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Why “My Dress-Up Darling” is a Terrible Anime

My Dress-Up Darling is a terrible anime. And I’ll tell you why.

Heavy spoilers in this article. If you haven’t watched it, and care about spoilers, don’t read further.


In my review of “My Dress-Up Darling“, I said I didn’t like this anime, but I didn’t hate it. If you haven’t read that, let me get something out of the way, first.

It wasn’t all bad.

This anime at least attempted to go a little deep, they contained the fanservice, and it had a reasonably good plot. Also, as with many Clover Works anime, it had really good animation and paid a lot of attention to detail.

But in this article, I will be heavily focusing on what I didn’t like about it, because there is a lot. I know a lot of people consider it a “top-tier” anime, and if you do, that’s your right. But I’ve never been one to shy away from an unpopular opinion, and I won’t start now.

Gojo Wakana

Let’s start with Gojo Wakana (on this blog, in most cases, I like to use the Japanese word ordering for names). He is a neurotic character with significant unaddressed trauma. His parents died in an unknown manner, but they’re gone. He lost them at a very young age, as he lives with his grandfather.

He does have a cousin and presumably an uncle with whom he seems to be on alright terms, but you almost never see them. For all intents and purposes, he is alone. Certainly, they didn’t seem involved in his life in any appreciable way.

In fact, he is so alone, he talks to his hina dolls as if they are alive and his friends.

Add to this the fact that he had a female friend at a young age (this is presumably after his parents died). She told him that he was a freak for loving hina dolls, he wasn’t her friend, she hated him, and ran out. Since the story never mentions her again, I presume that he never heard from her since. The story tells us this is a primary reason that he doesn’t feel like he can share his passion with anyone.

And no one noticed.

Gojo Wakana is a heavily damaged character. While the anime doesn’t exactly gloss this over, it also sems to treat it as a throwaway point. He has significant unaddressed trauma from multiple events in his life, which he dealt with on his own.

(By the way: That little girl? Where were her parents?)

Kitagawa Marin

Kitagawa Marin is the primary female protagonist of the show, and she’s the exact opposite of Gojo. Whereas he is introverted and easily spooked, she is outgoing and unfazed. He has no friends, and she has quite a few friends. The story seems to portray her as his “savior”, drawing him out of his shell over a supposedly shared interest. She wants to cosplay, and he makes clothing. A match made in heaven?

Well, the problem is, Kitagawa also seems to have some unaddressed traumas. She lost her mother at an undisclosed age, and her father moved away for work, so she lives pretty much by herself. She has her friends, but no present parental figures, and I doubt that she has addressed the trauma from losing her mother in any meaningful way.

Her introduction is not cute, it is profoundly sad. She is a fan of an eroge game character called Kuroe Shizuku. This is a game about humiliation and sex slaves (“for love”) set in an all-girls’ academy. She is so into this character that she wants to become her.

She wants to become a girl in a sex slave situation who has had at least seventeen sexual partners. This is entirely glossed over and treated as normal. But it’s not. I feel like there is a tremendous amount of repressed trauma being represented here, and it’s supposed to be cute and funny.

It’s really not.

The Plot

As the plot progresses, we see the two main characters getting themselves into more and more sexually charged situations, but only one of the parties seems to be even aware of it. For example, Kitagawa shows up at his door unannounced to get her measurements taken. She brushes off his feelings about having to touch her body in ways he’s not comfortable with, and teases the heck out of him. And it’s not even clear that she understands why he gets so freaked out.

At the end, he has to take her inseam measurement and accidentally “touches her button”, as it were. She then abruptly realizes what she got herself into and, the measurements having been taken, the scene swiftly concludes.

She basically railroaded him. He had no idea what to do, and she was so intent on getting her measurements taken that she didn’t care.

Now, there’s is some character progression as the anime proceeds. She does become aware that she has strong feelings for him. After he has a mental breakdown trying to get her costume done, she breaks down crying, because there was a miscommunication about the due date. She realizes what she (maybe accidentally) put him through. Past then, she’s a little more careful, but not much.

She is so into herself that she never even seems to understand what he’s going through until she gets smacked in the face with it – or in the, well, you know.

Episode 11

And I can’t let this go without talking about the scene that happened at the end of episode 11, and Kitagawa is almost entirely responsible for what almost happened. (I say almost because, well… we’ll get to that).

Gojo makes her a costume for one of her favorite animes called “SuccIDK” (classy). It is a rather skimpy costume with a maid-costume like bustier and a, well… lingerie-style panty. She is trying to find a good place to model it, and comes on a “studio”.

The “studio” is a love hotel.

A love hotel, in case you didn’t know, is a Japanese thing, where you can rent a room for an hour for “romantic” trysts.

Well, they end up in a love hotel.

Teenagers in a Love Hotel…

They end up in a situation where she is sitting on top of him clad only in her costume undies, and he’s taking pictures from that perspective. Everything’s great until they hear someone next door doing what people in love hotels do. Suddenly they realize exactly where they are and in what position they’re in.

Gojo, well, “gets wood”, and tells her she needs to get off him right now. In their surprise, his phone flies out and hits the light switch, and it’s pretty clear that both of them are about to do something they might regret.

They’re brought back to reality by the phone telling them that they need to leave, and she goes into the bathroom and crumbles, saying “That was way too close”.

Well DUH

Yeah, it was way too close. But the truth is, it didn’t have to be. She was wearing an outfit that was certain to put those thoughts into his mind once it became clear to him what position he was in. They were in a love hotel, which is specifically designed to put those thoughts into the minds of the occupants. She was sitting on his lap, for Pete’s sake. Everything they were doing was screaming “We’re going to…” and yet neither of them realized it.

This is where the lack of parental involvement is achingly clear.

Two teenagers, essentially living on their own, with no parents, doing sexually charged things that they only somewhat realize are sexually charged, and this is treated as funny?

And What Really Bothers Me…

And what really bothers me, and coming full circle, why I think this is a terrible anime, is the fans. This anime has a lot of high reviews. When you watch reactions of episode 11, nearly everyone shows disappointment that their sex scene didn’t happen. They gloss over both characters’ obvious trauma, or don’t even notice, as well as the lack of parental involvement. They are two fifteen year olds who need people in their lives to tell them exactly what they’re getting themselves into, and they don’t have them.

That’s realistic. I’ll grant that. But it’s not funny. At least not to me.

Kitagawa Comes in like a Lion

“March Comes in Like A Lion” is one of my favorite animes. The main character, Kiriyama Rei, is in a similar situation to Gojo. He lost his entire family, including his little sister, to a drunk driver. He had to live with a foster family that he ended up leaving. And at the end of the day, he ended up living on his own.

However, the difference is: he was able to deal with his trauma, with the help of a very wholesome family who took him in and gave him the space he needed to heal. He eventually started to have feelings for the middle sister, Hina. Even then, though, it is portrayed with sensitivity. He truly, truly loves her.

But Kitagawa just comes in like a lion, pardon the pun, and just yanks him into her world, and he’s never had any friends? How is he going to resist? She supports him, give him validation and even love to a degree, how is he not going to go along with absolutely anything she wants? But, at the end of the day, the trauma is still there.

I fear as the anime progresses, he’ll just end up following her into more and more debauchery, and thanking her for the opportunity, because he doesn’t know any better.

I mean, she wants to be a character that has had seventeen sexual partners. Why would one not take her at her word?

But the fans love it. It’s a “top tier” anime. People love the fanservice, the story, the character development…. what character development? They start to want to be in a relationship? Fine, I guess… but they’re still two very broken humans who are doing very little towards trying to resolve their rather significant childhood traumas.


It’s a well-made anime. No one’s arguing that, it is. Clover Works makes good animes, at least recently. It’s got a sweet story, such as it is, and it’s understandable that on the surface, people might be a fan of it.

But if you go even a little below the surface, it’s actually a little disturbing. It’s about two broken teenagers bumbling their way into a relationship based pretty much on going from one sexually charged situation to another, and then not expecting the tiger they grabbed by the tail to eat them? No, this is more a stinging indictment of the lack of parental involvement, the deleterious effects of eroge, hentai, and even fanservice.

This is a story about what happens when heavily traumatized teenagers don’t get the help they need.

This isn’t a great anime. It’s a tragedy.

And so few people see it.

That’s why this is a terrible anime.

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