Regardless of what one decides to wear, and regardless of whether one is actively aware of it or not, one projects an image to those who see them. Without ever speaking, one’s clothing informs passersby of one’s personality, likes, dislikes, and even most base of nature. In “real life” so to speak, one uses clothing as a signifier of personality; however, identifying another person relies on other visual cues, namely build, height, weight, facial features, etc. These connections happen instantly and without notice.
Within the realm of animation, however, one’s mind constantly relies not only on facial features but on clothing and more easily identifiable characteristics (eye color, hair color, hair length). In transitioning from the real to the animated, facial features fall by the wayside to an overall unifying visual aesthetic. With the nuances of the face gone, the mind turns to clothing as an identifier of a character instead of an identifier of personality. The clothing reflects the personality of the character but is first and foremost used to tell the brain who the character is. One can barely take half a step into the medium of animation without finding a character who wears the same outfit in their time not spent in a school environment. This current anime season alone one sees this occurring in Tari Tari, Smile Precure, Rinne no Lagrange, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, among others. Even in series where school uniforms are worn, uniforms tend to differ slightly for the main characters, forcing them to stand out to the audience.
Joshiraku, another currently-airing series, does a fantastic job playing with these established connections within its audience’s minds. It then uses fashion to make further statements about the five leads’ personalities.
Firstly, Joshiraku introduces its characters in set uniforms: their rakugo costumes. These are brightly colored and each focuses on one color to assign to its particular character. For example, the girl with the stage name “Bloody Mary” is assigned the color red, “Hello Kitty” is assigned the color pink, etc. By doing this, the series allows the audience to quickly and easily identify the characters, much in the way that we identify Daria from Daria, Lan from Lagrange, or Watashi from Jintai. The girls wear their rakugo outfits in the opening skit and in the closing skit, with the former to re-establish their identities and the latter to reinforce them.
In between these, Joshiraku puts a middle skit where the girls inevitably venture outside of their theater and into the world. In each of these middle segments, they dress in plainclothes that reflect their personalities. Typically, this would mean that each girl would have two outfits: their rakugo costume and their plainclothes costume; however, Joshiraku makes an effort to dress its characters in varying outfits for each out-of-theater segment. It take until the sixth episode for these outfits to be repeated, and each outfit continues to reflect a facet of personality of the one who wears it.
In this way, Joshiraku sets a coy trap to snare its audience and keep them coming back: the first skit to establish, or re-establish the characters, the second to develop personality, and the third to reinforce the identities of the characters. By separating the connection between identification and personality to its audience, it heavily reiterates both, making its characters that much more memorable.
Additionally, as the series is wont to point out multiple times, the girls and their outfits are extremely cute.
About the Guest Author:
AJtheFourth is a dear friend who has continually made contributions on Listless Ink. Her warm personality and brilliant writing make her a favorite, and I am always honored to have her guest post. She regularly writes for The Untold Story of Altair & Vega.