Same Stage, Different Show: My Dress-up Darling and 2.5-Dimensional Seduction

The breakout success of My Dress-up Darling made the Powerz That Be say, “Hey, ya know what? There’s moniez to be made in this Cosplay stuff.”

So I submit for your approval, in the manner of Rod Serling, a story about a female cosplayer (who happens, through sheer, raw, naked coincidence (See what I did there?) to be voluptuous and show a lot of skin), and the boy she works with who is afraid to admit he’s falling in love with her, that is, a rom-com with the backdrop of cosplay culture.

This rom-com with the backdrop of cosplay culture is called My Dress-up Darling. It’s pretty good.

This rom-com with the backdrop of cosplay culture is also called 2.5-Dimensional Seduction. It’s pretty creepy.

I mean, they ARE basically the same story in broad terms. There’s nothing wrong with telling the same basic story as someone else’s basic story. It’s the artist’s vision and statement that makes them different.

Sure, right? Ever seen the old samurai movie Yojimbo?

You haven’t? WHAT?? Are you some kind of heathen? Go watch it RIGHT NOW. I’ll wait until you get back.

Okay, you’re back … Akira Kurosawa’s film Yojimbo is based on one or more short stories by Dashiell Hammett, the guy who wrote The Maltese Falcon. But after Kurosawa ripped the story out of 1920’s California and stuck it in 1800’s Japan, Sergio Leone ripped the story out of Japan, stuck it into Mexico back in the wild west days, and called it A Fistful of Dollars. Then Walter Hill ripped it out of the wild west, stuck it back into the 1930’s, and called it Last Man Standing.

It’s the same story told four different ways by four different master storytellers. And they all work (although Last Man Standing isn’t as good).

FFS don’t get me started on Romeo and Juliet! Just three words, okay? West Side Story. Just sayin’.

Back to Dress-up and Seduction: But although they are the same story, there are superficial but fundamental differences between them that make one enormously likable and the other kind of hard to put up with.

So in Dress-up you have Marin Kitagawa, a Gal (dyed hair, fashionable clothes) who loves cosplay. She meets Wakana Gojo, a shy boy who knows how to sew, and PRESTO! A match made in Heaven, if only these two very different kids can figure out how to make it work.

Wakana (left) and Mirin from My Dress-Up Darling

And in Seduction you have Lilysa Amano, a quiet, retiring girl who loves cosplay. She meets Okamura, who as president of the manga club has a place for her to change clothes and is willing to be her photographer, and PRESTO! A match made in Heaven, if only these two very different kids can figure out how to make it work.

One way the stories are alike is that they include technical details, about cosplay equipment and techniques in Dress-up and about photography in Seduction. I always think that’s kind of neat.

They are also alike in that both couples start out as Complementary couples, which is to say that each member has something that the other needs. Marin needs Wakana’s tailoring skills and Wakana needs Marin’s validation (he has been teased cruelly for his practice of making hina doll clothing). Lilysa needs Okamura’s space and talents, and Okamura needs Lilysa to jolt him into the real world.

They are very different in a couple ways. One is that, while they are both 17+, Seduction is a much harder 17+ than Dress-up. Bare breasts are all over Seduction, and infrequent in Dress-up (and the nudity involves Lilysa but not Marin).

The motivations of the girls are different as well. Marin is motivated by her own love for the medium of cosplay and her otaku instincts; she looks at anime and manga and says, “Ohmigod, I want to play her!”

Lilysa wants to play one specific character, who happens to be the character Okamura has spurned actual women for. So she want to impress Okamura with how well she plays Liliel. (You can see how we’re sneaking into unhealthy relational territory now, right?) As the story goes on it’s established that there is a hierarchy of professional cosplayers, with a top three or four (I’m not going back to look it up) that one expects Lilysa to eventually strive to join.

Lilysa (back) her own self, and as Liliel. Any resemblance between names is strictly coincidental … yeah, right. Those are Okamura’s thumbs

So their motivations are different.

But I think the key difference is in the nature of the relationship between the members of each couple.

In both cases the relationship is meta-stable in the sense that while they need each other, there has to be something keeping them apart romantically. Let’s face it: In a rom-com when the characters openly profess their mutual love and become an official couple, the story is over, right? So there has to be something between them that keeps them apart until the end is inevitable.

Marin and Wakana have what I would consider a relationship of equals in that they each do things for each other, and I don’t mean just the obvious. Marin not only likes that Wakana has the skills she needs; as she gets to know Wakana she sees that he is serious, that he is kind, that he gets as excited about his contributions to what she does as she is. She sees that they are sympatico, for lack of a better word.

And Wakana don’t just need Marin’s validation; as he gets to know her he sees that she is not only HAWT enough to make him crazy at time, but that she is also friendly and fun. She drags him into places and activities his introversion would not have let him try without her; he sees her helping him grow as a human being.

So that’s a match, as I said, made in heaven. The thing keeping them apart, of course, is that he’s so intimidated by her beauty and extroversion that he can’t believe that she would be attracted to him. (Since Marin is a Japanese girl, she can’t just come right out and tell him. See Teasing-Master Tagaki-san for examples.)

Yep, Wakana is a gender-bent “He can’t can’t love me” woman. So his lack of self-confidence keeps them apart.

What bugs me about Seduction, on the other hand, is that Lilysa and Okamura DON’T have a relationship of equals. At turn after turn Lilysa has to please Okamura, because, after all, he loves Liliel.

See it? She loves Liliel, too. WTF does HIS opinion matter?

So as they grow together – yes, it’s a rom-com, they have to grow together – she acts dependent on him. And as they grow together it’s plain right from the start that he sees her as a sex object. (He’s looking down her dress from almost the first time they meet. It’s an impressive sight, but still, have some class, boy.)

She’s dependent on him. He’s attracted to her not for her personality but for her body.

What keeps them apart is that as a hard-core otaku he claims that the only women he is attracted to are two dimensional (2-D) anime and manga characters. Since she’s 3-D, he can’t possibly give her affection.

But as they grow together he starts to mix Lilysa and Liliel in his mind (creating a composite 2.5-Dimensional character, hence the name). So he’s projecting his affection for Liliel onto Lilysa.

Nothing creepy there, he said, sarcastically.

And I think that’s the key distinction between the two. Marin and Wakana’s relationship may be idealized but it seems wholesome; they are coming to love each other as people.

But Lilysa and Okamura’s relationship has a strong power dynamic to it where it’s clear that Okamura is the dominant partner, and that to maintain the relationship Lilysa has to please him. It’s one-way. She needs his approval of her cosplay and by extension of herself as a person.

Remember the old Stooges song, “I Wanna Be Your Dog”? (You can check it out on YouTube.) Lilysa wants to be Okamura’s dog. And that ain’t healthy.

If you’re worried about the fact that Dress-up is both a manga and an anime while Seduction is just a manga, rest assured: Back in mid-December it came out they’re making an anime for Seduction. Don’t let your younger siblings watch it.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

3 thoughts on “Same Stage, Different Show: My Dress-up Darling and 2.5-Dimensional Seduction

  1. I loved Dress-Up buy haven’t seen the other one.

    As to movies using the same story, I still remember watching The Fast and the Furious and realising it was Point Break with cars instead of surfboards. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

    Liked by 1 person

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