OP: 「San San Days」 (燦々デイズ) by (Spira Spica)
「自分とは真逆の世界で生きている人」 (Jibun to wa magyaku no sekai de ikite iru hito)
“Someone Who Lives in the Exact Opposite World as Me”
Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru was the winter series I was most looking forward to, among the unknown quantities at least. The signs were almost all positive: seinen, a quite well-reviewed source material, a young director in Shinohara Keisuke who’s seen as one of the names to watch in the industry. The CloverWorks association is a worry, but the previews betrayed what was obviously a sizable budget and a lot of care. Like MAPPA they treat the projects they prioritize decently, at the brutal expense of the ones they trash in order to pay for them.
That part certainly isn’t My Dress-Up Darling’s fault, as unfair as it is to the poor souls working on stuff like Tokyo 24-ku. And boy, this premiere (for which Shinhara handled all the major roles, pretty much) certainly didn’t disappoint. Narratively speaking the introduction was good rather than great, but the visuals were fantastic. And the series cleared what was the largest hurdle for me, namely the question of tone. I had some concerns about this premise being a bit mean-spirited but based on the first episode that’s almost certainly not the case.
The hero of the piece is a withdrawn and meek high school boy (now there’s a switch) called Gojou Wakana (Ishige Shouya). Basically the course of his entire childhood is set by one horrible little girl (who I’m assuming will show up as a love rival) who mocks him for his love of hina dolls. I can totally buy this – childhood traumas like that are incredibly scarring. Wakana’s love of dolls isn’t stunted, but he does retreat into social isolation (though he might have been isolated before, too), with only his doll-making grandfather (Ono Atsushi) in on his secret. Which is pretty unavoidable, as Wakana is in training to take over the family doll shop.
Frankly I was expecting the grandpa to be dead after the timeskip, but he’s fine (just old) – it’s the boy’s parents (and maybe sister – truck-kun?) who are gone. Wakana is happy enough learning at his feet, though at this point he’s only mastered the clothes-making, and gramps is right to be worried about his grandson’s obvious black hole of a social life. All this changes in not especially original but quite memorable fashion, as Kitagawa Marin (Suguta Hina – now that’s ironic) literally falls into his life. This is one of anime’s great entrances, I have to say, as unlikely as it is to believe.
To Wakana Marin seems like the exact opposite of him in every way, not even factoring gender into it. She’s popular, forceful, and gorgeous (and wears more makeup than I’ve seen on an anime schoolgirl in a long time). This fits neatly into his generally self-pitying worldview, but the realization that she’s an otaku shakes him up a bit. What he subconsciously realizes is that the most important way Marin is his opposite is that she embraces and defends her passion, rather than keeping it a secret. I’d like to think this makes Wakana feel a little ashamed of himself, but that’s probably projection on my part.
Fortunately this is manga, and fate intervenes to move the needle. Grampa’s Shouwa-era sewing machine breaks down, forcing Wakana to get resourceful and use the one at school. As there’s no home ec club he figures his secret is safe, but to his dismay who else but Kitagawa-san walks in on him. And once she realizes he knows how to make clothes she promptly starts undressing (she at least has some sense of embarrassment about it, but not much given the length of her skirt). Why? To show him her first attempt at cosplay – which Wakana reflexively eviscerates like Frank Rich on a bad day. And thus, a new friendship is born.
I think the reason this works as well as it does is Marin. She never mocks Wakana, who’s pretty mockable. The main thrust of the premiere is that through her lifestyle she shows him the problem with his – she feels comfortable being herself, even if society might view it as a bit weird. There’a a bit of ecchi here but it’s not crass or over-the-top, and while I’m sure romance will flower between these two, I like the premise being built around self-actualization. I think fundamentally a story like this (and indeed fiction generally) can either build people up or tear them down, and the premiere suggests Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru will do the former. As great as the production itself looks to be, that makes it a very promising show indeed.
ED: 「恋ノ行方」 (Koi no Yukue) by (Akari Akaase)