For those of you unfamiliar with Atarashi Games, they’re an independent publisher of tabletop role-playing games, best known for a psychic schoolgirl adventure game called “Panty Explosion.” PE can be kind of dark, but despite the title it’s not particularly pervy or anything. It’s earned them all kinds of extra attention, though the objections have been mainly from men (including a guy who punched one of the designers in the head) rather than women. They also put out Classroom Deathmatch, which is basically Battle Royale with the serial numbers filed off. In short, not unlike myself Jake Richmond and his associates are fans of various kinds of Japanese media and generally like messing with people.
That’s why Atarashi Games is probably the only RPG publisher that would hold a contest to design a Japanese-style school uniform for them to use with their games. I urge those of you who have some artistic inclination to consider entering, but the focus of this blog post is on school uniforms as a cultural phenomenon.
Jake Richmond is an artist, teacher, game designer, and generally has a number of pursuits that take priority over being an anime fan. Anime and related media can be surprisingly subtle in terms of the visual elements they use. For Panty Explosion, Jake mostly did a bunch of relatively generic pictures of Japanese high school girls, with an emphasis on sailor fuku style school uniforms and in a realistic style. It works, though it gives the impression that the art is based off of stills of old Japanese horror films.
Western RPGs in general seem to have a hard time really getting the “anime” look down. Steve Jackson Games got one of their staff artists to fake it for GURPS Mecha, while Guardians of Order hired a variety of fan artists, sometimes with mixed results. More recently, Green Ronin did a Mutants & Masterminds supplement called “Mecha & Manga.” Some art was very good, and some of it was kind of iffy, but even the really talented artists produced a lot of pieces that were highly derivative.