Here’s why some anime characters wear jackets with their arms not in the jacket’s sleeves:
Anime characters are drawn wearing coats without putting their arms through the jacket sleeves in order to denote just how impressive they are.
Typically, these are characters who are responsible for fighting, and they often fight without letting the jacket slip.
It lets you quickly see who the tough guys are.
So if you want to learn all about why some characters wear jackets like capes, then this article is for you.
Let’s get started!
Is Wearing a Jacket With Arms Not in Sleeves Really a Thing in Anime? (2 Examples)
Yes. It happens a lot.
In fact, it’s a fairly common trope in anime these days.
And, it’s been around for a while.
To prove that to you, I’m going to walk you through two of the most prominent examples in the history of anime.
If you watch a lot of anime, you’ll find that the majority of characters do not wear coats without putting their arms through the sleeves.
It’s an uncommon trait, but that’s on purpose.
It’s supposed to denote that a character is abnormal in important ways.
But, that’s getting ahead of things.
Let’s take a moment to talk about those prominent examples.
Bleach has a prominent example with the captain commander, Yamamoto.
For those who aren’t familiar with Bleach, it’s one of the Big Three from the 2000s and early 2010s.
In the show, the afterlife is a place called Soul Society, and it is protected by the soul reapers (called Shinigami in Japanese).
The reapers are spirits who fight against the forces of evil, and among the reapers are a handful of leaders known as captains.
The captains are incredibly powerful fighters, and the leader among the captains is Yamamoto.
He’s the very strongest fighter in Soul Society (we’re not getting into the Soul King and his guard in this conversation).
All of the captains have white jackets that denote their status.
As the strongest, Yamamoto was known to wear his jacket like a cape, draped around his shoulders but without putting his arms through the sleeves.
#2 One Piece
Then again, the example of Yamamoto pales in comparison to what is seen in One Piece (another of the Big Three).
I’ll probably bring this up again, but One Piece more or less wrote the book on this trope.
In the world of One Piece, there are pirates, and there is the World Government.
The military of the World Government has several delineations, but the might of the government is found among the marines, and the marines are led by three admirals.
Notoriously, the admirals wear special coats at all times, and none of the admirals ever put their arms through the sleeves.
It’s just a thing, and it’s never truly explained.
As the show has continued, many other very prominent characters wear jackets in the same fashion, and somewhat recently, Luffy (the main protagonist) has begun wearing his jacket the same way.
Why Do Anime Characters Wear Jackets Without Putting Their Arms Through the Sleeves? (5 Reasons)
Ok. This seems to be a thing that really happens.
For the most part, it’s an aesthetic choice, but it’s a visual display that can actually convey a lot of information very efficiently.
To really explain that, I’ll have to go through some of the specific reasons anime characters are drawn this way.
#1 Cool Factor
When a jacket is worn like this, it looks a lot like a cape.
It gives the character a bit of a superhero or supervillain vibe.
When drawn correctly, it really does add an aesthetic element to the character’s design, and it arguably looks cool.
Especially when you consider that capes have not been stylish for very much of history in very many societies, the unsleeved jacket is a somewhat normalized way to get the cape effect without having to justify characters actually wearing capes.
#2 Steering Into the Trope
Because of the cool factor, this jacket style has shown up across a lot of different anime stories.
I mentioned some of the most prominent examples, but you can find individual characters doing this in countless episodes across all anime.
It shows up a lot, and it has become a rather common trope.
The trope actually causes the style to show up even more because animators can use it to quickly convey information to the audience.
See this character wearing his jackets without putting his arms in the sleeves?
Obviously, he’s a formidable character.
You don’t want to get into a fight with him, and if the main character does, it will be an immense struggle.
That’s what the trope is trying to convey, and it’s a bit of a short cut for animators.
They don’t have to give other hints that the character is cool.
You can tell by how he wears his jacket (and yes, it is a trope that is primarily used with male characters, although there’s no explicit rule about this).
It’s kind of like when you see a lone warrior being attacked by a giant horde of enemies.
You know right away that the lone warrior is much stronger than any of those enemies because it’s such a common trope.
#3 Demonstrating Ability
Another reason why characters are drawn this way kind of steers into how the trope became a thing.
Putting a coat on a character like this allows the animators to demonstrate the character’s skills and abilities in two interesting ways.
First, the coat is often fairly heavy.
It’s not something a real person would want to wear in a fight, yet these anime characters fight pretty much exclusively while wearing the restrictive clothing.
It’s a testament to their prowess in combat.
They are the toughest fighters around, and they’re so skilled that they can handicap themselves with a heavy coat and it won’t matter at all.
That point is emphasized by the secondary, arguably more impressive display of skill.
Not only are they fighting with a heavy coat, but they’re doing it while wearing the coat in a very insecure way.
In real life, you could try to throw one punch, and that coat would be on the ground immediately.
Yet, these amazing anime characters get into epic fights, defeat hordes of enemies, and display overwhelming power, all without letting the coat slip in the slightest.
It’s a flex.
They’re showing off that they are so superior that they can fight while worrying about the coat more than their enemies.
#4 Taking It off for a Dramatic Effect
And, of course, there’s the dramatic moment.
An anime character who is impressive enough to wear a coat without putting his arms through the sleeves is rarely challenged.
So, when he faces an opponent and choses to take the coat off, it’s a major statement.
It’s telling you that this is an epic fight.
Things are as serious as they can get.
It’s kind of like why cops wear sunglasses in procedural crime dramas.
It’s all so they can take off the sunglasses when a big reveal happens.
Obviously, that’s not a perfect comparison, but the main point stands.
The coat is there, working as a flex, so that it can be a dramatic, impactful moment when the character has to remove the coat.
#5 The Special Case in One Piece
While everything above holds true, there is a special case that merits discussion.
As I said before, One Piece more or less made this idea into a trope.
The anime has been showing strong characters wearing their coats like capes for more than 20 years—seriously.
But with One Piece, there’s a deeper meaning, and to get into it, we have to talk a little bit about manga.
If you’re not familiar with the media, anime is a term that applies to Japanese cartoons.
These cartoons range in storytelling, common tropes, target audiences, and more, so it’s hard to say that there are too many universal aspects.
But, most anime has at least a little familiarity in the art style, and to be an anime, the cartoon has to be produced in Japan.
That’s an important part of the deal.
For the most part, anime stories are derived from successful manga series.
I guess I better explain that part too.
A manga is basically a Japanese comic book, except that they are almost always in black and white.
There are tons of different manga series in Japan, and they are a source of tons of genuinely original content.
So, when a manga shows abnormal success, there’s a good chance that a studio will adapt an anime from it.
All of this background is for the sake of bringing up Eiichiro Oda, the original author and mastermind of the One Piece manga.
Everything in One Piece ultimately comes from Oda.
He’s the creative talent behind all of it, and he is notorious for his attention to detail, especially when it comes to words and phrases.
The reason all of this matters is that in One Piece (in both the manga and anime) the admirals wear jackets that reflect their station, and on the back of each jacket is the word “justice.”
It’s not an accident.
In fact, Oda designs the admirals in specific ways to represent different philosophical takes on the concept of justice.
It’s a major theme in the story.
What does that have to do with jacket sleeves?
Well, the admirals are responsible for upholding justice.
In other words, allowing the jackets to fall to the ground would create a literal metaphor for the fall of justice in the world of One Piece.
It’s both a pun and a serious symbol in the series.
That the admirals wear this responsibility so casually is a display of confidence.
They know that they can lead the world’s marines and take on all of the pirates of the seas wearing their coats in an insecure manner, and they will never let justice fall.
Since both the manga and anime are ongoing, we’ll have to wait to see how that works out.