The anime adaptation for My Dress-Up Darling was one of 2022’s most celebrated romance anime, and for good reason. The show was a wholesome romance between a shy young man with a love for traditional Japanese dolls and an outgoing young woman who likes cosplay. Despite their different personalities, they both understand what it’s like to be treated cruelly by other people just because of their interests. As the two of them learn to admire each other’s talents, they also start to fall in love with each other.
As far as anime romances go, that’s about as realistic as it gets. If you liked the sweet romance of My Dress-Up Darling and, let’s admit it, the normal levels of fanservice compared to a lot of new anime shows, here are more cute romance anime to watch.
1. Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku (2020)
Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku (2020) is a romcom anime centered on the lives of four office friends who share geeky interests. Some of them love video games, anime, or cosplay, but the lead female character Narumi is a yaoi enthusiast who tries to hide her interests from other people because she’s afraid of being judged.
The characters of Wotakoi try to navigate adult life and their awkward romances, all while maintaining a facade of professionality. It’s a really believable anime that gives you a glimpse of what happens when geeky friends in a high school anime show grow up and enter the real world. Aside from the cute romance between all of them, the show tackles the tension between the happiness that ‘childish’ interests bring and the expectations of adulthood, making it one of those rare slice-of-life anime that you’ll be able to relate to even if you’re over 20 years old.
2. Komi Can’t Communicate (2021)
If you loved how Gojo’s determination to help Marin achieve the cosplay outfits of her dreams brought them together, you’re going to like Komi Can’t Communicate (2021). The titular Komi is an incredibly beautiful young woman who doesn’t talk to anyone at her new school. But she’s not a snobby mean girl. She’s actually just extremely shy and deathly afraid of talking to other people.
When Tadano, the show’s male lead, realizes that Komi suffers from social anxiety and isn’t actually ignoring them all, he makes it his mission to help her make friends with everyone at the school.
The anime could have taken the route of turning Komi into a bullied outcast, but it instead opts to leave out the bullying we’ve come to expect from shows set in high school. It’s not just because of Komi being pretty either, the show later reveals that many of the other characters are ‘strange’ in their own way and doesn’t portray them being bullied for it.
3. The Way of the Househusband (2021)
The Way of the Househusband (2021) is mostly a comedy, but the romance is present in the way Tatsu takes his house-husband duties seriously. After retiring from a life of crime as a yakuza member, Tatsu now spends his days cleaning and cooking for his career woman wife, who happens to be a magical girl-loving otaku.
The two make for quite the comedic pair since it’s clear that they’re both weirdos who really adore each other. It’s sweet in a geeky, awkward way. If My Dress-Up Darling is an otaku high school romance and Wotakoi is an otaku office romance, The Way of the Househusband is an otaku married life romance.
4. Ore Monogatari (2015)
My Dress-Up Darling’s sweet romance and message about being true to yourself are just some of the things that make it so great, so if you liked the slow burn between Marin and Gojo, you’ll enjoy Ore Monogatari (2015). The anime follows Takeo, an unattractive guy with a heart of gold, as he becomes friends, and eventually lovers, with the beautiful Rinko.
Takeo meets Rinko after saving her from being sexually harassed. Rinko immediately develops a favorable opinion of him, but because Takeo is used to being rejected by women, he thinks she’s actually into Makoto, Takeo’s handsome friend. In any other anime, it would be Rinko and Makoto serving as the show’s leads, and Takeo would just be comedic relief. But it’s his story and the story of how someone sees past his looks and intimidating size to notice how kindhearted and admirable he is.
5. Horimiya (2021)
It’s hard to talk about My Dress-Up Darling without bringing up Horimiya (2021) since the two shows were made by the same studio. Well, that and the fact that Horimiya came just a year before My Dress-Up Darling and shares a similar overall vibe. The show is also set in high school and features an upbeat, popular female protagonist and a reserved, awkward male protagonist.
What no one knows about them, though, is that they have completely different personalities outside of school. Hori hates dressing up at home, contrary to her popular girl persona, and Miyamura is an alt-fashion enthusiast. Much of the slow burn in this romance is them realizing that the other person accepts them as they are without having to put up a front like they do for other people.
6. The Ancient Magus’ Bride (2017)
The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a fantasy anime, so it’s a little different from the real-world setting you would expect from a My Dress-Up Darlingi adjacent anime. That said, the anime shares the same themes of self-acceptance and being loved by another person for one’s real self. Despite the fantasy elements, the show is mostly a slice of life that follows the romance between Elias and Chise. It’s a long process for them to get there, though, since the two have a lot of unresolved emotional baggage.
7. Sasaki and Miyano (2022)
Sasaki and Miyano (2022) leans heavily into its themes of self-acceptance through the romance between its titular gay couple. The two stumble into their romance, and it’s clear they’re not entirely sure if the other reciprocates their feelings or is even the right orientation to do so. On top of struggling with their own internalized homophobia and figuring out if their feelings are reciprocated, they also have to deal with their fear of being rejected by their friends if word gets out that they’re dating.