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The Passion of the Weirdos: My Dress-Up Darling First Impressions

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.

The years have taken a toll on poor little Relm.

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.

In blackface.
On national TV.
Yeep.

And nerds wonder why they got bullied and judged for being nerds before the 2010s.

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.

In an alternate universe, she lands on her neck and dies.

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!

Marin, look, people don’t generally talk about their kinks to people they barely know.

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 profound!
How fuckin’ inspiring for all the awkward ass nerds watching this show!
Little dipshits!

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.

Okay, I now see why Marin is a fan of Shizuku. Me too.

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.)

(Just wanted to add this cool shot of Marin messing with her hair)

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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Rascal Does Not Dream Of Yet Another Light Novel Anime Adaption

Editor’s Note:
These are the mere free-flowing, raw, and unedited thoughts of mines on the first three or four episodes of the Fall 2018 anime “Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai” and my first impressions on it.  There is no structure nor order on how I talk about this show.

A boy wakes up next to a girl around his age sleeping peacefully in his bed.  He looks at her as she awakens and treats her with a “good morning”, in which she returns the greeting back.  As they slowly wake up and indulge in playful teasing and banter of their lack of sleep, I am taken by surprise at the fact that the first episode has opened with our lead male and female characters in bed; suggesting that they are in an intimate relationship.

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Additionally,  the male lead looks and acts like an alpha; a rarity in anime today, as most male teenage leads are doormat simps (just like 90% of male anime fans globally). Finally! A young male anime hero with balls! This is great!  Too great.  Too great to be true.

No, really, it was.  I accidentally downloaded the third episode, not the first.

Because I decided to get stoned out of my mind before watching this anime, I unwitty download episode 3; thinking it was episode 1. Sure, I spoiled myself by seeing Mai and Sakuta together in bed. However, it was a spoiler that I welcomed. I assumed that they got together by the end of episode 2 at the least.

I went back to KissAnime to download episodes 1 and 2.  Episode 1 starts to play and its opening shot was the same opener from episode 3, except with different dialogue.  Mai asks Sakuta if he is going to kiss her, in which Mai disappears and Sakuta awakens from his dream.  Said dream foreshadowing future events.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this at how bold of a move that was.  After all, Rascal Does not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai was written by light novelist Haijime Kamoshida (notable for his works The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, and the beautifully written original coming-of-age high school drama anime Just Because! from Fall 2017).

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Hajime Kamoshida

While I’ve never read The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, I’m a huge fan of Just Because! due to Kamoshida’s approach towards clichéd high school anime archetypes. Example: Rather than to write main character Eita as a new mysterious transfer student who enters a new school during the middle of his first year (like almost every other high school anime), Eita is a senior who transfers back to his hometown’s school district during the second semester (Eita moved away from his hometown during middle school).  Eita’s “new” classmates at his “new” school district are actually a few of his friends from childhood.  Komoshida effetely kills the “mysterious transfer student” idea off and replaces it with a character that’s already established and known by his peers in his city.

Komoshida is a clever writer in that sense, and Bunny Girl Senpai is no exception.

Before discovering that Kamoshida wrote Bunny Girl Senpai,  I had no intention of watching it. Even hearing the show’s name alone made me (foolishly) believe that it was going to be, yet another, fanservicery, run-of-the-mill, below-average light novel anime adaption with a disposable trash waifu. A trash waifu wearing a skimpy bunny girl outfit that Cleverworks will produce figurines of her in said outfit for the fanboys of her to jerk off to and nut on.

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Anything to pander to lonely otakus to get that second season.

These untrue, biased, stupid assumptions were slaughtered once I ran across Mother’s Basement video analysis on the show, explain that Kamoshida wrote the original novel, and discussing the themes of the show (such as bullying, facing rejection, social norms, etc.) So I figure I would give this show a watch.

Glad I did.

The first episode truly proved my earlier assumptions wrong.  I was an idiot to think that this show was going to be garbage!  Why did I allow myself to judge a book by its cover? In my defense, this current era of light novel anime adaptions is stale and bland.  This is not the mid-2000s anymore when we had hard-hitting, thought-provoking, and creative light novel anime adaption coming out left and right.

Remember when the iconic juggernaut The Melancholy of  Haruhi Suzumiya came along and kick everyone’s asses in 2006? That was a light novel anime adaption that not only define light novels and light novel anime – but it was the start of a generation of otaku culture. The success and global cultural impact of Haruhi Suzumiya laid the groundwork for other light novels to be adaptive into TV anime.

I miss those days.

(Of course, that Haruhi laying the groundwork for light novel anime statement is up to debate)

Currently, light novel anime adaptions are a mess. The Goblin Slayer anime spat in the face of its light novel ancestor with its ugly CGI, lack of character development that was found in the original, removing important story plots from the light novel, and a controversial brutal violent scene that was not necessary for a first episode.

Every year, we’re “treated” to another boring, uninspiring isekai (another world) light novel adaption that just has a different gimmick that doesn’t change anything or do anything groundbreaking.

Sword Art Online needs to be taken to the backyard and get shot in the back of its head so it can be taken out of its misery already like the dying, useless dog it is.

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10/10 Photoshop skills. I have a Ph.D.  in Graphic Design from the highly educated university St. Louis Community College Forest Park

Oh, how the era of the great light novel anime adaption has ended
…or so I thought.
Bunny Girl Senpai’s first episode changed my mind.

Off the jump, we see the heroine parading herself around in a public library in nothing but a skimpy bunny girl outfit.  Such a daring, lewd, and perverted act performed by any woman would certainly create attention for her.

But for Mai, – a well-known and beloved actress – there’s no way anybody could ignore her. Questions and comments such as “is she doing this for clout?”, “is this for a movie?”, “is that actress secretly an exhibitionist?”, and “she has fallen so low…” are gonna be said and asked. Everyone is glued to their phones.  Everyone is addicted to social media. Indisputably, people seeking likes, views, and money for viral moments are going to document such an event on their smartphones.

Alas, she goes unnoticed.  No. For real. They don’t notice her. She even bends herself forward towards a salaryman in a way that her breasts are in his face. But since the salaryman doesn’t have the time or the love for these hos, he doesn’t give her an ounce of attention.  You know, maybe they’re just playing pretend.  Mai has done this so often at this library that everyone decided to act like she doesn’t exist because they don’t wanna give her any attention.

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Except they’re not playing pretend.
Mai doesn’t exist – both figuratively and literally.
She isn’t doing this for cheap thrills; it’s a legit cry for help.

Her existence is at risk and unless people notice her, she will die.

Moments later, Sakuta uses his main character powers to spot her walking about and confronts her. Mai, in return, copies Hitagi Senjougahara’s mannerism that she got from the Monogatari playbook and threatens him; demanding that he forgets what he saw and to never associate with her. And because the Monogatari playbook is public domain, Sakuta decides to steal moves from the Koyomi Araragi section and explains to Mai that he knows about her condition (due to personal experience) and that he can help her.

The condition? Puberty Syndrome: a rumored illness that causes sensitivity and instability among youths infected by it.

Mai believes him and accepts his help; thus starting the latest installment of the Monogatari series!
Kidding, of course. (That joke is getting old).

As mentioned (and me making fun of it) earlier, Bunny Girl Senpai (audaciously) borrows ideas from its influences (such as Monogatari) and other classic anime/light novel tropes, stereotypes, archetypes; using them to its advantage to add layers to each character personality. Therefore, the characters are more third dimensional compared to most others in anime that follow said archetypes and stereotypes.

Sakuta is your typical brash, blunt, and bold protagonist who doesn’t give a shit about following the rules, values, and order of society and freely operates outside of them (think Yusuke from Yuu Yuu Hakusho or Travis Touchdown of No More Heroes).  Because Sakuta is an outlier, he is outcast by his peers – even to the degree that his homeboy’s girlfriend tells the man to stop being friends with him; because it would ruin his and her’s high social standing in school (granted, Sakuta tells the girlfriend to fuck off).

 

This could be seen as social commentary, as Japan is a nation of conformity and holds value in being non-confrontational. Standing out and being a person who enjoys confrontation in Japan will get you mocked, ridicule, and disowned: three things I’m sure Sakuta has experienced in his young life due to his mannerism, but I doubt he cares.

“To be quiet, and do as you’re told…that’s the cowardly choice.”
-Gearless Joe, Megalo Box

His sister, Kaede, plays the annoying imouto, or little kid sister role. Kaede affectingly hugs her big brother often, loves getting him out of bed or get in his bed (even if he’s trying to sleep), and she is almost always at his side. She’s soft-spoken when around strangers but truly shines and becomes herself when Sakuta is around.

Pretty annoying, right?

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Kyon’s Sister

Well, Kaede is a victim of (cyber) bullying at her school. She received death threats from her former friends and cruel messages from her classmates telling her that she needs to kill herself. The relentless bullying and vicious messages caused Kaede to withdraw from society to the degree that she became a shut-in. She hates social media and modern technology; as we see her freezing up out of fear when she hears Mai’s phone rings in one episode. Because of her trauma,  Kaede sees Sakuta as a protector of sorts which results in her being close to him.

She finds comfort in her brother.

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All she had to do was walk away from the computer and close her eyes.

Mai, as we saw in the first episode, is clear fanservice bait. Even in the anime promotional art, she’s wearing her bunny girl outfit in public. For this, I can’t blame anyone for thinking Mai does this for attention or thinking that she was designed to be trashy waifu bait. The fanservice and waifu material bits are turned on their heads once you understand the grave reasoning behind Mai’s acts (and character design).

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Haruhi Senjougahara

Mai must do everything and anything within her power to court attention at all costs. Initially, the actress loved the peace and quiet that came with not being in the public’s limelight: something she had been under since childhood. Like any aspiring child actress, she was in “everlasting” bliss that people knew who she was thanks to her  TV and movie roles.  But, over time, the toll and stress of childhood stardom got to Mai and she wanted out of showbiz.

Her breaking point came about at the hands her manipulative manager and agent – her own mother.

During a commercial shoot for cereal (correct me if I’m wrong I don’t remember the full details), Mai’s mother and the video producer suggested that Mai should wear a revealing bikini. Mai refused: as she was in middle school at the time and was understandably disturbed by the idea. Her mom snapped on her; calling her own daughter a disappointment.  It was at that point where Mai decided to retire from show business and stray away from the limelight.

She got her one true wish – at the cost of her existence.

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“The limelight. The actor who steps into this brilliant light attains a heightened presence. All eyes are on him.  There is room for only one actor at a time in the limelight’s narrow beam; do whatever it takes to make yourself its focus. Make your gestures so large, amusing, and scandalous that the light stays on you  while the other actors are left in the shadows.”
Robert Greene, “The 48 Laws of Power”

(It’s ironic to think how Mai desperately worked hard to avoid any form of publicity and attention after her semi-retirement from the entertainment industry and yet, she was hunting it down once she realized that she could die if nobody acknowledges her.  Maybe I’ll do an analysis essay on that one day.)

Watching the first episode (and parts of the second), I’m reminded of the golden era of the light (and visual) novel to anime boom.  Text-based tales coming to life through animation.  Stories crafted by otaku who dare to explore deep themes and issues about society, cultural norms, and life. There weren’t just mindless cartoons that otakus would simply watch and enjoy.  They were shows with layers, messages, themes, and meaning.

It’s refreshing to see Bunny Girl Senpai bring such classic writing back into otaku marketed TV anime.

At the time of this writing, I am currently on episode 3. Sakuta is desperate to keep Mai’s existence alive. He has even gone as far as sacrificing his health by not sleeping (since anyone who’ve sleep after seeing Mai in her “invisible” state will have traces of her existence erased). Mai slips a sleeping pill in one of his caffeine drinks (probably deadly, but okay). She knows that this will erase her existence for him, but she doesn’t want him to put his health at risk – because of the fact she loves him.   In tears, she thanks him for all he has done for her, and fades out of existence.

She’ll come back of course; thanks to Sakuta’s no-fucks-given attitude, however.

Bunny Girl Senpai has been an interesting anime to watch so far.  The mystery of Puberty Syndrome keeps me wondering about how it impacts people and how it shapes society .  The cast has wonderful chemistry with each other, as Mai and Sakuta have amazing banter with one another that helps keep fans interested in their relationship.  Komoshida blending real-world issues such as bullying and blending in with sci-fi and supernatural elements is genius and I can’t wait to see how the writers of the show take his writing style to the next level.

I do hope this anime becomes a hit because I want to see more like it that is otaku driven and uses themes from anime to build layers for its characters.   With people praising it online I sure my hopes will come to life.

…even if it does borrows from Monogatari.
A lot.

-Yuki The Snowman.

 

P.S.

I’m actually caught up with the show and currently waiting for episode 8. I have a theory that the main narrative theme of Futaba’s arc is accepting yourself (as Futaba has to deal with the fact that the second Futaba is the personification of her repressed but true self and she needs to understand it’s a part of her personality). I’m lazy as hell so I didn’t feel like rewriting the bit about episode 3 or whatnot.

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Shadow Futaba

P.P.S

The most real shit I’ve seen in anime in a while love how Sakuta speaks excellent game on standing out and being your own person:

 

 

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