Le Portrait de Petit Cossette begins as a stylish and moody portrayal of distorted reality: Kurahashi’s obsession with the girl inside the glass instantly throws up questions of whether he’s going mad or being haunted. As the narrative gets into its stride, it develops an eerie, schizophrenic technique (manic smiles and claustrophobic close-ups abound), which makes the bizarre turn of events morbidly delightful.
So, why the low score? The problem I have with Le Portrait de Petit Cossette is that, from the end of the first episode, it throws out wave after wave of crude symbolic imagery (seemingly in a bid to look more disturbing than it actually is). Anyone who remembers The End of Evangelion will know what I’m talking about – lengthy, disjointed sequences with the sole purpose of propping up the limp narrative. Unfortunately, watching Kurahashi get his guts torn out as he hangs haplessly from a cross just stirs up memories of even worse vulgarities such as X The Movie and Angel Sanctuary, memories I’d rather not have. Furthermore, there are only so many gloomy shots of candles, chains, and crows I can take before I start scratching at the walls myself.
At the final moment, Le Portrait de Petit Cossette introduces a mildly interesting twist, but, by then, the story has already taken one episode too many to get to the point and it fails to save the show as a whole. Ultimately, the flashier Le Portrait de Petit Cossette gets and the harder it tries to shock and disturb, the less interesting it actually becomes.
While gothic motifs are usually too trite for my tastes, I certainly can’t fault Le Portrait de Petit Cossette’s technical quality. Applying a rich colour palette, it depicts Kurahashi’s spiritual struggles in sharp up-light shots, quirky phantasmagoria, and plenty of thick, splashing blood. Furthermore, although not stylised in concept, the creative use of well-placed camera angles and cuts – combined with the aforementioned motifs – gives Le Portrait de Petit Cossette a very edgy atmosphere.
The background music is rarely intrusive; rather, it builds upon the lush animation and the extensive use of natural sounds to generate a powerful atmosphere. The only notable songs are the opening and ending themes, both of which demonstrate beautiful vocal performances.
The voice acting is excellent all round, if rather wasted on such a hollow script.
Having little running time in which to develop, Kurahashi is only interesting because he’s at the centre of the spooky events, whilst Cossette’s main attraction is being a lolicon ghost. Apart from that, there’s not much that makes them memorable – heck, there’s not even anything that makes them likeable. Kurahashi, for example, spends most of his time hallucinating (or does he?) and confused about what is happening to him, which are not behavioural traits to evoke adoration. As for the supporting cast, none of them make it much beyond being cardboard cut-outs.
Plotting is not Le Portrait de Petit Cossette’s strong point; in fact, the only advantage it has over lesser horror shows such as Jigoku Shoujo is a budget as deep and wide as the void of originality it’s trying to fill. This is a self-indulgent jaunt through the gothic horror genre, nothing more, nothing less. With that said, Le Portrait de Petit Cossette is short and thus still passable by any standard.
Kurahashi has never been the same since the hallucinations started. His condition is not medical in nature, and only seems to be triggered by an antique glass which shows him things he never would wish to see. For Kurahashi, figuring out the mystery of the Petit Cossette that appears to him in his waking dreams is a matter of life or death... and his sanity...
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