With the anime season all but finished, it’s safe to say that the last few months have kind of sucked. There just hasn’t been much going on this time around, thanks to a certain show sucking up all the oxygen. However there thankfully was one show that was able to step outside that realm of ‘meh’. After the cut let’s take a dive into My Dress-Up Darling.
What can be said about this show that hasn’t already been said? This is an anime that in the short time it has been on, has sky-rocketed to the top of people’s watch lists, it’s main female character has almost been deified. The music (oh my god the opening and ending themes!), the animation, the content, the fanservice, all of it has been top tier. Is much of that because there has almost been nothing else this season to compare? Probably. But I also think that there is something Darling has that makes people tune in every week.
The story itself is wholesome and simple. We follow high-schooler Wakana Gojo, a shy and subdued young man with a passion for creating hina dolls. After getting that passion thrown in his face as a young child, he keeps things to himself and doesn’t let it get out. However a chance encounter with the pretty, popular and free-spirited Marin Kitagawa allows him to enter the world of cosplay, as his skills and ability to create dresses helps fulfill Marin’s desire to replicate her favorite characters. What follows is twelve episodes of wholesome fun as they navigate the process of bringing anime characters to life.
Now that feels very much like the plot of any slice of life romance, and in truth that is what Darling it is. On the whole, there is nothing about this show that stands out when initially looking at it. Romances like these are a dime a dozen and you can really just take your pick. But what sets Darling apart is three things. One is that the show is absolutely gorgeous, with a budget and level of effort that is normally reserved for films and peak shonen shows. The amount of detail shown in the movements, hair, and facial expressions is top tier. Even the most basic things like sitting, or brushing one’s hair back have more frames put into them than most anime. I have never seen characters feel so alive in this genre, and almost every week I was blown away by the amount of effort that was put into this show.
Second is that Darling is able to strike a perfect balance between sexy and smart. Aside from a single gag in the second episode that drags on too long, Darling is able to show the process behind creating costumes and look good doing it. Marin is absolutely gorgeous and the show wants you to know it, putting in her beautiful costumes, and scenes that would put some other fanservice shows to shame. It never feels intrusive or perverse, as some anime can end up being, instead there is a level of restraint, but commitment that makes the scenes pop and reminds viewers that when done right, fanservice can be just as breathtaking as the fiercest of battle scenes. Even better is the attention spent on the actual design process. While not a ‘to-do’ guide, the most engrossing moments were when Gojo and Marin had to try to replicate something that was always meant to stay on the page. I always knew very little about cosplay, and I left almost each episode feeling like I learned something, and realized that fuck, a lot of effort goes into this artform.
Finally, and most importantly, it is the chemistry between Marin and Gojo that works so well. I’ll get into this a bit more next week as I dive into Marin herself (who is everything I thought Komi was going to be), but the level of chemistry she and Gojo have is the series secret sauce. Her fun loving attitude, the fact that she wears her passion on her sleeve, all of it helps endear her to an audience that often is faced with the same archetypes over and over. Even better is that the romance mostly comes from her side, and watching Marin go gaga for Gojo is a refreshing take on shows like this. Yes he is intimidated by her beauty (who wouldn’t be at his age?) but it is his ability, commitment and professionalism to Marin and her hobby is enough to make any girl swoon and it is easy to see why she is so attracted to him. This is a good pairing, taking the best from couples like Steins;Gate’s Okabe and Kurisu and Unlimited Blade Works’ Shirou and Rin to have a relationship that feels at the very least, authentic.
As the year in anime trudges on. I have no doubt many viewers will forget this show. With a slew of popular sequels and other anime coming down the pipe, something like this show will probably get lost in the cracks. That is understandable, but I do hope that doesn’t end up being the case. My Dress-Up Darling is a stellar example of a romantic comedy and easily the best show that came out this season (if you don’t care for Titans). It’s cute, it’s wholesome, it’s fucking gorgeous and yeah, it is damn sexy. This easily slides into my ‘personal recommendation’ of the year, and will probably stay there for the foreseeable future. I do hope this isn’t the last time we see this world and its characters, because I already find myself wanting to go back. Give it a look yourself and see what you think, and remember that beauty isn’t always skin-deep. Or just for the awesome ass music.