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One of the exciting things about anime, is that it shows cultural aspects of Japan and other places in a interesting way, and one of the most beautiful examples of it, is the Kimono. From the multi-layered Kimono of the Heian period, to the Furisode Kimono with its gorgeous long sleeves.
This beautiful garment catches our attention and imagination, and has become a worldwide symbol of Japanese classy sexiness and femininity, and in the case of the men, cool and manly style. So we are going to share with you the top 10 anime that features characters wearing kimono in all its splendor. Let’s enjoy this beautiful clothing as an essential part of the storylines in Japanese animation.
10. Kamisama Hajimemashita (Kamisama Kiss)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct 2012 - Dec 2012
Based from a very popular manga, Kamisama Kiss is a romantic anime series that tells the story of Nanami, a high school girl that after being abandoned by her father, ends up in the streets without a place to go. Fortunately, fate leads her to help Mikage, a god that travels in disguise as a human, who offers her refuge in his small Shinto shrine. In exchange, Nanami takes his place temporarily, becoming the new deity of the area, where she starts her adventures together with Tomoe, a supernatural being that becomes her aide and bodyguard.
This series filled with romance, adventure and magic, shows us several garments, that otherwise will be difficult to see, like the ceremonial “hakama” (a kind of red long skirt) typical of the Shinto religion, were the priestesses in charge of the rites, wear over a white kimono without designs, and over them, a robe with open long sleeves, that flows at the rhythm of the purification dance that they perform. In Kamisama Kiss, Tomoe wears kimono and hakama as his daily clothes, while Nanami wears these garments only when she participates in a special ceremony.
9. Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume’s Book of Friends)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jul 2008 - Sep 2008
Natsume’s Book of Friends, is an anime that conjures, in every episode, a nostalgic sensation of lost and tenderness. This animated series where the supernatural subtly intertwines with the everyday life, shares with us the life of Natsume, a high school boy, who possesses the ability to ignore the unseen limits of the world, and perceive at glance all supernatural beings; and together with a powerful fox spirit as a guide, fight to protect the “Book of Friends” that he inherited from his grandmother.
It’s worth mentioning, that the adventures of Natsume and his Book of Friends, show us a world full with “Ayakashi”, that are part of the Japanese folklore. Some of these beings, that manifest into human or humanoid appearance, dress in traditional clothes like kimono, hakama, or simple yukata, showing in their attire, their level of importance in the supernatural world; so the more powerful wears a more detailed and rich in finery kimono. For example, Kogitsune, the little orphan fox, wears a simple child’s kimono, in comparison with Tsuyukami, “the God of Dew”, who wears a full set of male silk kimono and haori.
Other wonderful examples of kimono are the ones that Hinoe wears (who captivated a lot of fans with her beauty), and Benio (the lady of the butterfly ornament). Hinoe wears a very beautiful haori that extends along the kimono, giving her a more mature appeal, while Benio wears a beautiful furisode, or kimono with long sleeves, that is appropriate for unmarried women, giving her a fresh image.
8. Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto (Intrigue in the Bakumatsu: Irohanihoheto)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 2006 - Apr 2007
Despite of being an historical and action series, Intrigue in the Bakumatsu: Irohanihoheto, it’s an anime that has one of the most flamboyant characters ever seen in anime, the kabuki theater artist Yuyama Kakunojo. This complex character, interprets several roles in the series; the first as the leader of the wandering theater company Yuyama, where she wears a male attire consisting of a kimono and hakama, as a way to travel unsuspected with the theater troupe, and to have access to the stage, because in the time period of the Bakumatsu in Japan, women were prohibited their participation in any stage performance.
Secondly, Kakunojo transforms on stage, doing female roles as an “Oyama” (an actor of female roles), becoming an “Oiran”, (courtesan) who seduces the audience with her beauty and the skill of her interpretation, mesmerizing everyone with her vaporous silk kimono; bringing to the series dynamism in an aesthetic sense, sensuality and visual richness. In Intrigue in the Bakumatsu: Irohanihoheto, one of the most attractive aspects is the use of classic Japanese designs, which in combination with European fashion pieces, causes a visual contrast that accurately reflects the social turmoil of this period in history.
7. Otome Nadeshiko Koi Techou (Otome Nadeshiko Love Diary)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Jan 2012
This OVA 10 minutes long, is based on a series of short novels, developed in the Taisho era (1912-1926), where the story of a 16 years old young girl named Chizuru Touguu and her first love begins. This period was famous for the integration of many aspects of the west in the everyday life, and one that had much impact, was the institution of the right of the women to attend school, because before this time, most women were educated at home, focusing their efforts in the management of the economy of their house, and playing their role as wives and mothers.
With the opening of schools for young girls, it was instituted in Japan one of the traditions that is celebrated even nowadays, and is the use of the hakama over the kimono to give freedom of movement; previously, the same as pants, the hakama was considered a garment exclusively for men, so by integrating it as part of the girls uniform, and supplement it by the use of western boots instead of the “Zōri”, or typical Japanese sandals; the combination became an iconic image of the era and a symbol of highly educated young women. In Otome Nadeshiko Love Diary, Chizuru and her classmates wears these beautiful uniforms, that even nowadays, are still being used, especially to celebrate the Japanese young women’s college graduation.
6. Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi. (Utakoi)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jul 2012 - Sep 2012
Utakoi is a romantic anime situated in the Heian era, a period that can be called: the epitome of the expression of attire in Japan. Previously, the Chinese influence was clearly noted in the clothing, until Japan developed its own identity giving birth to the kimono. As a sign of political power, the more noble or wealthy the family, the finest and richest the embellishment of their women, adding layer after layer of colorful silk kimono, wearing even up to 12, and displaying them in the neckline and sleeves; even so, the richest women, as the emperor’s wives, came to wear more than 20 layers of kimono, carrying a weight of more than 20 kilos; giving fame and transcendence to this beautiful garment.
Thus, Utakoi anime series, illustrates different romantic stories like between Takaiko Fujiwara and Narihira Ariwara, introducing us in an entertaining way, in an interpretation of events and characters of Japanese history; as well as the fashion, like the amazing 4 layers kimono of Takaiko, and some of the customs of the time; as courtship, since in this period women should remain publicly unseen, unless is by other women, their husband or their family. To receive suitors, their image was faded behind bamboo blinds; to go outside, they did it on a palanquin; and if they were on foot, they wore a large hat with long veils to hide their figure. These and many details, such as the music, the story, and the wonderful clothes, are what make of this anime, a very entertaining option to watch again and again.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 2007 - Sep 2007
In the Mononoke anime series, the key word is “visuality", because it’s an animation that immerses you in a world full of Japanese motifs, psychedelic designs, and gay colors, saturating the view with mixtures of western symbolism and classical Japanese art; featuring characters with foreign physical appearance in a typical environment of the Japanese Edo period. Mononoke envelops you in an apparently simple storyline, where a hunter of supernatural beings or "Mononoke", travels as a wandering herbalist, exorcising evil spirits with help of his sacred sword, reestablishing the balance in the world.
Some of the main attractions in this anime are: the music, which transports you into this bizarre world, introducing us into the story; the way that the characters from Japanese myths are portrayed, passing on us a little bit of the terror that they arouse, despite being something alien to our culture; and finally, the kimono, which are really something memorable by themselves, because even in the explosion of color and psychedelia, you can appreciate the beautiful designs and accessories for each outfit, like the one used by the “Kusuriuri” (or the herbalist) who wears a cool outfit with simple patterns that enhance his image of quiet menace.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 2010 - Dec 2010
In fourth position, we add to our countdown, a fantastic story that continues with the visual strength as the main feature, Katanagatari. Located in an alternate universe of the old Edo in Japan; this animation introduce us into the search of Togame Hida, a general of the local army, to reunite the 12 legendary Katana forged by the famous Shikizaki Kiki, aiming to use its power for stabilize the government. To achieve its goal, Togame enlists in her mission the powerful martial artist Shichika Yasuri, who became her partner of adventures.
Katanagatari, surrounds us in a story with well-defined objectives and attractive characters, but really hook us in with the images so full of color and rich in details, and unlike other animations of the genre, where everything is saturated with psychedelia; Katanagatari maintains a very attractive balance, between the background designs, and the particular attributes of the characters; dressing them in kimono and clothes with beautiful color gradients (like the one Togame wears), and intricate Japanese designs in a very fashionist way (like Shichika’s black hakama and white kimono), making them worthy of any fashion catwalk. As viewers, we are sure that Katanagatari will leave you wanting to watch more episodes, and, why not? to use such beautiful clothes as inspiration for cosplay.
3. Otome Youkai Zakuro (Zakuro)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct 2010 - Dec 2010
Getting closer to the number one, we introduce in third position: Otome Youkai Zakuro, a fantastic anime that integrates romance, adventure and supernatural powers, maintaining a great balance between fanservice for both genders, and the development of the action in an alternate universe, where an organization called the Ministry of Spirit Affairs, strives to eliminate the discrimination between the human and the supernatural beings called "Yōkai ".
Developed in the Meiji era, Otome Youkai Zakuro is an anime series that parades handsome guys in military uniform, and cute girls dressed in kimono of this historical period, where, as a reflection of the modernization of Japan, the clothing began to include foreign details, such as lace decorations on the neckline and kimono sleeves, and the use ribbons and hair accessories. A wonderful example is the kimono that Zakuro, Suzuki Hotaru, Bonbori and Hozuki wears as uniform, that it’s embellished with lace details, a cute apron and the Obi belt that ends tied up in a big ribbon on the back.
2. Ikoku Meiro no Croisée (Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 2011 - Sep 2011
Nearing the end of our list, we present the 2nd position: Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth- The animation, an anime series with a super “Moe" heroine. Developed in the second half of the 19th century, Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth takes us into the life of Yune, a cute and petite Japanese girl, native from Nagasaki city, who following the wishes of her family, to learn more about Europe to improve their merchant business, accepts to travel to Paris with Oscar, a forge artificer owner of " Designs Du Roi ," who accepts to take Yune with him, as a fiancé for his grandson Claude, in the hope that she teaches him, that there are more important things in life besides work.
This anime make us empathize with the adventures of Yune, and her struggle to overcome the difference of language, and the culture shock between the life style from east to west. In Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth, Yune show us how the kimono (including its meaning and many of the imperceptible details), takes precedence in her culture; like the gorgeous pink furisode that she wears in the first episodes that was inherited from her mother. So we really recommend you to not miss this short animation of 12 episodes, which surely will make your hearts go “Dokyun".
1. Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai
- Episodes: Movie
- Aired: May 2015
Arriving finally to the number 1 on our list, we have a great fanfare Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai. This film, which takes place in 1818, in the Japanese capital known as " Edo" at the time, is a true journey, that will transport us through time to meet OE -i, better known as "Miss Hokusai"; a 23 year old young woman, who accompanies his father Tetsuzo, worldwide famous as Katsushika Hokusai, one of the brush artists regarded as the classic representative of Ukiyo-e, being even recognized by European painters of the size of Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet and Klimt.
Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai, is a movie that portrays in a pleasant way, the ups and downs that surrounded the work of Hokusai. Making us inconspicuously empathize with the rhythm of life in the old Tokyo, Miss Hokusai shows us unreservedly, through her eyes, many details of the daily life; from the rich gentlemen who sponsor the painter, the eye catching “oiran” of the pleasure district, wrapped in their sexy colorful kimono tied up in the front; the proud “geisha”, with their cultivated beauty and their elegant kimono; to the common town men and their crafts, who sometimes perform their chores almost naked, wearing just a cotton “fundoshi” and “haori” on them. Miss Hokusai give us wonderful examples of the simple beauty of the kimono, not just as an extraordinary garment, but, as an everyday wearable clothes; making of this movie, a pleasure for those who likes Japanese culture, or who wants to know more about it, anyway, we are sure that this is an anime, that you will love to watch time after time.
The Kimono has always been mesmerizing, from the beautiful “Miko” outfit, the wide variety of classic Japanese clothes that reflects the personality and power of the Ayakashi in Natsume’s Book of Friends; the sexy stage outfit of Kakunojo, in Intrigue in the Bakumatsu Irohanihoheto; the charming elegance of Chizuru in her school uniform, in Otome Nadeshiko Love Diary; the wonderful multilayered kimono of Takaiko Fujiwara in Utakoi; the psychedelic explosion of the outfits in Mononoke; the stylish fashion of Togame and Shichika in Katanagatari; the fan service of Zakuro and her friends, with their lovely lacey kimono uniforms, in Otome Youkai Zakuro; the Moe little Yune wearing her pink furisode, in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth; to the rich wearable versatility of the kimono shown through OE-i eyes, in Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai; every single one of them making of its own anime, something memorable that will move your hearts.
This is how we reach the end of our countdown, what do you think about these anime with Kimono? Do you know more anime titles that portray the use of beautiful kimono as part of its story? We sincerely hope that this list will help you find new anime titles to enjoy, so don’t be shy and feel free to share your thoughts, and leave us your comments. Until next time!