I can fondly remember the day when I discovered the extravagant world of cosplay. It was during my freshman year of high school when I was getting into the SNES era Final Fantasy games through Final Fantasy VI. As I started to fall in love with Final Fantasy VI, I was curious about what more it had to offer after my first run of it.
So, one day, I stumbled upon a romhack of Final Fantasy VI titled Awful Fantasy 3: made by the clearly great and righteous people of the Something Awful forums who totally aren’t toxic folks. I won’t go into many details because I forgot about most of the story of Awful Fantasy 3 due to the passage of time (and the passage of alcohol, weed, and shrooms through my body over the years), but I do remember that the game mentioned cosplayers a lot.
According to Awful Fantasy 3, cosplayers were deranged people with possible mental health illnesses who gathered around at convention centers across America. These people spent their time at conventions creating conflict and engaging the vilest of debauchery one human can do in a weekend dressed up as their favorite characters from nerd media. Awful Fantasy 3 drove the point home that cosplayers were the enemy of the society who deserves to be purged to cleanse the world of their filth.
As fate would have it, a few days later, I managed to catch a replay of g4’s G-Phoria 2003 Game Awards Show during their lead-up to their 2004’s Game Awards Show. What made this special was that there was a special cosplay segment for fans to show off their cosplay celebrating video games and anime. However, what caught my eye from the segment was a short, two-minute skit featuring cosplayers from Kingdom Hearts. One of them was a grown-ass man with a five ‘o clock shadow dressed as Sora. Another guy was dressed up as Ansem.
On national TV.
So, after seeing that blackface cosplay mess in G-Phoria 2003, I came to a great and enlightened understanding of why the folks over at Something Awful wanted to purge the world of cosplay and cosplayers. Me too. Fourteen years old Yuki wanted to round them all up with their families, put them in a sporting venue, tied them to stakes, and gun them all down in front of their loved ones like we’re in North Korea best Korea. But for real, that was a horrible first impression of the world of cosplay and cosplayers.
(My disdain for you cosplayers has yet to wane.)
However, what didn’t leave me with a horrible first impression when it comes to the world of cosplay and cosplayers is Cloverworks’s latest animation series: My Dress Up Darling. Directed by Keisuke Shinohara My Dress-Up Darling centers around co-protagonist Wakana Gojo: a young first-year high-school student who yearns of becoming a hina doll creator. It is because of his hobby of doll maki- wait, sorry, hina creation (y’all know, we gotta be culturally correct to make it less disturbing that a high school male is making dolls) hobby that Wakana has never made any friends.
That is until the popular gyaru Marin Kitagawa crash lands into his life.
Marin is a giant otaku cosplayer. Or she would be a cosplayer if she didn’t have the sewing skills of a special needs snail. However, she makes up for it in being a pervert who likes to talk about ero-games that features sex slaves, gothic lolitas in bondage chains being gagged, and super happy endings (it’s up to you to come up with what she meant by “super happy ending” given that Marin’s a perv) out in public. Because, you know, if you gonna have an anime girl who was clearly designed to be waifu of the season and possibly waifu of the year, you gotta make her a pervert to cater to males who’ll never have a chance with real women who enjoy things like cosplay, being perverted, and fucked up h-games with sex slaves!
After talking to Wakana on why he shouldn’t let his classmates take advantage of him, Marin decides to take advantage of Wakana by asking him to make her an outfit based off her favorite hentai video game character. This is due to her seeing Wakana sewing in the old sewing club room of their school. She becomes all giddily that someone in her class can sew and help her bring her favorite anime porn game character to life through the magic of cosplay!
Typical anime rom-com hilariously pops off. Marin strips behind Wakana to put on her shitty, raggedy cosplay while Wakana is being a scared little pussy scared of the pussy. Marin projects her creepy fetishes (and possible crimes of harboring sex slaves at her house and having non-consensual sex) onto a fictional character so Wakana doesn’t freak out and assume that Marin is a degenerate.
Later, we see that Wakana truly doesn’t have any experience with girls as Marin comes over to his house so that he can take her measurements for said cosplay while she’s wearing a swimsuit. Wakana is incredibly flustered by it. But’s it’s cool because Marin also winds up also flustered when Wakana has to get up close and personal to measure her inseam. And wow, how amazing. They discover that they’re both awkward little weirdos when it comes to the opposite sex and what they’re into.
How fuckin’ inspiring for all the awkward ass nerds watching this show!
But, I can’t lie: As cliche as it is, I do find it admirable that both Wakana and Marin’s friendship blossomed over the fact that they are weirdos who’ve struggled to share their most sacred passion with others who get where they’re coming from. From their new friendship, they found empowerment in being able to express themselves with their art.
And that’s a great thing.
I wholeheartedly believe that people deserve to share their hobbies with those who won’t judge them for said hobbies (as long as the hobbies are ethical and morally right, of course). From what I’ve noticed from the first two episodes, acceptance and passion will be two of the core themes of My Dressup Darling…outside of the whole cosplay thing, obviously.
While on the topic of noticing things, I couldn’t help but be aware of the highly detailed and amazing character design, art, and animation. I mean, you would have to be a fool to work on an animation project that is catered around cosplay (and fashion I assume) and not place your focus on the visuals. I love how Marin’s “cosplay” visually looks like it was put together by someone who didn’t know what they were doing down to the horrible, careless stitching job.
You can feel the passion that Marin has for Shizuku-tan and the game she’s from as she talks about her with expressive body movement at the beginning of episode 2. It’s like talking to that one incredibly passionate friend who’s expressing her love towards something that gives her joy; seeing them become alive through their words, tone, and body language.
On the subject of Shizuku, she has a beautiful design with her purple, red, and black color scheme as well as her being a gothic lolita. Don’t be shocked when we see a lot of women cosplaying as Shizuku during the 2022 anime convention season.
I also gotta give praise to the clever usage of lighting in this show. Now, I’m not gonna act like I’m some pretentious dipshit elitist film school student who hasn’t done anything with their knowledge of filmmaking outside of making YouTube videos over the lighting. But, I love how in the first episode when Wakana is having his inner monologue about Marin and her friends, there is this brightness that surrounds Marin; telling us about Marin’s nature without actually telling us. In comparison, when Wakana talks about himself, the shot is dull and dark. This tells us that Wakana’s life perhaps hasn’t been the best: with him being an orphan, battling insecurities, and being friendless. It isn’t until he becomes friends with Marin that shots with him are bright.
At the time of this article’s publishing, My Dressup Darling is a wonderful show of how people can come alive when sharing their passion as well as helping others take said passion to the next level. I can’t help myself but root for Wakana to get over his fears of being judged for what he like as well as rooting for Marin to bring her favorite character to life through the power of cosplay. The two have clear chemistry that is driven by their love for their hobbies. I’m tempted to just say screw it and read the manga to get ahead because I am curious about these two and their story.
My only gripe I have with this show so far is that Wakana is, again, your typical high-school male student who is scared of being around a (half-naked) girl when Marin visited him at his house to get measured. Seriously, Japan, kill this trope – now. Yall wonder why your birthrate is so low and yall can’t get young men to get into physical relationships with women.
If you’re someone who loves sewing, cosplay, ever dealt with struggling to express your passion, or just want a feel-good rom-com about two passionate weirdos, I can’t recommend My Dressup Darling enough. With how popular it is and the community talking about it daily, I wouldn’t be shocked if it becomes a contender for anime of the 2022 winter season. I’ll even go as far as saying that it could be anime of the year.
(…don’t come after me if it doesn’t become either anime of the season or year.)
The Swarthy Nerd Podcast
A Black nerd empowerment podcast where Black nerds (well, all nerds, but Black first and foremost) can get together and talk freely about nerd culture while also acknowledging systematic white supremacy and racism in nerd culture. Every Tuesdays we drop episodes containing serious and laidback topics while Saturdays we drop episodes talking about TV shows, anime, film, comics, manga, and video games.
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Yuki The Snowman