Le Portrait de Petite Cossette

Le Portrait de Petite CossetteType: OVA
Episode Count: 3
Genre: Supernatural / Psychological Horror
Vintage: 2004

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 07 Sep 2010

Grade: A

A story so surreal that even after watching it twice, the density of the imagery still leaves me dizzy.

Plot Summary
Eiri is a man with an obsession. His life is consumed by a wine glass which is a part of the collection at the antiques shop where he works. It’s not the wine glass itself which has him appearing to separate from reality though, but a vision he sees in it: a mysterious young girl. Things take a disturbing turn one night when the girl in his visions appears to become real, and soon Eiri is unable to distinguish his visions from reality. Who is this girl, and what is Eiri’s connection to her?

The Review
There is one thing which absolutely must be noted about Petite Cossette: it is a superb demonstration of highly artistic cinematography. The director of this series went on to do Moon Phase, another series which made extensive use of artistic cinematography, though not to the extreme degree found here in Petite Cossette. This may be the most surreal title currently in my collection, and I have Adolescence Apocalypse, so that’s saying something. Petite Cossette immerses the viewer in carefully designed virtual camera angles. It is an extremely artistic presentation, nearly to the point of overwhelming.

Also like the subsequent Moon Phase, Petite Cossette is draped in Gothic overtones, but in this case they are in the spotlight. Indeed, Petite Cossette is virtually an ode to the Gothic Lolita movement in Japan. The artistic style bleeds through every aspect of the series, including Yuki Kajiura’s score. It’s not so much a case of style over substance, but more that the style makes the substance. Becoming lost in the imagery is as much a part of the experience of watching Petite Cossette as following the story is. On my first viewing several years ago, I found the imagery to be so thick that after finishing the series, I still wasn’t sure what I had just watched. I was able to at last distill the story from it on this, my second viewing. Still, the imagery remains so dense that it’s easy to lose the story if one spends too much time basking in the imagery, and it is very easy to get lost in the visual aspect of Petite Cossette.

Why have I spent so much time talking about the visual characteristics of this series? Because they really are that integral to being able to appreciate it. Those unfamiliar with surreal or avant-garde storytelling will likely find Le Portrait de Petite Cossette a challenge to watch. This OVA certainly asks more of the viewer than your average film or series. It’s not so much that one needs to think while watching it, but more that one needs to pay attention. Blink, and the story will leave you behind.

Petite Cossette isn’t just a cinematographer’s playground either; those who enjoy horror of a slightly more artistic nature will find much to enjoy here as well. There is quite a bit of disturbing imagery in the series, and Petite Cossette is a fine entry in the “creepy little girl” genre, due in large part to the unconventional (by anime standards) character designs. Under the right circumstances, this series could lead to sleepless nights.

Le Portrait de Petite Cossette is a dark, surreal tale. It drowns the viewer in imagery, and stands apart from the pack due to its unconventional approach. This is a series for those who enjoy their anime as a form of artistic expression as well as entertainment.

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