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Dated 5 April 2022: The End of KiseKoi ~Air/My Purest Love for Cosplay~

Marin
Best Girl.

I'm pleased to report Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru (My Dress-Up Darling) completed its first cours with a solid finish, capping off a remarkable run well ahead of whatever expectations I may have had prior to starting the series. I'm by no means alone in praising the show as the best from the Winter 2022 anime season, so I'm hopeful we'll see a second cours at some point.

Nowa and Marin
Things I know about Nowa: She has great hair, and is purportedly freakishly strong.

In addition to the factors I've mentioned in my previous posts, the small cast also worked in its favor. I was sure the childhood friend who bitched Wakana out years ago was going to appear at some point, and similarly expected at least one arc involving Marin's friends getting into her business. The fact that neither of these things came to pass is a credit to the storytelling in KiseKoi and the attention it gave to Marin's point of view as her romantic feelings grew.

Wakana and Marin
These are some fireworks.

My Dress-Up Darling consistently defied expectations in these small ways throughout the season, but their impact in the aggregate is considerable. I hope authors and directors of future works take note of this phenomenon. You'd expect a story should need entirely original, novel ideas to gain this benefit, but Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru demonstrated simply not following familiar tropes to their specific expected destinations can be enough to transform scenes that would otherwise have been unremarkable.

Dated 8 March 2022: Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru remains the best series of the Winter 2022 anime season

Wakana and Marin
They're not panties, so it's not embarrassing.

Through nine episodes, Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru (My Dress-Up Darling, also KiseKoi for short) continues to outperform even the most optimistic expectations I initially had for it. Two factors are primarily responsible for how it has accomplished this. First, it is sincere about its subject matter. Second, the series subvert clichés, even though it's mostly doing it in only small ways.

Marin, Sajuna, and Wakana
Marin has good hair.

With regard to the first point, I can't claim to know anything about cosplay, but KiseKoi seems earnest about the subject. The anime's instructional segments also seem framed to be accessible, informative, and sort of encouraging to neophytes who may have an interest in getting into cosplay themselves.

Marin
There is fan service, but that's not what makes KiseKoi good..

Concerning the second point, I'm pleased with how My Dress-Up Darling presents common anime tropes. There are a lot of scenes with setups that are extremely familiar to anyone who has watched a lot of anime. However, they end up playing out differently from the norm. This is not to say KiseKoi is subverting these conventions, but it's remarkable how simply executing them in ways slightly differently than usual makes all the difference.

Marin
It's not easy being anime.

To some degree, the success Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru achieves by simply doing things right is an indictment against all those other anime that end up being mostly mediocre because they seem to embrace shortcomings viewers regard as avoidable. Well, maybe My Dress-Up Darling is an example of how good an anime can be as a result of doing small things right. I should probably also mention the romance part of the series, since KiseKoi, you know, is a romantic comedy after all. However, I'm going to wait and see how it all progresses and just state, for now, that the anime is also handling this aspect well.

Dated 25 January 2022: Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru is about liking who you like

Marin and Wakana
I haven't seen any fan art yet of a younger Marin with all-pink hair.

I typically only write one blog entry for each anime I watch these days. On occasion, a series will receive a post at the start of the season and a follow-up at its conclusion, but it's probably just as likely for me to ignore a show altogether. It works out this way because I only update this blog about once per week, which limits some options if the number of shows I sample every season exceeds the number of weeks they run.

Marin
You should have stolen his outdoor shoes.

Simply put, A LOT of new anime comes out these days. Moreover, while the 80-percent-of-everything-is-crap maxim holds, it still suggests the sheer amount of worthwhile shows now is greater than it's ever been, nostalgic biases notwithstanding. Basically, every season now includes at least a dozen anime I find interesting enough to try. Except, I guess, this season.

Marin, Nowa, and Wakana
I continue to admire Nowa's two-toned twin-tailed hair.

Discounting never-ending staples such as Pretty Cure and Detective Conan (and I guess Demon Slayer almost counts now), I'm only following two shows: Akebi-chan no Sailor Fuku (Akebi’s Sailor Uniform) and Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru (My Dress-Up Darling, A.K.A. KiseKoi). I honestly can't remember the last time I followed so few shows; at a minimum, it has been more than a decade. Even during the Covid-disrupted seasons early in the pandemic, I was watching more shows than I am now.

Marin
I'm being serious when I claim Akebi-chan is a lewder show than KiseKoi.

Since I'm not especially taken with Akebi-chan, this likely means KiseKoi is going to get a disproportionally high number of blog entries—and it sort of deserves it. Through its first three episodes, KiseKoi has hit its marks without belaboring the foreseeable conflicts its setup requires it to address. In doing so, it has avoided the standard pitfalls I've come to expect.

Akebi
For one thing, the girls in Akebi-chan keep their fingernails trimmed short.

This is not to say KiseKoi is breaking new ground. Marin is very much a manic pixie dream girl, but she is a personable one, so I can understand why she exploded in popularity among fan artists. I don't know for certain how well I would regard My Dress-Up Darling during a more crowded season, but I'm at least inclined to believe I would equally appreciate the little things it has been doing so well so far.

Dated 18 January 2022: My Dress-Up Darling is about liking what you like

Wakana and Marin
I wonder if they ate the cake she brought afterwards.

I have a favorable view of Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru (My Dress-Up Darling) despite knowing nothing about its source material. Its first two episodes were solid, and I'm optimistic enough to presume it will not suddenly wreck itself by crashing into all the usual ways something like this goes wrong. Notably, the second episode spent nearly its entire length dedicated to Wakana's alarm at unexpectedly finding himself examining Marin's body closely as he takes all the measurements he needs so that he can make her cosplay outfit. These sorts of setups typically exasperate me with how they commonly play out, but I'm good with how this show performed it.

Shizuku and Marin
At least the ball gag is something she can just buy.

The second episode also echoed Marin's refrain from the first episode that people should be allowed to like what they like without being attacked over something that isn't anyone else's business. In Wakana's case, it's his obsession with dolls. (I should probably point out he appears to be obsessed with only one particular type of traditional doll, and not dolls in general. Although, in keeping with the show's themes, I guess that wouldn't have mattered anyway.) Marin, for her part, absolutely adores a gothic lolita character from a series of bishoujo games. (Specifically, the games in question are rated for adults only and have significant amounts of pornographic content, including various degrees of BDSM events.)

Marin and Wakana
Is that an engineer's ring?

It's yet unclear to me how the show will go, as there are a few ways it could turn out. The childhood friend who traumatized Wakana by bitching him out about liking dolls is sure to return (I'm pretty sure I can identify her in the opening credit sequence), presumably once the two leads are settling into a comfort zone. Typically, this sort of osananajimi reappearance involves some manner of tsundere bullshit, so how Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru handles the inevitable conflict will likely influence how I end up regarding the show as a whole. Don't fuck this up, people.

Dated 7 December 2021: Neither Getsuyoubi no Tawawa 2 nor Ganbare Douki-chan need a blog entry, but they're getting one anyway

Maegami-chan
I know it's her (other) gimmick, but these are some fucked-up bangs.

Getsuyōbi no Tawawa 2 (Tawawa on Monday 2) is a follow-up to an Autumn 2016 adaption of Himura Kiseki's weekly illustrations that publish on the Twitter every Monday. There's continuity and regular characters whose lives intersect with otherwise unrelated story arcs. But really it's just an exercise in randy situation comedies involving enormous breasts. The anime episodes are short and faithfully follow the various stories, but it still looks weird to me without the blue-ink monochrome of the source material.

Douki-chan
Never gonna happen.

Ganbare Dōki-chan (You Can Do It Dōki-chan) is another anime short and was paired with the Tawawa sequel for its debut because the Douki-chan artist and the Getsuyōbi no Tawawa artist collaborate on occasion. Unlike the Tawawa illustrations, Douki-chan follows a single story arc. Its titular heroine is a lovesick office lady who lacks the confidence to express her feelings to the co-worker she admires. Complicating the effort are myriad assertive rivals who always seem to appear at inopportune moments. Both Getsuyōbi no Tawawa 2 and Ganbare Dōki-chan have already concluded their 12-episode runs because they started toward the end of the Summer 2021 anime season. As anime adaptations go, they were all right, but it's good their episodes were short. I don't think either would have worked with full-length episodes.

Dated 7 September 2021: Kanojo mo Kanojo is a great show because it is preposterous

Nagisa, Naoya, and Saki
It's a pragmatic solution. Don't just dismiss it out of hand.

Not having a whole lot else to watch from the Summer 2021 anime season, I decided to give Kanojo mo Kanojo (Girlfriend, Girlfriend) a try on a goof. It turns out it's sort of fantastic. I initially assumed it was going to another one of those dreary harem comedies with a loathsome male protagonist surrounded by multiple girls who are entirely out of his league and yet inexplicably attracted to him. Or that it was going to be on of those dreary harem comedies where Potato-kun is actually sort of an all right dude, but is inexplicably incapable of noticing that every girl he comes into contact with keeps throwing her panties at him. It turns out Kanojo mo Kanojo is neither of those things. Rather, it's got some manner of Möbius strip horseshoe theory thing going on where all the environmental factors and character decisions that should be working to the show's detriment end up making it better.

Naoya and Nagisa
Busted.

It's no accident Kanojo mo Kanojo is working out this way. The recurring focus of the show's various dilemmas is on an unending series of incorruptibly honest decisions to pursue uncompromising choices that should result in self-destructive consequences by any reasonable objective standard. And yet it all continues to work out. I can't vouch for the manga source material, but the anime embraces the absurdity of its premise and absolutely succeeds in its execution.

Naoya and Saki
Never gonna happen.

Significantly, there is no hint of melodrama. That is something Girlfriend, Girlfriend really cannot afford. If Kanojo mo Kanojo ever decides to examine the consequences and societal frictions associated with polyamorous relationships, or attempts to position the various love interests against each other from hostile postures of envy or jealousy, it will do so at its peril. There had also better not be any of that typical harem comedy bullshit where a series gets its viewers to root for one of the girls to "win." (If it does, the erstwhile winner will probably be First Girl Childhood Friend, even though she has nothing in her favor compared to her rivals except for her hair.)

Rika, Naoya, Nagisa, and Saki
Busted.

Even though I only started watching Girlfriend, Girlfriend a short while ago, it did not take long before I caught up. There are currently 10 episodes out so far and only two to go. Since the source manga still seems to be running (I think eight volumes are out), a non-ending ending to the anime is probably basically guaranteed. I don't know how far Kanojo mo Kanojo can take its premise without getting derailed, but I would be in favor of additional seasons if it can keep up the show's high-intensity, relentless pace episode after episode without running out of steam.

Dated 13 July 2021: The End of KoiKimo and HigeHiro ~Air/My Purest Love for JKs~

Ryo and Ichika
They're not flirting.

I started the Spring 2021 season with an entry covering both Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui (It's Disgusting to Call This Love or KoiKimo) and Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. (I Shaved. Then I Brought a High School Girl Home. or HigeHiro), so I guess I should have a post wrapping them up as well. I found KoiKimo to be a better series, perhaps because of its straightforward story. It also helps that KoiKimo leaves Ichika in control of her fate. It is ultimately Ichika's decision whether her relationship with Ryo will advance or not.

Yoshida and Sayu
Platonic head pat.

Sayu does not have this luxury in HigeHiro. Maybe it's disingenuous to claim HigeHiro is about Yoshida "looking for something attractive to save" (my apologies to Liz Phair), but replace Yoshida's name here with "the audience's surrogate," and maybe it's not far off the mark. KoiKimo and HigeHiro both ended up where I expected, but Sayu had much less say over the path she took to get there.

Ryo and Ichika
Making the end credits look more like the manga art was a nice touch.

In contrast, KoiKimo is an honest romance. There is no real mystery whether Ichika and Ryo will actually end up together or not, even though KoiKimo does introduce rival love interests for both leads. Moreover, the rivals are genuinely more sensible partners from every objective metric. However, the most obvioius impediment—the age gap between Ichika and Ryo—is never depicted as a meaningful obstacle. When it is finally viewed as a problem, its solution is entirely unsurprising.

Yoshida and Sayu
Platonic head pat.

The solutions to the challenges presented in HigeHiro are also fairly obvious, but the series insists on pantomiming a number of unconvincing feints. They're unconvincing because Sayu basically has no flaws, and Yoshida clearly feels something for her. He never has a reason to turn her away, and Sayu's rivals for Yoshida's attention are dubious love interests who quickly end up supporting Sayu anyway.

Sayu
Relax, Sayu. Wonder Eggs are only 500 yen each.

In fact, Sayu's true adversaries are her lack of self-worth, her family's disinterest in her welfare, and the story's insistence at making Yoshida obtuse. Yoshida's behavior is baffling in HigeHiro, and not just because he denies being attracted to the sexually available high school girl living with him. Yoshida's behavior is baffling because he's willing to accept immediately on faith that Sayu would be better off returning to her home, without ever examining even the slightest bit the reasons why she ran away in the first place. It seems irresponsible to not at least contemplate the myriad awful situations that potentially compel teenagers to leave home and offer sex to strangers just to survive.

Sayu
HigeHiro showed Sayu orgasming on screen.

Of course, the real reason Yoshida never asks is because the story can't let him or the audience know before the narrative is ready. It turns out the unpleasant situation Sayu fled wasn't that bad, but that's the case only because HigeHiro insists on rehabilitating its antagonists immedately after introducing them. This sort of cowardice is a significant weakness of HigeHiro, as it makes its conflicts fairly hollow. The challenges presented in KoiKimo are not intractable either, but at least they don't take on a fraudulent quality.

Ichika
Ichika grew accustomed Ryo's nightly calls without realizing it.

KoiKimo succeeded by being forthright about its romance and committing to it unapologetically. In contrast, HigeHiro (like Yoshida himself) spends basically the entire series maintaining an unconvincing veneer of plausible deniability over whether or not Sayu is an actual love interest. At the risk of attracting accusations of being in favor of age-inappropriate pairings, I'm going to suggest HigeHiro does this to its detriment.

Sayu and Yoshida
They had to put him in a chair watching her sleep
so people wouldn't insist they still fucked.

I suppose I can't speak for its source material, but the anime most certainly portrays Sayu as an eligible partner. Does HigeHiro provide Sayu with agency by having her test Yoshida's resolve each time she propositions him? Or does the series undermine Sayu's agency by presenting these moments solely so Yoshida can continue to rebuff her and showcase his unflagging integrity? I'm not answering this rhetorical, but I think we all know.

Dated 20 April 2021: Koikimo is better than Higehiro even though both are missing the same thing

Ichika and Ryo
Stalker distancing.

News that the Spring 2021 anime season would feature TWO shows about adult men paired with high school girls created ripples across the Twitter, but even this mild outrage waned after viewers discovered neither show was as torrid as anticipated. Descriptions of Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui (It's Disgusting to Call This Love, A.K.A. Koikimo) in particular concentrated on elements that ranged from misleading (characterizing its male lead as "a womanizer") to outright untruthful (e.g., calling him "sex-crazed...with a wandering eye for women"). At the risk of stereotyping too much, I suspect more attention should have been paid to the fact that the Koikimo manga is described as josei (i.e., for adult women) instead of seinen (i.e., for adult men who miss fucking teenage girls).

Sayu and Yoshida
I was too bothered by Sayu's lack of luggage to make a Fate/stay night joke.

Curiously, Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. (Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway) seemed to attract less pre-season attention than Koikimo, but perhaps its original novels and manga adaption were already known well enough to deflect unwarranted speculation that it was going to be a smutty romp. This, despite its synopsis outright stating that its characters meet when the titular teenage girl, Sayu, offers sex in exchange for a place to stay. Instead, Higehiro is about a man, Yoshida, who insists he is not attracted to the JK crashing at his place. The series begins with Yoshida being rejected by his long-term crush (his boss at work, no less) who claims she is already seeing someone. He is so devastated that he seemingly does not even notice she was CLEARLY LYING.

Gotou
Dude, you're staring.

Higehiro also draws attention to Yoshida's insistence that he is not a "nice guy" for letting Sayu live with him without strings attached (unlike everyone else she has stayed with during her previous six months as a runaway), but rather that the other men she has known are despicable people. Yoshida also repeatedly insists he is not attracted to Sayu because he only likes women with large breasts, but then the show promptly undercuts him by immediately alerting (and repeatedly reminding) the viewer that Sayu's boobs are also comfortably big.

Sayu
Higehiro even quantifies the comparison.

This is where I lose the ability to predict the path Higehiro will take. There is enough fan service and "male gaze" to the anime that we are obviously supposed to see Sayu as a legitimate love interest of Yoshida's, despite (or perhaps because of) his loud denials. But the show also retains the harem elements by keeping the CLEARLY LYING boss lady and deliberately slapdash co-worker near as potential romantic rivals. If I had to guess how this story ends, I would expect Yoshida's support to put Sayu on a path to success before re-uniting the two after a multi-year timeskip apart that has given Sayu time to become a self-sufficient adult with even bigger boobs than ever. Alternatively, we'll get a cop-out non-ending ending, potentially with all four of them living together for contrived reasons.

Ryo
You can tell he's sincere because of the sparkles.

While Higehiro is about a man who denies being attracted to the teenage girl living with him, Koikimo is about a man openly and aggressively wooing a high school girl 10 years his junior. At this point, I think it is necessary to acknowledge the tropes that govern this story's boundaries. Ryo and Ichika meet by chance and a suspension bridge moment sparks his sudden obsession with Ichika, who is coincidentally classmates with Ryo's kid sister, Rio. Fortunately for Ryo, his sister not only approves of his infatuation with her friend, but even volunteers as his wingman to provide opportunities for him to get closer with Ichika.

Ruri, Rio, Ichika, and Satsuki
Rio's anime bed is made of concrete.

Moreover, Ichika's own mother approves of Ryo's courtship, despite Ichika's clear displeasure. It is probably worth pointing out that Ryo has apparently never had to pursue a love interest before. He is not a pick-up artist chasing after fresh prey. Instead, girls and women have thrown themselves at him his entire life (Ichika's and Rio's classmates all unanimously agree Ryo is exceptionally handsome), so this is an entirely new experience for him.

Sayu and Yoshida
Dude, you're staring.

So what are Koikimo and Higehiro both missing? Lust. In the case of Koikimo, Ryo is clearly, genuinely smitten with Ichika, but he is arguably more drawn to her disinterest in him than he is to her physical appearance. Ichika is presented as being fairly unremarkable among her peers, and her own best friend describes her as "normal" (although at least one boy at her school has taken a liking to her). In the case of Higehiro, it takes three episodes of the show loudly signalling that Sayu is comely and sexually available before Yoshida finally admit he finds her attractive. However, his refusal to sleep with her is predicated on a critical, foundational cornerstone to the narrative's integrity, so I don't expect the story can too easily reverse this stance even if the audience comes to think he protests too much.

Ichika and Rio
She is upset because she is pleased.

After four episodes of Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui and three episodes of Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou., I enjoy Koikimo more than Higehiro. Neither series is especially realistic (although I could believe Higehiro, despite the melodrama, were it not for the CLEARLY LYING Christmas-cake boss lady and the co-worker who deliberately fucks up her work for Yoshida's attention), but I find Koikimo more amusing. I can't rule out the possibility that I'm simply more enamored of Ichika's seemingly endless barrage of disgusted faces than I am with Sayu's "pretty big for a high school girl" bosom, though.