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Almost Otaku: Steampunk - - Genre or Fashion Statement?

What? You don't just walk around with a top hat and aviator's goggles?

   Are they all steamed, or just full of hot air?
 Are they all steamed, or just full of hot air?

jlanzer : Is steam punk more of an anime genre or a real world fashion statement? As far as I can tell there are very few animes that fit into the steam punk genre (steam boy, desert punk, letter bee, last exhile) and there is more of an impact on fashion modernizing early 1900's aviation wear. Along that note, do you see any other anime fashion leaking into the real world outside of anime conventions?

Even though I’d probably add FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST to that list, I do need to explain that steampunk isn’t a genre specific to anime.   It actually started in science fiction novels in the late 70s, early 80s, with novels like William Gibson's THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE. The name was a pun on the cyberpunk stories he's so known for pioneering. Then again, it obviously had some ancestors in the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, which were basically, I suppose, "regular" science fiction. fiction at the time.  I actually answered a question similar to this on Comic Vine, which goes to show you, again, how it isn’t specific to anime. 

It's definitely a genre, but nobody's going to dispute that a lot of the appeal has to do with the fashion. Few can accessorize like that anymore - - you really can't get away with wearing monocles and petticoats these days - - so it’s a natural choice for cosplay. Hell, I even see cosplayers who aren’t even dressing up as specific characters at conventions, they just wanted to throw on some aviator goggles and a top hat.

As for anime fashion leaking into the real world? Do hipsters wearing snarky t-shirts with anime logos and characters on them count? I've seen plenty of people with huge, wildly-colored hair in LA, but I don't think they're modeling themselves after anybody from DBZ. That's just how they want to dress.  I do remember there being a banner ad for some men’s health website with a picture of a girl dressed like everybody’s favorite loli goth Misa. They didn’t seem to get what she was dressed as, so there you go. Leakage into the real world.

Still, we’ve got a broader pool of perspectives here. Have you lunatics seen any examples of anime fashion in every day life? More importantly - - should said fashion stay in that anime, for the love of good taste?

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of    HYBRID BASTARDS!  &   UNIMAGINABLE . Order them on Amazon   here   &     here .

Dream moderator is online on Oct. 28, 2010 at 8:58 a.m.
Steampunk's more of a future that could have been where fiction writers imagine how the world would be if we went more towards steam-powered inventions and typically, such titles make use of a Victorian era- style setting with Steamboy and Last Exile having similar backgrounds. Besides the examples mentioned by jlanzer, Ghibli's Castle in the Sky and Gainax's Nadia: Secret of Blue Water also have elements of steampunk. The thing is though, there aren't many anime titles that even make use of the steampunk genre.
 
I don't have as much familiarity with the steampunk fashion scene in real-life, though I am aware that it does a small following here in the states and that there are conventions held for it where people create their own futuristic Victorian era clothing in imagining the future that could have been within that particular era.
Mesoianon Oct. 28, 2010 at 8:59 a.m.
I wouldn't say it's a genre so much as a sub-setting. Animes that tend to define themselves on the nuances of their settings usually end up being pretty bad (Steamboy comes to mind with this example).  What makes them have gravity is that they aren't the focal point of the world, even though they provide a contrast to how we live our everyday lives. Ghost in the Shell, on a whole, isn't about cyberpunk; It's a crime drama first and foremost and the actual crimes and how they're dealt with are very similar to crimes taken from the headlines today. The cyberpunk spin placed on them provides an otherworldly contrast for us to provide context against, but very rarely is it the true focal point of the story. Apocalyptic themed shows could learn a lot from that lesson. Shows like Jeremiah or the movie version of The Book of Eli fall into the trap of making everything about the setting and not enough about the story they're trying to tell.
 
As for the fashion, it's one of those ambiguous things that can never really be defined. Everyone loves steam punk but can rarely define what it is. The same goes with cyberpunk or Lolita (though Lolita does have a lot of strict rules in place, which in and of itself is a bit hilarious).  When I saw MC Frontalot about a year ago, there was a small section of the audience who had dressed up in 1920's style suits with big parascopel goggles and spent most of their time doing the Charleston in a large circle during the performance. Did a small accessory turn that outfit into steam punk? Who knows. Yet at the same time, I find myself sifting through the old art archives of Anna Fischer, looking through "cyberpunk" galleries, and seeing modern formal wear with very small computeresque touches (I felt extreme jealousy upon seeing an Asian man with long dreadlocks tipped with Cat5 connectors in a brooks brothers suit, I swear I came up with that idea first).

In the end, fashion is fashion and can rarely be constricted by formal definitions. It will leak into everything because people will see something that's cool and try to emulate it with it's own style. Sticking to generalized definitions seems useless considering how quickly the state of what's popular or what's passe shifts as the days progress. These days, even something as easily defined as cosplay comes under a lot of scrutiny when it comes to what it really is, what it isn't and what it should be.
Dream moderator is online on Oct. 28, 2010 at 9:05 a.m.
@mesoian said:
"As for the fashion, it's one of those ambiguous things that can never really be defined. Everyone loves steam punk but can rarely define what it is."
It's supposed to be how people within the Victorian era at the time imagined how the future would be based on clothing trends, the social structure and technologies available to them.
Mesoianon Oct. 28, 2010 at 9:14 a.m.
@Dream: But even that definition in and of itself is INCREDIBLY vague. The class system within the Victorian era ranged from the super wealthy (which is where you see the grand majority of steam punk ideas being formed from) to the super impoverished. Those ideals of the future can swing dramatically from men controlling steam-powered mech suits to simply a better shovel. There is no real correct answer to imaginary concepts.
 
But as a fashion statement, it usually means putting some gears on a hat, which is a little bogus for what the idea was supposed to be. Furthermore, its people who are engaging within the fashion who change the definition. So when does the ideals of a futuristic Victorian era stop being the real definition of steam punk?  Who can be right with something so amorphous?
 
This is why it's hard to define. In the end, the people having fun with the fashion are the ones redefining it until it's something completely different. I remember when cosplay was dressed up and acting as a character from a japanese based animated program. It's come a pretty long distance from that at this point.
MannyMARon Oct. 28, 2010 at 10:15 a.m.
I can say that steampunk settings are just that, settings. I won't knock anyone though who'd try to replicate it though, because I do find steampunk appealing. 
 
But  to get off topic for a second, I never  really considered fantasy, science fiction, westerns, nor any of their sub categories as genres. To me, they're more like settings than anything else. You can tell the same story through the use of any of these settings and have them work as long as you fit the subject matter into said setting. I mean strip away the sci fi conventions from Avatar and place it in the 1600's, and then tell me what makes it any more different than Pocahontas. To me genres are more in the vain of content rather than setting (ie. drama, comedy, action, etc.)    
zaldaron Oct. 28, 2010 at 2:21 p.m.
Well for fashion that should stay in the anime (or country it came from) I have started seeing tons of school age children here in the states in crazy multicolored knee high socks reminiscent of things from various anime.  Thats one I wish had stayed in the anime for the sake of good taste....
ZombiePieon Oct. 29, 2010 at 9:41 a.m.
As a fan and historian of German Expressionism I would could it a movement in the film arts (ohh yeah get the most out of my film studies education). Steam punk wasn't isolated to anime and was inspired and founded on previous movements in the fine arts.
sotyfan16on Oct. 29, 2010 at 1:38 p.m.

I haven't seen any fashion influences in the real world but I really like cyber- and steam punk stories. They have a classic feel that almost seems impervious to cliche and even small changes in a story can create a whole new aspect or show in itself. The militaristic overtone fo the stories add intrigue for me because then there is always a deeper plot or connection that won't be found out til almost the end.

FoxxFireArt moderator on Oct. 30, 2010 at 5:01 a.m.
@Tom_Pinchuk: 
Yeah, authors such as Jules Verne kind of had a jump on the steampunk era of stories. Just look at 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The Nautilus is kind of a perfect example. That was supposedly a super powered submarine that seemed to use steam pipes and gears. That was one of my all time favorite examples of scifi pseudo-science that is closer to reality then the author could of ever imagined. The idea was that the Nautilus basically used power cell technology that used the sodium in salt water. Power cell technologies are now starting to be put into wider circulation to create clean fuel sources. Funny enough I've never gotten around to reading any of the more steampunk inspired novels. Well, that's just another excuse to go to the library.
 
I've often had a bit of love for the steampunk sort of aesthetic. Not that I would walk around wearing goggles all day. I already wear glasses. I just love the mixture of old and new. When I mail out personal correspondence, I almost always use a wax seal that has my first initial on it. An example can be seen on THIS video on Anime Vice.
 
I would also love to get a real pocket watch. One where you can see all the gears moving inside. They just look so cool. Nothing as large as the kind of Fullmetal Alchemist. They just have a sort of gentlemanly elegance to them.

I'm often accused of speaking as if I'm from another era. Most likely the influence of so many old styled novels, such as Sherlock Holmes. I swear, I used the word "plentiful" in a sentence at a restaurant, and my mother and elder brother looked at me as if I was crazy. It's not as if I used it out of context, ala Mike Tyson or Sarah Palin.
SingleDimensionon Oct. 31, 2010 at 1:38 p.m.
Gears on a hat may be a steampunk fashion statement, but a steampunk hat should seem to be intended to perform a function.  The gears should be connected to mechanisms which seem to be designed for a task, whether anything actually moves or not.  A hat with only a whip antenna and a microphone is a sci-fi radio hat.  A steampunk radio hat might have a T-aerial or dipole antenna on a gear-rotated mast, vacuum tubes, copper bus bars, and a brass or chrome microphone mounted on an articulated arm. 
 
There is one obvious steampunk manga/anime: Steam Detectives. 
 
P.S. Just found one review of  "Ergo Proxy" which mentions steampunk devices.  Haven't seen it, but many say the animation artwork makes it worth seeing.
Psychotimeon Nov. 2, 2010 at 5:59 p.m.
I think Steampunk is in the same boat as Zombies. It's been way overdone to the point of destroying any interest I would have had in it. 

Also, I still have no clue how people call Fullmetal steampunk. Am I missing something? Maybe I am.
Papasanon Nov. 3, 2010 at 7:22 p.m.

A snapshot from my steampunk phase: 
 

 
 

Steampunk is fun.

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