I’m a sucker for an anime that has an element of instruction and education to its premise, and as someone who also appreciates cosplay, but who does not cosplay himself, I’m interested in the craft behind it. So going into the Winter 2022 season, I’d already suspected that My Dress-Up Darling would be my jam on that front. What I wasn’t expecting was to get a tremendously sweet love story along the way.
Wakana Gojo is a quiet, reserved young man who lives with his grandfather. Gojo’s grandfather runs the family business making Hina dolls, and Gojo has been passionate about the art form ever since he was a kid. However, after he tried sharing his love for the craft with one of his classmates, who thought it was creepy, he’s been hesitant to share his enjoyment of the craft with his peers, instead choosing to keep himself and work on dolls in his spare time – painting faces (which he needs to improve on) at home, and using the sewing club’s disused space at school to make clothing (which he’s great at).
So, Gojo is surprised when Marin Kitagawa comes into his life. Marin is a bubbly, outgoing, kogal (fashionable high-school girl). She loves cosplay – it’s not exactly a secret, but not something she’s open and actively talks about either. She just has one problem with her hobby – she can’t sew worth a damn. So, when she stumbles into Gojo when she goes to use the club space for her own sewing and sees his handwork, she’s tremendously impressed and excited by his hobby and asks if he’d like to try doing cosplay costumes.
As the two make various costumes together, they end up starting to feel romantically attracted to each other. Marin figures out what she’s feeling right away, but doesn’t quite confess to Gojo. Gojo also figures out that he’s attracted to Marin quickly, but is worried that Marin is way out of his league. Thankfully, one of the strong traits of the characters’ relationships is that they are very open when it comes to communication – both in terms of their insecurities and, particularly in Gojo’s case, his boundaries, as he’s very inexperienced when it comes to girls.
This leads also to the third aspect of the show – the ecchi side. My Dress-Up Darling is probably some of the most wholesome ecchi I’ve ever encountered. In context, it’s showing Marin comfortable with herself, her body, and her relationship with Gojo, with some of the comedy, and the discussion of boundaries being related to Gojo being caught off-guard by Marin’s open-ness. For example, an early episode has Marin stripping down to her two-piece swimsuit in Gojo’s room, so he can take her measurements, which is not what he’s expecting. Marin generally doesn’t find a problem with this, but also recognizes that there are some measurements, for example, that particularly leave Gojo flustered and finds a way to handle them without leaving him more uncomfortable (with probably a couple of exceptions).
Additionally, as the show goes on, and the two get closer, Marin starts pitching costumes that get progressively more risque. This is also where the boundaries and communication come up nicely as well – Gojo eventually finds a costume that he doesn’t feel comfortable making, and when he says this to Marin, she’s completely understanding. This also gives the fanservice a degree of being implicit in addition to being explicit – Gojo and Marin never see the other nude. Instead, there’s a sense that while Gojo is too shy to act, Marin is assertive enough that she could take the next step if she felt like it was right to do so. While that never quite happens, it also never feels like a tease when it doesn’t.
It bears mentioning, by the way, that the show’s animation is fantastic. The show puts a level of detail into the movement of fabric and the act of sewing that outpaces similar levels of detail in fight scenes from MAPPA or UFOTable. It really shows a level of passion for the craft of cosplay in the animation that is potentially greater than that in the manga itself.
Honestly, My Dress-Up Darling just might be the best show of the 2022 Winter Season.
My Dress-Up Darling is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll.
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