If there's one thing that really makes My Dress-Up Darling come alive, it's Marin. The heroine of this story is just so confident in herself and comfortable in her own body that it's a delight to read about her, and creator Fukuda never lets that amazing self-confidence eclipse the need for her to still have some vulnerabilities and flaws. She comes on like a hurricane as far as Gojo is concerned, and while it takes him most of the first volume to become entirely comfortable with how she acts around him, or what she's asking him to sew, the simple fact that she doesn't think his hobby or family store is weird and/or creepy goes a long way with him, and that's just very nice to see. Equally important in the genre of “boy doesn't trust girls,” Gojo has a legitimate reason for his wariness. Yes, the moment in question is far behind him, but the sort of social judgement he experienced because of his love of hina dolls sticks with you, and adolescence may only have exacerbated his fears as he entered into the socially fraught worlds of middle and high school. Marin's undiluted acceptance and excitement over his sewing skills is the first time he's been able to see that not all girls, or all people, are the same when it comes to casting judgement.
Part of Marin's easy acceptance of Gojo comes from the fact that her own hobby is considered somewhat fringe. Marin's an enthusiastic cosplayer, and more than that, a huge fan of eroge, which makes her hobby even more prone to other peoples' judgments. That's at least part of why she's never successfully found someone to help her sew before, and the downside for Marin is that she really desperately craves human connection. In part that may be the reason behind her gal persona – it gets her mostly positive attention, and since, as we learn in volume two, she lives entirely alone, that's definitely something she's looking for. As she gets more comfortable with Gojo, we see her start to wear more casual outfits in his presence, which seems to indicate that she's able to drop any remaining elements of pretense around him. Unfortunately, Gojo takes a bit longer to settle into their friendship, and Marin does make him uncomfortable for large swathes of the first book and slightly less of the second. Her willingness to strip down to her bikini (which only context renders different from underwear) or teasing comments to Gojo don't mean that he's fine with everything that's happening, and while I'm fairly certain that it will even out later on, the fact that she disregards his comfort level is no more acceptable than if he was disregarding hers. It's marginally helped by the fact that Marin honestly doesn't seem to mean anything by her more suggestive comments or even to realize that loaning him an eroge might not be the best plan. Despite her love of the eroge genre and her willingness to make suggestive comments, she may not fully understand what it really is that she's doing – she's potentially talking the talk without knowing the walk, if that makes sense. It's an odd dynamic, but it feels fairly true to adolescence, when everyone's still figuring things out and perhaps trying to come across as more “mature” and experienced than they really are. That Marin is no exception even though she presents as being very with it in both her actions and appearance (by manga standards) is nice, even if it doesn't always make for the best situations for the characters, as is driven home by when Gojo has to help her cool off at an event in volume two.
Luckily, the creator is very well aware of the pitfalls of the genre and seems to go out of their way to poke fun at it. The game that Marin is obsessed with has the ridiculous name of “Slippery Girls,” which perhaps isn't that far off from some real eroge titles I've seen, but is still funny in an off-color way. That her desire to cosplay eroge characters is somehow less “creepy” than Gojo's crafting of expensive Girls' Day dolls is also a little funny, and it speaks to the idea that it's fine for girls to do something that appeals to males (specifically from a male gaze perspective) while it's totally unacceptable for boys to dabble in “feminine” fields.
From Gojo blandly playing through the games to get a good grasp of the costume (his poor grandpa) to his and Marin's discussion of an ecchi scene in public, the story is really entertaining overall. As might be expected, there is a decent amount of fanservice, with volume one's largely facilitated naturally by what someone is wearing, which is really nice, but somewhat unnecessary, since Marin's preferred style allows for a fair amount of naturally-occurring skin; volume two goes out of its way more in terms of angles of both the bodies and the “camera.” Marin does have a vaguely ludicrous thigh gap, but at least no one is contorted at odd angles so that we can see her breasts, crotch, and butt all at the same time, and again, Marin's very comfortable in her own body, so there's no sense that we're seeing anything she doesn't want us to. (Volume two isn't quite as good on this front.)
Alongside the humor and the art, at its heart My Dress-Up Darling seems to be about not being afraid or ashamed about what you love. Marin's not quite as comfortable with Gojo as she seems, as volume two acknowledges, and he may not be as okay with helping her as he seems, but if they can continue to support each other and enjoy what they love, this could be a story worth following.