Friday’s Feature: Just Add Cute

As anime fans, I’m sure we’re all aware that Japan has a serious thing for cute (kawaii). This isn’t a bad thing. In fact it is one of the things that makes Japanese culture incredibly fascinating to outsiders. That doesn’t mean it always makes a lot of sense.

Love Live.jpg

While not a recent trend, it seems that pretty much every scenario you can think of is being marched out in anime form, with a group of cute female characters ready to sell the show. While it makes sense for the cast of an idol based anime (such as Love Live) to all be pretty adorable, why does a show about anthropomorphized battleships (Kantai Collection) need to have such a cute cast? While it’s a nice juxtaposition of expectations (warship/cute girl) it doesn’t really help the humanization of a weapon as the appearance of the girl continuously betrays the spirit that they are supposed to embody.

Kantai.jpg

Though probably the first anime I watched where this was a thing (mostly because these kinds of shows don’t overly appeal to me) was Chobits where we had a computer in the form of a girl. While this wasn’t just a gimmick of cute girls, come watch, but rather a more serious look at isolation and a need to make connections (in between other stuff) we still essentially see an appliance being given not only a human form but a very cute, female human form.

chobits

Although, if we forget machines for a minute, we then have the anime that have dragons (yes, my very favourite fantasy creature) spending the vast majority of the series just looking like yet another cute girl. Oh wait, she might bite. Tragically the one example of this I clearly remember is Dragonaut: The Resonance (please let me forget that and never, ever try to review). Toa spends almost the entire series bouncing around as a pink haired cutesy while not much of anything happens anywhere else in the series. Okay, there are other dragons and some are even guys but the main focus here is the pink haired girl. There’s some kind of plot that involves the guy who used to have a sister who died tragically in some sort of incident and you can probably figure out where that is going in terms of his relationship with Toa.

dragonaut

I’m not actually making fun of the idea of anthropomorphization. Terry Pratchett does a brilliant job of giving Death ‘life’ as a recurring character in his Discworld novels. What I’m wondering is whether the market is being over-saturated by some of the more cookie cutter versions of this trend. Where the standard anime girl types are being forced into moulds simply to put a new facelift on a story we’ve seen before with characters we will forget almost before the end-credits are finished. When done right, giving human characteristics to something can make it fairly memorable. When done poorly it just feels like gimmicky story telling for the sake of it. Plus, the highly sexulaised nature of some of these characters (or at least the fan service that appears relentlessly in these shows) makes the whole thing less an exercise in creative settings and characters and more a targeted fantasy (though again, this isn’t across all of these types of shows as like every other genre there are some that get the mix right and deliver quality entertainment and others that embrace the trashier elements).

makuranodanshi

Moving away from cute girls, I certain some of you must remember Makuranodanshi. Who could forget a show about personified pillow boys talking directly to the camera as they lulled you off into a completely creeped out state or into complete bemusement. Each episode featured a different boy  talking to you as if you were there about to go to bed. There were 12 episodes so 12 different personalities and looks to choose from. I don’t know about you, but I think I’d prefer my pillow not to talk to me.

Turning it over to you. Which shows do you think suffered from the ‘just add cute’ mentality or which shows do you think nailed this idea of using cute as the lure but then delivered a good story?


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15 thoughts on “Friday’s Feature: Just Add Cute

  1. This was a fun post to read, thanks!
    I’m always torn between thinking that this phenomenon is specifically to add a cute flair to an anime, or just another way to sexualize it due to all of the fan service you mentioned. It’s as frustrating as it is fascinating. I think that the best use of just adding cute for the sake of cute was a literal cuteness add rather than throwing in easy sex appeal. The 1995 anime Tenchi Muyou features a space ship that turns into a little rabbit alien. Insanely adorable little critter.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pillows that…talk. I’d heard of the series before but I had no idea that the guys were anthropomorphized pillows.

    No thanks.

    Generally, I’m not into the extremely cute/moe artstyle. It kinda annoys me tbh. Pretty characters are always nice but when they’re made too cute, it gets hard to take it seriously. Though Gakkougurashi is an exception for obvious reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t come up with anything at the moment, not because I don’t have enough to choose from, but the opposite. I find difficult to say there are series without “moefication” in it. But the peak of over-moe/kawaii would be probably the case you have already introduced: the anthropomorphization of tools or weapons.

    While we go simply overboard in terms sexualization when the MC obviously has some way to power himself (or the girls, heh) up by doing some NSFW acts.

    Though, to be honest, I would rather prefer moefication over an artstyle that tries to get closer to reality, there is a reason why I prefer 2D over 3D.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I believe Girls und Panzer, a show about kawaii girls fighting in tanks in a war-like situation (it’s supposed to be a competitive sport), is a good example of the “cute addition but good” topic.

    Even though this studio looked like they wanted to combine tank fighting with cute girls just because, they actually conveyed an entertaining and interesting storyline while teaching us a little about tanks and showing us, surprisingly, really engaging battles for us to possibly even drop our jaws at. This anime kind of gives us a refresher from all the other “cute girls doing cute things” genre of shows. It’s something we don’t think it’s practical at all or never seen before, but the unusual combination balanced each other out to make viewers experience an enjoyable show.

    Enjoyed reading this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I got the OVA collection to that series in a mystery box. I still haven’t watched it because I was familiar with the series. I might need to give it a go.

      Like

        1. I assure you it’s far more difficult than what it seems, sparing 25 minutes as of now I mean. I’m in the middle of moving and got lots of issues.

          But nevermind reality, I think I already understood what you’re talking about. It must be that, right. That thing that happen just after the unlimited gun works show.

          Like

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