If you’re interested in J-fashion, you probably have a good sense of what this list looks like. Even so, who doesn’t love diving into a list of iconic anime (absolutely not all mostly created by Ai Yazawa)?
This show is by far one of my favorites. Not only is Kuranosuke best boy—I will not debate this—but the story of “recluse girls” slowly recognizing their beauty through talent, heart, and a killer showcase is bound to shine. Inspired by her mother’s love of jellyfish, Tsukimi (at right) aims to honor her vision with a lovely dress, and the path to that is hilarious and charming. Last month I decided to collect this manga (alongside Say I Love You) because the art is just that fantastic.
Admittedly, it took me a minute to get into this one because the show is painfully vintage. Though the story revolves around a main cast of students all ranging in studies from fashion design to illustration, the main plot revolves around Mikako Koda and Tsutomu Yamaguchi. The two are childhood friends attending the same high school (which has never happened before in anime). However, this high school is specifically for the arts so we get a fair share of lolita, punk, and Harajuku fashion from the Akindo crew. At times I would cry over the frame rate, but the iconic nature of Yazawa’s talent is absolutely undeniable.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
Less for its story and more for its execution, Jojo lacks next to nothing when it comes to style. Many of the key poses are inspired by fashion magazine covers, and Araki doesn’t shy away from that at all. His characters will actively wear clothes from Gucci, Louvre, and Balenciaga on magazines and absolutely no one can deny the sheer creativity it takes to come up with these renditions. The art alone is reason to collect the manga, and if you’re ever starved for a unique color story, look no further.
Smile Down the Runway
Just when we thought fashion-focused anime was coming to a halt, Smile Down the Runway debuted in April 2020. The story follows a young model who dreams of walking Paris Fashion Week after facing years of rejection due to her height. She’s joined by Ikuto Tsumara who aims to become a fashion designer. Though I’ve just recently started the show, a Vivi magazine is featured in the very first episode and that is more than enough to draw the attention of a fashion buff.
I should name this article The Ai Yazawa stan post because she simply does not let up on the talent but I digress. Nana isn’t about fashion—it’s about two girls named Nana and two extremely talented punk/pop bands—but every frame is drowning in sharp ink, smudged eyeliner, spikes, and punk rock aesthetic. The punk protagonist, Nana Ozaki, is inspired by the goddess who sings the opening, Anna Tsuchiya under the alias Anna Tsuchita Inspi. It’s been fourteen years since this one aired and I’m still not over it. I doubt that’ll happen any time soon.
Yes, the holy grail. Before watching this show I had a vague idea of the fashion scene in Japan—I was 12 and quickly slipping into the habit of collecting Ranzuki magazines. If you were looking for a taste of that Bunka fashion school dream then this is Gokinjo on rank 10. Each character unapologetically graces the streets with huge petticoats, sharp suits, piercings for days, and the manga is even better for its striking illustrations.
Fun fact: there’s some crossover between this one and Gokinjo. If you’re paying attention, you’ll probably catch it.
Lauren is a 23-year-old cosplayer and writer from Chicago. Her favorite shows include Wolf’s Rain, Terror in Resonance, and Samurai Champloo. If you can’t reach her for whatever reason, she’s probably reading or figuring out how to turn her kendo skills into functional ones. She’ll be back in a minute.