Not gonna lie, as someone who is already reading ahead in the manga, this was the episode that I feel the most trepidation about reviewing. Most of the contents in this episode are pretty standard fare; with how technical last week’s episode was—being about the whole idea of cosplaying on a budget—it’s nice to get a little reprieve and focus more on the casual slice-of-life stuff. It also effectively wraps up the much-anticipated photoshoot and gives us some nice closure for the Inui sisters. The resolution, while somewhat predictable, is still a nice character moment that needed to happen. Plus we do get a little bit of insight into Sajuna’s insecurities about her body type and a potential hint that she might also be developing feelings for everyone’s favorite cosplay boyfriend. That isn’t to say that this episode was completely devoid of cosplay insight, but I’m gonna save my thoughts on that for the end.
Speaking of, I was actually surprised that the show went the route of a bait and switch, teasing a specific cosplay Shoot but effectively shutting it down for the sake of progressing the romantic development between our two leads. I do like the show for some of its nice, albeit very basic, tips for the cosplay-curious, but this episode further fortifies My Dress-Up Darling as being a romance first and foremost. The fact that Kitagawa was willing to forgo a cosplay opportunity strictly off the basis that it would make Gojo uncomfortable is noteworthy when you consider just how important cosplaying these characters clearly is to her. My Dress-Up Darling has been a bit selective with regards to how aware Kitagawa is about the potential her passion might be causing, which is of course the show’s sometimes lazy way of generating conflict. However, when things are direct in a way that she can’t misinterpret, not only is Kitagawa completely understanding, but her straightforwardness leads to a lack of hesitancy when it comes to appreciating the feelings of others. There will always be other cosplays to try on, but there’s only one Gojo, and I think that’s a very heartwarming message to take away from this episode.
Having said that, it’s a little ironic that the overall message is putting consideration for other people’s comfort ahead of fulfilling a cosplay when this episode displayed a very uncomfortable and controversial practice in certain cosplay circles. Yes I’m talking about the cosplay of a very tan character who Kitagawa thought she could pull off by covering her entire body in foundation a dozen shades darker than her. In fact, the bottle of foundation she used looks surprisingly similar to what I use. The reactions to this scene have been…fascinating to say the least and it really does highlight more than anything else that the show was not as inclusive as it could be. The whole idea of darkening your skin color for the sake of displaying a character is something that personally does not sit well with me at all, and I can go on for hours about why I find it very uncomfortable.
Even when the intentions are pure, like Kitagawa’s (and by extension the author’s) are based on everything else we have seen up to this point, it does not change the potential discomfort such a practice may cause, and actually does make me hesitant to recommend the show to more people given its controversial status. I’m sure there are some people that might think that’s close-minded but people are just gonna be uncomfortable and upset about certain things based on their own personal experiences. If Kitagawa can understand Gojo’s discomfort, I don’t see why the rest of us can’t do the same for others and I wish more people in the anime community take that into consideration. This doesn’t make me think the show is bad or that I regret watching it, but unfortunately it is the definitive thing that highlights how unnecessarily alienating the show is with regards to its insight into cosplay outlooks and character cartoonals. I hope that I get proven wrong about that because not only do I think that recognzing the discomfort certain cosplay can cause could broaden the show’s appeal, narratively speaking it also makes sense as the natural practices next step the show can take.
My Dress-Up Darling is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.