Fanservice Or More: What Makes My Dress Up Darling So Special?

You would think that in a season packed with headliners like Attack on Titan: The Final Season/ Attack on Titan Season 4 or Demon Slayer: Entertainment District Arc/ Season 2, a rom-com ecchi show about cosplay would fly under people’s radar.

However, despite the competition, My Dress Up Darling managed to stand out and garner quite an audience this Winter 2022.

My Dress Up Darling, or Sono Bisque Doll Wa Koi Wo Suru, is a slice-of-life romance comedy anime produced by Cloverworks and adapted from Shinichi Fukuda‘s ongoing manga series of the same name.

Set in high school, the story follows Gojo Wakana, an introverted boy who spends all his time on his family business and passion, which is making traditional Japanese Hina dolls, and Kitagawa Marin, a popular-pretty otaku girl, as the two delve into the world of cosplay.

While My Dress Up Darling has gotten quite a lot of attention for its ecchi elements—admittedly, it’s got some of the best looking, high budget fanservice I have ever seen— that definitely is not all the show has to offer.

Along with all the (really well done) skin show, the anime contains solid comedy, engaging narratives and character relations that has gotten fans invested in it.

Read on, as I try to explore what exactly makes My Dress Up Darling so appealing to viewers this season?

Production Value:

Right off the bat, My Dress Up Darling looks and sounds amazing. Cloverworks proved how well they could do character animation with shows like Wonder Egg Priority and Horimiya in 2020, and here they are proving it again.

Each character’s movements are extremely fluid and well detailed. Even simple conversational scenes appear much more alive because of the extra movements.

The smooth animation, striking art, and vibrant colors (I especially love the colors they chose for their school uniform) combined with the great character designs, make My Dress Up Darling a treat to watch.

Often, such high school slice-of-life rom-coms are adapted with a minimal budget and mediocre animation but the effort Cloverworks is putting into this series is clearly visible.

This pays off, especially in a series about cosplay. Although we have only seen one costume so far, the absolutely gorgeous cosplay really helped us understand Marin’s overwhelming passion for the practice.

The cute and catchy opening and ending themes used in the anime end up being cherries on top.

My Dress Up Darling's first cosplay
The show’s first cosplay

An Interesting Hook— Cosplay

My Dress Up Darling’s premise, for the most part, is not particularly original or interesting. An introverted-loner-guy-meets-extroverted-pretty-girl has become an extremely overused trope in recent years. However, the show’s exploration of cosplay serves as an interesting hook.

Cosplay culture has been an integral part of the anime community for decades now. While almost every anime that deals with Otaku culture will probably feature one or two episodes on cosplay, Sono Bisque is perhaps the first major work to explore it in such detail.

The show does not use cosplay as a simple tool to bring its two characters together. Instead, My Dress Up Darling explores cosplay in depth; from the choosing of materials, doing character research, to designing and making the clothes and posing and taking pictures, everything that makes up the profession is in the spotlight.

It showcases both the sheer amount of hard work that goes into a good cosplay and the satisfaction that comes from pulling it off.

Cosplay is something most people within the anime community either enjoy doing or would love to try out in some capacity. Thus watching a show deal with the practice in such detail feels really exciting and engaging.

What Haikyuu!! was to volleyball or Your Lie in April to classical music, My Dress Up Darling has the potential to be to cosplay.

The Characters

Okay enough beating around the bush. You’re either here because you’ve seen the anime or because you saw some clip/ image of a certain blonde, choker wearing, cosplay enthusiast somewhere.

So, let’s talk about the biggest appeal of this show so far and what caught everyone’s attention—Marin Kitagawa herself.

Marin Kitagawa My Dress Up Darling
Marin Kitagawa, aka future Crunchyroll Anime Awards 2022 Best Girl winner

While Gojo is certainly not a bad character, Marin absolutely steals the show. Her entire character is just so refreshing and so much fun to watch. She’s confident, funny, flirty yet also laid back and non judgmental, making her an instantly likable character.

Perhaps one of the things that make Marin’s character so appealing are her contrasting natures. She’s very much the attractive, stylish, extroverted, popular girl at school but at the same time she’s a massive otaku whose favourite character is from an eroge.

Marin is also incredibly comfortable with herself and has no problem being exactly who she is—a giant otaku. Seeing this trait in a gyaru character, usually depicted as shallow or superficial, feels fresh.

However, something that I really liked about these two characters is that they both have their own distinct passions, motivations and lives. Marin is a professional model and Gojo has his Hina dolls. Neither exists as purely a romantic interest for the other.

While both Marin and Gojo’s characters seem to align themselves with the popular-girl-meets-loner-guy archetype, they and their relationship have the potential to develop into something with more depth.

Character Dynamic and Romance

My Dress Up Darling has both solid characters as well as a solid character dynamic. Marin and Gojo are polar opposites yet click incredibly well with each other.

Gojo’s reactions to the excessively open Marin are hilarious and much of the show’s comedy comes from their interactions with each other.

While it may be too early to tell, My Dress Up Darling seems to be getting another thing right that many other shows did not—pacing.

In romance anime, pacing and development can be too slow, like with series such as Komi-san wa Komyushuu Desu or Rental Girlfriend, where basically nothing happens for ages or it can be rushed and forced, like it was in Yesterday wo Utatte.

However, in My Dress Up Darling, Marin and Gojo’s relationship develops naturally along with it at a good pace. Although no drastic developments have happened in their relationship yet, romantic tension is definitely present.

Their dynamic has been developing organically, through the time they spend together for cosplay, from strangers to friends and maybe romantic interest. The progression feels natural and is great to watch.

My Dress Up Darling’s popularity can be justified through its production value, interesting exploration of cosplay, likable characters and natural romance; not just the ecchi.

The show is just so fun to watch! If you have not already, I would definitely recommend you to go check My Dress Up Darling out.

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