A Look At “My Dress-Up Darling” Manga

My Dress-Up Darling
その着せ替え人形ビスク・ドールは恋をする
Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru

That Bisque Doll Can Fall in Love

I often receive requests to read or watch a series. I always jot them down, but due to time constraints and other factors, I can only get to them when I’m able. My memory is blank on who suggested I read My Dress-Up Darling, so I do apologize for that. However, I recently had an opportunity to read the manga and decided to give it a whirl.

Note: My Dress-Up Darling is published in the bi-monthly (twice a month) manga magazine Young Gangan.

The Story, in Brief

My Dress-Up DarlingGOJOU Wakana is an orphaned, introverted, high school boy. He lives with his grandfather, who is a respected maker of Hina dolls. Wakana’s passion is to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. While Wakana is great at making doll clothing, he has yet to master the fine art of making the Hina doll face. One of his female classmates is KITAGAWA Marin. She’s an extrovert, popular, and a gyaru. However, she’s also an otaku and lives alone after her mom died and her father is busy with work.

When Wakana’s grandfather’s ancient sewing machine breaks, Wakana is forced to use a modern one at school to make doll clothing. Marin catches him and is impressed. She shows off a poorly made cosplay dress she sewed. He’s horrified at it, but after putting his foot in his mouth, Marin wants him to make cosplay clothing for her. The character she wants to cosplay is from an ero-game, which Marin plays. He agrees, even going so far as to play the game to know the character.

Marin helps Wakana come out of his shell, going shopping with him for her outfit and even going out to eat. A misunderstanding causes Wakana to think he has no time to make Marin’s outfit. He pushes through anyway and Marin apologizes for the confusion. But with the outfit done, the two decide to attend the cosplay event to great success.

As a result, Marin and Wakana are introduced to other cosplayers, some of whom Wakana makes costumes for. Marin falls in love for Wakana. He falls for her, but doesn’t believe someone as hot as Marin would be interested in him that way.

A Good Start

My Dress-Up DarlingThe manga series Genshiken first introduced me to the Japanese world of cosplay. With Haganai, I was introduced to the idea of a popular female character liking standard hentai games that weren’t specifically yaoi/BL. But otherwise, these two areas of Japanese otaku life aren’t things I’ve read a ton of. As such, making Marin a wannabe cosplayer as well as someone who plays H games targeted at guys feels fresh to me. Further, making her a gyaru otaku also felt fresh.

With Wakana, he is the classic introvert male trope. However, rather than being an otaku, he just wants to be a Hina doll maker, which is unique in my reading/viewing experience. That said, the rest of his actions regarding Marin are standard, cliched stuff. Even though he’s making clothing for her, he has trouble seeing her in even a swimsuit bikini. At the start, I’m okay with this, but after a certain amount of time, it grows wearisome. More on that later.

Nevertheless, despite some cliches in how Marin and Wakana become close friends and work on her hobby, I really enjoyed this part of My Dress-Up Darling. It was a delight seeing both Marin and Wakana push forward together into unknown territory. And when Marin first started seeing Wakana as a guy and not just a classmate and friend, I enjoyed that moment.

Leveling Off

My Dress-Up DarlingAfter the initial story arc of My Dress-Up Darling, things level off for me in terms of story. Fukuda-sensei introduces us to new characters, starting with INUI Sajuna, who has the online cosplay name of Juju. Sajuna cosplays loli characters due to her small, petite size. Her younger sister, Shinju, usually handles the photography. Despite being younger, Shinju looks older due to being tall and well endowed.

Wakana meets Sajuna by literally walking in on her in the bath of his own home. She was invited in from the rain to wait after she came to Wakana’s house to have him make her a cosplay outfit. Thus we have a cliched setup for a girl being seen by a guy, and thus eventually fall for him. However, through nine volumes of the manga, Fukuda-sensei has not gone down this route.

As such, when Marin comes over and finds Sajuna there, she’s over the moon with excitement. After all, this is the famous cosplayer Juju. Marin even calls her “Juju-sama” to show her reverence. She’s pleased as punch to learn her cosplay photo caused Sajuna to seek Wakana out to make Sajuna a new outfit. I liked that there’s no conflict here over Wakana. Indeed, the only sense of negativity is Sajuna’s discomfort over Marin’s fangirling.

Then when Shinju is brought into the mix, we get an interesting look into other aspects of cosplay life. However, I was less interested in this and wanted to get on with the romantic aspects of Wakana and Marin.

Tailing Off, But a Possible Rise?

My Dress-Up DarlingAfter the arc with the Inui sisters concludes, the story shifts to more cosplay stuff that I had no interest in. More characters are introduced that I don’t care about. Frankly, the whole cosplay element grew wearisome to me. I understand the cosplay passion from reading Genshiken. But cosplay wasn’t the sole focus there whereas it is the main focus in My Dress-Up Darling. And the apparent, building drama of one of the new characters not liking Marin isn’t a road I want to go down.

Still, things did get a bit more interesting when Wakana is at Marin’s place and the train service unexpectedly stops, stranding him there. Wakana’s freaked out about spending the night in girl’s house, but thinks that if he stays up all night, everything will be fine. She’s nervous, but figures nothing will happen. Then she sees him buying energy drinks with implied sexual boosts.

Now, Marin thinks Wakana is planning to bed her. He’s acting all confident and even says he’s not planning to sleep that night. When they get home and she takes her shower/bath, she puts on white underwear for the occasion. But in the end, she falls asleep and he does nothing. Where things get interesting in Marin’s depression after Wakana leaves. Whenever folks ask if they are dating, he always strongly denies it. She thinks maybe he doesn’t see her as girlfriend material. In reality, he’s worried rumors of him dating Marin will offend her.

I honestly hope that Fukuda-sensei has Wakana and Marin start dating. I don’t like the “will they or won’t they” story stuff. I’m more interested in seeing Marin and Wakana grow as a couple and deal with issues that may arise due to cosplaying.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Let me wrap up my review of My Dress-Up Darling with some final thoughts.

  • I don’t like the English name of the series. My Dress-Up Darling makes it seem like Wakana’s story, when in fact it is more Marin’s story than Wakana’s. The term “darling” implies Marin’s his girlfriend, when through nine volumes, she’s not. The actual English translation of the Japanese title makes more sense.  That Bisque Doll Can Fall in Love certainly encompasses the story. The Hina dolls Wakana makes are bisque. Marin is a kind of bisque doll, due to cosplay. And she’s falling in love for the first time.
  • Initially, I thought this series was a josei manga title. The art style has that shoujo/josei feel to it. I think Fukuda-sensei is a woman, which explains that feeling. But since the manga is published in seinen magazine, seinen it is.

In the end, My Dress-Up Darling is something I will continue to follow. I may end up doing a chapter review, but it depends on time, which I have little of. 😅

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