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Kawaiiko

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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!
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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.")

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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.

Compare Animesque, Deliberately Cute Child, Manchild (similar trope for men that could also apply to the worst of these cases), and The Fake Cutie. The horrific offspring of Tastes Like Diabetes and Moe. Contrast Rated M for Manly and Testosterone Poisoning.


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Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Mimete of the Witches 5 arc in Sailor Moon has Kawaiiko traits. She has aspirations of being an Idol Singer, often wears flouncy dresses when outside the lab (even when trying to fight the Senshi), mostly targets famous and attractive men for stealing heart crystals (and in at least one instance bakes a cake for one of them) and almost always talks with a Baby Talk tone of voice.

    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.
  • Nayoung of Kim's Convenience, who's 18 in her debut appearance, thrives on cute trends that are popular in her home Korea (which also appear to be influenced Japanese kawaiiko culture). She dresses very cutely and gaudy, even wearing cat ears as casual wear in one appearance (her Korean-Canadian cousin Janet asks if she's cosplaying, and Nayoung thinks she's joking). She has the tendency to insert cute emojis when texting and has an obsession with hand/arm hearts and selfies, often making other people in the photo do it too. She also acts and talks very sweetly, has a fondness for calling Janet eonni (an affectionate term for one's older sister or older sister figure), and is Genki Girl and Fragile Girl by nature. Her kawaiiko ways induces a Tastes Like Diabetes reaction from Janet at first but she eventually gets used to it.

    Video Games 

    Viusal Novels 
  • Grisaia no Kajitsu: Makina not only looks a lot younger than she is, but she also has a very cutesy way of speaking. Yuuji suspects she deliberately plays up the moe part of her personality.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, Jade Sinclair (Generator) makes a point of being distressingly cute and straddling the line between kawaiiko and burikko, in part because she's stuck at the apparent age of 12. This has led to a lot of Uncanny Valley moments, especially as even if she's fundamentally good at heart, she's also Cute and Psycho with a body count greater than many supervillains.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 when Desiree grants her wish in the episode "What You Want". The ghost possessing Paulina also makes her bigger and stronger the more people that pay attention to her as well as hypnotizing people to force them to love her (though it doesn't go very far).
    Paulina (under Desiree's spell): Hi, I'm Paulina! I'm adorable and swell and full of big-headed anime goodness!

    Real Life 
  • Spoofed by Japanese porn star 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.

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