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by MrAJCosplay,

My Dress-Up Darling

GN 5-7

My Dress-Up Darling GN 5-7

Marin has set her sights on a succubus from one of her favorite manga series! But when she picks out a questionable location for the photo shoot, Wakana's the one about to be left red in the face and hot under the collar! Wakana has cosplay to thank for many things, but as it turns out, he's not alone. When he and Marin meet crossplayer Amane at an event, their new friend shares his story about finding himself through cosplay! Then, when they're sucker punched at karaoke with a question about their relationship status, will Marin and Wakana 'fess up to their feelings or run for cover?! Before long, cosplay moves back to the top of the priority list over love, as the cultural festival rolls around. To Marin's utter surprise and delight, it features an event that means cosplay at school! But while Marin may now have a lot of experience to go on, the type of cosplay required is totally new to her! Will she be up to the challenge?!

Volumes five through seven of My Dress-Up Darling were translated by Taylor Engel with lettering done by Ken Kamura.


My Dress-Up Darling has a lot going for it as a slice-of-life series. Not only is the main character Wakana incredibly relatable with his anxiety brought upon by ridicule, but it also offers some interesting insight into the world of cosplay. The first few volumes established this premise of getting Wakana involved with the hyperactive Marin, a cosplayer who knows very little about making her cosplay costumes. Every costume-crafting experience allows them to learn more about the world of cosplay itself while discovering a bit more about themselves. This results in a slice-of-life series where it feels like there's always something to take away as a reader with each passing chapter, and these three volumes continue to pull back the layers of these growing relationships.

I have always been fond of Wakana as a protagonist. Although he falls into the social outcast camp, his unconventional hobby justifies the initial concern, as these volumes expand upon how much isolation affects him to this day. There is something incredibly endearing about Wakana because, since his bar for social interaction is so low, he quickly grows to appreciate the experiences Marin provides him. Even something as simple as going to see fireworks at a festival and a nonchalant comment about seeing the fireworks again next year means a lot to him, and you can feel it. The later volumes even go a step further in subverting expectations. When you think Wakana will fall into the same isolation and overworking trappings that he did in the early volumes, there are instances where he stands up for himself and gains genuine support from characters he has never spoken to. There is even a subtle conversation about how much of Wakana's isolation might have been self-inflicted by just one or two bad experiences. Just because one person thought his hobby was creepy does not mean that everyone he interacts with does, which is a feeling that gets mirrored in how he interacts with other cosplayers.

In my opinion, the best moments in My Dress-Up Darling are when the main characters' growth is reflected in their growing perception of the cosplay world. One of my favorite parts in these volumes is the introduction of a character that crossplay (the act of cosplaying as a gender different from the one you present as) which, unfortunately, many people see as creepy and uncomfortable. However, not everybody thinks that way. This ended up being the basis for Wakana to have that aforementioned revelation about how it's ok to be guarded but sometimes, some people appreciate the hard work and talent that goes into a craft, even if they don't fully understand it.

The art continues to exemplify these emotional beats with incredibly striking facial features, detailed spreads of character declarations, and even some surprisingly sharp comedic cuts with spot-on facial exaggerations. There are even examples of these parallels brought up in Marin's development. She progressively grows potential insecurity about how she doesn't contribute much to the cosplaying process outside of being the model. Unfortunately, this is mostly set up and not resolved. But I can forgive it since it seems like this will be one of the next major emotional beats the series will cover in volume eight.

Speaking of Marin's character, she continues to be one of the best aspects of the series, especially in her relationship with Wakana. She is on the opposite end of the spectrum regarding her presentation and ability to socially interact with others. She is very proactive, loved by many, and incredibly hyperactive to a fault. While her slang-infused hyperactive ramblings can be endearing, that latter element can be a bit of a detriment as they could potentially feel like noise. This is in no way a criticism of the translator, Taylor Engel, as I believe Marin's overabundance of slang and borderline illiterate dialogue is just a byproduct of how the character was written. If anything, I commend the translator for being able to capture that raw energy. But I do feel like it has become a bit much with this many volumes into the series.

Honestly, I think Marin's hyper-activeness was at its best when she was fawning over Wakana or when it was cut short due to the romantic tension between the two. I love the fact that the series subverts expectations by making it clear to both the character and the audience that Marin is very interested in Gojo romantically. One of the best moments in the entire series thus far is when she affirms those feelings out loud, even if the manga continues to do that thing where Wakana just misses what she is saying or implying. The downside is that, despite that subversive setup, the manga's progress on that front keeps coming to a dead halt, even though there seem to be ample opportunities for deepening the relationship. On more than one occasion, many characters point out how close the two are, assuming that they are dating by default due to the amount of time together alongside their natural chemistry. However, Wakana and Marin don't do anything with that information.

With Wakana, it makes sense that he would downplay his relationship with Marin because of how little he thinks of himself. It's implied that he doesn't even really think he's good enough to be her friend at times, let alone a romantic partner. You could argue that he needs to build more confidence as an individual character before he can consider the idea of romantic feelings, even though it's clear that he has at least a primal interest in Marin that he is constantly embarrassed about. With Marin, it's a little bit trickier because this seems to be the one aspect of her character that she's not proactive about. It's almost a running gag in the series that Marin will go and do something the minute it crosses her mind. But she never seems to do much to pursue a more intimate relationship with Wakana. She gets excited when others mistake them for a couple or when Wakana might accidentally imply a romantic connection between the two, but I'm shaking my head to think of what she does personally to get closer. Now granted, some moments imply she is a lot more shy and inexperienced in the world of romance, but it's not brought up enough to counteract the numerous moments where she is seen as more open and proactive. At worst, this could come off as a bit of a writing inconsistency for the sake of maintaining the status quo. I hope there are more moments moving forward where we see Marin develop as an individual and maybe tie that into what exactly she wants out of a relationship with Gojo.

But aside from that little writing hiccup, My Dress-Up Darling continues to be an incredibly enjoyable read. The story continues to pick up momentum with great character development while sharing insights into what it's like to be a cosplayer. The series is at its best when it seamlessly blends its good character writing with its introduction to the cosplay world, but struggles with clunky character writing. Still, if you like what you read before, I see no reason why you shouldn't continue to enjoy what you will read next. I can't wait to see what the series has in store for my favorite anxious boy and his bubbly, hyperactive dream girl.

Overall : A-
Story : B+
Art : A

+ Story combines cosplay insight with great character writing, gorgeous artwork, Wakana's development is endearing
Marin's lack of romantic proactiveness

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Shinichi Fukuda
Licensed by: Square Enix Manga & Books

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My Dress-Up Darling (manga)

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