Document Type



Kawaii (可愛い) is a Japanese term that loosely translates to “cute,” but more significantly refers to a culture of cuteness in postwar Japan. Kawaii calls to mind big-eyed baby animals and pastel colors, but these visual qualities also embody a radical worldview cultivated by Japanese girls. In this paper, I investigate the visual culture of kawaii through two of its manifestations in fashion and animation, using the scholarship on kawaii in Japan and critical theory to argue that kawaii is a revolutionary aesthetics of vulnerability. The excessive femininity, emotional expression, and idealism of kawaii culture defy the Japanese culture of conformity and gendered expectations. I demonstrate that kawaii is not merely a culture of girls to be dismissed, but a transformative emotional engagement with the world, and an imaginative world-making that demands more love.