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In Japan, kimonos have a very special place in people's hearts, and are a medium for a thousand symbols. For more information about kimono, see the useful notes. For use as a visual cue for traditionality, see Kimono Is Traditional.
Kimono are also a specific type of Japanese Fetish Fuel, in ways not easily explainable. First, people are expected to not wear normal/western-style lingerie underneath, including bra and panties, as bra will ruin the chestline (which should be smooth), and panties will without exceptions create pantylines. Second, most of the body will be covered in a lovely package, spelling out (in the case of a young girl) "youthful", "innocent", "pure", "proper", "cheerful" and "
virginaleligible for marriage" - in kimono code. Few people in Japan know enough about kimonos to get every nuance, but much of the message seems to trigger some subconscious understanding. There's the fact that the idea of getting to open a present wrapped neatly like this thrills many a mind, similar to corsets. There's also the fact that no matter how much of the body is wrapped up and hidden, the Ultimately And Most Bewitchingly Sensual Mystery of Female Body, the nape of the neck, will be game for eyes. Then add to that the garment restricts the movements of arms and legs to appear rather lady-like (or, on guys, more disciplined and manly) - what's not to like.
Yukata are worn by nearly everyone come summer and festivals. The feelings they awaken are rather similar to kimono. By nature, a yukata is relaxed home-wear (comparable to shorts and a tank top), and situations where one can wear it are very limited. A big deal of the allure of summer festival or hot springs (filler) episodes in anime and manga is related to having the cast in yukatas. Because there's nothing underneath. On young children, the special fluffy yukata obi makes for an excellent chance for extra big bows and super-cuteification.
Kimono Fanservice comes in two types, which can and do overlap (Please note that straight fanservice, where the garment simply happens to be a kimono, but could just as well be a bathrobe or a shirt or any other garment, is simply Fan Service.):
A: Costume Porn
Where the audience appreciates the garments themselves. Especially prevalent in period pieces. Can overlap with Awesome Anachronistic Apparel.
B: Pandering to the Base, Fetish Fuel (with/or mild Fan Service)
Where the audience appreciates getting to see their favourite bishoujo or bishie in this specific dress. Unlike in conventional Fan Service, the amount of skin shown will be very modest. Caters to such fanservice tropes as (supposed) Going Commando, (hypothetical chance of) mixed Action Dress Rip and Show Some Leg, and maybe Sarashi. Especially in the case of geishas, a specific sexual plus without its own trope yet is that the dress frames the nape of neck, which was the Japanese fixation on female body before Western fashions became dominant.
Due to its complexity and obscurity to modern (and non-Japanese) folks, it's also constant fodder for Did Not Do the Research -induced Unfortunate Implications (right flap over left means you are dead and soon buried) and Accidental Innuendo (in modern era costumes, obi tied in front means you are a working girl and need to be able to get it off on a short notice but in older period costume, this innuendo won't apply; and a million more). Kimono wearing in itself has suffered from Trope Decay; a single man can be blamed for today's tubular kimono fashion, its rigid rules, and the death of the more fluid style of pre-WWII times. As per Rule of Cool, many of those rules get kicked out of the window in fiction, and heroines won't get accused for "abusing a national symbol" by a mob of angry aunties.
See Qipao for another type of "sexy Asian dress" that occurs frequently in fiction.
Please do not add examples of typical Fan Service that just happens to use a kimono (the kimono falling off or open, kimono used in the same way as a normal robe, etc) to this page. They should go on the Fan Service page.
Anime & Manga
- Ichihara Yuuko from XxxHolic has stunning ensembles breaking every conceivable rule of kimono propriety, while remaining elegant and very stylish despite her... suggestive fashions.
- Also notable for a relatively normal teenaged male protagonist example. The tradition is carried on by Watanuki after Yuuko's death.
- Iro Otoko centres around a designer who is trying to market fashionable men's kimonos, which isn't working very well for him. Both he and others models walk around in them to advertise, invoking this trope.
- Sakaki buys Yuki a kimono in Heart Strings in order to present him as a "yakuza wife." Very much Fan Service.
- In Legal Drug the main characters all wear yukata at one point and Kazahaya immediately begins complimenting the beautiful Kakei. Saiga, on the other hand, gets the opposite reaction as he looks like a nightclub worker wearing yukata and Sunglasses At Night.
- In Kaze no Yukue while at a summer festival Kento starts talking about how pretty women in yukata are and his lover Akira makes a sulky comment about yukata not suiting him. This of course spawns an Imagine Spot of Akira in yukata that is actually a bit of a Fan Service fail.
- Ai Yori Aoshi has the female lead always wearing a kimono. This is "justified" because her father owns the largest kimono manufacturing company, and it just wouldn't do if his daughter was seen wearing something besides a kimono made by her family.
- Fai's furisode in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle.
- Sumire Kanzaki does B2 var. Impossibly Low Neckline in Sakura Taisen.
- In Hidamari Sketch, a festival offers free snacks to those who come in yukata (and bring the flyer). Miyako, who doesn't have one, is ready to pull down her curtains to make one, but Hiro offers her old one with a Mahou Shoujo Minky print. It comes down to about a centimeter below her buttocks. She thinks it's a perfect fit, and Yuno and Hiro say it looks "cute" and "fashionable", respectively, though Sae privately thinks she looks like a hooker.
- In Lucky Star, at the matsuri, Konata muses that if they were in a Dating Sim, they'd trigger a flag because they're at a festival outside, wearing yukatas.
- Nearly any manga and anime long enough features a summer festival episode/chapter, or a ryoukan/hot springs resort one, or both, with male members of the cast expressing gratitude for getting to see the ladies in yukata, and sometimes vice versa as well.
- Japan from Axis Powers Hetalia doesn't really fit this trope canon-wise, fitting Kimono Is Traditional better... but does fandom put him into yukatas and kimonos a lot more often than canon does? And use them to play up his Yamato Nadeshiko and/or Moe traits? You betcha.
- Amasawa of The Weatherman Is My Lover has a cosplaying habit, so when the cast and crew of his program take a trip to an onsen, he brings along a female yukata. And I quote:
- One of the scenes in a Code Geass game have the mainly European cast wearing kimonos. Hilariously, it even included the Meganekko who has... problems with the Japanese.
- Yumi from Rurouni Kenshin wears an off-the-shoulders kimono that should not logically stay up. She is also a former prostitute.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei makes reference to the fact that a kimono would traditionally be worn without underwear, and the whole show is a massive example of type A, thriving in Awesome Anachronistic Apparel.
- In the last chapters of Inuyasha, Rin is seen receiving a kimono from Sesshoumaru. It's highly heartwarming.
- In Seitokai Yakuindomo Shino mentions traditional clothing while imagining a kimono-clad woman getting her obi unwrapped. But she points out that while she'd like to be in that position, she's worried about getting dizzy from the spinning.
- An omake image for Fullmetal Alchemist features Edward Elric doing kimono fanservice in both senses of the term.
- This trope played out in at least three episodes of Maicchingu Machiko Sensei. One episode featured the main character acting in a historical drama,another was set during the Lunar New Year, and the third took place during a festival. In keeping with the tradition of the anime, she lost her kimono everytime.
- Ryougi Shiki of Karano Kyoukai hardly ever wears anything else. And she kicks lots of ass, too.
- Cruelly and dramatically subverted in Oniisama e.... During a flashback, we see Kaoru Orihara wearing a yukata during a date with her boyfriend Takehiko Henmi, and she strips naked in front of him... to show him her physical scars after her breast cancer caused her to have a mastectomy. She then breaks up with him, because she doesn't want to be a load to her loved ones.
- Often occurs in festival episodes for the Pretty Cure series. May count more as a Type B than A, as the Cures often squeal about how a certain teammate looks good in a yukata.
- Ranma ½: Akane Tendo is forced into one of these in the manga. Due to the relationship between her and Ranma Saotome, Ranma lampshades this trope in a way that makes it a complimentary put-down.
Ranma: It suits you, Akane.
- Akane and other characters often wear lovely yukatas during festivals.
- Shana, a world-innocent Tsundere, sports a kimono during some festival episodes, and almost everyone both in and out-universe agree she's cute wearing it.
- In Gosick Kujo wears a men's kimono for an entire episode. A rare male example.
- In Mai-HiME, after Shizuru rescues Natsuki from Nao, she's seen wearing a purple kimono and gives Natsuki a light blue one. Shizuru continues wearing the kimono for most of her Psycho Lesbian rampage, but it eventually gets torn in places, and she changes back into her Student Council President uniform by the time Natsuki confronts her.
- Tsuruya fits an extreme version of Type A during one chapter of Kyon: Big Damn Hero. Since she wears a kimono much of the time at home, Type B is likely to be in effect, too.
- The film version of Memoirs of a Geisha offers type A. Unless you notice and care about such mistakes as incorrect fit in should-be-tailored pieces, less-than-perfect kitsuke, or inappropriate seasonality.
- O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill seems to be a type A when she's a Japanese ganglord.
- The Tale of Genji includes pedantically detailed descriptions of about everything the female characters wear. In addition to being Costume Porn, this also provided contemporary and history-savvy readers with loads of insight into the character's personalities. Most translations omit these descriptions for obvious reasons.
- The racier pulp stories of the Thirties would often have a Western character wearing a kimono as an "at-night but not actually in bed yet" garment; the fashion took a sudden nosedive in the Forties for reasons that should be obvious.
Live Action TV
- In a live action western male version, Blonde, a Marilyn Monroe biopic, is mostly notable for featuring Patrick Dempsey and Jensen Ackles in a threesome. It also is notable for having Ackles swishing around in a kimono, much to the pleasure of fangirls (and probably a few fanboys too).
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy and Angel are walking out of a movie theatre looking rather tense after watching an erotic foreign film.
Buffy: I don't like getting you worked up like that. We can't actually do any of those things. You'd lose your soul. Besides, I don't even own a kimono.
- In Persona 3, on New Year's Day, when the girls are all wearing kimono, Junpei claims that every guy fantasizes about how there's nothing underneath. Unfortunately, he said this Ken who asks the girls if they are cold because of this reasoning.
- If Junpei got to try he'd be sorely disappointed as there in fact would be underlayers upon underlayers underneath. Especially in winter.
- In the PSP version with the Female Protagonist, you can go out with Junpei to summer festival with a yukata. He sings the praises of the yukata and how sexy the Protagonist looks. And you wear a kimono on New Year's Day too with the other girls. Too bad nether are shown save from the shoulders up.
- In Persona 4, Yukiko wears one when she works at her family's inn.
- It also has all the girls wearing yukata for the summer festival, which Teddie finds very exciting. Kanji is too embarrassed to even look at them.
- As alternate costumes in Tales of Vesperia, Estelle gets one, and Judith gets a shorter yukata. There are even accompanying skits about how good characters look in their new outfits.
Yukiko: I'm wearing a kimono because I'm filling in for my mom at the inn we run.
- In the last episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) Foot Clan leader Karai wears a kimono to April and Casey's wedding ceremony.
- In the Pixar animated short Tokyo Mater, Mater can actually be seen flirting with some female Japanese cars designed to resemble Geisha girls before running into the short's main villain, Kabuto.
- The three Geisha girl cars and Kabuto later make brief reappearances in the film Cars 2.
- Geisha are more or less the embodiment of type A. Not do they only master the proper kimono wearing posture and carriage to be always elegant, they also wear certain items (like red underkimono) and such fashions (such as lower-and-looser-than-strictly-proper obi) to specifically tantalize. As the style they wear is obsolete, also counts as Gorgeous Period Dress.
- Some hostess bars have a few girls wearing kimono to cater to the fancy of men who like this kind of thing.
- There have been some Miss World contestants from Japan wearing heavily B2 type costumes on the "national" round. Opinion varies on whether those costumes are an exiting and sexy approach to the kimono or a complete disgrace.