Black and White Monobear Sundress based on Dangan Ronpa

A sleeveless sundress with a hem above the knee and a scoop neck. It is split in half, with one half black and one half white. The white half is patterned with large black polka dots, while the black half has a strange red lightning bolt-esque pattern around the hem.Click for larger version (PNG); click for PDF version. Click here for the list of dolls.

Lately I’ve been reading about a game called Dangan Ronpa (which literally means “bullet rebuttal,” but no one actually calls it that), and its sequel, Super Dangan Ronpa 2. It’s been getting some buzz lately, as a fan translation group has finished a patch for it, causing an onslaught of Let’s Plays, and there is an anime version currently airing in Japan. There’s also a full Let’s Play in screenshot form.

The premise of the first game is that a group of high-school students who are all supremely talented in one area or another are imprisoned inside their school and pushed to kill each other. The description may remind you of the Hunger Games or Battle Royale, but in practice it is a murder mystery with elements of Fallout and And Then There Were None, as you try to discover the truth behind each murder, the secrets of the school and the state of the outside world.

The leader of this murderous game is a bear named Monobear, or Monokuma, depending on whose translation you like; it’s also a play on the word “monochrome” in Japanese. For Monokuma has a distinctive design: he’s a white, sweet-looking teddy bear on one side, and a black bear with a glowing red eye and a terrifying smile on the other. He’s smug, seemingly all-knowing and his laugh sounds like “Upupupu.” He’s voiced by Nobuyo Oyama, who is best known as the voice of Doraemon, a popular character from a long-running manga and TV series. In other words, for Japanese players who grew up with Doraemon, the effect is probably something like hearing Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse trying to manipulate you into killing people.

Today’s dress, then, is a jaunty polka-dot pattern on one side… and creepy red Monobear eyes on the other. It doesn’t really have any relation to the game, I just thought the design would be cute and slightly unsettling.

If you want to get in on the mutual killing fun, there’s the Let’s Plays and anime I linked earlier, and if you finish those up and want to get into Super Dangan Ronpa 2, there is an ongoing Let’s Play on the Something Awful forums, where the readers follow along, making suggestions for what to do next and forming theories as the game is translated. Sometimes a paywall prevents people without SA accounts from reading the forums, so check has the sa paywall gone yet on Tumblr or just succumb to despair while the game goes on without you. Upupupu~

Let’s have a contest! The winner gets to tell me how to color one of my black and white dresses. Standard rules apply: if you won either of the two previous contests, please don’t enter and only enter once per new post. Here’s the question: What’s Milo’s favorite thing in my kitchen? (Besides the food.) Please post your answers in the comments! Edit: Lauren got it! He has a love for spoons. Lauren, please post your request in the comments!

Poppy Red (shōjōhi) Iromuji Kimono with Gold and White Obi

Click for larger version (PNG); click for PDF version. Click here for the list of dolls.

Before I start this very long entry, a quick reminder: the Oscar red carpet starts tomorrow at 7 PM EST. I’ll be livedolling – that is, drawing as many of the gowns in attendance as I can before my fingers drop off – and I hope you can join me in the comments section for discussing all the gowns and perhaps adding your own, if you like! Even if you don’t have a TV, you can join in: I can’t watch it live either, so when I’ve done this before I just kept reloading the Oscar-related pictures on Getty Images. It looks like it’ll be streamed online at AP Live, so I will be trying that, too. I may be able to break my record of three in one night, due to the time difference…

I’m fairly well versed in English color names – especially those of the 146 Prismacolors that I’ve been using for over a decade – but in Japanese, the closest I get to sophistication is popping the words for “dark” and “light” in front of the basic color words. To fix this, I thought that I could learn some obscure Japanese color words, which would both brighten up my impoverished vocabulary and provide an opportunity for some cute drawings.

I started with the book Kimono and the Colors of Japan: The Kimono Collection of Katsumi Yumioka, which is both in English and Japanese and has a paragraph of information on sixty traditional colors, with a gorgeous picture of a kimono to illustrate each one. I also picked up 日本の伝統色 The Traditional Colors of Japan for my birthday, which has a sentence in English about each color but is primarily written in Japanese and has information on 250 colors. It also gives CMYK, RGB and hex code values for each color, meaning I can figure out easily what the nearest Prismacolor shade is with the Prismacolor Digital Color Coordinator.

The first color in Kimono and the Colors of Japan is 猩々緋(shōjōhi), a warm, cheerful red with a touch of yellow and a hex code of #E83015. Both books translate this as “poppy red”, and conveniently, the Prismacolor color picker tells me that the closest Prismacolor equivalent to #E83015 is Poppy Red. To my eyes, it looks like it could be either Scarlet Lake or Poppy Red, and that Poppy Red is just a touch too orange, but I have a feeling they will not all be this easy, so for now I’m accepting the coincidence.

The color is produced with dye made from the female cochineal insect, and it first showed up in Japan during the Warring States Period (1467–1573), when thick woolen fabric dyed poppy red was first imported from Southeast Asia. Japan was at civil war at this time, and many feudal lords had their battle surcoats (陣羽織, jinbaori) made out of this material, because it was thought that the color protected the wearer from arrows or bullets. (For an example of these battle surcoats, look at this reproduction of Oda Nobunaga’s surcoat.)

Let’s break down the kanji in 猩々緋. On its own, 猩 means orangutan, and the Japanese word for orangutan used to be 猩々 (shōjō). That’s because the animal was named after the 猩々 (shōjō), a mythical Chinese creature or spirit that was said to live on the coasts and enjoy drinking. It was said to look like a human, or like a monkey with a human face, with brilliant red hair and a face red from drinking too much, and according to one account its blood was thought to be what lent the fabric its protective qualities. The shōjō is also a character in a Noh play, Shōjō Midare, and the actor wears a shaggy red wig, a red mask and red clothes. If you look 猩々 up in a dictionary, one of the definitions is “someone who loves to drink,” but when I asked some of my Japanese friends, that usage doesn’t seem very common these days, so it is just an interesting, random fact; don’t put the term into practice unless you happen to hang out with a bunch of Noh enthusiasts. Incidentally, it is not very clear if the color name was simply named after the creature, inspired by its representation in the Noh play, or if it gained that name specifically because the dye was said to be taken from the shōjō’s blood or hair: all of my sources have something different to say about the matter. (It seems like the story about the dye coming from the blood is pretty common, but it could have gained the name first, and the stories about the blood and its protective properties, later.) One story claims that leaving sake out on the beach will tempt them to try it, then get drunk and fall asleep; from there, it’s a simple matter to extract the blood needed for the dye.

Of course, it’s not in the official list of kanji that Japanese students have to learn (常用漢字, jōyō kanji), nor in the list of kanji that may be used in names (人名用漢字, jinmeiyō kanji), and it only shows up in a few other words, so a kanji like that does one little practical good. So all of this detail is great fun, in my opinion, but those of you out there learning Japanese, don’t trip all over yourselves to practice writing it. (If you actually want to write orangutan, 猩々 is way overkill – the word you would be looking for is オランウータン.)

The middle kanji, 々, just indicates that the previous kanji is repeated. That is, we could also write the color name as 猩猩緋.

The last one, 緋, is slightly more useful than 猩, as it is also seen in other colors such as 浅緋 (asahi, light scarlet). This kanji indicates a deep, bright red. It’s not on the list of kanji that are commonly used but it is on the list of kanji that may be used in names. It shows up in a couple of other colors in Kimono and the Colors of Japan, so we’ll remember that one.

For today’s kimono, I’ve done a poppy red iromuji (色無地), which is a formal, unpatterned, single-color kimono worn by both married and unmarried women. (I’ll write more about the various types of kimono in the future, but I have had this entry mostly written for some time, and I wanted to get on with it.) The obi is decorated with a stylized wave pattern (青海波, seigaha) in gold and white, plus a sake (Japanese rice wine) bottle and cups, as a reference to the shōjō; as a nod to the English name of the color, the obi-dome (帯留め), which is the piece of jewelry in the middle of the obi, is a poppy. (That would be ケシ, keshi, in Japanese. Incidentally, poppies seem to be rather rare motifs for Japanese textiles; they were introduced in the Muromachi period, so it’s not like the flower was unknown, but they don’t have symbolic significance that I’ve found; perhaps the connection with medicine or opium was too strong to make it a desirable decoration for a kimono?)

Besides Kimono and the Colors of Japan and 日本の伝統色 The Traditional Colors of Japan, I also referred to Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design, The Colors of Japan and Japanese Art Motives. The story about trapping shōjō with sake is from the 1912 “Scientific Temperance Journal.”

I’ve tried to stay away from relying on online sources, but the detail about shōjō blood being thought to have protective properties was too good to pass up, and is from this page. For further information (in Japanese), you can also look at,, and the Japanese Wikipedia page on 猩々緋. For you kanji fanatics out there, you can find all the details about and on Denshi Jisho.

Now, “poppy red” is the first color in Kimono and the Colors of Japan, but if I go in order all I’ll do is red, red, red, and I’ll get bored. I’ve picked five colors at random from the table of contents of Kimono and the Colors of Japan. Which should I do next?

Prismacolors used: Poppy Red, Crimson Lake, Tuscan Red, Cream, Sunburst Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Goldenrod, Bronze, Sepia, Apple Green, Chartreuse, Kelly Green, French Grey 10%, 20%, 50%, 70%, Black, Cool Grey 10%, Sakura Soufflé White Gel Pen

Blue Striped Komon Kimono with White Rabbit and Plum Blossom Pattern and Black and Yellow Obi

Click for larger version (PNG); click for PDF version. Click here for the list of dolls.

2011 is the year of the rabbit, in the Chinese zodiac, so cute rabbit-related things have been popping up in my RSS feed for the past month or so, and it made me want to do a rabbit kimono. (By modern reckoning, I’m late, but in Japan, the New Year used to be celebrated on the Chinese schedule, between late January and mid-February, so by that standard I’m quite early!)

Of late, I’ve been inspired by the drama Osen to look at lots of vintage kimono, as the main character is the proprietor of a traditional Japanese restaurant and always wears kimono in a fun, fresh way. (I’ve found lots of good blogs along the way, but I particularly recommend Kimono Sarasa’s blog.) This is intended to be a casual, retro-style komon kimono, with large patterns all over the fabric: the bunnies are a reference to 2011, of course, while the sprigs of flowers are plum blossom, which is the first flower to bloom every year and therefore a traditional New Year’s motif. The obi, a yellow circle pattern on black, is meant to evoke — OK, not so subtly — the moon. Rabbits and the moon are linked in Japanese symbolism, because in Japan, it’s said that you can see a rabbit making mochi (a kind of rice cake) in the moon, instead of the man in the moon.

I drew this when I was visiting with my mom: we both printed out the black-and-white version and started coloring, but I finished mine, while she had to go do something in the middle and only finished her obi. Hopefully we’ll be able to see her kimono too, soon!

I’ve got a lot of things to look forward to in 2011, and I hope you all do too!

Halloween Costume Series Day 6: Scarecrow Costume with Torn White Blouse and Patched Red Polka Dot Skirt

Click for larger version; click for the list of dolls.

My husband and I split a CSA share with another family we know, and ours is with the Community Farm of Ann Arbor. (CSA stands for community supported agriculture; basically you pay for a share up front then over the course of the season you get a part of whatever vegetables are grown. For example, our share this week included sweet potatoes, swiss chard, broccoli and twenty bell peppers.) This week, they announced a “goods and services day,” where people could come to show and sell the things they make. I had to go anyways to pick up the share, so I thought, well, why not?, printed off a bunch of paper dolls and brought my drawing materials to the farm. I was the only one who showed up with anything, but it was great to be in the barn working on my dresses, and Annie (one of the owners of the Community Farm) loved them, helping to make up for my complete lack of salesmanship. I think the question I got the most is how I make a living off of them — the answer, of course, is that I don’t, it’s just a hobby. (The text ads do make enough money to cover hosting and replacement colorless blender pencils, which is very nice.) Second most common question was “why paperdolls?” for which the most true answer is, I’m pretty bad at drawing just about anything besides clothes, and I love drawing clothes enough that this doesn’t bother me.

If you like today’s scarecrow costume at all you can thank Annie for saving it; I got about a fourth of the way through sketching it out and was looking at it rather dubiously, but she thought it was so cute, so I kept going with it, and I think it turned out all right. Being on the farm made me think of things like scarecrows, and certainly I had enough reference material for the straw… You can thank Brian, too, for the bird. That’s the first thing he said when I showed it to him, that it needed a bird. Such insights are why I keep him around!

Taken my poll yet?