Le Portrait De Petite Cossette review
Of Love And Curses
Ideal unsettling atmosphere.
Great use of visual techniques.
Some amazing sights to behold.
Haunting soundtrack to compliment events.
Interesting core to the story.
Well developed leading pair of characters Eiri and Cossette.
Cool extras on the DVD.
A little hard to focus on what's happening a few times.
Other characters not nearly as well developed as the leading pair.
I wasn't really sure what to expect coming into this anime. It was an item I purchased on a whim when I got the My Hime boxset from Amazon. What I did get was an OVA that combined its elements into an excellent end product.
One of the first things to strike me as I watched this anime was the way it went about its visuals. Not just from the technical side of things, although I can certainly say with confidence that everything it put up on the screen definitely looked fantastic. Rather, it was the style choices that helped shape the visual experience and I think those choices really help to define what it is. Camera angles play a huge part in it, giving us views looking down from a higher place or angling upwards as a character moves towards the viewer. It would be so easy to have fumbled this in a manner of doing it just because, but in many instances this creates a feeling in those watching that something isn't quite right. It enforces an unsettling mood that is just perfect for the story it wants to tell. Sure, sometimes it can be hard to know where to look due to how some of the scenes play out, but that's hardly a major issue and never hangs around for long when it does crop up. It's more than just camera angles that conjure up these feelings though. Viewers are treated to distorted perspectives of what may otherwise be perfectly normal scenes, scene cuts either to strange imagery or other parts of the same event and seemingly unstable camera shaking that all build up a series of hints that the events have something wrong about them that the characters struggle to pick up on.
Colour and light are used effectively for this too. A great example of light would be scenes involving Cossette. The first time we see her everything's bright and cheery as she plays around in a castle, emitting the odd giggle and projecting the very essence of a carefree child. Later on we get a clearer look at her, where Cossette is emerging from the darkness with a grim expression on her face; the way the light slowly reveals her form gives off the perfect vibe that while this may be the same girl you saw previously, she harbours far more than mere carefree emotions inside her and it's the first chance we get to understand where the story may wish to take us.
Blood is a major focal theme in its visual delivery and seems to form a lot of the symbolism in the anime that runs throughout. Sometimes it can get to silly levels, like at times you may be left to wander just how much blood a single person can lose and still have more to spare. Even delving into the supernatural isn't quite enough to fully save the willing suspension of disbelief there. That aside though, it's a good reminder of the darkness that resides in here and when it's not being total overkill then it works to express the physical pain and loss suffered by Eiri.
Speaking of the supernatural, the setting of the anime is largely split between two distinct areas of the normal world that we all know and the realm of the supernatural that Eiri sometimes finds himself in. There's not all that much to say of the normal world locations. They are suitably well drawn and serve well for the interactions therein. Most of the events in the normal world occur at the antique's shop where Eiri works, which in its own way showcases some of the weirdness surrounding the characters. Brief cutaways to dolls watching or foreground objects positioned just so contribute to that sense of uneasiness. The supernatural realms, on the other hand, are places where the imagination is unleashed. Just as an example, one area has the camera move through the eye hole of a statue to some ruined passageway towards a large skull that is, in itself, made up of many smaller chattering skulls. Each new world Eiri is drawn into is a sight to behold in and of itself. As the anime moves towards the final acts, the normal and the supernatural seem to cross over even more, though it's clear that only those deeply connected to the events seem aware of this.
The music works as an ideal compliment to the visuals. The track that plays near the beginning of the first part is especially powerful and sets the tone for what is to follow. While the rest of the backing soundtrack can't quite match the brilliance of that number, they do nevertheless provide us with the haunting melodies that go so well with the overall tone of the anime. The ending theme, on the other hand, is also excellent and ends each episode on just the right tone.
Michelle Ruff is certainly not new to the profession and delivers an excellent performance as Cossette. Her voice carries over the childish mannerisms of a girl whose chance at growing up was lost while giving that hint of pained emotions lurking beneath. Without a doubt she's able to make Cossette the main attraction. Kevin Hatcher doesn't have quite the same depth of experience as Michelle but is still solid in his delivery of Eiri. His performance is noticeably more subdued and I think that reflects well on Eiri's character, who seems a little disconnected from reality. As a result of the storytelling though, there's really little chance to appreciate the work of the other actors. Julie Ann Taylor carries out her role as Shouko rather well, but you don't get to hear her that often outside of a few scenes.
The story starts off setting the tone of the anime, giving us a good insight into how distracted and strange Eiri is acting around his friends and his fascination with a glass, which quickly transpires as having the spirit of a ghost inside. Shortly after the story jumps back slightly, showing us just how Eiri came to possess the item and where his obsession with Cossette begins. This jump feels quite natural and gives us the much needed information the audience wants. From there the story is able to progress into the real meat of events. What seemingly started off as a tale of love between those on different planes of existence becomes a more tragic tale as we learn more of Cossette's past, the reason why only Eiri is aware of her and the curses that begin to affect them both.
The story is able to develop strongly on two fronts. First is the dynamic between Eiri and Cossette, where the relationship between the two conflicts with the dark events of the past and their effect on the present. Cossette herself becomes torn between what she had been seeking for all those years and what is happening to Eiri. Both characters are forced to face events and make their own decisions. The second is the way those events are viewed by characters outside the central pair. Eiri's condition is clearly deteriorating as he is victimised by the curses, but others aren't aware of the reasons and so grow ever more concerned as the state of his well being becomes more obvious. Both sides go hand in hand and are handled superbly.
Sadly, only Cossette and Eiri get any real development. Other characters come and go in scenes as needed but tend not to be used to quite the same effect as the leading duo. Shouko is probably the most prominent of these side characters but you rarely see more than a single side of her personality as the plot marches on. Several of Eiri's other friends are psychics to some degree, yet feel more like plot devices rather than characters with substance despite what they could reasonably offer. The story manages to work well regardless, but a little extra depth for a few of them might have made things more interesting.
The pacing is relatively strong, as the anime works well to establish the setting first and then goes on to show the detail of the results of the curses and the effect it has on various people. The final part of the anime surprises the viewer by going in a different direction than what I had envisioned based on the first two parts. I think this twist was handled well, lending additional strength to the story and allowing it to reach a satisfying conclusion without slipping into a predictable muddle.
As for extras on the UK DVD, there's quite a fair bit on this release by Geneon. There's the usual assortment of trailers and commercial spots that are still nice to see. We also get a behind the scenes feature that gives a nice insight into what went into this OVA. There's also a music video by Marina Inoue, the VA for the Japanese Cossette. As per usual you also have the option of having the English audio or Japanese audio and having subtitles on.
Le Portrait De Petite Cossette is a pretty strong anime that creates the ideal unsettling atmosphere and a pair of characters who give viewers more than enough reason to care about what is happening with them. The visual style is stylish and works with the tone, as does the music and some great vocal performances. Some issues do let it down a bit, but these don't detract greatly from what is otherwise a stunning work.
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