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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 woman.

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 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), The Fake Cutie, and Moe. Contrast Rated M for Manly and Testosterone Poisoning.

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Azusa Shiratori from Ranma ½ is a living showcase of how kawaiiko can turn into burikko. She's a teenage girl who speaks like she's barely old enough for grade-school, constantly referring to herself in third-person and applying the "chan" honorific like it's going out of style. When she's focused on the cute, it's so saccharine it hurts, but it's won her an enormous fan-base combined with her good looks and snappy dressing. Her most obnoxious trait is stealing various random objects, giving them a "cutesy" name and claiming them as her own — and being quite willing to beat up anyone who tries to stop her. Her second-most obnoxious trait is that she throws tantrums like a little girl when she doesn't get her way. Weirdly, at times she shows a much more mature and conniving personality, which is how she's become a skilled fighter in Martial Arts Figure Skating, but she also snaps from "serious" to "cute ditz" even when it's to her own disadvantage, so it's clear that her antics are not (entirely) Obfuscating Stupidity.
    • Female Ranma sometimes acts like this deliberately when in disguise, to heighten the impression of being female and thusly improve the disguise. She tends to play it down, though, usually favoring cutesy expressions and nice clothing.
    • Tsubasa tries for this, with long girly hair, elegant dresses and a deliberately cute way of speaking and acting, but tends to evoke a reaction that's more towards You Were Trying Too Hard. But, of course he's a he and has slightly warped ideas of what's cute.
  • Tamama from Sgt. Frog is the youngest and therefore cutest member of the platoon... just don't get him mad.
  • Ran from Urusei Yatsura is a Yandere who acts like a Kawaiiko — speaking in third person and using the most cutesy, innocent expressions and terms possible — when she's trying to look good. It's actually a borderline split personality for her; she put on the act of the sweet and innocent girl to try and escape the wrathful attentions of her abusive mother, and although her real personality is much more sarcastic, jaded, bitter and spiteful, she tends to switch into "cutesy mode" even when she's trying to be serious.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • C-ko Kotobuki from Project A-Ko is widely regarded as cute, but also displays the maturity and intelligence of a grade school girl despite being in high school.
  • Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl: Marilyn fits the trope to a tee, except that she's more obsessed with cute Pokémon. She even has a very strict criteria what she considers to be cute: 1) Height is not more than 2 feet, 2) hasn't evolved, and 3) looks "absolutely lovely." The last rule is so subjective that even a cute Pokémon like Piplup or Mime Jr. could be rejected by her. Ironically, she developed this obsessive kawaii attitude because she was bullied by her friends for believing that Shellder is the cutest Pokémon of them all.
  • Saber Marionette J: Luchs acts the burikko kind while in the beauty contest for Otaru's affections; Tiger told her to be cute and childish to appeal better to Otaru but as she doesn't know how, she overracted. She later adopts this persona when she becomes a news reporter at the end of J to X.

    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 by 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. Janet finds her Kawaiiko ways Sickeningly Sweet at first, but she eventually gets used to it.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, Kokichi Oma appears younger than he really is, and uses his looks to his advantage. He plays up his appearance by speaking in a cutesy manner, calling everyone "-chan", and going out of his way to act like a kid. He often displays a child-like excitement over things like the Exisals and the morphing Trial Grounds. While he openly insults and mocks others, especially Miu, he will immediately switch to acting like a threatened child if somebody else insults him. He cries Crocodile Tears and melodramatically accuses others of being bullies, only to return to normal moments later. Depending on the situation, Kokichi seems to do this out of habit, to manipulate others, or to annoy people.
  • The Fruit of Grisaia: 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.

    Web Animation 
  • Manga-Waido: Mari kept making mistakes at her hotel job and fakes a ditzy personality as a cover. The staff are powerless to get rid of her because her uncle, a politician is a regular customer. When the CEO of the hotel failed to get a room due to Mari messing up, he decided to fire her.
  • MoniRobo: Ayane Azato acts cutesy around her boss and manipulates her male coworkers, but is actually a tyrannical bully when their boss or said men aren't around.
  • Refreshing Stories: Hitomi pulls a burikko act on Hiroshi to make him give her money.

    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 McCormick, 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.