My Dress Up Darling (Sono Bisuku Doru wa Koi o Suru in its native Japan) has become the biggest and latest anime sensation to hit the world this season. That’s not bad for a relatively new slice-of-life anime that’s based on a relatively unknown manga. It could have been just one of those shows that hit the airwaves and no one could have thought anything of it. Yet this anime featuring a loner guy who loves to make clothing for hina dolls and a highly extroverted gyaru gal who loves doing cosplay of her favorite characters from anime and eroge games has become a big hit with anime fans.
Of course, when anything becomes extremely popular, there eventually will be some backlash. And My Dress Up Darling has certainly made itself an easy target for several reasons. But the biggest criticism the anime has gotten, even before it was even shown, was it was all fanservice and no real substance. However, if you do push past the more *ahem* superficial moments of My Dress Up Darling, there’s definitely a lot more underneath than just being ecchi.
For those not in the know, My Dress Up Darling or Sono Bisuku Doru wa Koi o Suru, which translates to “The Porcelain Doll Who Fell in Love” (I’m really glad they chose title it My Dress Up Darling in the West), follows aspiring hina doll craftsman Gojo Wakana and super outgoing Marin Kitagawa. Gojo literally has no friends as, when he was young, was shamed for liking hina dolls in the first place. This led him to shut himself from the world as this made him seem like a weirdo. While working on one of his doll’s outfits in the school sewing room, Marin stumbles upon his sewing skills and, being a total novice, asks him if he could put together a cosplay outfit. This then starts a friendship/romantic relationship between the two.
Now, I will not be a hypocrite and say there is no fanservice in My Dress Up Darling. Heck, the first several episodes are definitely packed with it! In fact, it can be downright ecchi with the amount of female lewdness it manages to get away with. The first episode already alluded to what was to come, with Marin almost undressing in front of Gojo to put on her cosplay and revealing her underwear to him. The second episode definitely goes into full overdrive with a bikini-clad Marin jiggling all over the place! Later episodes do show more extreme scenes, such as Gojo walking in on a lolli (who’s actually a teenager so it’s okay?) after her bath and a middle schooler (who looks like a teenager so it’s okay) popping off buttons on her blouse because her chest are super huge. Still, just having Marin jiggling is enough to say My Dress Up Darling is so totally just about fanservice, right? Well, I can understand that viewpoint in a way.
But to totally write off My Dress Up Darling as nothing to offer but fanservice is definitely selling the anime short as there is a whole lot more to it.
For one thing, the male protagonist, Gojo Wakana, is generally relatable. He’s someone who’s basically misunderstood because of his love of hina dolls. I’m guessing a lot of us geeks can understand the feeling of being made fun of for the things we like. It may be something like enjoying cartoons, comics, superheroes, anime, video games and the like. Whatever it is, most of us must have experienced feeling alienated for the things we love. This can definitely turn you into a loner, especially if this kind of alienation starts when you’re at a very young and impressionable age. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you have to like something or behave in a certain way because of your age and gender. This happened to Gojo and I bet this must have happened to, at the very least, some of you reading this.
On the other side of things, we have Marin Kitagawa, the outgoing gyaru gal. A lot has been said about Marin as she’s now in line to be this year’s best waifu of the season, if not the entire anime year. There’s a lot to like about her. She does seem immune to that way of thinking, even explaining to Gojo in the first episode that she like eroge games, despite the general consensus that she shouldn’t because she’s a girl. She’s definitely more confident and not particularly shy about strutting around in front of Gojo in revealing outfits, which, if you really think of it, is kind of like a metaphor of her personality. She’s generally not afraid to “bare it all,” so to speak.
That doesn’t mean Marin doesn’t have any insecurities, however. While she’s definitely not shy about flaunting her assets, she does like to portray a certain image. She’s still self-conscious about her looks, despite knowing how hot she looks. In the episode where Gojo visits Marin’s home, she wasn’t embarrassed to answer the door wearing next to nothing. Rather, she was more self-conscious about having Gojo seeing her without her colored contacts. In fact, later in the episode, when she realizes she wasn’t wearing a bra, Marin thinks Gojo didn’t notice it. I’m guessing he did!
Also, despite appearing to be super confident about herself, Marin can still be incredibly shy when it comes to revealing her true feelings. And, honestly, it’s how Marin and Gojo’s relationship is slowly evolving that makes it more than just fanservice.
While My Dress Up Darling has only shown a total of nine episodes, there’s already a whole lot of character development from both Gojo and Marin. Gojo has broken out of his introvert shell a little bit as he’s managed to form a bond with Marin. He attracted to the beautiful gyaru, for sure. But it’s more than just Marin’s sex appeal that makes him like her. It’s the way he reassured him that it’s okay to like things that may come off as weird. Marin also begins to feel an attraction to Gojo as he described her as beautiful. That may not mean a whole lot in the general sense. But it was revealed in one of the earlier episodes that Gojo just doesn’t drop the word carelessly. So when he says it, it really means something to him.
And this is where things got interesting for me because we switch viewpoints. Initially, we only get to see Gojo’s side of the story as you can hear his inner monologue. It’s around when Marin starts falling for Gojo we start to see things from her point of view and hear her thoughts. This makes it really feel that both Gojo and Marin are both the main characters and are equals. While this has been done in other animes like Kaguya-Sama: Love is War, it’s usually done to show their scheming and them trying to out think the other person. In My Dress Up Darling, you only see what each person is thinking at one time. There’s no rivalry or them imagining what the other person is plotting. It’s just two people giving an inner monologue to themselves.
Adding to what makes My Dress Up Darling special is, strange as it may sound, it doesn’t really do anything crazy. There’s not insane circumstances like one of them is insanely in love with the other person. The two aren’t even infatuated with each other when they first meet. However, they develop a kind of symbiotic relationship, with Gojo getting inspired by Marin’s love for cosplay and Marin being impressed by Gojo’s eye for detail. It’s the moments they’re together that makes the anime feel more than just wanting to ogle at Marin. Heck, the anime beats the traditional beach episode as the two just go there after school. Sure, you get an obligatory panty shot from Marin but, mostly, it’s just the two of them hanging out on the beach. The beach episode is usually the one with the most insanity but My Dress Up Darling bucks the trend as it’s actually one of the more quieter moments of the series as of right now.
It can be hard to look past My Dress Up Darling’s fanservice as it is strongly on display a lot of the time. However, to simply think it’s all fanservice would be doing a disservice to the characters as you can see them grow and develop. Sure, Marin may be smoking hot but the show does take it’s time to let you know she’s more than just that. Gojo might seem like the typical introvert loner you’ve seen in other animes but you can see him slowly gain more confidence in his craft and, more importantly, himself. What I’m saying is, if you’ve ignored My Dress Up Darling because you just thought it was an immature show more interested in titillation than substance, then I say you’re missing out.
Have you seen My Dress Up Darling? What do you think of it so far? Let me know in the comments section below!