Comics/Graphic Novels

The 5 Best Dressed Characters in Manga

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S.W. Sondheimer

Staff Writer

When not prying Legos and gaming dice out of her feet, S.W. Sondheimer is a registered nurse at the Department of Therapeutic Misadventures, a herder of genetic descendants, cosplayer, and a fiction and (someday) comics writer. She is a Yinzer by way of New England and Oregon and lives in the glorious 'Burgh with her husband, 2 smaller people, 2 cats, a fish, and a snail. She occasionally tries to grow plants, drinks double-caffeine coffee, and has a habit of rooting for the underdog. It is possible she has a book/comic book problem but has no intention of doing anything about either. Twitter: @SWSondheimer

How does one define “best dressed?” That depends on which kind of “dressed” you’re talking about, and the definitions get even more weird — and enjoyable — when you venture into the world of comics and manga. Because superhero costumes (all the underwear on the outside). Because armor (all the form over function). Because regalia (because who knew hair could hold a crown like, that even with extensions and spray and professional help).

I’m not complaining, though. The whole point of comics is the integration of word and image, and if we’re going to read with art, the art may as well be engaging. And if you’re looking for some engaging visuals to lose yourself in while you absorb the story, I have some people I think you might enjoy meeting.

Most Fashionable: Yûko

xxxHolic by CLAMP

The 90s were…definitely a thing that happened, especially in terms of fashion, but Yûko, being a space-time witch, avoided the nonsense and looked absolutely fabulous at all times whether she chose the traditional route or was out and about shopping in flared pants and a crop top. She even looks good in hats. And headdresses. And butterfly wings.

When Yûko dies (spoiler I know, but y’all, the end of this manga is over ten years old), her apprentice Watanuki inherits not only her magical shop but also her wardrobe, which he begins to wear without much comment or conscious thought. And while Japanese gender norms aren’t, and haven’t ever been, the same as those here in the west, Watanuki’s choice is still pretty remarkable in the age of frat boy comedies and Adam Sandler.

Best Armor: Pretty Much Anyone Who Wears Armor in RG Veda

RG Veda by CLAMP

Nearly every sartorial choice in this three omnibus epic was a thing of wonder. I mean, there were times I couldn’t figure out what was actually going down because there were so many clothes and so much hair and just really a lot of jewelry happening. But the most amazing aspect of any given outfit was the armor by far. It has shoulder spikes. It has tapered shoulder wings. The points on the wrist and elbow ends of the greaves should take off the wearer’s arms. And the shin guards? No one wearing those things actually needs a sword, just gut your enemy with one of those.

Oddly, boots and other footwear seem optional, and no one wears a helmet, which…I mean, I suppose there’s only so extra you can get…

It is for sure too much but it’s too much in such a confident and absolute way that it’s beautiful and weird and joyful and unique.

I must stan.

Best Regalia: Leia Organa

Star Wars: Leia Princess of Alderaan by Haruichi

Most of us first met Princess Leia Organa as Darth Vader’s prisoner in A New Hope. Her home destroyed, on the run from the Empire, she had only a few mementos of her childhood as Queen Breha Organa and Viceroy Bail Organa’s daughter. But before that?

The gowns (they weren’t all white and you should see the matching gloves and cloaks — Lando would have been wildly jealous). The sacred sword. The tiaras. The belts. The shoes. The boots. No wonder Leia was never afraid to get dirty…there was always something else fabulous for her to wear.

In the films, we don’t have much opportunity to see Breha, and for good reason: her job was ruling Alderaan and tending to the Rebellion there while her husband represented Alderaan in the Senate and the Rebellion where he was needed (Organa is actually Breha’s last name; Bail was the one who married up). Claudia Gray’s Leia Princess of Alderaan gave us the opportunity to see her interactions with her daughter, but the manga adaptation gives us the chance to see them together. And the chance to see how Leia, later in her life, did homage to her mother in what she chose to wear and how she wore it.

Best Everyday: It’s a Tie Between Nada…

Satoko and Nada by Yupechika and Marie Nishimori

Satoko, a Japanese exchange student in America, finds herself sharing an apartment with Nada, a student from Saudi Arabia. Unsure of one another at first, the girls become fast friends and, in the process, Satoko learns all sorts of information about Saudi dress and how much joy and pride Nada takes in expressing herself through her culture — and how fashionable she is both within the boundaries of her comfort zone and in private with her female friends where she feels free to take her hair, makeup, and clothes to another level.

Satoko and Nada does a wonderful job of approaching traditional Muslim dress from Nada’s perspective of pride and comfort while allowing Satoko to ask questions, respectfully, that many non-Muslims have about niquab, chador, hijab, and burqa. I also love that, like Persepolis, the manga gives readers a peek into the self-expression women find both in harmony with traditional dress and in their own spaces.

Best Everyday: …and Haruki

Given volume 1 cover - Natuski Kizu

Given by Nitsuki Kizu (Haruki)

I mean…just look at him. He’s adorable, he cleans up good. And he has the layering down, which is more than I can say for a lot of idols who…I mean, who decided turtlenecks were in and button downs should go under hoodies. I’m no runway expert but gah. Bonus: he lets his hairdresser friend use him as a model and the braids are so freaking cute.

Yes, he cut it, but Haruki will always be my sweet, ponytail son.

Do you have any favorite comic or manga outfits? Anyone you’ve been dying to cosplay because you just love their style so much? Who did I miss? Any other categories you’d like to see in the sartorial rankings? Let us know on Twitter @BookRiot.