Complex Age, Vol. 1

By Yui Sakuma | Published by Kodansha Comics

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Twenty-six-year-old Nagisa Kataura is a perfectionist when it comes to cosplay. As a result, she has a tendency to critique the subpar efforts of others, but when she overhears a critical comment at an event that might be directed at her, she is suddenly plunged into self-doubt. Self-conscious of her height and age, she’s further troubled when she meets Aya, a younger and more petite cosplayer who is physically perfect to cosplay Ururu, the magical girl heroine Nagisa is most known for portraying.

Before reading Complex Age, it had never occurred to me that the world of cosplay could be so emotionally fraught. What I like best about it is how Sakuma is using this niche fan culture to explore universal themes like realizing you’re actually not the best at the thing that you love and struggling to accept that though you may not be perfect, you still have something unique and worthwhile to bring to the table. (I also enjoyed learning about things like how to make a custom wig.)

Another important plot thread is that Nagisa is hiding her hobby from most of the people in her life. She doesn’t want anyone’s negativity to defile her world, nor does she feel compelled to ask them to understand her. We glimpse her a few times at her temp job—and I have to wonder, are her work clothes a costume of their own?—where she doesn’t socialize with anyone except a snooty full-timer, only to end on a horrible cliffhanger as said full-timer spies her at a cosplay event.

I was pretty disheartened to find that, instead of the resolution to that encounter, we were getting the original one-shot instead. However, I was in for a pleasant surprise, because rather than an earlier iteration of the same story, the one-shot version of Complex Age is more of a companion piece, exploring similar themes as married thirty-four-year-old Sawako must decide whether it’s time to give up her Gothic Lolita fashions.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Complex Age a lot and look forward to volume two!

Complex Age is complete in six volumes. Kodansha will release volume two next month.

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