My Dress-Up Darling: Wholesome and Horny

The winter season of anime was quite the surprise this year. We had not one, but two heavy hitting returning shows. Attack on Titan is going into its grand finale and Demon Slayer came back for the Entertainment District arc. Surely one of those stood at the top of the ratings.

Nope. Neither of those even stood a chance. Sorry Tanjiro and Eren. Marin Kitagawa is simply too powerful for either of you.

My Dress-Up Darling took me completely off-guard. I hadn’t heard of the manga at all until I saw the first trailer. I didn’t completely get the hype, but I was interested.

Then the first episode happened. After that, I very much understood the hype.

Wakana Gojo is an introverted boy that loves hina dolls. In his class is Marin Kitagawa, a beautiful and socially outgoing girl who wears her heart and passions on her sleeves. When Kitagawa discovers Gojo’s secret hobby, learning that he can make clothing, she begs him to help her with her own hobby: cosplay. As the two work together on various costumes and learn more about each other, drama, comedy, and romance ensue.

Our two leads are some of the most likable characters I’ve ever seen in a rom-com. Their chemistry is solid gold and their designs are simply perfect. I’ve already discussed this topic in an earlier article, so I won’t repeat myself here. Point is: they’re both amazing. Marin is best girl of the year and the year only just started.

*Psst! Read that article I mentioned by clicking this line! Okay thanks bye!)

While Marin definitely steals the spotlight (she’s kinda designed to do that), I want to give a bit of love to Gojo. He’s a perfect representation of an awkward, earnest introvert with low self-esteem. It isn’t that he hates himself or other people, he simply thinks it would be better if he just stayed home. When the pressure mounts and he starts getting stressed, he shoulders all the blame on himself and breaks down crying. Yet even when he’s tired and his emotions are running rampant, he gets up and finishes his work. The man stretches himself thinner than paper just because he wants to see Kitagawa smile. The man is a champ and he is the perfect lead for this story.

The side characters are a mixed bag. Only about three of them, Grandpa and the Inui sisters, get enough screen time to get enough development to actually matter. All of the others, namely Kitagawa’s school friends, are only present for one or two scenes and have few, if any, lines of dialogue. None of them are annoying or loathsome, it’s just that they haven’t gotten any time to really become their own characters. Maybe they do in the manga and we’ll see some development for them in season two.

Because you know this is gonna get a season two.

To wrap up on the characters, let’s talk about the voice actors. Hina Suguta and Shoya Ishige are amazing as Kitagawa and Gojo respectively. Atsushi Ono as Gojo’s grandpa is a delight; his voice is chill and smoothing, but the man can also yell in distress to hilarious effect. Atsumi Tanezaki is perfect as the tsundere Sajuna, and Hina Yomiya is absolutely adorable as Shinju.

Surprisingly, I love the English voice cast as well. Amanda Lee brings Kitagawa to life in English, as does Paul Dateh as Gojo. The former perfectly captures her character’s energy and degeneracy while the ladder is soft and awkward while still managing to capture his more powerful displays of distress or confusion very well. R Bruce Elliot as Grandpa, Risa Mei as Sajuna, and Jad Saxton as Shinju are all fine; for those three, I still prefer the Japanese, but they all do very well in their roles.

Also, whoever rewrote the script into English absolutely understood the shows strengths. Seriously, check out the dub on this one. It’s pretty solid.

Now, I can’t exactly talk about how accurate this show’s depiction of cosplay is; I’ve never been much one for cosplay myself. But it certainly seems convincing. Interesting, too! From the choices of the fabric to the wigs even to how they change the shape of their eyes and how they take photos, this show dives deep into how the magic of cosplay actually happens. Not only that, but the choices made in how the costume is made often have actual consequences in the story, such as the thick fabric being a poor choice for a hot day.

On the subject of clothes, I guess we should talk about the fan service. I titled this article ‘Wholesome and Horny’ for a reason. As you might expect from a show all about making clothes, the leading ladies of the show spend a good chunk of their screen time either wearing revealing clothes or changing clothes, so on and so forth.

For the most part, I’m fine with it in this show. Most of the time, it’s used to create sexual tension between the characters, sometimes for drama and sometimes for a laugh, rather than to titilate the viewer. That said, there are a few shots that are a bit… much. Thankfully, those are few and far between, and they never linger.

On the subject of shots: my god, the animation in this show is good! And I’m not just talking about the jiggle physics on the breasts (though those are… surprisingly remarkable). There are some genuinely jaw-dropping displays of sakuga in this show. Hell, the fireworks display in the last episode actually made me gasp!

God bless those poor, overworked animators. They’d better have gotten one hell of a pay raise.

Shout outs to the composer, as well. This show has got some pretty damn catchy music! Every single track goes all-out to make you feel the emotion they’re going for. The happy and upbeat tunes blast the gloom away, the romantic tunes get your heart fluttering, and that one song that plays whenever things get awkward just feels so perfect. Not that the music is overused; there are plenty of scenes where there is no music at all, and the lack of it makes the scene even more powerful!

My Dress-Up Darling is the whole package. It’s sweet, it’s gorgeous, and it’s a ton of fun to watch. The characters are exceptionally written, the subjects the story tackles are incredibly interesting, and it all looks and sounds great to boot. It’s easy to see why this show took over the Winter season so damn quickly.

If you haven’t seen My Dress-Up Darling yet, I’d highly recommend giving it a shot. Even if romantic comedies aren’t your thing, I’d say at least to watch the first episode. This show is truly something special and you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least give it a chance.

Come. Join us here in the church worshipping our goddess, Marin Kitagawa. No, you can never leave. But trust me: you won’t want to.

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