Original Run: January 9, 2022 - March 27, 2022 Number of Episodes: 12 Gerne: Romance, Slice of Life Based on the Series Created By: Shinichi Fukuda
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for My Dress-Up Darling. Reader discretion is advised.***
When he was a child, Wakana Gojo (voiced by Shouya Ishige) fell in love with the craftsmanship behind Hina dolls. Since then, he has been trying to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps to become a kashira-shi. However, in exchange for bettering his skills – and fearing ridicule for liking something “girly” – Wakana chose to forgo a social life. Therefore, even in high school, he has failed to make a single friend.
Even if Wakana could explain his passion, who could possibly understand him? Therefore, his greatest fear is someone finding out what he likes doing.
Then, to Wakana’s horror, that scenario comes to pass. Marin Kitagawa (voiced by Hina Suguta), the most popular and most beautiful girl in his school, discovers Wakana’s secret. Expecting the worst, Marin’s reaction take Wakana by surprise.
Marin is beyond amazed by Wakana’s abilities, particularly his talent at sewing clothes. Without hesitation, she asks Wakana if he can help her. It turns out Marin is an anime and gaming nerd, and she desperately wants to get into cosplay. The problem is that Marin is having trouble putting together the costume for her first character.
Touched by this acceptance and inspired by seeing someone else give their all to their hobby, Wakana agrees to help Marin with her cosplay endeavors.
For all the anime I have watched (trust me, it’s been a lot), I am having trouble thinking of examples that had cosplay as a central theme. I can come up with the Genshiken series, but that’s about it. If you have any more, let me know in the comments.
The point is, My Dress-Up Darling tapped into a subject matter that is, surprisingly, quite open. Of course, if I were to sit here and say this is a show for cosplayers and then leave it there, I would be doing a horrific injustice. Sure, cosplay might be prominent throughout this series, but there was so much more going on here.
For all the romantic comedies coming out in 2022, My Dress-Up Darling has set the bar high. Keep in mind that this year will see the third installment of the absolutely brilliant Kaguya-sama: Love is War series (which is airing at the time of this post’s publishing).
This show freaking killed it.
To start…well, that’s the thing. I’m not entirely where we should start this review. My Dress-Up Darling was the definition of “the sum of its parts.” No one aspect of this show shone above the others. At the same time, there was nothing average about this series either. Perhaps the word “unique” is more necessary than cliché in this instance.
For example, I can’t even guess how many anime I’ve come across where one of the main characters was clearly in love with another main character. Often the “in love” character is either in total denial or inwardly quiet about their feelings. Not Marin Kitagawa.
Now, spoilers for something that didn’t happen in the show, Marin never told Wakana about her feelings – as far as he is aware. However, the moment she felt that first tug on her heart, she accepted it. Usually, I would say her attitude leaned more towards a crush rather than deep affection; Marin behaved like a love-struck fangirl most of the time. Except, several critical, impossible-to-interpret-any-other-way scenes made it clear that Marin’s thoughts towards Wakana were the real deal.
For his part, Wakana also had strong feelings for Marin. But were those feelings romantical? That’s hard to say.
Given his shyness, Wakana would never assume Marin would find interest – in that way – towards someone like him. Thus, it wasn’t difficult to accept that Wakana would not notice the many obvious signs that Marin liked him.
Then again, there are a few scenes where My Dress-Up Darling will make you think, “how far are we about to go?” And then there was one instance that took things to another level. I won’t say how it turned out, but the reaction it got out of me was proof that this show had latched on to my attention.
Looking back on this series, that is no big surprise.
My Dress-Up Darling worked so well because it took the time to give us characters worth remembering. There was Wakana’s honesty which mixed itself with his low self-esteem, a byproduct of earlier trauma. Then you had Marin’s energetic personality that never judged someone for liking what they liked.
And that was what won me over. Early on, you sympathize with Wakana when someone criticizes him for being a boy who likes girl stuff. Then in came Marin, who not only praised Wakana’s skills, she respected his fandom. And I’m glad this show emphasized that point:
If you like something (and it’s not hurting anyone), nobody has the right to berate you for it.
That was a constant theme My Dress-Up Darling kept coming back to. This series was excellent at illustrating characters when they nerded out. Be it cosplay, video games, cameras, or making dolls; it was enduring when someone in this show had a chance to gush about what was important to them.
There is a massive difference between a character who the story says is a fan of something and a character who acts like a fan of something.
There were two elements to this series that irked me the wrong way.
The first was the occasional use of CGI. Then again, perhaps instead of using the word “occasional,” I should say there were moments throughout My Dress-Up Darling where I noticed the implementation of CGI character models.
I’m not sure how best to explain this, but there were times when characters looked bubbly and over-inflated. And I’m listing this as a critique because it wasn’t consistent. On the contrary, plenty of scenes in this series looked terrific: the fireworks show in episode twelve is one example.
These odd instances came out of nowhere, and it was hard not to notice them.
The second issue I had was the fan service. Now, let me explain.
I am not upset that My Dress-Up Darling had fanservice. No, what bugs me is that this show got greedy. This series had a built-in excuse to go ham with all the boobs and skimpy outfits it wanted to use. Since cosplay is about dressing up as different characters, many of whom are highly sexual, showing a lot of skin can come with the territory.
Sure enough, when Marin and other characters dressed up, this series didn’t hold back. And yet, when there wasn’t any cosplay, this show still wanted to include as many upskirt shots, exaggerated breast physics, and improbable accidents as possible.
My Dress-Up Darling had the characters, the story, and the outlets necessary not to go that extra step. The fanservice never made sense for a scene, there would be long stretches between such moments, and it was simply unnecessary.
Even with my “problems” with this show, I cannot deny how much fun I had with it. This series is an absolute break-out from the 2022 winter season.
Think of everything we got:
- Likable characters
- An enjoyable story
- A heartwarming message
- Romantic build-up
And do you know what’s even better? This series ended on a satisfying note, but it left the door wide open for more.
My Dress-Up Darling has earned a recommendation.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? How would you advise My Dress-Up Darling? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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