It is the 10-year anniversary of Chō Henshin Cos ∞ Prayer (also known as The Cosmopolitan Prayers, or more simply Cosprayers among assorted invectives). Frequent readers of this blog may recognize the curse "WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS" which I've exclaimed on occasion to underscore particularly lousy anime. But just how bad is Cosprayers? Is it possible I didn't give the show enough credit when I watched it all those years ago? After all, it's quite common for anime fans to stubbornly dismiss shows based on a bad first impression and then adamantly adhere to these preconceived notions regardless of other arguments to the contrary. Is it possible Cosprayers is at least "ironically" good, or maybe even so avante-garde for its time that I, as a nascent anime fan, failed to recognize its brilliance? I guess there's only one way to find out.
Behold, the Cosprayers Re-Watching Project! Wait, let me back up. Cosprayers is an eight-episode fan service sentai adventure from 2004 by the studio m.o.e., Masters of Entertainment. (No, really, that's what the studio called itself.) It is actually the first third of a two-cour trilogy consisting of Cosprayers, Hit wo Nerae! (also known as Smash Hit!), and Love Love?. Within the in-series universe of the Cosprayers Trilogy, Cosprayers is an ill-fated sentai movie produced by the characters of Hit wo Nerae!. Love Love? (which I've never seen), is—to the best of my knowledge—a harem comedy featuring the actresses who play the Cosprayers characters and one of the Hit wo Nerae! staff members.
Technically, Cosprayers is supposed to be a bad show deliberately because its failings drive the Hit wo Nerae! plot as the Hit wo Nerae! characters struggle with production deadlines, last-minute re-writes to the script, and other assorted difficulties. Arguably, Cosprayers succeeds because it's supposed to be a terrible show. Unfortunately, regardless of why Cosprayers is bad, the end result is still a disaster with very few redeeming qualities. It's frankly often difficult to watch despite being so short; the episodes themselves are less than 13 minutes long, and there are only eight of them (12 if you include the DVD specials and the "movie").
So, can we stipulate that Cosprayers is bad? Oh yeah, it's bad all right. Now that I've got my handy chart objectively determining what I think of an anime based on my subjective ratings for each episode, I've got a metric I can use to formerly declare deserving shows as being WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS. Based on these episode-by-episode breakdowns...well, they don't tell me anything I didn't already know, actually. Cosprayers is a poor effort overall, but has a few bright moments. It is by no means the worst show I've ever watched, but pretty much right on the border dividing crappy shows I abandon and lousy shows I'm still willing to finish. (Its thankfully short length is a huge factor, though. I can't imagine burning through 50 full-length episodes of this hot garbage, not even for science.) Is it worth watching? Sure, for the novelty factor, but please don't confuse this endorsement with a recommendation.
Okay, so why is Cosprayers bad? The biggest problem is the show makes no sense. The plot is terribly weak, and the twists are inconsequential because the viewer never has any reason to care about the characters or the world they protect. Arguably, the characters themselves are offensive if you're the kind of person who was uncomfortable because the yellow Power Ranger was Asian and the black Power Ranger was black. Personally, I was fine with it, but some people might not appreciate names like Miko Reiya, Sari Reiya (which is better than what I originally thought it was: Curry Reiya) and Sister Reiya (sister as in nun, okay). Actually, these arguably offensive names should probably count as points in the Cosprayers positives column. I know some of y'all out there pretend the names are actually "Miko Layer" and "Sister Layer," et alli. Don't lie.
What else is bad? Well, there's rampant fan service, but it's not bad because I hold a negative viewpoint towards fan service in general—far from it. No, the fan service in Cosprayers is bad because it is so clumsy and random. There are a few semi-amusing moments, such as flimsy excuses to frame scenes from a low angle as a reclining Miko Reiya is shocked to discovers a magical column enlarging itself adjacent to her crotch between her wide-spread thighs. Someone at least took the effort to contrive the circumstances necessary to produce that shot. But for the most part, the fan service seems to comprise mostly of panties tumbling across the screen at random intervals, an effect that suggests much less professional or libidinous involvement on the part of the animators than, say, brief scenes during KILL la KILL during which the curves of Ryuuko's breasts swell across the screen to draw the viewer's eye towards the next point-of-view change.
From a technical perspective, Cosprayers is rather poor, but it's not bad enough to condemn the show. The content is lacking as well, although I have to give it credit for its meta gimmick with Smash Hit! and Love Love?. Perhaps the real problem with Cosprayers is that it's not bad enough. Cosprayers is not bad enough to include in any sort of "worst shows ever" list, nor is it bad enough to reach "so bad it's good" status. I guess the real tragedy of Cosprayers is that it's very much a 2004 show, from a time when niches for studios like m.o.e. still existed, and anime as a hobby seemed wide open to limitless possibilities.
Cosprayers comes from a time before I knew anyone who cared about sakuga—a time when nigh countless fansubbing groups covered nearly anything and everything regardless of heritage or perceived quality—when the American market capitalized on the anime bubble by filling huge expanses of retail floor space with dubious art-boxed collectors' editions of the first DVD of every series (no one would have bought any of these had they not already seen the entire series fansubbed). Is it nostalgia I feel for Cosprayers? I suppose so. 10 years is a long time. I suppose it is a credit to the show's impact that its memory still occupies an end cap among my heart's many rows of teetering shelves crammed with anime titles—not actually good enough to be worth watching again, but too good to forget.