[Review] My Dress-Up Darling

The creators of My Dress-Up Darling couldn’t have named this series any better, because it accurately summarizes the adoration this show’s heroine received this winter. No other girl could even compete in the light of Marin’s glittering smile and outheld hand. You’d have an easier time just going with the flow than trying to ignore her and the force of her cosplay aspirations–not that I think you should do that. I 100% support joining Gojou on this journey that is cosplay and friendship and accepting your passions.

From the beginning, I knew I was going to love this show, its characters, and their exploration of cosplay. Even though we started with Wakana Gojou as our point-of-view, as well as his passion for hina dolls, it was pretty apparent this was going to be the Marin show the second she flew into the screen. This is actually a point of contention for viewers who had hoped that we’d more closely follow Gojou rather than sidelining his hobbies, and arguably his story, in favor of Marin, and I can understand that view even if I don’t fully agree with it. The title and character introductions make it pretty clear where the focus on MDD will be, and while the main focus may move there is still plenty of development for Gojou.

His hobbies shape so much of who he is, but that alone isn’t enough for self-fulfillment. At the start, we see him looking out at the world but not actively engaging in it. He gazes at his dolls, but struggles to accurately portray the emotions he loves to see in those of his grandfather’s works. We’re also privy to a flashback where his hobby is ridiculed by another kid as creepy specifically because he’s a boy who likes “girls’ dolls.” As ridiculous as this accusation is, it’s sadly not that uncommon a reaction, even among children.

Rather than tackling this moment head on with a Gojou-led plot where he becomes some amazing hina doll maker and confronts the girl from his past to prove her wrong and make her grovel in apologies (that or they fall in love or something), we instead take an indirect path to growth with Marin. Beautiful, cheerful, and popular, there’s seemingly little to dislike about her. In a role where you might expect someone so perfect to live with a façade hiding her true self, Marin is explicitly Marin. Arguments regarding looks making this possible aside, she isn’t embarrassed of her hobbies and isn’t shy about calling out others for their ridicule. When she finds out about Gojou’s interests, she celebrates and encourages him. When he tries to “save” her reputation by avoiding her, she names him Friend and keeps him close no matter the setting. There’s nothing she doesn’t pursue with her whole being, and that kind of energy is both addictive and inspiring.

I would be remiss to discuss this show and not bring up another aspect that might put people off, and that’s the show’s sexual content. Marin and Gojou’s chemistry is positively sizzling off the screen right from the very beginning–the second episode in particular shocked quite a number of viewers. We spend almost the full session locked in a room with the two of them as Gojou measures Marin for her requested outfit. His embarrassment rolls off him like a tsunami you have no hope of escaping. She, in turn, could care less about showing some bare skin. Given the infancy of their friendship and our lack of familiarity with them, this moment comes across as an onslaught of flesh and emotions. As they get to know each other more over the course of the season, similar scenes actually lessen in shock value. By the time we make it to the end with a private photo shoot in a love hotel, the excitement focuses mostly on the character and outfit–of course we’re also audience to the show’s highest point of sexual tension, but by now the viewer probably already expects it. Instead of cringing or hiding behind pillows, we’re there with them equally curious about what will happen next.

As a coming-of-age story and highlight of the joys of cosplay, My Dress-Up Darling hits a homerun. We’re reminded to embrace our passions while still engaging with the people and environment around us. Cosplay can mean many different things to the many people who experience it, the cosplayers themselves, their support team, the fans who celebrate the art. As an outsider, this show helped me see a little bit of what the world is like, and I can appreciate and admire it even more than I did before.

Rating: 1 dango

*Rating system:

  • 0 dango – average and forgettable.
  • 1 dango – very good in its category.
  • 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
  • 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.

4 thoughts on “[Review] My Dress-Up Darling

  1. I had actually started reading the manga before the show came out, and was really glad to see it animated. The best part of the show was the characterization of all the characters. These are characters that I would love people to look at and say “I want to be like that!” It’s a little tough to recommend the show to people, because of the things you mention, but I don’t know that it’s necessarily out of place. But overall, I love the way that they’re both interested in each other, but don’t let it dominate their interactions, don’t let it override their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Does the manga go much further than where the anime ends? If so, I’d be very curious about trying it! But yeah, I remember a friend asking whether or not I’d call this “heartwarming,” and I definitely would to a certain degree, but the ultimate takeaway from that question I think for them was that it isn’t heartwarming as traditionally defined given its explicit content.


      • The manga is still continuing, and they’re at about Ch 70+, where this show got through about Ch 39. So there’s a lot more content in the manga so far than the show got to.

        I agree, it’s really not something I’d call ‘heartwarming’ in the traditional sense of the phrase, but it IS kind of heartwarming in that you have people who are able to find, and give to others, affirmation of what they like, what they want to be, and that they’re not wrong to be wanting to do that. It highlights the best parts of a community, while modeling the way a community should act. The successes of each of them are things to be celebrated, not torn down out of jealousy. The community comes together to help people through challenges and welcomes so many people. The community helps everyone get better both at the activity and at being people. Sure, you can imagine that there are people that they interact with off-screen that are less accepting, or less helpful, but also the show works to shut down that negativity through behavior modeling, with Marin not ever being ashamed of what she likes or what she’s doing, and not afraid to stick it to some guy trying to neg her. If more people tried to conduct themselves like anyone in this show or manga, the world would be better, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

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