Winter 2022 anime season has officially ended, and out of all the titles from the season, My Dress-Up Darling generated the most discussion in the community. This has been evident by the fact that both of the series’ main characters, Marin Kitagawa and Gojo Wakana, have ranked first in the Anime Corner’s poll for best characters of Winter 2022, among other things. Polls and reviews aside, the fact that there are so many anime fans that are smitten by the duo is proof enough. From full-blown social media accounts dedicated to aesthetic shots of the series, to memes, and video clips – this romantic comedy series won the hearts of anime fans from all over the world.
From a surface level, the premise of My Dress-Up Darling is not exciting or unique. We are introduced to some sort of anime romance nearly every season and a lot of them are centered around a strong female lead. Yet there is so much to uncover when it comes to why anime viewers are so drawn to this series, the realness of it, and how it could shape our perspective of romance duos in the near future.
Making a Generic Genre More ‘Real’
The anime world, or perhaps entertainment in general, has not been stingy when it comes to the romance genre. But the oversaturation of romantic media has led to a point where the genre itself has become so far removed from the realistic feel the audience has. Sure, viewers may find it sweet and all, but it feels manufactured, an evident smear of the author’s chaotic yet beautiful fantasy that sometimes feels far-fetched.
On the other hand, My Dress-Up Darling was a wake-up call for those who really watch romantic series: allowing the true colors of the characters themselves. Unlike generic romance anime series that put a stereotype on the male/female relationship, My Dress-Up Darling was different.
For instance, Gojo has been portrayed from the very start being a quiet and reserved boy. This is somewhat unlikely for a generic romantic series, where it is expected that the male role will always portray itself as being overpowered, zealous, lively, and arrogant, among others. Meanwhile, Marin is more portrayed as a free-spirited girl who is more open to a lot of things and is welcoming when it comes to others’ opinions. This is again unlikely for a stereotypical romance series, where the girl is often depicted as innocent, shy, or fearful.
Now, you might ask yourself: are these depictions really that unique?
They are not. In fact, we’ve met quite a few anime couples that have defied the standardized tripes. From a story of a budding relationship between a human and a robot in Plastic Memories to a fiery duo combo in Toradora!, these past series have at some point had an impact on us. But My Dress-Up Darling brings more than unique characteristics to the romantic table.
The characters slowly grow in each episode and show how their unique traits are vital in supporting each other. From the very beginning of the show where Gojo makes costumes for Marin and Marin openly suggests Gojo stroll around and make good memories, such natural pace of the show really makes the viewers totally root for them.
Unafraid to Show Real Concern and Fragility
There is so much more ‘human’ emotion that really exudes from My Dress-Up Darling as a romantic series, a rarity in on-screen anime romances. While most of these series would end up in this faux/playful banter that actually leads nowhere, the series allows viewers to get a much closer look as to how a simple genuine request leads to much greater things.
This emotion is actually more prevalent on Marin’s side, something that is a rarity for anime female characters to show since she is unafraid to show it all. During episode 4 when Gojo had just finished the first cosplay costume, Marin broke into tears and actually apologized for the miscommunication they had. Had that been a typical romantic scene, Marin would have just laughed it off and given Gojo a hard slap on the back.
And that genuine emotion really blossomed to what I think climaxed the whole series: during episode 6 where Marin actually realizes that she is gushing over Gojo after that ‘beautiful’ compliment during episode five. This transition really shows how words can have a greater gravity that stemmed from Gojo’s genuine efforts. It has been fun to see how Marin gushes over Gojo in multiple instances, from that home date in episode seven to Gojo blushing over Marin’s yukata (and yes, that neck nape) in episode twelve. All of this makes their relationship feel more natural-paced and genuine.
Gojo’s emotions are no short of that genuine aspect, as we have seen his growth from a quiet hina doll maker to being close to a girl he described as ‘a different universe apart’. In episode 4 we see him battling his own doubts and fears, all for the sake of a ‘smile’, a simple yet powerful interpretation of how one’s request can open doors for more beautiful things in life. And that again has been manifested in episode eight, where Gojo appreciated the ocean for the first time and admires the fireworks and Marin in episode twelve.
Moments like this reflect the true nature of genuine relationships. Regardless of our differences and perspectives, as long as we learn how to co-exist and aid each other, there is always a room with a door that awaits us for greater expectations and opportunities.
Summarizing My Dress-Up Darling’s Screen Chemistry
Overall, My Dress-Up Darling’s on-screen romance chemistry will remain a dominant reason why some of us kept going back to this series, re-watched those highlights, and sighed while being smitten. Fan service aside, the series itself is a humorous yet realistic take on a genuine romance between teenagers. After all, as much as we are shy to admit, some of the show’s scenes actually made us flustered. How relatable it is to freak out when a new friend visits your house for the first time? Or how quickly things can escalate when the tension is so breath-taking that you can cut with a knife, just like in episode 11?
After all, the romantic presence of My Dress-Up Darling and the new standards it set will be difficult to top in the future. The anime will definitely become a bit of a benchmark for future romantic duos, much like the manga already did.
You can rewatch My Dress-Up Darling on Crunchyroll and on Bilibili in select regions in Southeast Asia.
Images via Bilibili
©Shinichi Fukuda/SQUARE ENIX, Kisekoi Committee