OK, they look strange. Maybe they're deformed. They can even look monstrous.
However, they are also endearing, kind, and sweet. Maybe they retain a few Ridiculously Cute Critter traits, like big eyes or little awkward legs. Maybe they're The Woobie. Maybe it is simply that their lovely personality overrides any disgust at their physical appearance. Maybe they're stylized and don't look too realistic.
In short, even though they should not be cute by any sense of the word they are anyway. Indeed, many times these characters are so ugly, they're just adorable.
There are some who argue that this trope has much to do with parental instinct. Consider: very young human babies aren't conventionally cute at all; that takes a few months. They come into the world as discolored wrinkly blobs that scream like the world is ending whenever anything upsets them. And yet, all these traits seem to say, "Gotta love me!"
"Busukawaii" is a name in Japanese for fans of these characters.
Not to be confused with Grotesque Cute, which is generally when evil things are done by (or to) conventionally cute things.
Compare The Grotesque, Gonk, Unkempt Beauty, Freaky Is Cool, Face of a Thug, Creepy Cute, and the nicer versions of Fluffy the Terrible. But see also What Measure Is a Non-Cute? and Beauty Equals Goodness as those tropes will probably and unfortunately, directly affect these characters. See Grotesque Gallery for when character designers try for this kind of appeal and fail. Badly.
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- This shark, who apparently likes to play fetch. A classic mixture of "Aww..." and "AHHH!!"
- Digger the Dermatophyte from the Lamisil commercial, a physical representation of a foot fungus and an antagonistic figure, but still, his design can be seen this way.
- A series of tax program ads feature a bunch of figures in the dark where the gimmick is meant to be that there's nothing to be afraid of... where sometimes you get a harmless Bedsheet Ghost or a long shot of a dancing (if somewhat lewd) teddy bear, and sometimes it's confine-defying fearfuls where the Mood Whiplash is really not as comforting as the artist apparently meant it to be.
- Totodile in New World. Sure, it's a tiny blue crocodile with a massive mouth full of sharp teeth, but it's just so adorable! It's very first scene has it curl up with its new trainer and fall asleep with him. It also became best friends with a two year old girl.
"It was cute, albeit in a reptilian sort of way."
- Awww, baby Cthulhu!
- Respawn of the Dead: Stumpy. Despite being dry to the bones, down three limbs and A ZOMBIE, he manages to be somewhat adorable. In the fic, you can still remember your own life before becoming a zombie. Stumpy here manages to make out a cute "bonk" after holding Scout's bat.
I am so sorry, Stumpy, [Medic] said.
Stumpy was still confused. He wasnt sure what those words meant, exactly, but sorry sounded familiar. It meant something feeling bad. And the Meaty Thing in the White Coat looked what was that word? Sad? Like how Stumpy felt when he didnt get meat. He didnt have much time to ponder this, however, before there was a loud noise and then...
- In Families and Familiars Neville describes the just-hatched Norbert as "kind of cute, in that ugly-cute way, though."
- Rinjapine's Lion King fanfictions have the deformed Kioja, the white lioness whose screwed-up family tree caused her deformities. She's a thickset white lioness with a hunchback, extra toes, deformed toes, an smaller extra limb, a useless ear and eye, and overlarge fangs. She's heavily deformed, but cute in her own way, and exceedingly kind. In the words of Rinjapine, "its like she hit the ugly event horizon and shot out the other side to passably cute."
- Queen of the Swarm has the cuddlebug which Taylor designed to boost her public image due to her appearance.
- In Silent Trio 2: Harry and the Hufflepuff Harry describes the skeletal Thestrals as "kind of cute."
- Harry's first meeting with a house elf in Falling on deaf ears:
A sudden knock on the door distracted Harry from the excitement of learning magic. When Snape granted the visitor entrance, Harry was shocked to make out a tiny little, wrinkly creature. The thing had big eyes and floppy ears. It was so ugly, he found it cute.
- Radiohead's "Modified Bear" logo. Their Weeping Minotaur, too.
- The Gorillaz artstyle has distinct tones of this. 2D is far too Uncanny Valley to be classically cute, but he has an undeniable charm.
- That thing from Animal Collective's Peacebone video. Sure it was horrifying-looking, but there was also something disturbingly charming about seeing it go out for a romantic picnic and frolic through a field.
- Voltaire uses this in his song "Zombie Prostitute" with the line "She was a rotten kind of cute for a zombie prostitute".
- The animal characters in the Cool Kids Table game Homeward Bound 4 aren't traditionally cute, but they manage to come off this way to a group of human tourists.
- Ramsay the vortisaur in Big Finish Doctor Who, apparently. He's basically some sort of extradimensional pterosaur with Ramsay Mac Donald's face (according to Charley) and a taste for Time Lord blood. Everyone who meets him inevitably calls him a monster, then starts cooing over him and trying to make a pet of him. Even a gruff-sounding member of the RAF decides he'd make a lovely family pet.
- Behold, the Philadelphia Flyers' mascot, Gritty! This Uncanny Valley Muppet-like creature was initially met with mortified shock, but eventually became a meme because Philadelphians found it strangely relatable. And yes, EVERYONE was saying it could only backfire before Gritty could make his official season debut.