High school student Wakana Gojou spends his days perfecting the art of making hina dolls, hoping to eventually reach his grandfather’s level of expertise. While his fellow teenagers busy themselves with pop culture, Gojou finds bliss in sewing clothes for his dolls. Nonetheless, he goes to great lengths to keep his unique hobby a secret, as he believes that he would be ridiculed were it revealed.
Enter Marin Kitagawa, an extraordinarily pretty girl whose confidence and poise are in stark contrast to Gojou’s meekness. It would defy common sense for the friendless Gojou to mix with the likes of Kitagawa, who is always surrounded by her peers. However, the unimaginable happens when Kitagawa discovers Gojou’s prowess with a sewing machine and brightly confesses to him about her own hobby: cosplay. Because her sewing skills are pitiable, she decides to enlist his help.
Humans really are fascinating animals, with the most potential of any species on this planet that we can Earth. If we look into a mirror, we see a reflection and may ask ourselves who or what we want to be. What if I told you that there’s a beautiful girl named Marin who takes up cosplaying as a life hobby? When she looks into a mirror, she sees herself as a cosplayer, playing on her fashion style and character.
Translated as ‘My Dress-Up Darling’, the anime is based on the manga about a guy with a girlish hobby making friends with a very attractive girl, with a love of cosplaying. The first episode feels like fate connecting the two together at school. Yes, it’s not a common hobby for a guy to enjoy crafting hina dolls and admiring its art form. That’s why Wakana Gojo doesn’t have many friends and turned into an introvert. On the other hand, Marin enters the show as a very attractive girl with an alluring figure, energetic personality, and just about everything that Gojo is not. The two are bonded by a partnership – Gojo would make costumes for her and Marin would in respect, cosplay in those made costumes.
My Dress-Up Darling is a romantic comedy
To get the most obvious out of the way, this is essentially a romantic comedy. At the heart of story is the timid Gojo paired with the charismatic Marin. There will no doubt be some people who raise their eyebrows when watching the first few episodes. For instance, the amount of fan service (particularly episode 2) may catch viewers off guard. Plus, Marin seems like a different species compared to Gojo. When we see Gojo, some of us can see that he is the type of shy kid at school, where almost no one notices. Marin is portrayed as the most popular girl at school where everyone has their eyes on her. Everyone knows her name, and she has tons of friends. Thanks to her energetic personality and easy going nature, she can also make friends easily with just about anyone. And of course, she has the looks that resembles a supermodel. However, there’s one particular aspect some may not be aware of. She also loves the otaku culture and with a wide range of tastes. It’s why she took on cosplaying as a hobby because what else allows her to express herself?
As we take a closer look at the Gojo/Marin pair
It’s obvious that they do have character chemistry. From their first encounter, it’s shown that Marin sees Gojo as a trustworthy friend, not someone with a weird hobby because of his gender. She treats everyone equally and even admires Gojo’s talent. It’s because of her friendly gesture that Gojo decided to help Marin make her first costume. Cosplaying as the gothic Shizuku-tan, Gojo also learns his own mistakes and realizes that his costume is far from perfect. Nonetheless, it’s admiring that Gojo acknowledges his mistakes while Marin gets to experience the joy of cosplaying. Let’s face it, whenever she cosplays, she turns into a fangirl of herself. This extends to her admiration for other popular cosplayers, as we later meet Sajuna Inui and her sister, Shinju.
The Inui sisters
The Inui sisters represents the more serious duo when compared to Gojo and Marin. For instance, Sajuna takes her cosplay very seriously as she loves the magical girl culture. Her sister Shinju gets along well with others, although she seems to have an inferiority complex. Together, they were destined to meet Gojo and Marin. It’s a world where cosplaying connects these characters together like fate. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the Inui sisters also have a passion for cosplaying, particular Sajuna. At the same time, Marin sees them as companions rather than rivals. That’s because Marin seems to love everyone, and isn’t a type of girl with an ego. As shown through her character interactions with the Inui sisters, she respects their tastes.
An anime like My Dress-Up Darling isn’t without much of its flaws
This type of rom-com isn’t entirely aimed for everyone. The biggest concern is how much we should like the four main characters, particularly Marin. Even though she is attractive and fun to watch throughout the series, there’s limited character development. Surprisingly, the anime doesn’t dive deep into her character past either and mostly shows exactly who she is. The love she expresses to cosplaying can sometime cross the line where she ignores all boundaries of common sense. This includes stripping near naked for measurements, making suggestive comments without batting an eye, or in one episode, she even goes to a love hotel with Gojo. So yes, she’s not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. This often sets up Gojo as an accidental pervert as he gets front row seat at Marin’s alluring figure. Luckily, the anime does take some time for Gojo to develop out of his meek self. And with each episode, he seems to grow more confidence with himself and others. It’s one of the perks of the show as Marin influenced Gojo to be himself.
With an anime about cosplaying, what could go right or wrong?
Obviously, it’s the animation quality and more importantly, character designs. Thankfully, CloverWorks showed their colors and I mean that in an effective way. Marin is decorated with a model look with pretty face, slim figure, and overall lavish style of dressing herself. When we see her cosplay, she shows a genuine passion in her outfits ranging from Shizuku Kuroe to Black Lobelia, or even the lewd Rizu-kyun. There’s no doubt the animators wanted Marin to take the stage as the poster girl and someone to advertise as a cosplayer. Gojo on the other hand had his own dress up scenes but most of them are laughable, sometimes even meme worthy. Watching the two together really feels like they came from diferent planets sometimes. However, do be aware that the show isn’t shy about fan service. While there’s no ecchi tag, there’s definitely suggestive scenes in the show that will arouse attention.
My Dress-Up Darling is a show that take two characters with an unlikely connection and bond them with a common cause. As a rom-com, it will definitely take some time to get used to the cast and warm up to their personalities. Cosplaying isn’t a hobby that everyone can just take on with a whim. It takes passion, dedication, and a goal to succeed to make it work. Gojo knows the risks and realizes that nothing in life is easy. Marin also knows that when she looks into a mirror, she is portraying a character when she’s cosplaying. It’s what make her human to be who she wants.