Wakana was introduced to the beauty and wonder of traditional Japanese hina dolls by his grandfather when he was but a slip of a boy. Gramps runs the Gojo Dolls company, and lives in a home that looks like it is straight out of the 1890s—probably about when the backbone of his company, the treadle sewing machine, was made too. It’s just Wakana and Gramps in the old house, and indeed in all of life, since the boy, now grown up and in high school, has never been able to make any friends. This is largely due to his love of hina dolls, for which his only childhood friend rejected him, calling him creepy. And it is true that his habit of talking to the disembodied dolls’ heads that he works with is a tad, shall we say, unique. Both as a result of his old-fashioned upbringing (in a world without anime, manga and gaming—how on earth is he supposed to relate to his peers without this vital information???), and also to protect himself from further rejection, Wakana holds himself back from interacting with his peers, playing the mild doormat like so many seinen MCs. The one who will, over the course of the season, teach him to express himself and behave with more firmness is Marin, the popular girl who literally flies (falls) into his world like an angel (she tripped), then later gives him a much needed pep talk, and finally discovers his “dirty little secret” in the sewing practice room one day and rather than rejecting him like the girl of his nightmares from many years ago, becomes quite, um, excited by his sartorial talents. Marin, you see, has her own little secret, and that is a passionate love for cosplay that is matched only by her complete and utter ineptitude at sewing and fashion design, as Wakana, who finally finds his voice, points out with all the confidence of a professional. Will the two be a match made in heaven (the sewing classroom)?
Wow, two fashion-themed releases from CloverWorks in one day! And just in time too, considering I finished binging Next in Fashion and Making the Cut this week. But I digress.
This was my most anticipated new series of the season, based on the preview trailer. Did it live up to my expectations? Well, the art is definitely on point, in that slick, clean way that is reminiscent of the other high school romance from CloverWorks, Horimiya. The world that Wakana and Gramps inhabit is fascinating, and enough on its own to keep me tuning in at least for the requisite first three episodes. The two MCs’ passions—hina dolls and cosplay—are played quite a bit more for their pervy implications than I expected, with a lot of leery facial expressions and some heavy breathing etc. The trailer presented this as a more straightforward comedy romance, but the first episode definitely brings a bit of an edge, shall we say, to the premise. For instance, the character whom Marin is so desperate to embody (she literally says she wants to become her) is named Shizuku Kuroe-tan from Saint Slippery’s Academy for Girls: The Young Ladies of the Humiliation Club: Debauched Miracle Life 2! Even Wakana doesn’t quite know what to do with that. Is this going to devolve into a seinen wish-fulfillment series? I don’t think so. The interactions between the leads was far too genuine and human throughout the first two-thirds of the episode for it to turn into pure fanservice. There’s so much potential here for something thoughtful and maybe even profound in this exploration of the collision between cultures or “exact opposite worlds” as Wakana describes them; between the Japan of the 1890s and modern otaku culture of the 2020s. My hope is that in bringing these two worlds together, something truly rich, relevant, and creative may emerge. But maybe I’m asking for too much. I’ll stick around for awhile though to find out!