Tag Archives: psychological

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.


Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis EvangelionType: TV Series
Episode Count: 26
Genre: Sci-Fi / Psychological Drama
Vintage: 1995

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 29 Jun 2008

Grade: A+

One of the most popular and controversial series ever created; beware newbies… this is not the mecha show that you may think it is.

Plot Summary
In the year 2014 in Tokyo-3, Shinji Ikari has been summoned to the NERV organization by his father Gendo, who is in charge of its operations. NERV’s function is to protect Japan from strange beings known as Angels, the first of which was encountered 15 years ago in 1999 and led to an event known as the Second Impact, which wiped out much of the planet’s population. To do this, NERV uses giant humanoid machines called Evangelions. As Shinji is trying to find his way to NERV, the event that people have anticipated and feared for 15 years occurs… the second Angel arrives. Shinji must now be brought to NERV to pilot an Evangelion to defend Tokyo-3 against this invader.

The Review
If ever there was a series that was difficult to describe without giving away anything, Neon Genesis Evangelion is it. It is so incredibly popular that chances are that you have already seen it and have already made your own conclusions about it. This review is intended for the rare soul in anime fandom who does not know anything and everything about it. I will attempt to describe it without ruining anything for the first-time viewer.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a series that is multi-layered, has complex characters, and is not what it first appears to be. Those looking for a mecha fix similar to Gundam will not find it here. What begins as a straightforward ‘save the world from invaders’ story soon morphs into a psychological and symbolic tale of the fate of mankind. To say much more would spoil it, so that and the plot summary above are all I’m going to describe as far as that is concerned.

In a more general sense, the series makes extensive use of imagery and ideas drawn from Western religion – Christianity to be specific – to aid in telling its story. It shows up in ways that are probably not expected by anyone who truly does not have any previous knowledge of the series. Also, these elements are not used in a religious context per se; they are used as devices important to the story that is being told within its own context.

Character study is another important part of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Every major character possesses a major personality flaw, and the events that take place test each one and push them to their limits. The story of the characters co-exists with the greater story at hand with NERV, the Evangelions, and the Angels.

So, despite all of the hype and the declarations of overratedness that exist for this series, it really is an excellent story that works on multiple levels. On top of that, it was a vehicle for director Hideaki Anno to vent some personal issues of his in an artistic manner, so Neon Genesis Evangelion was also a way for Anno to figuratively lay down on a psychologist’s couch and get some things out in the open.

Love it or hate it, Neon Genesis Evangelion may be one of the most important anime series ever created, so it’s at least worthy of consideration to be seen by anyone who is a fan of anime.

Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary Girl UtenaType: TV Series
Episode Count: 39
Genre: Surreal Drama
Vintage: 1997

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 11 Jun 2007

Grade: A+

My alltime favorite series. For the uninitiated, Utena is Evangelion except with roses and duels instead of biomechs and Angels.

Plot Summary
Utena Tenjou has come to Ohtori Academy seeking her prince, who gave her a ring with a rose crest when she was a child and comforted her after her parents had died in an accident. Since then, she’s strived to live a noble life and become a prince herself. Unknown to her, this ring with the rose crest is the symbol of a duellist at Ohtori. The secret tradition at this school is to duel for possession of the Rose Bride, a girl named Anthy Himemiya. The current winner of the duels is engaged to the Rose Bride and she submits to their command. It is said that the power to revolutionize the world will be attained by the one engaged to the Rose Bride. Utena unwillingly becomes wrapped up in this duelling ritual, but her reasons are different from those who also wear the rose crest: the Student Council members, who receive letters from an unknown party called “End of the World” which instructs them on how and when the duels should take place.

The Review
It’s always hard to review a favorite anything because of the tendency to go on and on with glowing remarks and nothing else. I’ll attempt to give an in-depth look at this series without getting too wordy and piling on too much praise, but I make no guarantees.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is an amazing anti-fairy tale. It is a drama full of metaphors. It is anything but your average shoujo series. This is a series that uses unconvention to its fullest.

The first remarkable thing about this series is its setting. Ohtori is in Japan, but the campus is undeniably European in architecture, resembling the palace at Versailles in France. Indeed, the French influence is the most dominant in the setting of the story. Then there’s the soundtrack to the series, which is both illogical yet perfectly suited to the series. Of course there’s the classically influenced background music that could almost be expected for a series like this, but then there is the duel music. Duels are fought with a backdrop of what can only be described as Wagnerian Japanese Progressive Rock. It is about as far removed from strings and woodwinds as possible, yet it works and is almost a necessity for the way in which the story for Revolutionary Girl Utena is told.

The cast of characters is varied, and stock characters are virtually nonexistent. That is, every character and relationship has a purpose in the story. There are relationship dynamics at work that may seem shocking, but work and are in fact necessary for a story like this to be told. Every character has a story to tell, and over the course of the series, they all get told.

The plot itself is nothing short of amazing, especially if you are into metaphor and allegory and thrive on stories that work on multiple levels. Especially once the second story arc begins, almost everything that happens and that you see means something. Symbolism is the order of the day in Revolutionary Girl Utena, and it is here in spades. The series doesn’t escape having filler episodes, but even those are entertaining and carry some meaning with them. As to the overall plot and its resolution, it is on par with (and in my mind, surpasses) the kind of mindgames that something like Neon Genesis Evangelion plays. The two series are not all that alike, but they do share some similarities, and the best way I can describe Utena to those who know little to nothing about it is that it is like Evangelion, except with roses and duels instead of giant biomechs.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a series that begs to be analyzed over and over both in story and in imagery. Rewatch value is extremely high because of this, since it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll pick up on something that you missed the last time through. This series earned its place as my overall favorite anime thanks to several factors: the plot with all of its symbolism and imagery, the music with its ability to recall said imagery, and the incredibly deep layering of just about every aspect of the story – characters and plot alike. This is a series that I live rather than watch. To me, it’s not ‘just another anime’, but an experience that I look forward to distilling meaning from again and again. It has become a part of me in some ways, and even to those that it does not touch at such a core level, there is much to be gained from watching Revolutionary Girl Utena. This series is metaphor at its finest.