Beautiful Horror

April 4, 2009


Le Portrait de Petite Cossette can be considered a horror, but not in a sense that Ring is a horror. It is sometimes creepy but does not have the kind of terror that drives one senseless. There is another particular dimension added to the horror in Petite Cossette and “beautiful” is really the only word I can think of to describe its inexplicably seductive allure.

Beautiful horror is a term once used by the director Kim Ji-woon to describe his A Tale of Two Sisters. The film does not seek to senselessly terrify the viewers, it wants people to fall in love with the two sisters and their story. So innocent is the character of Soo-mi and affectionate is her sister Soo-yeon’s caring love for her, so much so that  when we are revealed to the frightening truth behind their story, there is horror but most importantly a sense of grief. Horror not of the unknown but of the disturbing consequence of Soo-yeon’s love for Soo-mi, and grief for their once beautiful relationship that will only exist in her wishful past and imagination.


I suppose this is a good opportunity to also recommend Vampire Princess Miyu OVA as another horror that is beautiful. It pales in comparison to Petite Cossette, yet it still remains very elegant.

Pet Shop of Horrors also has its moments and is slightly recommended.

Pet Shop of Horrors also has its moments, especially the ones with Medusa and Mermaid, and is recommended.

To offer a well-known literary example, I suppose it’s like falling in love with the 6-year-old vampire character of Claudia in Anne Rice’s The Interview with a Vampire. Like the main character, we are horrified by what she has become but also can not resist her Lolita allure so much so that we want to be consumed by it. Here one could make an interesting comparison to more conventionally terrifying horrors like Ring: in terrifying horrors there is desire to escape/push it all away, whereas in beautiful horrors there also is desire to embrace it. Watching Petite Cossette doesn’t scare me as much as Ring or Audition, but like the main character Eiri, it is impossible not to be allured to Cossette’s beauty. One particular scene comes to mind and that is being transfixed by the empty Venetian glass filling itself in blood, only to slowly appear as the ghost of Cossette looking down on Eiri, and there is a melancholic desire to embrace her and her horrifying curse as he willingly accepts her glass and drinks from it.


Camera angles, soundtracks and haunting imagery in each scene is just so amazing, simply Shinbo at his best.




13 Responses to “Beautiful Horror”

  1. Martin Says:

    Ah, Cosette. Good to see you write about it. ^_^ This is why I don’t like the horror label because Cosette and, now you mention it, A Tale of Two Sisters are more ‘supernatural drama’ because the emphasis is on the story rather than scaring the viewer (I found Ring did both drama and horror equally…and very well too). Point taken with Miyu…I’m sure I’ll like it (I love vampire stories).

    I found the plot progression of Cosette a bit meandering, as if it was trying to make something simple into something complicated. But then, the whole thing looks so gorgeous I didn’t really mind. If nothing else it’s one of the most atmospheric and prettiest anime series I’ve seen – I suppose Cosette’s appeal to the viewer is fairly similar to Claudia’s, and possibly closer to the original definition of moe before the concept became sexualised for the fanboys. Interesting…

    I find Shinbo to be quite a lot like Hideaki Anno in the camera angles and uses of colour and ‘trippy’ abstract imagery…I think both directors are able to realise their visions better outside of the TV format. Give them a movie/OAV budget and the results are spectacular!

  2. gaguri Says:

    I agree with you on Ring, just that I needed to come up with a good supernatural horror on the terrifying side. Hmm I was thinking of something on the line of “Hide and Seek” (that was pretty scary for me) starring Robert De Niro since that was similar to Tale of Two Sisters in terms of narrative structure, but it’s more of psychological horror/thriller or whatever -__-. Exorcist might have been more fitting comparison, although I didn’t find it as terrifying as Ring.

    And I actually thought of Claudia when I was watching Cossette. Cossette is awefully young but she is very well composed, and speaks with such eloquence and maturity. I’m not sure if I want to go as far as calling her moe though, she’s much more than that haha…

  3. animekritik Says:

    cossette is on my list of things to watch.. i think horror can be alluring in fiction but not in real life. if a creepy lady wants me to drink something, I’m running the heck out of there!

  4. gaguri Says:

    I don’t know, if a vampire would offer me an eternal life (as a vampire) I think I would seriously consider it :3

  5. TheBigN Says:

    I think the horror in Cossette comes from what Eiri has to go through in order to save Cossette. In that sense, we fear for Eiri’s physical and mental safety as he’s pushed to his limits, but as you say the got is not really to scare us overall.

  6. gaguri Says:

    Yea, I do think there is that element of horror but it doesn’t really terrify us, and instead we kind of, well, want to endure and embrace the ever so mysterious and alluring character of Cossette like Eiri.

  7. Shadowmage Says:

    If you want real horror with beauty mixed in, try Saya no Uta. It’s about a med student who undergoes brain surgery and ends up seeing everything in the world as internal organs ripped inside out. The only thing beautiful to him in this disgusting world is a lone loli (who by our perceptions is a tentacle monster that eats humans for breakfast).

    Then again, I can’t really recommend it to anyone due to the guro and the graphic (illegal in Canada) sex. Though, if you still want to make the trip, prepare to have your mind blown, the fragmented snippets I found (horribly edited translations and CG set) made me neurotic for a few days.

  8. gaguri Says:

    Hmm from what I’ve briefly looked up that is a visual novel right? It’s a format I’ve tried before and didn’t really fancy so I would have to pass on that :/

  9. omisyth Says:

    And another to add to the backlog. Not sure why but when you write “beautiful horror” I immediately think “gothic”. Perhaps that’s simply because the gothic style in anime appeals to me, and hence why I like this ED:

  10. gaguri Says:

    I think gothic is perhaps a better word to describe Cossette. I am not expert when it comes to defining genres but I do find gothic as an excellent source of beautiful horror.

    And I really like that ED too 😀

  11. MightyMaeve Says:

    Your comments about Le Portrait de Petite Cossette being ‘beautiful horror’: How perfect! I struggled to review that one after watching it. I couldn’t figure out why I adored it, other than the outstanding art that appealed to my sensibilities, because I’m not a fan of horror usually. But this one was different; I couldn’t stop thinking about it and falling more and more in love with the story until it made it to my top 10 list of animes to recommend.

    Actually, I only found Gankutsuou love after first falling in love with the art and story type of Cossette. She was my gateway! ^_^

    Thanks for helping me figure it out with this entry discussing ‘beautiful horror.’

  12. gaguri Says:

    Haha…thanks for generous replies to my older articles. I am currently on a hiatus from writing at the moment but you are free to put my blog on your feedreader. I’d love to have another royal reader I can interact with ^^

  13. Flow Meter Says:

    *,* that seems to be a great topic, i really love it “~.

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