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Panchira

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Shiko

They don't call 'em panty-fighters for nothing.

Panchira (パンチラ) is a term used by Japanese women to warn each other that their underwear is visible, similar in context to the English expression "your slip is showing." The word literally means "a glimpse of panty", and carries both humorous and risque connotations.

In relation to anime and manga, the term refers to an image in which a female character's briefs are exposed from beneath a hemline. In English usage, the term has become almost synonymous with 'upskirt', though this is something of a misconception.

Being one of the most fetishized advanced societies on Earth, the Japanese employ at least a dozen different words to describe panty-related phenomenon, and "upskirt" is consigned to a separate category. Be that as it may, Panchira is considered the most common form of fanservice in Japanese animation, more popular, in fact, than furo, gainaxing, or outright nudity.


Panchira in MangaEdit

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While your mileage may vary on the subject, most Japanese historians trace the beginnings of panchira back to Machiko Hasegawa's long-running comic strip Sazae-San (Fukunichi Shimbun, 1946). Curiously enough, this was around the same time that Japanese women dispensed with traditional costume and started wearing Western-style underwear. Draw whatever conclusions you wish from this coincidence.

Hasegawa's manga followed the misadventures of an ordinary Japanese family adjusting to modern life, often focusing on the interactions between female lead Sazae Isono and her kid sister Wakame. Supposedly nine years old when the strip began, Wakame was the Ur example of the Innocent Panties trope; a cute little girl with an improbably brief hemline. As noted by Akihara et al, although multiple Panty Shots were inevitable under the circumstances, potential sexual content was completely non-existent. For that reason, nobody objected to Wakame's consistent panty-flashing, because (as everyone already knows) all children are completely innocent.

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However, despite being first in line, Wakame was not the actual trope maker. This honor fell to to Osamu Tezuka's iconic lolibot, Uran. Again, opinions vary on precise details, but most sources confirm that Astroboy's kid sister was probably the most influential panty-flasher in Japanese history. The reasons are pretty obvious to even a casual observer: Tezuka's original character design included an upswept skirt, leaving her plain white briefs on open display. Voyeuristic interpretations notwhithstanding, this was a simple visual convention; in common with most of Tezuka's characters, Uran seemed totally devoid of sexuality.

  • On the other hand, there's little doubt that Uran provided fetish fuel for generations of Japanese otaku: let's face it, she was a stereotype gynoid who shared a bed with her elder siblings, stripped naked in front of creepy old men and drew energy from a power source best left unnamed. Little wonder that Japan is the world leader in silicone love dolls).
  • It should be noted that Tezuka never shied away from tackling controversial issues, and the Astroboy strip contained a huge amount of sexual innuendo for its time. Because Astro and Uran were supposed to be androids, Tezuka could get away with things he never would have attempted with human characters - Uran's method of recharging being a prime example.
  • Then there was the little matter of Uran's transparent clothing: whether she was meant to be naked underneath is largely a matter of speculation.

Panchira in AnimeEdit

File:Panchira7.jpg

In practice, panchira has been a convention of Japanese cartoons since (at least) the early sixties, when young girls (shojo) were frequently portrayed with abbreviated hemlines. The convention may have been adapted from American comics and cartoons; Japanese animators synthesized many stylistic elements common to Western 'toongirls', reinterpreting them for early shojo characters.

The trope gained considerable momentum when Astroboy was adapted into animated form, taking Uran along for the ride - complete with wide-eyed naivete and never-ending panty shows. By the time the series concluded its epic run in 1966, panchira had became standard practice within the medium — a defining principal, in fact, still employed to the present day.

Throughout the sixties, panty-shots were comparatively innocent, restricted mainly to school-aged girls (such as Mahou Tsukai Sally or Akane-Chan) - most probably because depicting a teenaged or adult woman in sexual terms would have been inappropriate at that time. Later characters, such as Mimiko from Hayao Miyazaki's Panda Kopanda! employed the panty-shot for light comedy relief; but by and large, panchira was a simple visual convention, devoid of all sexuality. However, the turn of the decade would introduce a number of changes to the basic formula.

Sexual ReferencesEdit

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Japanese kids' shows: Parental bonus guaranteed.

During the late sixties, the practice took on overtly voyeuristic overtones with the publication of Go Nagai's Harenchi Gakuen. Set in a high school overrun by perverts and psychopaths, Nagai's controversial manga was the first to depict teenaged girls in unambiguously sexual terms, breaking numerous social taboos and generating major dissent in the Japanese press. Panchira played a crucial role in the series; storylines often revolved around sukarto meguri (skirt-flipping), and students were frequently depicted in their underwear (or less). Much of the sexual imagery would be considered tame by modern observers, but such depictions were considered shocking by the standards of the time.

Nagai's influence quickly spread to the animation industry with the debut of adolescent heroines such as Mahou no Mako-Chan (Toei Doga, 1970) or Cutie Honey (Toei 1973, adopted from Nagai's manga of the same name).

It was around this period that animation studios began targeting teenagers and young adults, leading to a prevalence of upskirt takes, panty-shots and gratuitous bathing scenes. Panchira was incorporated into every genre of the artform, from mahou shoujo fantasies to sci-fi action/adventures (one of the more explicit series of the time - Fushigina Melmo - was actually used to teach sex education in Tokyo elementary schools as early as 1971).

As the decade wore on, sexual referencing became increasingly commonplace in anime, eventually leading to the development of ecchi comedies and mildly risque series such as Maicching! Machiko-Sensei (see below). Strangely, while various degrees of nudity had existed in television animation for several years, panchira still took precedence in the mainstream - due, perhaps, to the long association of panty shots with bishoujo anime - cartoons about pretty young girls.

Ecchi ComediesEdit

The 1980s saw an expansion and diversification in Japanese animated media, establishing anime as a recognized artform (at least within Japan). Targeting a more adult demographic, various studios began pushing the limits of mainstream fanservice. Prime-time television series - including children's cartoons - could now be unambiguously sexual, engaging in farcical humor and patently ribald scriptwork. The debut of Maicching! Machiko-Sensei (Studio Pierrot) in 1981 took fanservice to an entirely new level, offering an endless parade of double entendres, gratuitous stripteases and nude shower scenes.

Other studios soon followed suite, and ecchi comedy began to appear in even the most unlikely places, such as the popular "ninja high school" genre (Sasuga no Sarutobi) or kiddie's fantasies such as Gugu Ganmo. Significantly, this was the same period in which the stereotype Japanese schoolgirl (joshikosei) began to flourish in anime. Joshikosei were usually depicted with white cotton briefs; a direct reference to the Tezuka years, when shoujo characters invariably wore plain white undergarments.

Sukebe Otaku!Edit

Japanese popular culture gained a substantial foothold in the Western market during the 1990s due to numerous factors, including the creation of the WWW or the rapid assimilation of anime into American TV (examples of which included Toei's Sailor Moon in 1992). Panchira was one of the many visual imports that arrived in the States via the internet, initially in the form of individual scans and screencaps.

Improvements in peer to peer software (such as bittorrent or emule), allowed users to download entire animated series to their desktops, along with ero games, KiSS dolls and other media formerly unavailable outside of Japan. Similarly, the development of wakata script in Japan had an almost immediate impact in the West. Multiple imageboard sites like 2channel were meticulously copied by Western users, resulting in the creation of online communities such as 4chan. Allowing for anonymous posting and the mass uploading of graphic media, Chan sites attracted an enormous following of anime enthusiasts, gamers, fan artists, trolls and obsessives collectively referred to as otaku (apparently a Japanese analogue to the term 'basket case'). In some cases, entire boards were dedicated to panchira in manga, anime and CG, as was the case with the Pantsu board on WAKAchan.

Japanese animation studios had been producing adult-oriented anime since the late 80s, and were quick to capitalize on the growing otaku subcultures on both sides of the Pacific. Direct-to-video features were released to the international market; most featured varying degrees of fanservice. A number of 'limited' TV series focused specifically on risque humor: Najica: Blitz Tactics (2001), Love Love? (2004) and Smash Hit (2004) all featured unprecedented amounts of panchira. One of the earlier entries, Agent Aika: Naked Missions, (1997) contained one panty shot every 20 seconds.

Examples in mediaEdit

  • Sailor Moon is full of these. Considering the size of those mini-skirts, it doesn't come as a surprise.

Related termsEdit

As noted above, panties are such a crucial element of Japanese popular culture that the language employs several different expressions to describe panty-related phenomena. Common vernacular terms include:

  • Panti (パンティー, panties)
  • Panchira (パンチラ, "glimpse" of panty)
  • Misepan (見せパン, panty show)
  • Panmoro (パンモロ, to show panties)
  • Sukarto Meguri (スカートめくり, skirt flip)

Not Only But AlsoEdit




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PANTIES
112px Panchira is part of a series on
ANIME
112px Panchira is part of a series on
MANGA
112px Panchira is part of a series on
ANIMATION

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