Aesthetics Wiki
Advertisement

Kawaii (かわいい) is a Japanese term and aesthetic referring to the unique concept affirming childlike and pretty things that make your heart flutter. However, different from the English word "cute", it is distinct in that it's so diversified that it has spawned many subgenres which often are far removed from the original concept. For example, Gurokawa refers to "creepy cute" things and Erokawa to everything "erotic but cute” which combines adult sexuality with cuteness. The kawaii aesthetic is also a staple in J-fashion, and many of its derivative sub-aesthetics originate from the Harajuku neighborhood and surrounding Shibuya district of Tokyo.

The concept of kawaii is often misunderstood in foreign countries and wrongly applied to anything "chibi".[1]

History[]

In ancient Japanese, the words “kawayushi” (かはゆし) and “kaohayushi” (かほはゆし) were used. Different to the nowadays "kawaii", they were associated with a negative image, referring to something "so pitiable one can't stand it". Later on, those words were replaced by "kawaii" and started to take on a positive strength, instead of being seen as a weakness.[2] However, before the term became used the way it is now, it was mainly used by men to objectify women, and during the 60s, it was very common to be catcalled "Kawaiko-chan" (かわい子ちゃん), which is similar to the English "cutie". Later on, the meaning of "kawaii" changed once again when women started to use it to describe everything that is just like them: cute.[3]

In the 70s, the number of people who use the term "kawaii" exploded, resulting in the birth of kawaii culture. The Japanese word "kawaii", which previously was just an adjective, has come to have symbolic value. During that time, the company Sanrio gave birth to Hello Kitty, which soon would become one of the most iconic "kawaii" characters in history. Beyond that, "non-standard girlish script" (変体少女文字) was introduced as the typeface in 1974, and this overly cute writing style became so popular among high school girls, teachers started to have issues reading their homework. Another change of that time was among girl's manga magazines. Previously, they mostly came with posters and stickers of popular boy groups, similar to western girl's magazines, but in 1975 this changed to "kawaii" stationary goods with characters from the mangas printed on them.[4]

In 1982, the magazine "Olive" (オリーブ) was launched by Heibon Publishing (now Magazine House) and gave birth to the first wave of "kawaii revolution" (かわいい革命) as well as "otome" culture. The fans of the magazine dolled themself up in ribbons and frills, lace, floral prints, and other girly styles. Popular with those girls that idolized its style were brands that gave off a fairytale-like feel, such as Pink House by designer Isao Kaneko. The designer did not hesitate spreading the new meaning of "kawaii" as "by women for women" which is precisely why the brand has been considered a leader of spreading kawaii culture ever since. Its followers would collect things that appealed to their sense of cuteness and mix them, expressing their individuality, and this is would evolve into what is referred to as Harajuku or kawaii fashion nowadays.[5]

Visuals[]

Kawaii visuals are in a range of colors, but are most commonly associated with pastels, with white as a neutral and pink as the most popular color. However, this is not necessary in all of the aesthetic's visuals, as different examples show that this is not the case; for example, neon with Decora and black with some Sanrio characters. Lighting is always bright, with few to no shadows. Photo-editing is highly utilized in kawaii, as people often add additional stickers and sparkles, enlarge their eyes, and smoothen the photo to look more maximalist and hyper-cute.

Bento

Totoro-themed bento box

Sweets are a common visual motif in kawaii. These can include cakes, macaroons, flan, cotton candy, iced cookies, ice creams, parfaits, boba and other beverages. These sweets are done in the Japanese style with specific references to the culture, such as having the food shaped like certain characters, elaborate whipped cream decorations, purin pudding, etc., as opposed to Western sweets. Decorations are mandatory, with multiple textures and colors present via sprinkles, drawn-on icing, etc. Strawberries are an incredibly common motif due to repeated use in early artworks and merchandise.[6] Additionally, savory foods may appear in the form of bento boxes with food shaped as different characters. Nature-inspired motifs, such as skies, flowers, and small critters, are also very commonplace in form of minimalistic drawn stars, clouds, rainbows, butterflies, and cherry blossoms.

Anthropomorphic illustrated characters, are the most unique and recognizable feature of the aesthetic. The most popular characters originate from the Japanese company Sanrio, which created Hello Kitty, Cinnamon Roll, My Melody, and more that can be viewed here. Another popular company would be San-X, with characters like Rilakkuma, Sumikko Gurashi, Sentimental Circus, Mamegoma and more, which can be viewed here. Other examples include Care Bears, Moomins, Pusheen, various Animal Crossing characters, and different Pokémon such as Pikachu and Squirtle. There are multiple commonalities between these kawaii characters; many of them are simple in design, with features that are simultaneously distinct enough to be different from other competing characters, but also following the guidelines in character design that make characters look friendly and child-like. These include round bases for bodies, large eyes and heads with small arms, and a lack of intense shadow and angularity. These characters' immense popularity allows them to easily be marketed as merchandise, with a variety of stationery, home goods, clothing, and even large vehicles such as airplanes.

Human characters could also be classified as kawaii if they are innocent and childlike. These are called Moe, and tend to come from anime and manga, as the trope is from Japanese pop culture. Like the critters, these characters have large eyes, round shapes, and unique colors and outfit designs. Their intense and open displays of emotion are related to people's affection for them, and often appear as either helplessness and/or upbeat cheerfulness.[7] One such character is Hatsune Miku, the most universally recognizable Vocaloid. Gifs and images of these Moe characters often appear in kawaii blogs and websites.

Music[]

Kawaii Future Bass[]

Kawaii Future Bass or Kawaii Bass is a subgenre of electronic dance music that combines the Future Bass genre with the Kawaii aesthetic[8]. It emerged in the mid-2010s and it also incorporates elements of Chiptune and Bitpop. The songs tend to be energetic and adorable, often incorporating samples related to anime and gaming culture. Snail's House (also known as Ujico*) is considered to be the pioneer of this subgenre.

Subgenres[]

Media[]

Manga & Anime[]

Series featuring kawaii as their main theme include:

  • Afro-ken
  • Aikatsu!
  • Animal Crossing
  • Baja no Studio
  • Bananya
  • Bonobono
  • BT21 Shorts
  • Charmmy Kitty
  • Chibi Devi!
  • Chi's Sweet Home
  • Chiccha na Yuki Tsukai Sugar
  • Chikyuu wa Guruguru Merry-Go-Round
  • Chimimo
  • CoCO & NiCO
  • Cocotama
  • Cogimyun
  • Cookin' Idol Ai! Mai! Main!
  • Corocoro Coronya
  • Daisuki! Hello Kitty
  • Dinosaur Biyori
  • Donyatsu
  • Fushigi Mahou Fun Fun Pharmacy
  • Fushigiboshi no Futagohime Gyu!
  • Ganbare! Lulu Lolo
  • Girls x Heroine series
  • Gdgd Fairies
  • Gudetama
  • Hamster Club
  • Hamtaro
  • Hanamaru Kindergarten
  • Happy Happy Clover
  • Himouto! Umaru-chan
  • Hime Chen! Otogi Chikku Idol Lilpri
  • Ice Kuritarou
  • Ichigo Mashimaro
  • Is the Order a Rabbit?
  • Jewelpet
  • Kiki and Lala
  • Kemono Friends
  • Kapibara-san
  • Kero Kero Keroppi
  • Kirarin☆Revolution
  • Kiratto Pri☆Chan
  • Koeda-chan
  • Koshikko
  • Kuromi's Pretty Journey
  • Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear
  • Kyoufu! Zombie Neko
  • Lalala Lala-chan
  • Lalalacoco
  • Little Charo
  • Love Live! School Idol Project!!
  • Lucky☆Star
  • Luminary Tears
  • Mameshiba
  • Mermaid Melody
  • Mewkledreamy
  • Miffy and Friends
  • Mikan Enikki
  • Mitchiri Neko
  • Mochi Mochi Panda
  • Mofu☆Mofu
  • Molang
  • My Roommate Is A Cat
  • Nana Moon
  • Nekopara
  • Nichijou
  • Nyanpire The Animation
  • Ocha-ken
  • Ojamajo Doremi
  • Onegai My Melody
  • Panda no Taputapu
  • PePePePengiin
  • Pita Ten
  • Pochacco
  • Pretty Cure
  • Pretty Rhythm
  • Princess Pring
  • Prism Paradise
  • Poyopoyo
  • Pui Pui Molcar
  • Rilakkuma
  • Rilu Rilu Fairilu
  • Sanrio Boys
  • Sailor Moon
  • School Babysitters
  • Seizei Ganbare! Mahou Shoujo Kurumi
  • Shizuku-chan
  • Show by Rock!!
  • Shugo Chara
  • Sugar Bunnies
  • Sumikko Gurashi
  • Sylvanian Families
  • Tama and Friends (Tama of the 3rd District -Have You Seen My Tama?)
  • Tamagotchi!
  • Tokyo Mew Mew
  • Unico
  • Usagi no Mofy
  • Usaru-san
  • Wan Wan Celeb Soreyuke! Tetsunoshin
  • Waccha PriMagi!
  • Yousei Chiitan
  • Yukai na Animal Bus
  • Yumeiro Patissiere
  • Yuru Yuri

Video Games[]

  • Animal Crossing
  • Kirby
  • My Time at Portia
  • Puffpals Island Skies (coming soon in 2025)
  • Pretty Rhythm
  • Stardew Valley
  • Story of Seasons

Mobile[]

  • Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
  • Animal Restaurant
  • BanG Dream! Girls Band Party
  • Buruburu Do-Butsu
  • Cats Atelier
  • Cats&Soup
  • Clawbert
  • Dorimiland
  • Disney My Little Doll
  • Fairy Sphere
  • Gudetama Gohan
  • Hananezumi
  • Hello Kitty Friends
  • Hello Kitty World
  • Hitsuji Village
  • Kiki & Lala's Twinkle Puzzle
  • Korilakkuma Tower Defense
  • Love Live! School Idol Festival
  • Maple Story
  • Miracle Match
  • Miracle Niki
  • My Tamagotchi Forever
  • My Talking Hello Kitty
  • Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector
  • Pig Party
  • Pocket Love
  • Pokekoro
  • Pokémon Café Mix
  • Princess Connect! Re:Dive
  • Purenista
  • Purrfect Spirits
  • RandomGallery
  • Rilakkuma Farm
  • Showa Candy Shop
  • Show by Rock!!
  • Splitter Critters
  • Stray Cat Doors
  • Sumikkogurashi Farm
  • Sumi Sumi: Matching Puzzle
  • The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls
  • Travel Frog
  • Tsuki Adventure
  • Uncle and Cat Super Miracle Puzzle
  • Wonder Parade

Resources[]

How_Kawaii_Manipulates_Your_Mind

How Kawaii Manipulates Your Mind

External links to help get a better understanding of this aesthetic.

Communities[]

Vendors[]

Playlists[]

YouTube Channels[]

TikTok Accounts[]

Pinterest Boards[]

Gallery[]

References[]

Advertisement