Outside the standard -dere archetypes, anime often monopolizes on Japanese subcultures to create captivating character tropes, from obsessive otaku and delusional chunibyo characters to tough and rambunctious delinquents. Though these tropes do have roots in reality, they are often caricatures, emphasizing the unique traits of these subcultures for the sake of entertainment. Several new and upcoming anime have built main and side characters around a rather unique trope: the Japanese gyaru girl fashion subculture.
The term “gyaru” is a transliteration of the English slang word gal, and it encompasses a range of styles based in Western fashion. While gyaru fashion often involves very specific trends, many anime characters reflect the attitude, language patterns, and penchant for fashion found within the gyaru subculture. These characters may not represent gyaru to the fullest extent, but they do provide anime fans a look into one of Japan’s many fascinating subcultures.
The Gyaru Fashion Subculture in Japan
Originating in the late 1970s, the gyaru subculture consists of various categories, each with a unique interpretation on the trendy street fashion. While a gyaru girl’s specific style varies based on subcategory, the most prominent hallmarks of gyaru fashion are long decorated artificial nails, styled and often dyed hair, tanned skin and heavy makeup. Gyaru apparel is trendy and based on Western fashion, sometimes incorporating luxury or haute couture brands.
At its core, the gyaru subculture is a response to the Japanese standard of beauty and women’s role in society. Apart from being a choice of personal style, gyaru fashion can be an act of rebellion against these standards, and the attitude that accompanies the style is often flirtatious, energetic, girlish, and assertive. The speech and language patterns indicative of the gyaru subculture are characterized by casual but animated dialogue filled with slang and text-speech.
As the use of various tropes in anime provides viewers with a look into aspects of traditional and modern Japanese culture, it comes as no surprise that some characters in popular and upcoming series reflect the gyaru subculture. Because there are so many variations in style and behavior, not all gyaru girls in anime are going to definitively represent the entire gyaru subculture. However, those who do make use of the gyaru girl trope reflect various qualities and trends that make gyaru fashion so unique.
Marin Kitagawa Mimics Gyaru Behavior in My Dress-Up Darling
While also participating in cosplay culture, My Dress-Up Darling‘s popular character Marin Kitagawa exhibits the spunky attitude, trendy style, and penchant for girlish slang common to the gyaru subculture. Her long fingernails and bleached hair are gyaru characteristics in and of themselves; her chic schoolgirl style is reminiscent of kogyaru fashion, a subcategory of the gyaru subculture that is characterized by Japanese school uniforms, short skirts, girly accessories and sometimes loose socks.
Aside from her fashion sense, Marin’s behavior is what truly makes her such a lovable gyaru character. Though she does have a complex character that unfolds as Gojo gets to know her, the persona she puts on at school is highly animated, confident and chatty. Even when she is alone with Gojo, she constantly uses slang, casual language and girly expressions.
Not only do her fun-loving attitude and trendy speech patterns reflect gyaru behavior, but it also endears her to fans, making her a lovable and unique female protagonist who took the anime world by storm upon My Dress-Up Darling‘s premiere in the Winter 2022 season. Marin is certainly not the first anime character to play on the gyaru girl trope, but the fact that she reflects the subculture’s attitude and trends with complexity instead of playing into a single stereotype makes her one of the most unique gyaru girls in anime.
Rumiko Shows Off the Gyaru Look in Komi Can’t Communicate
Though she’s yet to make an appearance in Komi Can’t Communicate‘s anime adaptation, Manbagi Rumiko becomes one of Komi’s close friends in the manga. When Komi first encounters her in Volume 10, Rumiko is dolled up, sporting an extravagant hairstyle and tanned face with excessive makeup. Even her speech is unique, as it is filled with slang and jargon that Kometani Chushaku’s nifty commentary deciphers for readers. Using phrases like “gagged” and “turn it up,” it’s clear that Rumiko is playing the part of a gyaru girl.
As the manga makes clear, Rumiko exhibits traits specific to the manba style of gyaru fashion. This style is characterized by heavy makeup — often involving darker skin tones with whiter highlights around the eyes, nose, and lips — and bleached or colorful hair in large, flashy styles. Manba gyaru often incorporate stickers and decorations into their makeup, hairstyles and outfits. Rumiko’s appearance in her introduction in Komi Can’t Communicate reflects the unique fashion sense indicative of the manba gyaru culture.
Akari Is a Self-proclaimed Gyaru in More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers
An upcoming romantic comedy for the Fall 2022 anime season has a self-proclaimed gyaru as its female protagonist. Though More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers has not yet premiered, the recent previews of Akari Watanabe’s character through trailers and teaser visuals show off her gyaru girl attributes. Akari’s fashion sense is markedly consistent with the gyaru style.
Like Marin, Akari can most closely be associated with the kogyaru subcategory, as she sports an altered schoolgirl uniform, dyed and styled hair, and cute accessories. However, Akari also adopts another trend consistent with kogyaru style: loose socks. The teaser visuals show Akari wearing long socks that hang loosely, which is perhaps one of the most distinctive aspects of kogyaru fashion. Beyond her appearance, fans will have to wait for the series’ premiere on October 9 to see how her personality reflects the kogyaru style as well.
Though there are other popular anime characters who reflect attributes of gyaru fashion, the gyaru girl trope is still relatively uncommon in comparison to other tropes and archetypes in anime. However, with popular female protagonists portraying gyaru girls in recent and upcoming series, anime fans have been able to get a closer look at one of Japan’s most unique and complex fashion subcultures.