Otaku USA Magazine
[Review] Complex Age

Twenty-six-year-old Nagisa Kataura worries that she’s aging out of her hobby as a cosplayer. She spends all the money from her temp job on her obsession, an anime called Magical Riding Hood Ururu. At first Nagisa comes off as one of those elitist cosplay snobs that gives cosplaying a bad name: she’s a detail-oriented perfectionist and dislikes cosplayers without her same dedication. At the same time, she hides her passion from the majority of the people in her life, such as her parents and co-workers.

Complex Age tackles a multi-layered issue from a woman’s perspective. Too often series about otaku are told from the POV of a young male nerd, inserting female characters as a “harem” or eyecandy. Sakuma tackles tougher themes: Do you give up on your hobbies and passions just because society thinks you’re too old? At what age are you actually too old to dress up? Does is matter what society says? Is there such a thing as “age appropriate” clothing? These kinds of accusations are often hurled at women once past their early 20s.

©Yui Sakuma/Kodansha, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Nagisa faces all this and more as the story goes on. She meets a newbie cosplayer named Aya Kurihara who looks more like Nagisa’s favorite character than she does, sparking Nagisa’s jealousy. She laments her height, her body type, and her age. She sleepwalks through her day job and gets criticized for it by her boss. But through it all she sews her heart out to make the best costumes she can, wanting nothing more than to be the 2D character of her dreams. Her insecurities belie the polished in-character cosplayer she presents herself as.

Complex Age delves deep into Japanese cosplay subculture and includes a few how-to tips for the novice cosplayer and a glossary of Japanese cosplay slang. The book also includes Sakuma’s award-winning short story about an aging Gothic Lolita fan, which explores many of the same themes that are expanded on in the series-length Complex Age. It’s no wonder Sakuma won an award; the art is solidly skilled with interesting character designs and a knowledge of both sewing and cosplay. Coupled with a unique protagonist (in both works) and a much needed acknowledgement of older female geeks, this is a great manga, and it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that Sakuma could sew a costume and style a wig with the best of them. Recommended.

publisher: Kodansha Comics
story and art: Yui Sakuma
rating: 16+