(*spoken with my best Richard Nixon impression* “I am not a fashion guru!”)
Even with the death of the published magazine, FRUiTs, Harajuku is internationally famous at this point. Who hasn’t heard of the colorful, flashy, eccentric fashion district by now?
However, Urahara is comparatively less known. The term is short for Ura-Harajuku and refers to the backstreets of Harajuku (as ura literally means “back”). Compared to the flamboyant Harajuku, Urahara style is more conservative (and old school) as it revolves around oversized streetwear, graphic t-shirts, and vintage items.
Despite being less renown compared to Harajuku, this unofficial area occupies an important part in the history behind Japanese fashion as it represents a melding pot, a place where Japanese and foreign cultures joined hands. Before Urahara became lined with these stores selling casual brands and secondhand clothes, Japanese youth were primarily wearing imported foreign brands. With the rise of shops that borrowed ideas from other cultures and made it their own, the fashion field became filled with creativity which resulted in domestically made fashion that is reminiscent of yet different from foreign brands.
We can see traces of Urahara in the Fall 2017 series, URAHARA. For instance, the three main protagonists are dressed in Urahara-kei – Rito is wearing the classic letterman jacket, Mari sports a floral A-line skirt, and Kotoko rocks the preppy tie and v-neck sweater combo. In other words, the girls are draped in vintage, casual, and layered clothes, which are the very definition of Urahara style!
This still holds even when the trio essentially transform into magical girls by using Amatsumara (which basically look like janky orbs, but I digress). Rito now has a cropped vest, Mari now has suspenders, and Kotoko now is wearing a nekomimi jumpsuit. Their designs after their transformation now incorporate (slightly) more modern fashion trends, however: Mari now rocks a form of zettai ryouiki due to her thigh-high boots (with garterbelts!), Kotoko now has an oversized belt around her waist, and Rito now has these fresh boots on (and is still rocking the classic sweater-tied-around-waist look).
Be that as it may, the art style and animation leaves much to be desired. While it isn’t exactly not fluid, the characters and the backgrounds simply look unpolished. The result is decidedly amateur and is rather unappealing. Furthermore, the reactions the characters express throughout the episode seem to consistently miss the mark. None of the girls seem that flustered over the fact that aliens are stealing famous landmarks (and human culture) and their attempts at making jokes are simply not funny (I’m looking at you, Mari). But I do like the OP a lot, which is admittedly very bubbly and squeaky and not to everyone’s taste.
Urahara-kei is harder to find these days, but the style lives on as the base for other styles (namely Salon-Boy-kei or Kireime-kei). And while I can appreciate that URAHARA features characters who can be said to embody a style of fashion that has more or less disappeared, the series is a disappointment in many other aspects thus far.
Still, maybe it’s too early to write the series off. Sometimes fashion makes a comeback and sometimes a series can win back viewers with later episodes. We’ll have to see!