Skirts? Where This Game Is Going, It Doesn't Need Skirts

For years, glimpses up skirts were used to titillate Japanese gamers. A new game's done away with that entirely. It is moving beyond, to new realms of I-don't-know-what.

Many of the earliest computer games were adult titles, once again proving that pornography is often the killer app for early adaptors. In Japan particularly, upskirts, or "panchira" in Japanese, have appeared in gaming as they had in manga and anime, for years.

What makes animated or in-game glimpses of such ilk so obligatory is that these were either drawn or modeled by someone who at some point decided that these were underpants and not a bikini bottom. Like I said, obligatory.

Yet, it's that glimpse that causes some degree of titillation, the feeling that one is seeing something that one should not, which is why the fact that often innocuous characters in family friendly games like Super Smash Bros. or Hot Shots Golf have such detailed underwear designs. Upskirts were a reason why game designer Fumito Ueda made the protagonist of the upcoming PS3 exclusive The Last Guardian a male and not a female. Since the game features a lot of climbing, he was worried about possible panchira.

The idea of the upskirt is not new to Japan, but it is in ways a very Western one. Before the Meiji Era in the 19th century, one just did not see Western clothing in Japan — well, outside of the Nagasaki international port. The push to modernize (and Westernize) brought fashions from America and Europe, as well as new concepts of what was alluring and sexual. Even in the years before World War II, many women followed European fashions, and skirts and stockings became desirable.

The idea of the upskirt is not new to Japan, but it is in ways a very Western one.

New clothing offered new glimpses at the female form. Traditionally, the back of a woman's neck was viewed as sensual in Japan, due to the way kimonos drape on their figure. Another attractive area was the way a kimono hangs around a woman's hip. Kimonos are tied at the waist, making it hard to discern Western concepts of feminine beauty such as an "hourglass" figure. What's more, large breasts were traditionally viewed as undesirable in Japan, with voluptuous women compared to cows. In the past several decades, however, this has of course changed, as evident by countless video games characters and pin-up models.

Back in 2005, Rumble Roses designer Akira Uchida, who went on to design dating sim Love Plus, explained his concept of Japanese eroticism. "You Westerners, listen," he stated. "Eroticism is not only about nudity. That is part of it." Continuing, he explained that Rumble Roses had a character named "Anesthesia", who he described as a "Latina nurse character". He adds, "Imagine that she's forced to wear a schoolgirl uniform and has to do the limbo dance. And she's so embarrassed that she's blushing. That is Japanese eroticism."

"And she's so embarrassed that she's blushing. That is Japanese eroticism."

It's that element of embarrassment that Xbox 360 game Dream Club taps. The previous Dream Club game allowed players to dress up bar hostesses and have them sing on stage, flashing their knickers. Stuff like this is hardly rare in Japanese games — in fact, it's almost standard. When players cannot see female characters' underoos it is a bigger deal than when they can, as evident by the fuss made over the panchira-free Anthena in The King of Fighters XII. Players were actually flummoxed as to why her skirt got in the way of her high kicks.

Thanks to a bug, the newest Dream Club, Dream Club Zero, goes further and simply does away with the skirts altogether. Bar girls dance on stage in their drawers, without those pesky skirts to get in the way. Remember, this is a bug and not a game feature (apparently!), but with this much on display, is it really worth players getting their underwear in a bind over?

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