WARNING: The following contains spoilers for My Dress-Up Darling Episode 12, "My Dress-Up Darling," now streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
My Dress-Up Darling is a classic case of opposites attracting between the outgoing Kitagawa Marin and the meek Gojo Wakana. For a time it seemed Marin was the one taking the lead in cosplay and romance alike, and it was all Gojo could do to keep up with her. However, the Season 1 finale suggests it's actually Marin who must catch up to Gojo instead.
Earlier episodes of My Dress-Up Darling used various kinds of symbolism to represent the state of Marin and Gojo's relationship, such as the former's then-platonic feelings when she stripped down to her bathing suit for some measurements while a bashful Gojo could hardly handle it. Now in Episode 12, Marin is the one who's afraid to take the plunge into the waters of romance.
In the season finale, Marin and Gojo spend quality time together in the waning weeks of summer vacation. Without any current cosplay projects to work on, Marin treats Gojo to a horror movie, where he takes notes of how it used costumes and practical effects to create horror. Then the two visit their high school so Marin can retrieve some forgotten items, followed by a visit the school's pool, which sparkles in the sun. This pool becomes symbolic when Marin promises to casually dip her toes into the water before completely diving in. She underestimates her own readiness in this scene, and it's a clear reflection of what is happening in her heart.
Marin was previously the dominant one in the relationship, the confident and experienced cosplayer who led the way while teasing Gojo the entire time. But ever since Gojo admitted his love for Marin on the train, her heart has been in turmoil for all the right reasons. It seems she can't yet fully process her feelings and figure out their ever-evolving relationship. Marin thought she was prepared to take a dip into the refreshing waters of friendship with Gojo -- only to fall in love before she was ready, and now she's realizing how overwhelmed she is.
Still, Marin manages to laugh it off and buy herself time to figure things out, and best of all, the patient Gojo isn't going to scold her or rush her decision. Marin still has a long way to go with both swimming and true love, and carelessly diving into either one isn't going to help. She must learn to swim slowly and carefully, figuring things out as she goes.
By contrast, Gojo is getting more used to his new relationship with Marin than ever, and no matter the fan service, he's becoming more stable and confident with everything. A later scene in Episode 12 proves this when Gojo finally attends a summer festival to watch the fireworks, which he greatly enjoys. In years past, Gojo had simply watched the fireworks from the comfort of his bedroom window, and they looked and sounded so distant. They were just background noises in the summer, but now the fireworks take on a whole new meaning as Gojo has stepped into a new world.
Marin is Gojo's first serious female friend and, potentially, his first proper girlfriend and love interest. She is dazzling, exciting and bright, just like fireworks, and Gojo needs to see her up close to realize how wonderful a person she is. Marin isn't just background noise at school -- she feels real to Gojo, and forming a relationship with her is scary, exciting and intriguing all at once. Gojo may be new to romance like Marin, but his overall approach currently appears more effective than hers, and it shows. As of My Dress-Up Darling's Season 1 finale, it's Marin's turn to catch up.