As this series comes to a close, will Nagisa's cosplaying days come to a close as well?
Title: Complex Age
Publisher: Kodansha (JP), Kodansha Comics (US)
Artist/Writer: Yui Sakuma
Serialized in: Weekly Morning
Translation: Alethea Nibley & Athena Nibley
Original Release Date: September 12, 2017
Some time has passed since Kimiko told Nagisa that she’s quitting cosplay and even more time has passed since Hayama was laughed out of the office for her cosplay. Both of these events are still weighing heavily on Nagisa’s mind as she contemplates her own future for cosplay; she doesn’t have any role models to show her a future that includes her hobby.
But Nagisa’s mother, who gave up her own hobby after being more deeply embedded in it than Nagisa, has a suggestion: why not talk to her one friend who never gave up her lolita fashion and even made a career out of it?
It may be an odd comparison to make but Complex Age reminds me of Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova. It was a short series centering around an anime fan as she goes to her first (and then returns for her second and third) anime convention and a lot of the little details in the series felt true to life. It was a pretty “whacky” tale at times and while it wasn’t completely accurate in every regard about conventions, I was surprised just how much of it was “real” when I went to my very first anime con.
Most of all, Dramacon was a pretty widely-read OEL manga when it came out. I suspect it may have been one of Tokyopop’s most successful OEL series (if not THE the most successful) and I wish that Complex Age had a similarly large readership since it’s a story about being a fan that’s even more true to life. Dramacon is the series I would give a reader just starting their anime/manga/cosplay fandom journey.
Complex Age is the series I would give those who continued on with cosplay past high school, through college, and are starting to have those doubts.
I am in two minds about Nagisa’s final decision about how she will include cosplay in her life going forward. I personally believe it’s important for a person to have a separation between their career and their hobby for the sake of their mental state. I’ll admit that the way Complex Age sets up Nagisa’s idea to go into business as a costume seamstress does make a lot of thematic sense. We do see Nagisa put in a lot of work in the business end of things, like taking classes and learning formal sewing techniques. But I still wish that in general, we had more stories where someone’s life and job weren’t so deeply connected.
I actually liked Nagisa’s “aunt,” her mother’s old friend Nori, and how she turned her love of lolita, of older things, into an antique shop business. It’s not a one-to-one transformation of a hobby to a profession and that’s why I liked it. Nori’s monologue about the more boring parts of running a business was the first of its kind that I’ve ever seen in a manga, and knowing that Nori’s talk helped influence Nagisa to run a business does make me more at peace with her decision.
All in all, Complex Age comes to a satisfying end and overall it’s been my favorite examination of cosplay in any medium. I would have liked for the ending to have included some of the side characters in it a little more, like Aya, but this was a story about Nagisa’s complex relationship with her hobby, now a business, so I don’t think the story erred here.
Most of all, I want other people to find this series and love it as much as I have. All of the stories about characters starting to step away from cosplay hit home for me. I have friends who I met through cosplay who no longer do and I want to give them this manga to read. “I respect your decision but I miss you so much,” is what I think this story would say to them, not once does this series downplay the importance of the friendships made through hobbies or of the hobbies themselves. This was a series I didn’t even know I wanted and now I’m sorry that it’s already over.