Halloween season is the perfect time to scare yourself silly, and anime history is packed full of series that will make you sleep with the lights on days after they end. Le Portrait de Petit Cossette is criminally overlooked despite being one of the best and most unique horror anime ever created, making it the perfect choice for this Halloween season.
First released in 2004, Le Portrait de Petit Cossette brings together many big names from the anime industry. This includes award-winning director Akiyuki Shinbo, the visionary behind March Comes In Like a Lion and Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase. It was written by Mayori Sekijima, who also worked on the Video Girl Ai OVA and Saber Marionette. It also features music by legendary musician and composer Yuki Kajiura. Le Portrait de Petit Cossette also features character designs by Hirofumi Suzuki, who also worked on The Last: Naruto the Movie. The series was produced by Aniplex, and Daume handled the animation.
This three-episode OVA follows art student Eiri Kurahashi. Eiri gets a job working in an antique store, and at first, everything seems normal. However, this suddenly changes when he sees a beautiful, almost doll-like girl in an old Venetian glass that his uncle brought back from France. However, this girl is not an image. She seems to be living her life within the reflection, almost as if Eiri is peering into another world. Eiri quickly falls head-over-heels in love with this girl and spends hours sketching her and watching her live her life.
One night, while closing up the shop, Eiri hears a voice telling him not to go. At first, he's confused, but Eiri soon realizes that the sound is coming from the glass. Eiri investigates and finds that he can now communicate with the strange girl. The girl reveals that she is Cossette d’Auvergne and that she and the rest of her family were murdered by the artist Marcello Orlando in the 18th century. Cossette also says that her soul is trapped in the glass until a man willingly takes the punishment her killer deserved, the so-called Pact Of Blood. What follows is a harrowing tale as Cossette manipulates Eiri, using his infatuation against him, all while Eiri's friends and loved ones try to free him from Cossette's dark influence as her manipulations start to affect his regular life and relationships.
The series is a gripping rollercoaster, effortlessly fusing psychological and gothic horror into one chilling package. The film's message about how our emotions can be used against us and become our undoing and how obsessions can quickly become dangerous will stick with you long after you finish the series. This message also gives this twisted ghost story a grounded center that only feels more relevant in this age of social media.
However, the standout part of Le Portrait de Petit Cossette is the animation. The series fuses the surreal and the real to fantastic effect, moving from Eiri's mundane world to Cossette's time-locked gothic life to strange and surreal spaces that perfectly show the twisted nature of Cossette's existence and Eiri's slowly collapsing emotional state. These surreal spaces are often terrifying in their own right, presenting a twisting and unfamiliar version of reality that veers heavily into the uncanny and plays on our natural fear of the unknown. These parts are often compared to the labyrinths from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which makes sense as many of the staff who worked on Le Portrait de Petit Cossette later worked on Madoka.
Le Portrait de Petit Cossette also has a fantastic soundtrack, written and performed by legendary composer Yuki Kajiura. It is at once beautiful, ethereal, and really creepy, perfectly capturing and enhancing the mood set by the animation. Many argue that Le Portrait de Petit Cossette is Kajiura's finest work, and it's hard to disagree as the soundtrack shows her stunning range as a composer.
Le Portrait de Petit Cossette is the perfect anime for Halloween. Its dark, gothic tale is remarkably haunting and unique. This, paired with its brilliant animation and design, makes for a memorable series that is quite unlike any other horror anime. Thankfully, the series did receive an English dub, and you can buy the complete series on DVD, making it easier than ever to enjoy this horrifically overlooked classic.