It's interesting to me that there are certain symbols and concepts that freak people out all around the globe. You would think that fear would not be a universal language, that each culture would have certain scary concepts that were theirs alone. And perhaps this is still true; somehow I doubt that people living in the Congo have irrational fears of Freddy Krueger or of people in hockey masks. (If I have any readers in the Congo, please feel free to tell me if I'm wrong about this.) But there are still some images that scare us by delving into some sort of shared "horror inventory" we all have: the death of children, the fear of pain, the sight of our own blood, the single staring eye. Petit Cossette is a three-OVA gothic horror series that works on a universal level at being darn tootin' creepy. It has some drawbacks, namely a slow pace and a limp story, that muddle the mix. That said, this thing has atmosphere in spades.
Eiri is a quiet young man who discovers a special glass at an antique shop. Although the tumbler itself is unique, what it contains inside is even more so. Cossette, a porcelain doll of a girl, has had her soul trapped inside for a couple of hundred years, placed there in the aftermath of her family's terrible murder by the painter of her portrait. As Eiri gets drawn into the mystery behind Cossette's death, he finds out that he can release her from her curse...but at terrible cost to himself. (I could tell you more about the plot, but there's not much of it, so I'll leave the suspense to the show itself.)
Petit Cossette is all about ambiance, and from a technical perspective, it delivers. Although it's not a fast-action piece with lots of motion, it is one of the best-looking OVA series I have seen. The visuals are spectacular, and spectacularly effective at getting the creepy vibe going. It just works. The music is also a great mix of chants, orchestrated mixes, and (amazingly enough) pop blended all together. It's a really effective soup. If you like gothic horror concepts, you'll probably be very impressed.
Petit Cossette delivers on taking the viewer into another world and sucking them in. I was fascinated by where the show was going, and it was splendid at making me as the viewer uneasy as to what was going to come next. It reminded me very much of the original Vampire Princess Miyu OVA series. This is more gory, to be certain, but the feeling is the same and effective on both counts.
However, all is not well within this story. Frankly, the story takes a back seat to visuals, and so not only is it slow, it is at times downright rocky. The story could easily have fit into about a forty-five minute show, so the program runs nearly double the plot length. At times, even though I was intrigued, I wanted something new to happen. A couple of events happen the same way in two episodes, and so I even wasn't sure what they were attempting other than to be filling time. The visual conceit changed, but not the story. The third OVA introduces a new twist that I wasn't expecting, enough that it kept the entirety from falling apart. Still, if you prefer plot over feel, you will probably be immensely bored, and watching the first episode will be enough. I admit that even in my enjoyment of the show, parts were dull.
Depending on your point of view, Petit Cossette may also be quite disturbing. This is not a particularly gory show, but there is certainly quite a bit of psychological horror going on. Cossette is probably only 12, so the whole concept of the show is based around the death of a child. There are unexplained evil forces at work. All of it makes for effective horror, but I wouldn't recommend it for those under, say, 15. I say this because many titles in the "horror" genre of anime are really just violent excuses for bloodletting rather than being scary. In this case, though, Petit Cossette has the potential to unnerve a few people.
Petit Cossette is the kind of ghost story that can make a little chill crawl down your spine. Though it's too slow and muddled to give it a great grade, I give it points for its visuals and soundtrack, and I think it will definitely be a worthwhile rental (and a purchase for true horror fans) when it hits American shelves in 2005.
Petit Cossette -- violence, disturbing subject matter -- B