with European-styled instrumental pieces, and her closing theme for the series is beautifully melodic. The style of the individual pieces is ever-changing, and always complements the scene it's used in. Fans of Kajiura's music will likely be rushing to import the soundtrack album. The English dubbing scores quite highly; the actors are well matched to their characters, and – comparing some dialogue to the subtitling – the content of the scenes has remained faithful to the original language track.

Although the influence of the gothic genre is ever-present, I have no doubt that animé fans of most varieties will get a kick out of Cossette. As with the horror-themed Requiem from the Darkness, there is the occasional "buckets of blood" scene – in several places, it gushes forth a la Tarantino – so those of a sensitive disposition might be put off, but overall I can wholeheartedly reccommend Cossette on the back of its artwork and music alone. It's a rare visual treat that's not to be missed.

sound and vision

The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer looks good, but the use of a deliberately 'soft' animation style majkes it hard to judge the detail level. Colours appear fine.

The choice of English 5.1, Japanese 5.1 and Japanese DTS are on offer. The Japanese 5.1 and DTS tracks are almost identical, although some of the sound effects are a little louder on the DTS track. The voices on the English dub are noticeably louder and less well integrated than on the Japanese track.

extra features

A Behind the Scenes featurette kicks off an ok mix of features for this disc; a twenty-minute documentary piece that interviews various people involved in the production, from the director to the Japanese voice cast.

A music video of the ending theme, "Jewel", is presented next. Shot mostly in black and white, and in traditional gothic style, it features the vocal talent of Marina Inoue – who is also Cossette's voice actress.

Also featured are the trailers for Cossette itself – both the Japanese and US-produced versions – the Japanese TV spot for the DVD release, and more trailers for Requiem from the Darkness (appropriately), and Tenjho Tenge (less appropriate).  

Le Portrait de Petite Cossette

Japan 2004
110 mins
director
Asuka Katsura

DVD details
region 2
video
1.78:1 anamorphic
sound
Dolby 5.1 surround
DTS 5.1 surround
languages
Japanese
English
subtitles
English
English – signs only
extras
Behind the scenes featurette
Music video
Trailers
distributor
MVM
release date
5 February 2007
review posted
5 February 2007

See all of CNash's reviews