After the fallout of the incident with Senda in the last volume, Nagisa’ world continues to change after hearing back from a friend in the latest volume of Complex Age. Is it good?
With the latest volume of Complex Age, I find that I may be a bit out of my element: the volume deals directly with topics that affect women more than men, such as body image and online harassment on top of the main focus of women in cosplay. These are areas that I’m not as versed in or have that much experience or knowledge, so I may not be the right person to analyze or weigh in on such topics. However, I will still offer my view and analysis on the content of the story and characters within to the best of my ability since this was a great book on a whole.
As a whole, I found Complex Age Vol. 4 to be a complicated tale filled with emotion and drama. We follow up on the fallout of what happened to Hayama and how she has been doing since we last saw her. It’s been a rough experience, the whole incident at work having absolutely crushed her self-image and her love for her hobby. It’s a harsh moment and turn for her, especially with Nagisa’s tough love approach, but comes across as real and human to read. You can see how things got this
way for her and you can relate to how she acted. However, it’s not all completely bad in the end as Nagisa helps her to regain her confidence and love. It’s not an easy road at all going forward, but Hayama’s growth and aim to reinvent herself is wonderfully handled I felt.
I mean, it wasn’t even worth answering in the bathtub!
This character progression actually ties right back into that first chapter like mentioned. The girl that was chewed out, Riu, returns and wants to be friends with Nagisa, who she now sees as a big influence on herself and her cosplay. Riu now strives for perfection and sees anyone who doesn’t measure up, or steps in on her “relationship” with Nagisa, as unworthy, causing major conflict for Aya where she starts online harassing her. Riu is almost a darker reflection on Nagisa and in a way, Aya can be seen a light version. Both represent and show Nagisa at her best and worst, or at least where she was at the start of the series. As such, our leads’ handling of this conflict and her attitude shown do help to show both her growth and also the insecurities that she still can’t let go of.
While this is primarily Nagisa’s story through and through, regardless if she’s the focus or not, the cast as a whole felt much better here. They all truly feel like real characters with their own conflicts, insecurities, and issues, especially with Hayama and how she has developed. Kimiko is probably the least to
be shown or focused on, but given what happens at the end, her development and relationship with Nagisa will be fascinating to read coming next. The reveal on the last few pages is both shocking, but also cleverly foreshadowed earlier on in the manga. Riu is a nasty piece of work here, becoming the first real antagonist that wasn’t internal or built within Nagisa’s own mind as a threat. She’s a vicious person built out of her own desire for perfection and obsession, showing the ugliest side of the cosplay community, or many fanbases in general: if you don’t fit the bill perfectly, you don’t belong and will be mocked for it. Her attitude is disturbingly realistic and one seen a lot online. Her attitude reminds me of a comment I once saw for the Captain America: Civil War movie trailer, where a person expressed excitement for seeing Black Panther. However, the first reply to that was “I bet you don’t even know who that is”. That attitude and stance perfectly captures Riu in a nutshell.
Aya is shown at her weakest here as she tries to deal with the constant, verbal abuse online that’s sent her way, unable to stop it nor able to look away. She tries to stay strong, but is cracking under the constant barrage and its weight. Her story is sadly reminiscent of many people’s experience online, helping a lot of us
to relate and sympathize, maybe having experienced it ourselves at one point. Despite it all though, she’s still able to keep going forward and refuses to give up cosplay, loving it too much to let these anonymous people ruin her. Shiho is given her first bit of characterization, building up her friendship with Aya and
showing how strong their bond is. While she loves cosplay herself, she doesn’t find it as fun without her best friend there and is determined to help, even ultimately figuring out who the culprit is in the end. It’s not a whole lot, but it is something I appreciate since she’s always been just sort of there and hasn’t done
anything. These are all wonderfully written, real characters and I just can’t get enough of them and their story.
As usual, I find the artwork to be pretty good. While the pages can be a little cramped in layouts and with lots of dialogue, the story still flows very well and due to how they’re written, the pages can pack a lot of story and content into each of them. The characters are decently drawn (though they have that similar face thing going on) and are capable of showing quite the range of expressions and emotions. The scenes with Hayama at the park, the final page of the book, and Nagisa’s conversation with Riu at the restaurant are so powerful and perfect examples of the quality of the art, capable of capturing every feeling being expressed and selling every scene perfectly.
Is it good?
Complex Age Vol. 4 is a strong volume for the series, easily one of the best to date. The characters are absolutely wonderful and complicated, some showing so much to them to you can’t help but be drawn into their struggles. The writing and artwork helps to bolster the already strong characterization and story, making
for a truly engaging experience. There are only two volumes of Complex Age left and given how excellent this one was I look forward to seeing what happens in the ones to come.
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