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Kawaiiko
Wait until you hear her talk...

Apollo: 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 and kawaiiko is the difference between "cute" and "cutesy". (The difference between kawaiiko and burikko, 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 and Lolicon, 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 and Moe.

In British culture, this is seen as a very outdated image of Japan and as such is rarely mentioned.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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.

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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.


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