2.5 Dimensional Seduction – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser July 8, 20240 Comments
Ririsa as Liliel extending her hands to the camera

Content Warning: fan service

What’s it about? Okumura Masamune has sworn off 3D girls, needing only the love of his fictional angel Liliel. But his resolve is tested by new student Amano Ririsa, a girl who not only shares his passion for Liliel but is determined to cosplay as her.

Somewhere out there is a person who said, “I like the amount of fan service in My Dress-Up Darling, but I wish the characters acted more like two-dimensional stereotypes; and could we replace the stuff about breaking gender stereotypes with, like, a sprinkling of sexism?” For that person, 2.5 Dimensional Seduction was made. And if we ever meet, I’m going to spit in their Gamer Fuel.

I’m struggling here. The manga of 2.5D started running in Jump+ 18 months into My Dress-Up Darling’s run, with the same basic premise of “guy enters the world of cosplay because of his crush, and she’s an unexpected fan of content traditionally marketed toward men, hijinks and butts ensue,” and it’s so much worse at it on every level from the art up.

Okumura standing. "Yeah, I bet she only likes shoujo bullcrap"
I have heard vaguely, against my will, that there is Localization Discourse about this line.
My only response that even if the literal word is “shoujo manga,” the tone is a pitch-perfect sneering dismissal I’ve heard too many times

But there’s more to this than being the day-old bread version of the most popular modern title about cosplay. It deserves consideration. It deserves examination on its own merits. And by Kors, I’m going to do it (if any fashion designer can match the vibe of this premiere, it’s certainly him).

The opening narration says that this is “a story about young women who cosplay and the love and passion they share,” which is a beautiful sentiment. I too am an enormous fan of Complex Age, which still doesn’t have an anime adaptation. Anyway, that line is visually paired with the heroine not talking to any of the girls around her and instead blushing and calling out to the Potato-kun taking her picture. This bodes ill.

But in fact, I am wrong to so quickly label Okumura a Potato-kun, for he has a personality strikingly distinct from being blandly nice. Which is: he is an asshole who only has eyes for his fictional Best Girl because real women are mean, shallow bitches, from his mother walking out to the girls who didn’t appreciate him in middle school. But fear not! For the assumptions behind the “No Girls Allowed” sign he forgot to tape to the door of the Manga Club (of which he is now the only member) is challenged by the arrival of fresh-faced Ririsa! Turns out girls can be mega-nerds too!

liliel makes a heart with her hands. "She's sweet and pure and only has eyes for the main character."
She’s never once pooped! 💖

If I utilize the power of the Hubble Telescope, I grant that this is a perfectly fine set-up for character conflict. Any girl reading this—really, just about anyone with a marginalized gender—is on the internet, and has thus almost certainly encountered this particular type of Gatekeeping Dude. The kind who responds to the normal human statement, “I like video games,” with “oh yeah? Name five.” And then tells you Stardew Valley doesn’t count. I can get behind starting in a toxic, adolescent mindset and then working through it with your protagonist as the canvas—I gave a pretty glowing recommendation to The Dangers in My Heart at the start of this year, after all.

But idle monkey paws are the devil’s details, and everything about the context of this set-up seems more likely to make a viewer who holds that gatekeeping mentality change not at all while giving them a reason to pat themselves on the back most heartily. Yes, Okumura changes his stance on Ririsa and decides she’s welcome after all, but only after she proves herself to be a “true” otaku: the definition of which is that she likes exactly the same show he does, drops obscure trivia regarding the ecchi figure of Liliel that he was initially hoping would scare her off, and says she actually totally loves female characters designed for male audiences. In fact, she doesn’t just love them, she views them as self-inserts, and reassures him that all the traits he’d waxed poetic about regarding LIliel (that she’s “pure,” and loyal, and loves the hero so much she literally dies for him but gets resurrected as an angel so it’s fine) totally do exist in real girls.

Young Ririsa blushing. "So it's okay for girls to talk about this stuff too..."
I would love for this scene to be in a better show, where Ririsa’s exploration of her sexuality isn’t framed exclusively in reference to the male protagonist.

I was really afraid to pause the video in the wrong place after that, because I assume that if I clicked my mouse over her she’d somehow deflate.

To be perfectly clear, the problem isn’t at all that Ririsa likes horny anime or that she’s enchanted by the idea of wearing revealing cosplay and wants to feel sexy (the first arc of the manga I’ve agreed not to name-drop again is incredible playful and sweet about having its heroine fangirl over an eroge); probably my favorite part of the episode was a two-second flashback of Ririsa going to a soft-core cosplayer event and being gently shepherded out by the booth girls, who encourage her to come back when she’s older. But none of her monologue feels authentic.

Every point she brings up is made to counter the image of the “intruder girl” Okumura has in his head: she doesn’t like icky, girly shoujo, she only likes battle shounen (specifically ecchi, since they talk a lot about LIliel’s crotch being visible in show and not just in merch); she’s not bothered by sexualization of female characters, in fact she’s more into it than he is (but I will bet you ten bucks, right the fuck now, that the series has never even considered the possibility that she might be queer); she proclaims herself Liliel’s ultimate fan, but still needs Okumura to monologue to her about an old OVA adaptation of the series while she gasps over how knowledgeable he is. She has no opinions that might challenge his preexisting notions in any way aside from presenting the possibility that he could get laid, such that when he nobly tells her that an otaku would never make fun of someone else’s passion I hurt my throat laughing. She is the Cool Girl.

Ririsa clenches her fist. "I've always liked heroines designed for a male audience!"
“In fact, I think every cosplay costume should requite spending the day with a giant wedgie! Variety is for cowards!”

How cool is she? After fretting about how she wants to cosplay but has never done it before (specifically she wants to make a cosplay DVD, which seems to be racy photo shoots burned to disc), she pulls out her homemade Liliel costume and puts it on for Okumura then and there. I’m not appalled that she stripped (after asking this senpai she’s known for five minutes to be her photographer, because she wouldn’t feel safe being alone with a stranger); no, the appalling part of this scene is that her very first hand-made cosplay of what appears to be a vinyl miniskirt and jacket looks 100% screen accurate with no sewing experience, and she puts on both a multi-layer wig and contacts without a single issue. Because she just loves Liliel that much. This is logical, because we all know that people who struggle with the labor of a made-from-scratch costume, from patterning to fabric hunting to construction and props, simply don’t care about the character enough.

 But is important that she look just like Liliel from moment one, because otherwise Okumura wouldn’t be struck with the revelatory boner that imparts him with the wisdom of an otaku mentor. Having proved that she has all his same interests but also doesn’t know as much as him, and that she’s hot in a nonthreatening way, he has no choice but to care about her. But I do not have to care about him. There are artful ways to hint at the trajectory of an ignorant protagonist even from the jump, whether that’s putting more thoughtful characters around them or tilting the entirety of your worldbuilding into grim absurdity. The only foreshadowing I get here is that any statement about girls the show might care to make, even if it’s aiming for positivity, is implicitly followed by the addendum, “if they’re fuckable.”

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