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My Dress-Up Darling was one of my all-time favorite romance anime - until I read the manga


My Dress-Up Darling Marin screenshot
Image credit: Cloverworks/Wit

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Being a romance anime fan is a double-edged sword. Every season there are fresh offerings for us to dive into and obsess over, and yet we are often faced with the same problem – characters that stay in a holding pattern forever and never manage to close the deal. It is a well-established trope within the genre, but no anime is more guilty of denying us the satisfaction of seeing their characters even hold hands than My Dress-Up Darling, especially when you dive into the manga.

When I first stumbled upon My Dress-Up Darling in late 2021, it felt like was scientifically engineered to appeal to me. A cute, wholesome slice-of-life romance anime about cosplay? That’s basically my married life summed up in one sentence. I watched the first season and immediately fell in love with all the characters. Marin is obviously cute and her relationship with Wakana is incredibly sweet – her realization that she’s in love with that giant nerd – something my wife has had to come to terms with herself – is one of the series’ big laugh-out-loud moments. These two kids are perfect for each other and the ending of the anime’s first season practically tells you a dramatic confession is on its way.

My Dress-Up Darling episode 12 screenshot
Image credit: Cloverworks/Wit

Spoiler warning – I’m currently 13 volumes into the My Dress-Up Darling manga and the confession is still pending. Every page of this beautifully illustrated manga does everything in its power to maintain the status quo and prevent the pair from moving forward with their relationship to the point where they seem to have forgotten the time they nearly banged in a love hotel in chapter 34 of the manga. An event that should have had a massive impact on their relationship is never acknowledged in a meaningful way. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to watch Wakana and Marin not just refuse to advance their relationship but actually go backward at times without any reasoning beyond the mangaka wanting to string the plot along further.

Again, I am aware that a slow-burn romance is a staple of this genre, but the fact that, over 100 chapters into My Dress-Up Darling, we’re almost further away from seeing Marin and Wakana hold hands feels particularly grievous when you compare it to a manga like Kaguya-sama: Love is War, which not only advanced the relationship of the main characters by this point but it even let them – wait for it – kiss by chapter 150.

My Dress-Up Darling episode 11 screenshot
Image credit: Cloverworks/Wit

Of course, for those of us who are so deeply invested in watching Marin and Wakana fail spectacularly to get that far, there is no turning back. I’m going to keep reading the My Dress-Up Darling manga every time a new chapter is released out of a mixture of spite and fruitless hope that these two kids will one day get their act together and hold hands. Because surely it's going to happen soon, right? Maybe one or two more chapters…

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