Isn't she a little old for cute? Trucy:
Apollo! Shame on you! Cute is eternal! Cute is timeless!
In Japanese, kawaii
means "cute", but the concept has far more overtones than it does in English
— and far more power. For many Japanese schoolgirls (and some women), being kawaii
is kind of like being sexy for Western women: it means that they are desirable, attractive and wanted. It becomes a primary goal in their social lives, and success, as measured in the reactions of their peers, is practically an affirmation of their worth as a female.
As always, whenever there is a goal like this, there is always someone who overdoes it. The kawaiiko
(literally "cute child"), or burikko
("fake child" or "pretend(ing) child"), is the case in point. She takes being kawaii
to an almost unhealthy extreme by making it the sole focus of her life. In clothing and fashion, this manifests in frilly, flouncy outfits, often with ribbons and lace. In behavior it appears as a tendency to act childishly "young", particularly in speech — she may speak entirely in baby talk, giggle mindlessly, habitually refer to herself in the third person
, and/or use nicknames as well as the -chan Honorific
for virtually everyone she encounters. In short, the difference between kawaii
is the difference between "cute" and "cutesy". (The difference between kawaiiko
, however, is the difference between "cutesy" and "obnoxious
In some cases, the decision to go kawaiiko
is a not a desperate plea for social acceptance but a calculated step intended to further a career goal as an Idol Singer
— for which lacy, frilly cutesiness appears to be required
by the Japanese music industry.
It would be reasonable to assume that there is some kind of connection between kawaiiko
, but the nature of the relationship — if one does exist — is not clear.
Compare Deliberately Cute Child
and The Fake Cutie
. The horrific offspring of Tastes Like Diabetes
In British culture, this is seen as a very outdated image of Japan
and as such is rarely mentioned.
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Anime and Manga
- Azusa Shiratori from Ranma ˝.
- Tamama from Keroro Gunso ... just don't get him mad.
- Hikaru "Rabi~en~Rose" Usada from Di Gi Charat is a subversion — like other Di Gi Charat characters, she's sweet on the outside, but petty and overbearing on the inside (not to discount her moments of genuine niceness; those happen too).
- Ran from Urusei Yatsura is a Yandere who acts like a Kawaiiko when she's trying to look good.
- An overbearing agent attempts to force tough-girl thrash rocker Priss Asagiri into going kawaiiko in an attempt to sell her as an idol singer in Bubblegum Crash. It doesn't work.
- Lillith from Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito.
- Ropponmatsu II (the Catgirl robot, not the adult robot) in Excel Saga.
- Paranoia Agent: Anything kawaii turns out to be life-threatening, and anything that is merely sweet turns out to be merely dangerous.
- Amane Misa from Death Note, who is also a psychotic killer. Who kills for love. Although, being an idol and all, she has an excuse.
- Mai-HiME: Munakata Shiho is very cute and cheery, but when she gets angry, she gets angry.
- Akira Kogami in Lucky Star's Lucky Channel is a cutesy, sugary Genki Girl to the public, and when she gets tired of it, she reverts back to her true personality of a jaded, bitter entertainment industry veteran.
- A challenge for fans of Cardcaptor Sakura: Find one of Sakura's Tomoyo-designed costumes, even one, that doesn't push the Kawaiiko content to Glurge-worthy proportions. To be fair, though, Sakura doesn't seem any happier about wearing them.
- Similar to Nermal, Chi from Chi's Sweet Home. She's more of a kawaiiko, though, because she's naive about it.
- Both Suzu Sakuma and Miki Koishikawa in Marmalade Boy.
- Quattro of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, a Meganekko who looks all cutesy, speaks all cutesy, and acts all cutesy. Naturally, she's turns out to be the evil, nasty one of the Numbers.
- C-ko Kotobuki from Project A-ko.
- Choco is downright adorable.
- Marilyn from Pokémon, except that she's more obsessed with cute Pokémon.
- Yugi Mutou in the English dub anime of Yu-Gi-Oh! has traits of this. He is fifteen year old, but acts like a seven-year old sometimes. In season 0, his eyes are bigger and he's voiced by a girl...
- Also in season 0, Miho was this to burikko extents.
- Natsuru Senou from Kämpfer, when in female form.
- Eco from Plus-Si is a male example.
Live Action TV
- Lampshaded in Engine Sentai Go-onger, with a character called Bukkorin. She may walk around in a fluffy dress and act all cutesy, but she's the daughter of an alien mob boss, and tough enough to catch a blade with her bare hands.
- Wakana Sonozaki from Kamen Rider Double in her DJ job.
- Himeka from the Nightmare Dopant arc.
- Kelly Kapoor from The Office (US) seems to have a large dose of this in her character makeup.
- Saito Ayaka. Anything she does. Apparently, her voice is soft and high-pitched even for a female seiyuu. Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard to Westerners.
- The dubbing of Iron Chef had a lot of the young actresses on the tasting panel sound like this, earning them the Fan Nickname "bimbos du jour".
- Traci Van Horn of Hannah Montana, at least in the episode "No Sugar Sugar", in which she hosts a sweet sixteen birthday party ("emphasis on sweet") despite being two years past the deadline. She seems to be pushing herself as some childish brand of trying really-too-hard to be sexy, as she proceeds to simper about in a saccharine, disturbingly coquettish manner, waving an oversized rainbow lollipop in Oliver's face while flirting with him. He's more interested in the lollipop, but who could blame the guy?
- Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory wears floral skirts, has an adorable squeaky voice, and could provide a page image for Fun Size; it's easy to forget she's a freaking genius microbiologist with an interest physics, Cute but Cacophonic, and a Covert Pervert. While a lot of the cuteness is genuine, she's a Raised Catholic Cultural Rebel and thus a bit of a Seemingly Wholesome '50s Girl.
- Candi Shugari in Angel Moxie, pictured above.
- Joan in Namir Deiter.
- Rumy in Fans! originally dressed in a Japanese anime-style schoolgirl uniform and wore bangs over her eyes—until she realized that people could see her underwear whenever she went into battle, or grab her hair in a fight. She has since cut her hair short and started wearing karate gi in the field. T. Campbell wrote in response to fans who were upset at her new look:
On the day Rumy changed her hairstyle to something that wouldn't present such a tactical weakness, she was a little sad, feeling like something was lost. And she imagined her mother— whom she hasn't spoken to for longer than ten minutes in years— saying, "But dear, your hair looks so kawaii!" And then, the anger of a misspent childhood renewed in her heart, Rumy replied to her imagination, "Kawaii is for the lazy."
- Duchess Lettie in A Magical Roommate. The fans honestly can't decide whether she's kawaiiko or burikko. All we know is that she thinks she's living Happily Ever After, despite having a daughter who hates her and another everybody hates.
- Take a look at the character "Kawaii" in Errant Story, then decide for yourself whether she's a deconstruction, subversion, inversion, perversion, or simply so weird that you can't describe her. Yeah, that last one fits.
- Nermal from Garfield and the animated series Garfield and Friends is a Western "burikko" example, in that he (yes, Nermal is male) calls himself the "World's Cutest Kitten" and forever annoys Garfield with his antics, and is often shipped off to Abu Dhabi — but somehow always finds his way back.
- Nermal is also much Older Than He Looks and deliberately drinks ridiculous amounts of coffee to stunt his growth.
- Dot Warner might be a Western example of a kawaiiko, as she constantly brags about her cuteness to the point of having an entire song titled "I'm Cute", and being referred to in the theme song as the "cute" one.
- The Brain, of all characters, assumes a kawaiiko persona in the Pinky and the Brain episode "Whatever Happened to Baby Brain?" He accomplishes this by wearing contact lenses, fake dimples, and long curls. It's a Paper-Thin Disguise.
- South Park has Kenny, already in endearingly poor princess drag, turn into an obnoxiously cute Animesque Japanese princess whose cuteness is his/her superpower.
- One episode of Danny Phantom had the Alpha Bitch Paulina declaring she wants to be as cute as the Kawaiiko Sayonara Pussycat. She gets her wish... and is dolled up in the cutest, chibiest look ever.
- Spoofed by Japanese actress/model Kikouden Misa, who frequently appears on TV as a Kawaiiko parody — a ditzy, cosplay-loving, squeaky-voiced Genki Girl burikko called Hakyuun, whose speech is absolutely full of Verbal Tics.
- Idol Singer Matsuura Aya used to affect a kawaiiko stage persona called "Ayaya" (which made her convincing portrayal of surly and violent near-delinquent Saki in the 2006 Sukeban Deka film a major surprise for her fans). In the last couple of years, however, she seems to have gone from Ayaya to just Aya, releasing more mature songs and acting less cute.
- This trope appears in Taiwan as well as Japan.
- The perceived relationship between Lolicon and Kawaiiko is undermined by Elegant Gothic Lolita style. While it does appear to Western sensibilities to incorporate some measure of Lolicon, the style, along with most other Lolita styles (Sweet Lolita, Classic Lolita, Punk Lolita, Trash Lolita, etc.) intentionally de-emphasizes sexuality in opposition to the perceived over-emphasis on Lolicon trends in Japanese culture. Only one style, Erololi, consciously combines cuteness and sensuality; and that was a Western-originated style that was based on a misunderstanding of the original Lolita Fashion which was later adopted back into Japan. While a related and very deranged style, Gurololi, may seem to also be an Erololi offshoot, it was intended to be more disturbing and classic kawaii than erotic.