Title: Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru Review / My Dress-up Darling
Length: 12 episodes
Genre: Comedy, romance
Year of Release: 2022
I love Marin Kitagawa. I loved her from pretty much the get-go. She’s charming through-and-through – because unlike recent popular waifus, there is no ‘bite’ or ‘edge’ to her. She doesn’t insult people, she doesn’t seek to belittle others; on the contrary, she is incredibly idealistic, holding true to the belief that you should have freedom to be happy. Her go-get-’em energy is quickly quite infectious. Of course, much of this ties into her otaku hobbies – of which, cosplay forcibly brings her otaku-other-side outside of the house – but she is utterly shameless about it. I mean, in general she is utterly shameless too (we’ll get to that later), but she is utterly shameless about her love of animanga from episode one, excitedly talking about her favourite anime ships and openly admitting she plays naughty visual novels. She doesn’t care what people think about her, and this comes out in an extremely positive way.
Marin is also exquisitely designed, visually, focusing less on ‘traditional’ traits and embracing a very modern almost gyaru look that honestly seems to challenges otaku ‘desires’ for women. A typical waifu she is not. She has ombre dyed hair, multiple piercings, always wearing bold makeup… all the things the ‘nice guys’ say that women don’t need., right? And this ballsy anime went and SOLD them the antithesis of their wishlist! Genius. Then again, the camera leers her voluptuous chest, her rolled up skirt… even more fetishistic angles like the nape of her neck, her feet and her sweaty skin, so if you like her looks – you’re going to get a lot of her, visually, and I’m sure everyone interested in women will find something to like.
Perversion aside…. yeah, I loved Marin. She’s bursting with character and has a novel twist on anime-sexy. I loved her from the first moment she appeared – which is to say that she is flawless, idyllic and perfect. Perfect. Ergo, she cannot have a positive character arc because she starts, at episode one, with nothing to overcome, and nothing to ruminate upon or be challenged by. She is the most stereotypical Manic Pixie Dream Girl imaginable. There is only one small change to her character throughout the story – one, her crush on the protagonist. This barely affects her outgoing attitude, and only really slightly changes her inner monologues. It barely constitutes a character arc as realising she has a crush on Gojo is a switch-flipping moment around episode five.
Gojo. The protagonist. The self-insert. The male love-interest. Where all Manic Pixie Dream Girl stories fall down or stand tall is the protagonist.
Now, I know what realm we’re in. The bar for male demographic romance anime – especially ones with as sexually charged camera angles as SonoBisque has – the bar for writing self-insert protagonists is somewhere below the fucking floor. With a late series scene showing Gojo’s erect member, we’re so close to hentai that Gojo even having visible eyes is a plus. Most of Gojo’s contemporaries have the bare minimum of hobbies, the bare minimum of interests, zero chemistry with the leads and only ever have one conceivable trait: ‘nice’ – and most struggle with that, using a complete lack of other male characters or rapey, villainous men to make ‘nice’ a fucking comparison that being a limp tool, and having a limp tool, is somehow an improvement over the fucking competition.
So, yes, I recognise that the animanga realm doesn’t have the most stellar standards for male protagonists in male demographic romance stories. I get that – but that doesn’t make Gojo good.
But let’s go back a few steps, because Gojo has some things going for him. He loves to make Hina Dolls, a traditional Japanese type of ornamental doll. It’s a weird hobby, and the boy is still traumatised by a girl calling him ‘weird’ for it when he was, like, six or something. How this results in him being a complete recluse, having zero friends and wearing nothing but his school uniform or a Samue (a traditional Buddhist working robe) at the ripe old age of seventeen? I’ve got no clue. I’m used to accepting a few melodramatic leaps though, so it’s hardly the worst thing in the world. At least – at least – he has a hobby. And it contributes to the story of SonoBisque.
Chance encounter occurs, and Gojo finds super hot Marin failing to sew a gothic lolita cosplay outfit. Lol, am I right? She has a flaw (a comic inability to do something actually quite skillful), and this is where Gojo comes in, admitting he has some experience sewing, and winds up offering to make a costume for her.
This isn’t a bad way for a Boy Meets Girl story to unfold, since this opens up a handful of opportunities for the pair to meet up, for the pair to go shopping and hang out. But the show falls down here in two ways:
Firstly, Gojo is an absolute vacuum of charisma. Every scene is him straight-manning Marin’s antics… and not very well or interestingly. Because the show focuses on a sweet, nice tone, he can’t be too mean or sarcastic, so his straight man routines are dull and insipid observations of what weird thing she’s doing. There’s occasionally some fun production tricks – making Gojo’s face black-and-white or cutting the music – that make his reaction appear more lively than they are, but the sad reality is that he offers nothing to funny scenes. He does, very occasionally, offer a little bit of personal insight into chasing hobbies to do what you love, which make for some of the most heartwarming and effective scenes of the anime, but these (ironically to a point of hilariously) lack Marin and are delivered to other characters. Whoops.
Secondly, the sexual charging of scenes is atrociously lewd. For as wholesome as the tone of SonoBisque can be, spending an entire episode of Marin standing before Gojo in a bikini, obliviously asking for him to do her measurements and filmed with uncountable uncomfortable angles, is a drawn out routine of ‘Try Not To Get A Boner’. It quickly bores, since those not watching anime like that (like, ahem, ME) are getting bored out of their eyes, and I can’t imagine the faapfapfap crew can keep it up for that long during all the teasing. Gojo has no reaction to this, by the way, just constant blushing and complaining, which Marin is ‘comically’ or ‘cutely’ oblivious to, and thus it goes on. And on. And on.
This is not the only scene, either, with scenes like her dabbing her sweat at a convention going from a single naughty boob bounce to multiple minutes of drawn out voyeuristic, perverted camera work. Other scenes include the camera (and by extension, Gojo’s POV) ogling her rear as her ass sways side to side in her miniskirt. At some point, you just go… eww.
What a shameless camera angle. I’m sure some of you like that, and maybe that’s a good thing, but… eww.
It’s not sexy to be filmed that shamelessy. Camera shy of face level, boobs front-and-centre of perspective. SonoBisque is not even hiding how horny it is, or doing anything cleverly. Something sexy in the middle of the camera shot. That’s the majority of its cinematography.
But, throughout all of this, Gojo does help Marin, and he does have… a little bit of a character arc. Because there’s only a three-member cast – Marin, another cosplayer they meet halfway through and this other cosplayer’s photographer – we struggle to actually communicate how Gojo is overcoming his social insecurities. This is compounded by the fact that… he’s not making friends; all these characters are girls that are crushing on him. And while I think he only romantically has eyes for Marin, it’s hard to see him seeing these girls as just friends either – for comic reasons or otherwise, there are scenes of him walking in on the other cosplayer naked and his eyes lighting up, scenes of him blushing imagining the photographer’s large breasts…
With his social securities being challenged in only a very weak way by the narrative, the other way in which we see Gojo changing is being motivated to do something else beyond Hina Dolls. Making cosplay outfits has ‘similarities’ to the skillset he uses for Hina Dolls, and when it isn’t, the anime is actually quite effective at communicating the nuances of the cosplay hobby… but the key here is his motivation is to help Marin. It’s kind of sweet, I guess, seeing him work himself so hard. But his hard work lacks depth; we have to take how hard he works at face-value rather than narrative value with consequences. He doesn’t work so hard that he has to take remedial lessons or fails tests or misses deadlines or negatively effects his Hina Doll business – he faces no consequences for his ‘hard work’ other than slightly puffy eyes. Marin briefly gives a monologue on how he shouldn’t work so hard, but it lacks punch. Gojo doesn’t even need to practice or train, since he starts the series with all the skill he needs.
Still, despite having a protagonist only a hair’s breadth better, SonoBisque as a whole is, admittedly, far better than its peers. Marin is a far, far more charming heroine than many others can (wet-)dream of. SonoBisque has a love of cosplay, and has a depth to its showcase of the work going into cosplay. But as a romance, Gojo really is only barely better than the wastes of space he is competing against, and still offers all the same problems in ruining scenes and making weak romances. As a Manic Pixie Dream Girl with no development beyond episode one, Marin can’t carry the weight of twelve episodes entirely on her shoulders.
3 thoughts on “Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru Review”
learnt a new term manic pixie dream girl – hey up space
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😀 it’s a classic term! I’ve always been iffy on manic pixie dream girl movies, but then again, 500 Days of Summer’s one of my favourites, so who says a bad trope can’t be a good film?
What’s up Roki? I’ve been gone a whiiiile. Work’s been rough.
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hope you been good though space! :D, hope work isn’t kicking your butt too much though xDD
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