Manga Review for Japanese Learners!
(My Dress-Up Darling)
by 福田 普一 (Shinichi Fukuda)
Author: 福田 普一 (Shinichi Fukuda)
Genre: High school, romance, comedy, ecchi, cosplay
Great for: Intermediate Japanese (JLPT N2+) and kanji (No furigana)
English Summary (from Square Enix)
A loner boy and a flashy girl find common ground via cosplay in this sweet and spicy romcom!
A high school boy with a passion for traditional dolls and a talent for sewing gets roped into making cosplay outfits for one of the prettiest, most popular girls in his class! As the odd couple grows ever closer, they find themselves in ever racier situations!
Why You Should Read
その着せ替え人形は恋をする (My Dress-Up Darling)
The first time I read その着せ替え人形は恋をする (or そのビスク・ドールはこいをする) I put it down. The incredibly エッチ pictures of a high school girl in her underwear put me off at first glance. I brushed it off as another fan-service manga for fan boys. But my spouse convinced me to give it a go and after I read the first two volumes, I was hooked!
Yes, it first appears to be an overly sexualized manga about a loner and the most popular girl in school. But it’s actually a story about following your passions and bringing joy to others.
ギャル characters tend to get a bad rep in manga as being really vapid. 海夢 (Marin) isn’t might not be good at household chores, but she’s anything but vapid. She’s a charming, optimistic, outgoing girl who gets incredibly excited about the things she loves. She even gets excited for other people, which is very heart warming.
The main character, 五条 (Gojyo) is a loner but unlike most other loner male protagonists, he’s not an asshole! He has sever anxiety and issues with self-confidence and self-worth (which touch a little too close to home…) but loves to make Marin smile. (Which makes me smile.)
The best part about this manga is it’s about cosplay! It actually has some really fantastic facts about cosplay construction, photography, and the cosplay climate and communities in Japan.
Why Japanese Learners Should Read
その着せ替え人形は恋をする (My Dress-Up Darling)
First of all, this manga has no furigana (kanji reading) beyond when a new difficult kanji is introduced. So お雛さん (おひなさん “hina doll”) has furigana the first time it’s used, but not after. There’s also a lot of advanced but commonly used kanji that doesn’t have furigana. Such as 綺麗い (きれいい “pretty”), which you’ll come across from reading novels or other manga. This is great if you want to practice more advanced and difficult kanji!
Like the majority of manga the speech used is mostly informal, so at least a strong understanding of casual grammar (JLPT N3-N2 level) is needed.
The sentence patterns used also varies widely. Gojyo’s grandad speaks with an accent that’s supposed to indicate he’s old. He slurs his words and uses very masculine language. While Marin talks almost entirely in modern female casual speech, (which also slurs words but not in the same way) such as てゆーか instead of ていうか, or ちょい待て instead of ちょっと待って, or ヨユー instead of 余裕 (よゆう). Gojyo, the protagonist and main narrator, tends to use very standard Japanese sentences and often uses です・ます form when talking to other people (even Marin).
If you read a lot of manga in Japanese then the speech patterns shouldn’t be an issue. If you do struggle, then you can watch the anime which is airing right now, to hear how the characters talk.
As a manga about cosplay and Hina dolls, it uses a lot of vocabulary for making clothes. If you’ve ever made cosplay yourself you might recognize a lot of the techniques used to plan and make the costumes. You can tell the mangaka knows their stuff!
Of course, you can’t have cosplay without anime (or in this case anime and erotic games), and a few conversations about Marin’s favorite characters and stories involve a lot of anime tropes. Which is great for otaku wanting to learn more useful otaku-related vocabulary.
その着せ替え人形は恋をする (My Dress-Up Darling) is a surprisingly heart warming and sexy manga about cosplay and following your passion. It’s great for advanced Japanese kanji practice, and casual sentence structures.
If you can watch the Japanese anime legally then I highly recommend that too as it’s great practice for listening to young people talk to each other. It can also be a great supplement to the manga for reinforcing the Japanese you just learned.