My Dress-Up Darling Anime Series Limited Edition BD+DVD Set Review – Review

When I first watched My Dress Up-Darling, I remember it feeling much different than other romance anime, and upon rewatching via My Dress Up Darling: The Complete Season Limited Edition, I can whole-heartedly confirm it has something special. Much of it concerns the series’ focus on passions and how the things we love can bring us together, but much of the charm also comes from its grounded, realistic-feeling approach to romcoms.

My Dress-Up Darling: The Complete Season Limited edition contains all 12 episodes of the first season of the anime adaptation of Shinichi Fukuda‘s manga on both DVD and Blu-ray, including bonus features on the latter. Also bundled with the Limited Edition are a set of art cards, a cosplay planner/calendar, a sticker sheet, and a 104-page art book. Let’s take a look at the series and everything the limited edition set has to offer.

The key to a good romcom is three-dimensional characters, characters not defined simply by liking each other. My Dress-Up Darling does this incredibly well, pushing gender boundaries in the process. The series follows Wakana Gojo and Marin Kitagawa, first-year high school students who, as Gojo puts it, exist in different worlds… or so it would seem. Gojo is passionate about making Hina dolls, just like his grandfather, which he hides out of fear of being ostracized (being a boy who “plays with dolls”). Conversely, Marin is an outspoken otaku with a love of ero-games (we love our bi queen) that goes very much against her gyaru/girly style and appearance. They exist in similar worlds of passion, both passionate about niche things, but in different worlds of how they express their passions: one quiet, one loud.

And this is where the series shines. The two worlds of Gojo and Marin collide when she stumbles onto him making Hina doll clothes at school and asks him to make cosplay clothes for her. Their relationship starts with these vulnerable moments — Gojo revealing his secret and Marin, embarrassed at her poor cosplay crafting, asking for help. This vulnerability is a significant part of what makes the ensuing blossoming relationship so sweet and cute; they’re both odd puzzle pieces that fit together.

As Marin and Gojo work on Marin’s cosplay, the two grow closer, Marin showing Gojo her favorite anime, manga, and games that she wants to cosplay and Gojo learning the joys, highs, lows, and intricacies of cosplay crafting. In turn, Gojo sees Marin’s passion for geeky things and how openly she loves things that aren’t “typically for girls” without hesitance — and, when people talk down to her about it, she gives them the third degree — and Marin sees Gojo’s skill, perseverance to perfect a craft, as well as his kind, direct nature. As both get better at what they do, they grow closer, which makes for a very cute setup that pays off wonderfully.

It’s nice to see the characters be friends first, partners in Marin’s cosplay pursuits before any feelings develop. Of course, this doesn’t stop her from teasing him with sexual scenarios from time to time, but even that becomes a sweet part of their blossoming relationship; she sometimes wants to tease him but also gets much more embarrassed as she starts to like him more, the teasing now being a higher willpower hill to climb.

There are lots of cute moments like this as Marin falls for Gojo; one of my favorites is when Marin takes Gojo clothes shopping and he looks ridiculous in most things. We think Marin will laugh at how he looks, but internally, she can’t stop thinking about how he looks hot in everything he wears. Though the ratio is far from even, it is nice to see Gojo from Marin’s female gaze rather than solely a male gaze throughout the series.

I know I keep saying it, but it’s all so sweet, and this sweet and cute nature helps ground some of the lesser qualities of the series in a sense of realism. Like many rom-com anime, My Dress-Up Darling has some skeezy, underage leeriness. I won’t deny this: there are excessive ecchi moments that will only serve to make some viewers uncomfortable. However, some moments are endearingly realistic to teen romance. Teens can be horny, they’re flooded with hormones they don’t always want, and there are adorable moments amongst the ecchi scenes that feel really in line with what two teens falling in love might experience.

The specific scene that comes to mind is when Gojō and Marin use the love hotel as a cosplay photoshoot studio — which Marin unknowingly books in a sitcom-ish, but not out of character for her moment. Gojō asks Marin to climb on top of him on the love hotel bed to get a proper upward-angle shot they want for the shoot. The series does a great job of setting up prior that Gojō easily gets lost in getting things perfect, so it makes sense that the intimacy of the moment is lost on him at first. But then he realizes their arrangement, and his body responds as any teen boy’s would, and so does Marin.

They end up almost kissing in what should be an ecchi moment, but is communicated very intimately and lovingly — these are two kids with strong feelings and a closeness they are unsure how to handle. It’s really cute, especially when Marin, queen of teasing Gojo with similar intimacy, is flustered beyond belief at a much more authentic form of intimacy.

Other moments like this use what is typically fanservice as a means of communicating that when two teens are in love, their attraction for each other is going to be very sexual. The show can find genuine humor, relatability, and warm moments in how it uses gaze, a feat worth noting. That said, these more positive moments don’t redeem the underage leeriness of the series. Rather, I want to highlight the genuinely intimate moments that might get lost in the creepier scenes.

Unfortunately, every one of those scenes is underage ecchi ranging from uncomfortable, like Marin in her bikini, to reprehensible, like scenes focusing on Juju’s middle-school-aged sister. It’s up to you to say if the good outweighs the bad here — I appreciate how well-crafted Gojō and Marin’s relationship is, but I understand dropping off at the first leery scene.

Regardless, I was happy to revisit the series with the Blu-ray and hone in on what makes the great parts of it so endearing. Worth noting is that I watched the dub this time around, which I found to be outstandingly well done. The sub is excellent in its own right, but the performances of AmaLee as Marin and newcomer Paul Dateh (this was his first role! He killed it!) as Gojō both feel spot-on to the characters. Some of the teen-speak of the dub script can feel a bit dated, but it doesn’t detract from the fantastic performances.

As for the features of the Limited Edition DVD/Blu-ray set… they’re not necessary to experience the series; streaming will do just fine. The box set is not without its high points and charm — the Blu-ray quality is superb, and the physical extras included are quite nice. The art cards and sticker sheet are nothing to write home about, but the art book, cosplay calendar, and planner are all fantastic, practical additions that consider how My Dress-Up Darling might get fans into the cosplay community.

The cosplay planner and advice in the art book are just the right amount of technical, which is worth spotlighting. The series has genuine cosplay tips and guides, but specifics and technical terms do not weigh it down. There are beginner and intermediate-level aspects of cosplay included here, and the level gradually advances as both Gojō and Marin get better at their parts of the cosplay craft. Most importantly, it finds the perfect ratio between passion and practicality, communicating the joy of loving something and the skills, practice, and hard work that go into achieving the perfect cosplay, and I think the cosplay-related extras in the box set are a really smart way to jump on this.

Of course, much of the advice in these guides and a similar planner can be easily found online. This, combined with the less-than-stellar bonus features — amounting to textless OP and Endings, promo trailers, and a Q&A with the Dub cast members — leaves much to be desired. Additionally, the set is missing a feature advertised on its printed insert titled “Costume Play,” which is not listed on digital storefronts (possibly having been removed). Ultimately, I don’t think the Limited Edition of the series is worth the investment; streaming or a standard season set will do just fine.

Regardless, My Dress-Up Darling is still one of my favorite rom-coms of recent years; it doesn’t need any extra bells and whistles to grab me all over again upon rewatching. If you can get past some typical anime fanservice follies, My Dress-Up Darling will reward you with a very sweet, endearing romcom framed by how we interact with our passions.