Thursday, August 30, 2018

zettai ryouiki 絶対領域

In Japanese, the term Zettai Ryouiki 絶対領域, or ZR, literally "Absolute Territory" in English, refers to the space of bare thighs between the skirt and above knee-length socks.

Yes, seriously. That's what Zettai Ryouiki means. It's an anime trope.

What is Zettai Ryouiki
Anime: Outbreak Company (Episode 4)


The word Zettai Ryouiki is confusing, not to say disturbing, to anyone who hasn't gotten the slightest idea of what it's about. But let's go step by step.

Examples of Zettai Ryouiki
Anime: Outbreak Company (Episode 4)

ZR is a moe attribute. To put simply: a thing people find cute in fiction, like having short hair, being a tsundere, having cat ears, or ahoge.

However, for those things there are normal Japanese (and English) words. If you like short hair, just say you like "short hair." But what if you liked the space of bare thighs between the skirt and above-the-knee socks of the characters?

Question about Zettai Ryouiki in the quiz manga Nana Maru San Batsu ナナマルサンバツ (7o3x). Transcription: koko ここ, "here." minisukaato no suso to oobaa-nii-sokkusu no sukima ni sonzai suru suhada ga roshutsu shita bubun wo akiba-kei kaiwai dewa nanto iu deshou? 「ミニスカートの裾とオーバーニーソックスの隙間に存在する素肌が露出した部分をアキバ系界隈では何というでしょう? "Wht is it called, among akiba-style [people], the part of exposed bare skin that exists in the space between over-knee-socks and the bottom edge of the skirt?" akiba-kei? otaku-kei tte koto!? アキバ系?オタク系ってこと!? "Akiba-style people? It's about otakus!?" (*akiba = akihabara.) sonna tokoro ni meishou ga...!? そんなところに名称が・・・!? "For a place like that [there's] a name...!?

Indeed, you don't know a word for it. Is there even a word for it? Also, what is even "the space of bare thighs between the skirt and over-the-knee socks"? Who even notices these things?

Well, now there's a word for it: Zettai Ryouiki 絶対領域, "absolute territory." It was coined within the anime fandom, and the name doesn't actually make much sense for what it refers to, (see Origin), but that's what we call it now.

And now that you know the word for it, prepare yourself for noticing the Zettai Ryouiki of characters like you never did before, because you didn't know it was a thing before, so you probably never noticed it before, but now you do, so you'll really be noticing it a lot from now on.


Zettai Ryouiki is sometimes called the perfected form of "chiralism," chirarizumu チラリズム, (chirari チラリ means "glimpse," so glimpse-ism), which is a fetish for the subtle or accidental "glimpse" or exposure of skin or underwear, as opposed to the deliberate or blatant flashing or exposure of underwear or genitals.

Mention of Chiralism in the manga Nana Maru San Batsu ナナマルサンバツ (7o3x). Transcription: iwayuru chirarizumu tte yatsu? いわゆるチラリズムってやつ? It's the so-called chiralism thing? ichibu no ningen niwa zettai-teki kouryouku wo motarasu "moe youso" no hitotsu yo 一部の人間には絶対的効力をもたらす”萌え要素”の一つよ, "To one portion of humans it brings an absolute-like effect. [it's] one of the 'moe elements.'"

In other words, chiralism is a a thing for men of culture, and not for uncultured swines.

For this reason, ZR has the ironic nature of being based on showing the bare skin of thighs, but the less bare skin shown, the greater the ZR is. (see Golden Ratio)

Note that ZR is chiralism of the legs: having a glimpse of thighs, in some cases, a lower part of the butt, a side of the hips. Even though the definition includes a skirt, an accidental glimpse of panties is not ZR, that would be another type of chiralism, called panchira パンチラ ("panties-chiralism," pantsu-chirarizumu パンチラリズム).


Here are some examples of Zettai Ryouiki:

Check the Links section for sites that let you find more Zettai Ryouiki.

What Counts as Zettai Ryouiki

Zettai Ryouiki was originally coined toward a skirt and above-knee socks, but as time went on the definition has gotten a bit stretched, and what people consider ZR or not kinda varies.

There are a few absolutes:
  • The legwear must cover at least the knee.
    • In the case of fishnets, it's not really "covered."
  • Thighs' bare skin must be visible.
    • Thus the skirt must not cover the legwear.
      So only mini-skirts and shorter count.
    • Tights are never ZR.
      Not even if you cover them with socks, making 2 layers.
  • Underwear must not be shown.
    • ZR is the subtle exposure of legs, not crotch.

Beyond the three items above, it gets controversial.

A Zettai Ryouiki chart, showing what's perfect Zettai Ryouiki,valid Zettai Ryouiki, invalid Zettai Ryouiki, and controversial items: "The original definition included only skirt and socks, so thigh-highs, fishnets, garters, long boots, shorts, swimsuits, and others may or may not be Zettai Ryouiki depending on whom you ask."

Different Legwear

To some people fishnets do not count as ZR because it doesn't properly cover the legs thus it's not chiralism, or because fishnets are just a different moe attribute entirely..

To some people garter doesn't count, because it gets in the way of the thighs, or because the legwear must hold up on its on, or because garter is just a different moe attribute entirely.

To some people thigh-highs do not count because they cover too much of the thigh. Conversely, to some people microskirts and shorter over-the-knee legwear do not count since they show too much thigh. (despite controversy on microskirt, the consensus remains that underwear must not be visible.)

Different Bottom

It gets more erratic when replacing the skirt. Do "hotpants," hotto pantsu ホットパンツ, (a short type of shorts), count as Zettai Ryouiki? What about swimsuits that include legwear? These things have nothing to do with the original skirt, so you can feel the boundaries of the term distancing themselves.

Real Life Zettai Ryouiki

Although Zettai Ryouiki is an otaku term rooted in anime and often used within anime communities, there's no rule that says you can't use it toward a real person. I mean, nowadays even moe can be applied to real people, so why not? Specially considering real-life maid cafés are a thing and maid costumes usually feature a ZR or another.

In fact, in 2005-10-21, a TV program called Tokoro-san no Gakkou dewa Oshiete Kurenai Sokon Tokoro! 所さんの学校では教えてくれないそこんトコロ! even explained Zettai Ryouiki with real-life people.

Screencap of a real-life maid's Zettai Ryouiki 絶対領域 shown in the TV program Tokoro-san no Gakkou dewa Oshiete Kurenai Sokon Tokoro! 所さんの学校では教えてくれないそこんトコロ! in 2005.

(picture source:

Male Zettai Ryouiki

There's no rule that says Zettai Ryouiki is a female-only attribute. However, it's implicitly exclusive given you need to wear some sort over-the-knee legwear and show bare thighs, and something like that happens not to be what a male character would wear.

If you go by the original definition, you'd also need to wear a skirt, it's then only applicable to crossdressers. I suppose something that's totally-not-a-skirt, like a kilt, worn by totally-not-crossdressing men, or rather, a mini-kilt, would also fit the original idea.

In a certain yaoi manga, Wild Rock, there's a caveman wearing a towel... I guess that counts as ZR, too? Does it count as chiralism when the guy is topless, though?

If you go by the stretched definition, then hotpants are valid, so by extension you can pretend any kind of short shorts are valid too. But above-the-knee shorts are really only usually worn by one type of non-crossdressing male anime character.

Finally, thigh-high boots are valid in this case too. Which gives the impression our range would become broader, until you realize we're talking about a guy wearing some huge-ass boots and still have his thighs exposed. So it's more of a JoJo-level of fashion statement than normal clothing.

But such details do not matter. Making sense didn't stop the manga Saki from creating a monstrosity for its male fans in its season 2, so it surely ain't gonna stop female authors from creating male Zettai Ryouiki for female fans.

And, although I didn't expect it, I guess it's only natural the four examples of male ZR I could find ended up looking like the four horsemen of fujoshi 腐女子 apocalypse: crossdressing, shota, trap, and BL.

Examples of male Zettai Ryouiki in anime and manga: a crossdresser from Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens 博多豚骨ラーメンズ,  a boy from "Black Butler," Kuroshitsuji 黒執事, a boy from Knight's & Magic ナイツ&マジック, and a man from Wild Rock ワイルド・ロック.


As you could see above, the normal ZR is simply not naturally occurring in males. Some people thought this was unfair, and decided the best approach to this was inventing some other designation to ZR that's only applicable to men.

For example, on Twitter, in 2014, somebody came up with the novel idea that the male version of ZR should be the exposed wrist between sleeves and gloves.

On some other forum around the internet, someone else decided, separately, in 2015, that showing off arm muscles between the shirt's sleeve and a shirtless sleeve covering elbow to wrist is what male ZR should be. (Male zettai ryouiki - McSweeney -

Neither concept has spread. You know, probably because you could just make up a word for those things instead of making Zettai Ryouiki mean one thing for women and another thing for men. In fact, people have done this already and there are a few terms like Zettai Ryouiki but used toward other things. (see Derived Tropes)


Like some sort of stereotypical joke, you could probably found a religion based on the area of exposed ankle skin between shoes and pants, but people don't really call this Zettai Ryouiki either.

Yamada Pochi 山田ポチ (a dog boy) and Okamoto Tama 岡本タマ (a cat boy) eating cake.
Left: Yamada Pochi 山田ポチ (dog boy)
Right: Okamoto Tama 岡本タマ (cat boy)
Anime: Uchi Tama?! Uchi no Tama Shirimasen ka? うちタマ?!~うちのタマ知りませんか?~ (Episode 1)
  • ashikubi
For reference, a couple of Japanese words related to ZR:

Names of clothes, mostly gairaigo 外来語 words loaned from English, written with katakana:
  • sukaato スカート
  • minisukaato ミニスカート
  • kutsushita 靴下
    Socks. (literally: "under-shoes.")
  • kutsu
  • buutsu ブーツ
  • sokkusu ソックス
    Socks. (literally.)
  • oobaa-nii-sokkusu オーバーニーソックス
    oobaa-nii オーバーニー
    (i.e. any socks that go above the knee. This is an wasei-eigo 和製英語, so people don't actually call it "over-knee-socks" in English. Maybe "over the knee socks" but not "over-knee-socks.")
  • saihai サイハイ
    Thigh-high. Thigh-highs.
  • taitsu タイツ
  • pantsu パンツ
    Panties. Pants. Underpants. Briefs. Shorts. Trunks.
  • hotto-pantsu ホットパンツ
  • shootsu ショーツ
    Panties (knickers).
  • panthi パンティ
    Panty. Panties.
  • sutokingu ストッキング
  • gaataaberuto ガーターベルト
  • gaataa ガーター
  • ami
    A net. Netting. Web.
  • ami sutokkingu 網ストッキング
    Fishnet stockings.
  • ami taitsu 網タイツ
    Fishnet tights.
  • shima
  • shima-sokkusu 縞ソックス
    Stripped socks.
  • shima-pan 縞パン
    shima-pantsu 縞パンツ
    Stripped panties.

And here's a couple of relevant body parts:
  • ashi
    Leg. Foot.
  • ashi
    Leg. (same word, different kanji.)
  • bikyaku 美脚
    "Beautiful legs."
  • hiza
  • futomomo 太もも
  • shiri


The origin of Zettai Ryouiki is in a very, very, very little known mecha anime of the 90's, called Neon Genesis Evangelion. lol I'm joking. Of course you know Eva. Everybody knows Eva. You know Eva, right? RIGHT??!?? It's the one from that "Shinji, get in the robot!" meme! Come on, you know it!

Anyway, in Evangelion, there's a thing called an A.T. Field, which is a kind of shield thingy. and—ah ha!—this A.T. stands for Absolute Territory, right?! Absolute Territory Field! Of course. I'm a genius. Where's my Nobel, Watson? Well, nah. I assumed so too, but I was wrong. It's actually an Absolute Terror Field. The T isn't Territory, it's T of Terror.

A.T. Field as seen in the anime "Neon Genesis Evangelion," Shinseiki Evangelion 新世紀エヴァンゲリオン.

So it's Absolute Terror Field, and that's where the word Absolute Territory comes from, right? Yeah. So why is Absolute Territory not called Absolute "Field" instead?

That's because in Japanese the name for the A.T. Field is:
  • Zettai Kyoufu Ryouiki 絶対恐怖領域
    Absolute Fear Territory.
    (which you could also call a)
    Absolute Terror Territory.
    Absolute Terror Field.
    A.T. Field.

Due to this, another name proposed for ZR was AMF, A.M. Field, Absolute-Moe-Field, or Zettai Moe Ryouiki 絶対萌領域, replacing Terror with Moe, but that didn't catch on.

So that clears up where the name Zettai Ryouiki, "Absolute Territory," comes from. But why is the shield thingy from Evangelion used to refer to... that. Why is Zettai Ryouiki called Zettai Ryouiki?

私だけの絶対領域(パーソナルスペース)誰にも見られないし、誰にも意識されない。トイレ大好き… quote from the manga Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。
Manga: Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。
  • Context: a girl hides in the toilet.
  • watashi dake no paasonaru supeesu.
    A personal space that's only mine.
  • darenimo mirarenaishi,
    darenimo ishiki sarenai.

    Not seen by anyone, [no one being aware of me].
  • toire daisuki...
    [I] love the toilet...
  • In this panel, the ZR-savvy author made a joke by writing the word "personal space" as a gikun reading in the furigana for the kanji of "absolute territory."
    zettai ryouiki (paasonaru supeesu)
    This implies the toilet is the girl's "absolute territory," where nobody can enter and bother her.
    As a normal person would expect, this has literally nothing to do with legs, it's just a reference.

How It Was Coined

Apparently, Zettai Ryouiki was coined in a random blog post in 2001 by MIY, a certain author of characters for a certain desktop-mascot software.

Software Background

At the time, a software called Nanika 何か (now called Ukagaka 伺か) allowed you to place a cute anime girl on your desktop that'd say things in a text balloon and do stuff.

Like this:

The video above features the default characters, Sakura さくら and Unyuu うにゅう, but as expected from the anime community, these mascots had a certain level of complexity and customization, and even jargon.

The images of the characters were called "shells," sheru シェル, and their programmed personalities "ghost," goosuto ゴースト.

(You know, like the anime movie Ghost in the Shell, which, coincidentally, was also released in 1995, the same year that Neon Genesis Evangelion began airing... is this somehow all connected?!)

A ghost usually came with its own shell, because the shell was the graphic, so it was pretty important. Additional shells would be like skins. And authors who wanted to make a character but couldn't draw well could even use a "free shell," a shared skin.

You know, just like you don't design a Vocaloid, but can make it sing custom songs you create. Although there's stuff like UTAU... err, you get the idea!

Since it was too awkward to have the digital girl-mascot stay there on the desktop talking alone, the ghost's main character (Sakura) also had a sub-character (Unyuu), and the conversation would happen between the two of them. (although "solo ghosts" also exist.)

There are dozens of Unyuu-looking sub-characters in ghosts because more attention is paid to designing the main character, I guess. But some ghosts do replace Unyuu with something else: like with an animal, the girl's pet, a cat, a dog, penguin, etc. Some even had an actual second person. (there's even a ghost with twin elves!)

And yeah, there were dozens of these ghosts. And by dozens I mean hundreds. And by hundreds I'm actually talking about over one thousand of these things. In the video below, for example, which shows the results of a saimoe 最萌, "most moe," style popularity "tournament" among ghosts only, held in 2009, there were 128 entries.

(wait, is that a ghost of HITLER at 4:33?!)

Blog Post

In 9th of March, 2001, a certain ghost (and its shell) were released: Mayura まゆら. She was officially named "Nanika" wiz Mayura 「伺か」wizまゆら, so it could be told apart from people/characters called Mayura. The "wiz" part abbreviated "wizardry," it seems.

Her author wasn't MIY but Mukei 夢蛍, but she donned a skirt and knee-high socks.

In 21st of March, 2001, MIY posted in their blog regarding this Mayura ghost Mukei created:


mae kara itteiru kedo
I've been saying [this] since before but

minisukaato to niisokkusu(?) no aida no kuukan wa muteki da.
The space (kuukan) of the gap (aida) [between] the miniskirt and knee-socks¹(?) is invincible².
  1. The "knee-socks" refers to over-knee socks, thigh-high socks, etc. The (?) is MIY being confused as whether they are called that, or are that, I imagine.
  2. Muteki, "without-enemy," means it's peerless, invincible, the bestest thing ever, etc.

Kami no Zettai Ryouiki to demo iouka (baku) 神の絶対領域とでも言おうか(爆)
[We] could even call it God's Absolute Territory¹ (laugh)²
  1. This is where Zettai Ryouiki was first coined.
    Again: muteki = invincible.
    In Evangelion, A.T. Fields of the enemies are pretty problematic. And those enemies are called "angels," tenshi 天使, in the series. So A.T. Field of God himself would probably be invincible, peerless, muteki 無敵.
  2. This is a Japanese emoji, it's like lol in Japanese, except it's a very old internet expression, like lol in English.

Mayura ga kono zettai ryouiki wo soubi shiteita
Mayura had equipped this Absolute Territory

sshikamo niisokusu wa kuro!
on top of that the knee-socks are black!

Moeru! Moe sugiru! Moe-shi... pata'.
Moe¹! Too moe! So moe I could die...² *dies*³.
  1. Moe 萌え is a verb in Japanese.
  2. Literally "moe-death," moe-shi 萌え死.
  3. This is the sound of something falling on the ground, like a book, a corpse, a box, etc.

The First Zettai Ryouiki Ever

Since MIY coined the term when talking about Mayura, that makes Mayura the first character to ever don a Zettai Ryouiki. The mother of all Zettai Ryouiki's.

Here's what she looks like (taken from the archived version of the now-dead official website, see references below):

Official image of Mayura, a.k.a., "Nanika" wiz Mayura,「伺か」Wizまゆら, a ghost produced by Mukei 夢蛍, together with her black, Kuro Unyuu 黒うにゅう sub-character.

Some fun facts about Mayura, also taken from the archived version of her now-dead official website, so, yeah, this is all canon:
  • She's a powerful magic-user... obviously.
  • She's around 400 years old, but looks like a little girl... of course.
    • "The reason is unknown."
    • I'm literally quoting it from the Q&A:
      riyuu wa fumei desu 理由は不明です
      "Reason is uncertain."
  • She claims the "Black Unyuu," Kuro Unyuu 黒うにゅう, is not Unyuu, despite similarities.
    The reasons are (and I quote):
    • It's "black."
    • It "has a tail."
    • It "doesn't [speak] in Kansai accent." (this one's pretty convincing, tbh.)
  • She likes games.

Okay, okay, you know what, it's just a character someone made 17 years ago. She bears very little relevance to this article besides her tangential involvement.


Golden Ratio

Regarding the ideal amount of skin exposed, the experts on the subject have come to a convention that the Zettai Ryouki's golden ratio is 4:1:2.5, meaning: the area above the knee should be composed of 4 parts of skirt, 1 part of skin, and 2-and-half parts of sock.

Example of Zettai Ryouiki golden ratio: Tohsaka Rin 遠坂凛, from Fate/stay night, measuring perfect 4:1:2.5 proportions.

Sometimes the golden ratio is said to be 8:2:5 instead of 4:1:2.5. In Japanese it's called:
  • ougon-hi 黄金比
  • ougon-hiritsu 黄金比率
  • ougon-ritsu 黄金率

Furthermore, since not everything in life has microscopic precision, a ±25% tolerance is allowed for Zettai Ryouiki. Although I can't confirm the origin of the golden ratio, here's the earliest article I could find about it, from before 2002:

25% Tolerance?

I assume the 25% tolerance means the variation of any of the parts from the golden ratio mayn't be greater than 25%. There's a diagram that illustrates this, but I have a problem with it. See below:

A diagram of the ZR golden ratio's 25% tolerance, in Japanese, illustrating what 25% more in each part would be like: 5:1:2.5, 4:1:3.125, and 4:1.25:2.5.

(picture source:

I can't really make sense of this math because 5:1:2.5 changes the scale from 7.5 parts total to 8.5 parts total, so if you convert back to the original 7.5 parts the other two parts become smaller than the golden ratio. See:
  • 5÷8.5×7.5 =
  • 1÷8.5×7.5 =
  • 2.5÷8.5×7.5 =

The variations then become:
  • |4.41176470588 - 4| ÷ 4 =
  • |0.88235294117 - 1| ÷ 1 =
  • |2.20588235294 - 2.5| ÷ 2.5 =

If you get the sum, then it's ~33.8%, not 25%.
Summing the variations doesn't make much sense because making one part bigger makes another part smaller, so even the slightest change makes it go over 25%.

If you get the maximum, then it's ~11.7%, not 25%.
Since the thighs are the smallest part, and thus more sensitive to variation, I assume most of the time ZR would be decided on whether the thighs' are between [0.75, 1.25] parts or not.

Also there's the problem of where exactly, precisely, do you even start measuring from? This is all very vague. Very inaccurate.

The only thing we can be really sure about is that the thighs part is supposed be pretty small. If it's twice as big as 1 part of 7.5, that is, 2 parts of 7.5, then we probably went too far and we aren't within the tolerance range anymore.

Actual Relevance

According to the source of the golden ratio I mentioned before, anything outside of ±25% is not Zettai Ryouiki.
ijou no gotoku kon'nan na shojouken wo kanpeki na made kiwameta toki,
[Only] when the convoluted conditions mentioned above are carried out to perfection,

hajimete soko ni "zettai ryouiki" ga umareru.
for the first an "absolute territory" is born there.
(i.e., it doesn't exist there until then)

Presumably, this reinforces the notion ZR is a form chiralism: it's meant to be a GLIMPSE of the thighs. Microskirts and shorter legwear, which expose too much thigh, are not glimpses, so it wouldn't be considered ZR.

You could say ZR is rather modest, given plenty of times you have a character wearing a skirt, hosiery, and a blazer or sweater, covering like 90% of the body. Hard to imagine wearing that under the sun if you're from a tropical country.

Anyway, if you like seeing more thigh than that 1 part of 7.5, chances are you don't like ZR, you just like thighs, and those thighs happen to be accompanied by over-the-knee legwear and a skirt.

Thighs' fine too, who am I to judge? I'm just saying it wouldn't be ZR.

However, this detail is lost in most modern ZR communities. Nowadays any ratio will be accepted as Zettai Ryouiki even if the ratio is completely different from the golden ratio, and the definition of ZR truly boils down to just whether over-the-knee legwear is worn or not most of the time.

Proof Shimakaze is not Zettai Ryouiki for being too far from the 4:1:2.5 golden ratio, given her observed ratio is a 2.5:2:3, having a 1.5:1:0.5 absolute variation, or 37.5%:100%:20% relative variation, meaning two parts are over the acceptable 25% tolerance. "Shimakaze 島風 from KanColle is mathematically not Zettai Ryouiki. Literally nobody cares, though."

Personally I'd prefer the prescriptive approach to this stuff and assume that a practically imperceptible band of bare skin is closer to what a Zettai Ryouiki should be than some obvious and hard-to-miss meaty mass of legs. But my opinion is not the general opinion in this matter; I'm guessing most people wouldn't take my side here.

A comparison of Zettai Ryouiki between two characters, a girl from Uchouten Kazoku 有頂天家族 and a girl from Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon 小林さんちのメイドラゴン. One side has 3:0.5:4 ratio and barely shows thighs. 1:0.5:1.5 absolute variation, 25%:50%:60% variation. The other side shows more thighs. 2:2:3.5 ratio, with 2:1:1 absolute variation and 50%:100%:40% relative variation. So I believe the side with less thighs shown is more Zettai Ryouiki. (fite me)


Among western fans, Zettai Ryouiki can be graded into grades A, B, C, D, E, F, and S. These relate strictly to the length of the legwear. The ZR grades are:
  • Grade A: above the middle of the thigh.(57cm hemline)
  • Grade B: under the middle of the thigh. (50cm)
  • Grade C: right under knee. (35cm)
  • Grade D: upper half of the lower leg. (26cm)
  • Grade E: lower half of the lower leg. (16cm)
  • Grade F: this is a sock. It covers just the feet. (5cm)

Grade S

The Zettai Ryouiki grade S refers to a combination of grade A, twintails hairstyle and tsundere. In order words, it's a grade created for Tohsaka Rin, obviously, from the Fate series, who's become symbol of Zettai Ryouiki.

Wait, is Grade C even ZR?

You may notice there's something funny going on here. Grades C and below are under the knee, so they are not Zettai Ryouiki per Japanese definition, and yet I'm here saying they are Zettai Ryouiki grades, what's up with that?

Since I can't find these grades mentioned in Japanese dictionaries, only in western sites, I'm going to assume they were made up by a western fan, or somehow spread in English without ever spreading in Japanese. That is: only western fans use these terms.

Checking the Wikipedia's article on Zettai Ryouiki I found a mention of these grades, with a citation toward a certain book. So I check the book it cited, and, what?! The book cites another source for the grades! A blog post!

It's entitled Zettai Ryouiki: Achieving the Perfect Zone, and I can't access the URL, so I assume the blog is dead and has been dead for some time. Luckily there's an archived version. It grades were posted in 2009-09-25 by someone called Tsubaki, and the name of the blog was Anime Desho Desho, abbreviated ADD.

I Googled for ["grade A" "zettai ryouiki"] pages published before the end of 2009 and there were no results before Tsubaki's post of September, so I'm assuming Tsubaki either made them up or translated them from Japanese to English first, or saw them in some 4chan post that was deleted forever or something like that.

It doesn't matter which. Ultimately Tsubaki's Zettai Ryouiki grading system is the closest to the original definition I could find. So from now on if someone say "grade C" I'm going to assume it's Tsubaki's definition of grade C ZR.

According to their definition, "Grade C is the start of the Zettai Ryouiki formation, albeit an unattractive level. The sock is raised to 35cm off the shoes, but does not cross above the knee cap." Since it isn't above-knee, Tsubaki's Grade C ZR isn't the same thing as Japanese ZR.

Zettai Ryouiki grades chart from A to E, showing the hemlines of the socks. Grade A: 57cm. Grade B: 50cm. Grade C: 35cm. Grade D: 26cm. Grade E: 16cm. Only Grade A and grade B cover the knee, so only them are Zettai Ryouiki. This was the grading system posted by ADD / Anime Desho Desho in 2009, these same images were taken from their blog post.

Note that some anime communities nowadays use other terms, like "level C" or "C class," and whether it's under, right at, or above the knee varies.

Song: Absolute Territory

After a golden ratio, a grading system, and a disturbing amount of text, examples, imagery, and history, I suppose it's not even a surprise anymore that someone actually made a song called Absolute Territory (Ken Ashcorp), and yeah, it's obviously in reference to Zettai Ryouiki.

Also Spelled

Sometimes Zettai Ryouiki is spelled in other ways.

Zettai Ryōiki

The word Zettai Ryōiki is the same thing as Zettai Ryouiki, it's only a different romaji for the same Japanese word.

It uses a macron for the long vowel of ryou りょう (ryō) instead of simply transliterating the u う.

Zettai Ryoiki

The misspelling Zettai Ryoiki without the macron also exists because nobody knows how to type that macron.

Zettai Kuuiki 絶対空域

The Zettai Kuuiki 絶対空域, "Absolute Airspace," but you could call it "Absolute Air-Territory" to match, is the downward triangle formed by the enclosed negative space within the perimeter of the thighs and crotch, or, in other words, the thigh gap, but only when it becomes a closed triangle, like when the knees are touching.

Ten'nen Zettai Ryouiki 天然絶対領域

The Ten'nen Zettai Ryouiki 天然絶対領域, "Natural Absolute Territory," is a summer-type of Absolute Territory, where the character wears a tan on their bare legs instead of legwear.

Soutai Ryouiki 相対領域

The Soutai Ryouiki 相対領域, "Relative Territory," as in the opposite of "Absolute Territory," is the space of exposed shoulder skin between a top and a armwear. This would be the opposite of Zettai Ryouiki, vertically-wise, but it's not a term people really use. (I mean, are we going to name every piece of exposed skin between two clothes some sort of territory now? You can't just put a flag on it.)

For further reference, a couple of links where you can find Zettai Ryouiki:


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  1. Good sir, I thank you for doing such a comprehensive literature review on the topic of absolute territory. It is evident that this kind of research does not only stem from a passing interest, but a truly remarkable dedication.

    It blows blows my mind to see such effort being dedicated to this kind of topic, and I have nothing but respect for you. Good luck in all your future endeavors and godspeed, my dude.

  2. I can't believe all your effort has only been met with a single comment so far. Keep it up, you're doing God's work.

  3. A very thorough treatment of the matter. I am impressed.

    Personally, I always had a little trouble wrapping my head around the meaning of "absolute" in this term, but neither have I ever been able to refute that it can be used in the sense of "inviolable" or "inalienable" (zettai in Japanese as well) by the simple virtue of something being absolute. Guess I'll just have to get used to being wrong!

    In this usage, zettai can carry a feeling of meaning a last-ditch you-shall-not-pass sort of area, e.g. in the Fate/Grand Order chapter "Zettai Majū Sensen Babylonia" (絶対魔獣戦線バビロニア); the homophone as part of zettai zetsumei (絶体絶命, different kanji) probably directly contributes to that feeling.

    Incidentally, Daijirin attributes zettai to Inoue Tetsujirō's 1881 dictionary of philosophy as a translation term for English "absolute". According to a strange source I found on the Internet (that surely nobody's ever heard of) called Wikipedia, he was a pretty big advocate for imperialism, so I'm sure he would heartily approve of ZR--as long as you don't tell him what it means today.

  4. You have done a great service to the community. This information is worth millions!

  5. This is why I study Japanese.

  6. I learned more about Japanese language in this article about thighs than I did from my year of Japanese 1 in high school.

    Don't know what that says more about- Me, my school, or the article.
    Either way, incredible. I admire the dedication to dig around the depths of the web to find answers.