Though the show’s title—My Dress-Up Darling (Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru)—might make it sound like a poorly-made Flash dress-up game from the 2000s, this CloverWorks anime has been one of the highlights of the winter anime season.
The show centers on high schoolers Wakana Gojou and Marin Kitagawa. Gojou wants to be a master craftsman making hina dolls, while Marin has a secret nobody knows: she wants to cosplay her favorite characters. Marin discovers Gojou’s skill with a sewing machine, and due to her lack of skill in creating costumes, enlists his help.
The situation itself isn’t all too outlandish, but the duo’s chemistry and interactions are fun to watch. While the show posits itself as a romantic comedy, Gojou’s meekness and lack of confidence, in direct contrast to Marin’s sunny personality, are what drive the fun between the two.
Youthful characters and their problems portrayed maturely
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The very first sequence in the anime isn’t about Marin, but Gojou, and how his telling a childhood friend about his love for hina dolls gets him labeled as “creepy.” Though he holds on to his passion, he keeps his adoration—and the resultant low self-esteem and lack of social life—close to his chest.
More importantly, My Dress-Up Darling doesn’t brush off Gojou’s flaws or treat them as laughing matters.
One particular scene in episode two, where Gojou meets Marin’s friends, could easily turn into an anime cliche with a “why are you hanging out with this loser” kind of joke. Instead, her friends introduce themselves, offer him candy, and even point out how Marin’s overwhelming personality is bothering the reserved Gojou. It’s a surprisingly mature treatment of the characters—which makes them feel relatable—instead of relying on cheap and cliche gags.
Gojou is reticent about his true self to others, but the viewers understand how he feels, and how he tries to fix them to little avail. Well, at least not until a chance meeting with Marin turns his world upside down, allowing him to slowly come out of his shell.
The overall message of the show, of living out your passions and having others respect and encourage that, is also prominent. Although Marin enjoys adult video games, Gojo never judges her for that and even plays through the games himself so that he can create the most realistic costume for her.
Any fan of obscure interests will have felt reluctant to share them because they might not feel understood, but the show is very good about treating these fans with respect and portraying their enthusiasm.
Surprisingly technical dive into cosplay
For people who are interested in cosplay culture, My Dress-Up Darling will be a treat.
The show dedicates half an episode just to take accurate measurements! And another half to shopping for materials! This is possibly the most in-depth fictitious look into the technical side of making a cosplay costume, all the while celebrating the immense transformations and hard work people are willing to go through to resemble their favorite characters.
And even if you aren’t that interested in the practical side of cosplaying, Marin’s enthusiasm and Gojou’s diligence are infections. Passion is great to watch, and this show is an unadulterated shot straight into the veins.
Marin best girl
If you have a need for a new waifu (one can never have too many), look no further.
Marin is a confident and outgoing gyaru otaku who is respectful towards others, passionate, and cute as hell. She’s sugar, spice, and everything nice in a complete package, and just her abashed reactions when her poised front breaks make for a fun watch.
Look, we humans are visual beings. Simply observe Marin in action.
Slight spoilers ahead in the gif:
Be warned, however, that My Dress-Up Darling probably wouldn’t be the best anime to introduce to a friend completely uninterested in anime, nor somebody that would squirm at any mention of lewdness. Though the show has lovable, relatable characters, it does dive into some esoteric hobbies, and does not shy away from fanservice. They are, in my honest opinion, pretty tasteful and not blatantly shoved in, serve as a way to reveal the characters’ personalities, and actually makes sense and advance the plot, but still.
But while the show ostensibly focuses on Marin’s cosplay passion and Gojo’s pursuit of being a master hina doll craftsman, it’s also a self-aware and delightful romantic comedy with likable characters that already show promising progression six episodes in. The show doesn’t seem to position itself as a “will they, won’t they” to drag out the plot. It’s very firmly “they will,” and we get to enjoy all the delightful little interactions in the two’s firm pursuit of their passions—and each other.