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Fanservice Friday: The sleeve’s the thing

Earlier this week in our Off the Shelf column, Michelle and I reviewed Kazue Kato’s Blue Exorcist, at which time the following exchange occurred:

MICHELLE: … While I do like the art style, particularly the looks of Rin and Yukio, I must say that the quirky-just-to-be-quirky garb of the academy’s president puts me off quite a bit. Usually I take characters with a bizarre sense of fashion in stride, but this guy’s outfit just seems extra pointless to me.

MELINDA: I’m on the fence regarding the president’s odd outfit. It’s definitely “quirky-just-to-be-quirky,” just as you say, but it contains a particular element that tends to be bullet-proof costuming for me (giant cuffs on sleeves), which is almost enough to win me over all by itself. There’s a reason I’m obsessed with the artwork in Pandora Hearts.

MICHELLE: That is an oddly specific costuming kink! I haven’t paused to consider whether I have anything similar. Maybe I like long coats, because I really like the outfit Yukio wears while teaching his class.

MELINDA: Long coats are delicious. I can completely get behind that!

With this in mind, I’d like to dedicate this month’s Fanservice Friday to my bullet-proof costuming kink, CUFFED SLEEVES. Oh, the beauty of it all!

Since I mentioned Pandora Hearts specifically in the conversation with Michelle, I’ll use that manga as my prime example here. Clearly, Jun Mochizuki understands the power of the cuffed sleeve, as she’s filled up her manga with it. Furthermore, most of these sleeves occur on long coats, combining the deliciousness of both to substantial effect.

Raven does particularly well in the coat department, as you can see from the illustrations below. This is a long, flowing coat with a kind of bad-ass vibe, enhanced by the boots and hat. Note how Mochizuki accents the length and fullness of the cuffed sleeves with her choice of camera angle and poses. These illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and they’re exactly the thing to satisfy my personal costuming desires. For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone wants to see attractive manga characters nude or scantily clad, when they could be seeing them in a scrumptious coat. Everyone looks beautiful in a coat like this.

Break is also a winner in Mochizuki’s cuffed sleeve department, with a special feature that seems to belong only to him. In the scene below, you’ll see that Break’s overcoat is designed to sit perpetually off his shoulders (I’m not even sure it’s a separate piece of clothing). This has the effect of giving him over-long sleeves (another personal kink of mine), but it also actually creates the illusion of his sleeves being cuffed at the top as well as the bottom, for extra cuff-a-licious goodness.

Though this is an action scene with plenty of important stuff going on, I can’t help it, I’m looking at the sleeves.

On the left below, you’ll see a particularly nice example of Break’s behavior as concerns his over-long sleeves (Mochizuki obviously has a thing for this, and so do I), but it’s not just the men who get good sleeve action in this manga. Sharon’s lacy cuff reveals another just below it, an interestingly dainty look for a character who’s really only dainty on the outside. Echo gets cuffs on the top of her sleeves (similar to Break’s), and even on her boots, attractively framing the thigh area for those who are into that. But the best cuffs really belong to Alice, based on sheer size alone, gracefully matching in scale the large bow at the front of her coat.

Not that Mochizuki is alone in her appreciation of the cuffed sleeve.

Though the look is most common in manga set in the west or in heavy fantasy settings like Blue Exorcist, mangaka like CLAMP, for instance, have demonstrated some love for large, lovely cuffs.

In xxxHolic, Watanuki and Doumeki’s winter uniform includes a long, slim coat (nicely matched to CLAMP’s long, slim character designs) with elegant buttons and a substantial cuffed sleeve.

And in Tokyo Babylon, doting sister Hokuto is seen dressing up twin brother Subaru in some beautifully cuffed outfits, including this flowing shirt from volume three.

Here again we have a large cuff that extends slightly past the wrist, which is a favorite look for me.

The allure of the cuffed sleeve is not limited to fantasy manga, either, nor to manga set in any particular period.

Even modern gag series can be found sporting substantial cuffs, as seen here in Kōji Kumeta’s Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei.

While Nozomu’s no-nonsense shirtsleeves provide a humorous contrast, peeking out from under his otherwise traditional garb (though of course, I wish they were wider!), student Kafuka’s coat is simply pretty and timeless.

And no, those aren’t cuffs, of course, but they create a similar look that I’m very fond of, accenting the end of the sleeve by making it wider just before the wrist.

Why do I like this effect so much? I simply have no idea. I only know that it pleases my eye immediately, improving my impression of the outfit as a whole.

And though large, wide cuffs can often be used to accentuate the delicacy of smaller hands, they aren’t any less attractive when paired with large hands. Nor do I associate over-long sleeves with infantilizing characters, though I suspect they may sometimes be used specifically for this effect.

Looking for magical girl manga featuring cuffed sleeves? Look no further than Shugo Chara!‘s Amu Hinamori, cool and spicy, and sporting fantastic cuffs!

So, readers, do you have your own bullet-proof costuming elements? What piece of clothing makes you feel serviced as a fan?

All illustrations from English-language releases of Pandora Hearts (Yen Press), xxxHolic (Del Rey Manga), Tokyo Babylon (TOKYOPOP), Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (Del Rey Manga), & Shugo Chara! (Del Rey Manga). Buy these books for more beautiful cuff action!

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  1. Ah, Melinda, you have won me over.
    The art in Pandora Hearts is so sexy…I need to be reading that, but ug. Really don’t need to be buying yet another series right now. Will just rent the anime.
    I love men in kimono. Like Shigure in Fruits Basket. The way he lounges about in it every day is so alluring. So, specifically I like it when modern men wear them. It’s less of an appeal in period pieces where everyone is wearing them.
    I also like a good hat. One of the things I love most about Paradise Kiss is the amazing array of hats that George wears.
    And, of course, a nice pair of glasses on a tall, cool looking guy is my weakness.

    • I really must recommend the Pandora Hearts manga! It is beautiful in ways that can’t be properly transferred to animation!

      Also, I concur with all your costuming preferences! Those items are lovely!

      • I’ve read the first volume, and I really enjoyed it. However, until I start making my own income, and get more space for bookshelves, I don’t need to be picking up another series right now (though I have been here or there, shame on me). I’ve got manga nearly bursting out the windows. It’s all over the apartment. Double, sometimes triple, stacked on shelves, piled into boxes, piled into piles, stuffed here and there. I’m to the point where anything I’m not absolutely in love with gets given away, which includes some books I quite enjoyed, but convinced myself I didn’t have to keep (I can’t keep everything, though sometimes I would like to!). I wish I were reading Pandora Hearts! And I may break down and start picking it up anyway. But right now, I’m holding off. :(

  2. Katherine Dacey says:

    Period costumes work wonders for me: I love a beautifully draped yukata or kimono, especially if the manga artist has taken the time to render the pattern as well as the basic shape of the garment. I covet the clothing worn by the women in Ooku: The Inner Chambers and The Story of Saiunkoku, even though I realize that those garments would be a serious impediment to an active lifestyle: can you imagine trying to walk a dog wearing all that fabric?!

    I’m also a sucker for a single-breasted men’s suit, especially if the lines are clean but not too mod. (I’m not a big fan of skinny pants on men.) Guess that comes from being a movie buff; all my favorite actors — William Powell, Cary Grant, Burt Lancaster, Denzel Washington, Chow Yun Fat — know how to wear a suit, and I expect the same from my manga men. We need more heroic salary-man manga!

    • It’s such a conundrum, isn’t it? So much period clothing for women seems to have been designed to ensure that they couldn’t move, and yet it is all so beautiful!

      As I was looking through my manga shelves for examples of cuffed sleeves, I came across some very tasty suits I expect you’d like a lot. I’ll have to go back and remember where they came from so I can direct you to them! :D

  3. I’m not all that into cuss as such, but the slightly too-long sleeve that covers part of the hand, yessss. Especially on uke-ish types.

    “In the scene below, you’ll see that Break’s overcoat is designed to sit perpetually off his shoulders (I’m not even sure it’s a separate piece of clothing).”

    It is; it’s held up by those black straps under his cravat and down his back. It took me a while to figure out what was going on there. :P

    For my personal fanservice tastes, for pretty boys I like belly shirts, or white button-down shirts (maybe a bit too big, with the neck unbuttoned…). For pretty ladies: sleek, androgynous pantsuits or way-retro 1910s-1920’s styles.

  4. Don’t laugh, but my favorite outfits are the the school uniforms in Vampire Knight: collars, vests,jackets with cuffs, lots of detail and the Tegami Bachi Letter Bee uniforms (for some reason I always admire those newsboy hats). BTW, I just finished Blue Exorcist and it wasn’t half bad.

    • I am not laughing at all! :D I don’t care for Vampire Knight, but I can see the appeal of the clothing!

    • Katherine Dacey says:

      I’m not big on Vampire Knight, either, but the male vampires’ uniforms and stylishly messy hair bring back fond memories of early MTV (especially Duran Duran videos).

      • Oh, Duran Duran… my teenaged heart goes *pitter-pat*.

      • Oh no! Once upon a time I was a huge Duran Duran fan, is that why I liked the Vampire Knight out fits? I’m really aging myself yikes :)

        • Well, that makes two of us then! I still remember watching those videos when they originally aired in the 1980s. I was in junior high when “The Reflex” was a big hit; that song — plus “Rio,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and “Girls on Film” — were on the playlist of every middle school dance I attended.

  5. Wonderful post!

    I love it when a manga has nice clothes, either fantasy or modern. I’m more inclined to appreciate even a shallow story if the mangaka has put some real effort into designing the clothes the characters wear. And vice versa, even a good story will start to annoy me at some point if nobody ever changes clothes. I get seriously annoyed at all those manga where people wear school uniforms always and everywhere. Special love is reserved for those mangaka who manage to make fantasy settings that allow women to dress in practical and still pretty and femine outfits.

    As for my special quirk, gloves on men. When a guy is wearing gloves outside of really cold weather, it always adds that special flavour of either extreme style or mystery. If the glove is worn only on one hand they get extra points. Yes, Tokitoh and Kai Eto, I’m looking at you.

  6. I’m a horrible cuff addict too. I was just thinking about it a month or so ago. For a lot of manga artists, I think some of it comes from Leiji Matsumoto and his love of anachronism whether as a direct influence or opening the doors for anachronistic couture in Japanese media. In general, I think there’s definite appeal in someone being uncomfortably all dressed up rather than comfortably lounging around in sweats and old-timey outfits just lend themselves more to that.

  7. heh cuff fans? ^^ if you want to see some fantastic costumes in the past that had huge cuffs, look to early 18th century fashion, french and english can be viewed on the internet probably. It’s the years 1700-1760. Don’t look at American fashions around that time because well for me isn’t American Revolutionary War clothes boring because that part of history seems boring? T.T but that’s me. >.> Even tho it’s the same period. Anyway, there are some great big cuff fashions then. Here’s one good link. :)

    I learned a bit of this fashion by way of watching Pride and Prejudice movies, which is actually set in the years 1800-1820.

    I kinda wonder if those clothes were uncomfortable. They do seem heavy =.= but at the same time by some reading most clothes way back then were custom made so they would never fit badly on you and allow you to stretch and I don’t think people back then relax the way we do, like slouching and stretching their limbs much, more polite in the movements even when not formal, you know?

    • I used to be an actor, so I got to wear a lot of clothing from that period on stage, and even when it is purposefully altered to allow movement it can still be uncomfortable. But it is still pretty.

      Oddly I don’t have as much of a fetish for it though in real life as I do in comics.

  8. The cuffs are okay, but it’s really that long coat that convinces me I must resume Pandora Hearts at the soonest opportunity.

  9. Cuffs, that’s not one I’ve heard before!

    I have a thing for hair over one eye + a middle antennae of hair. The hair should be flat, maybe a slight flip up at the end is ok, and preferably some odd shade of grey-black. And it’s gotta be a dude. Oddly enough, despite liking this character design, I’ve yet to find a series with it that I’ve liked, I just can’t win, grr! Ok, so that’s mine for hairstyle.

    For clothing, can’t say I’ve thought about this much, but I like the way Osamu Tezuka draws shoes, they’re quite cute, I’m talking about the rounded ones more common in his early work, the type on Astro, not the more normal looking types on his adult characters in his 80s works. Pretty much everything he draws is adorable from his earlier era, I do love his artwork so very much!

  10. four words Grade S Zettai Ryouiki

  11. Hahaha, this is such a fun topic! I’m trying to think of something that really gets me, fashion-wise… actually, SZS’s Itoshiki-sensei up there is pretty great. I’m fascinated with that bit of Japanese fashion history (~early 1900s?) when they were just opening up to the West and the traditional kimono&hakama with a western button-up shirt was the thing to wear. And the girls with their high-waisted hakama and their partly-up-with-a-bow long hair… beautiful! Kimono in general are fun because of all the pretty patterns and designs of the material. I’m definitely a big fan of fabric patterns (in real life too!)

    As far as modern fashion, I recently picked up the first volume of Clean-Freak Fully Equipped from Tokyopop, and it’s got some really sweet clothes, though I can’t point to just one thing like your cuffs that captures me. The characters each have their own style and the clothes are believable but just stylishly quirky enough to get my attention—a single stripe down the outside of the sleeves, a check pattern at the bottom of just one pant-leg, stitching up the side of a tshirt, a kimono-inspired miniskirt-dress with kneesocks… it’s all too cute!! I’m kinda bummed that starting in the second chapter, the characters are in middle school and have to wear a uniform. (…which reminds me that I always really loved the fashion in Lovely Complex, since the characters completely ignored their school’s dress code most days of the year).

  12. Your post made me realize how much I liked cuffs without even knowing it, but I’d say the thing that is most bulletproof for me is outfits with lots of loose and draping fabric, in any of the many ways this can manifest itself. The large coats you showed from Pandora Hearts, kimonos, and the wonderful assortment of robes, cloaks, and gowns from Red River’s Hattusa. On top of draped and flowing outfits it never hurts to have some really ornate ornamentation — like the ludicrous beading, patterns, and embroidery of xxxHOLIC or the beautiful jewelry and accessories of Red River.

    • On top of draped and flowing outfits it never hurts to have some really ornate ornamentation — like the ludicrous beading, patterns, and embroidery of xxxHOLIC or the beautiful jewelry and accessories of Red River.

      Agreed, agreed, agreed. :D


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