Is Being Kawaii Enough To Make You Watch An Anime?

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I’m pretty sure most anime fans are aware of the concept of kawaii culture and certainly there’s a definite lure of cute characters in anime shows. Whether it be the latest shounen entry, Demon Slayer with the super adorable Nezuko, a fantasy slice of life such as Uchi no Musume with Latina carrying the kawaii, or even the buddy cop comedy Cop Craft with its adorableness coming in the form of the pouting Tilarna many anime know the value of kawaii characters to their brand.

Arguably this is an almost more pervasive form of fan-service than the light ecchi moments that steal their way into many anime. Largely because for the most part fans seem to appreciate the cuteness and don’t tend to call it out for being pandering to a particular demographic. Even those fans who aren’t so entertained by the kawaii elements don’t seem to see them as intrusive and more just a part of the industry.

And really, it is nice that anime fans can enjoy something without someone telling us that our interests are somehow destroying the moral foundation of the universe for once.

Before we get any further, here’s a poll on Twitter about the issue:


Kawaii anime girls – What else does an anime need?

The fact that the cute elements tend to be largely placed on female characters doesn’t seem to draw as much attention as fan-service panty shots and the like. And yet, objectively one could argue that the cute characters bouncing about the screen aiming to be as adorable as a box of kittens is every bit as objectifying toward women. So why don’t people actually object? (Actually, some do. On looking around the internet there are definitely articles out there addressing just this concern, yet they aren’t ones I come across within the ani-blogging community with any regularity.)

A place further than the universe.

Keep in mind, I’m not actually objecting to cute characters given I’m finding Latina to be truly adorable this season and would love to be able to give her a hug. It is just a curiosity that when presented in one form objectification raises the ire of certain communities but in another form it is seemingly given a pass. Then again, we could possibly discuss the intent of the fan-service elements and while kawaii characters certainly exist as a lure they aren’t necessarily intended to be seen in a sexualised manner and for some viewers that will make all the difference. Particularly given the presented age of some of the characters in question.

Latina looking sad
Seriously, how can you not want to give her a hug?

But being kawaii is pointless if you can’t
back it up with character.

However, while cute characters may act as an initial lure as people get excited over promotional art and videos that isn’t enough to actually sell an anime after the initial episodes have aired. It won’t matter how adorable your cast are if they have no personality to speak of and are doing nothing of interest.

Girls' Last Tour
Cute girls do the end of the world?

The plethora of ‘cute girls doing cute things’ (CGDCT) anime very much confirm that just being cute isn’t enough. Your cast need a chemistry between them and they need to be doing something, anything, that manages to engage the audience while they are being adorable. Whether it is hiking, camping, making music, travelling to the antarctic or anything else, there has to be more to the story then ‘these girls are cute’. Which kind of confirms that while kawaii might be the bait the hook is something a little bit deeper and comes down to how well realised these characters are outside of their aesthetic appeal.

But what is the appeal of kawaii anime characters?

I’m honestly not sure there’s a single answer to this. Certainly cute characters are nice because when you love an anime and you start collecting merchandise having characters that are cute to carry on a key-chain or have on your shelf is very appealing, but there are plenty of non-kawaii characters who are fun to collect. I certainly have quite a number of Bleach figures and tapestries at this point and I wouldn’t go about calling any of those characters kawaii.

HItsugaya - Bleach
Actually, maybe that’s why I like Hitsugaya.

And again, while the character design will be the initial draw, what will ultimately sell a kawaii character to the fans is everything else about the character. How they act and what they do is equally important to their ongoing fan-club. Nezuko is certainly cute but she has also appeared at pivotal moments in Demon Slayer and performed some pretty crucial back-up for Tanjiro at multiple junctures. It wouldn’t matter that she was cute if she didn’t have her relationship with Tanjiro and if she wasn’t also able to contribute to the plot. Her existence would be far more shallow and less appealing.

Demon Slayer Episode 19 - Nezuko hanging upside down.
Seriously, somebody save Nezuko.

For characters within those CGDCT anime most fans will have a favourite from amongst the equally cute cast members and maybe that favourite will be based on some aesthetic that individually appeals but often it is more often based on their personality and that viewers ability to relate to or connect with the character. However there are a plethora of characters out there to choose from which makes me wonder:

Are kawaii anime characters too commonplace?

Honestly? Much like the argument over whether there are too many isekai anime or light novel adaptations, this one doesn’t have a single answer. For those who love kawaii characters and dance with joy at finding a new face to add to their collection of adorable characters there will never bee too many. For people who find cute characters a little too vanilla for their liking in the main they may find the prolific nature of kawaii characters a little much.

This cute girl is deceptive – her story is surprisingly deep, and not so cute: School Live

However, as with all tropes and common ideas in anime, it isn’t whether a character is kawaii or not that matters. What matters is whether the kawaii character is well written and entertaining. Just being cute isn’t a reason to instantly dismiss a character even if you aren’t really into kawaii characters just like it isn’t an instant reason to declare them the best ever.

Kawaii characters come in all shapes and sizes and some are most definitely better realised than others. Still, when it comes to the question of whether being kawaii is enough to make you watch an anime, I’m pretty sure many readers will agree that they’ve watched something just because they thought the cast looked cute.

So what are your thoughts on kawaii characters in anime? Leave us a comment below and get the conversation going.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Would Bofuri work if the protagonist wasn’t a cute female character?

Feature Bofuri

I’m no stranger to discussing the appeal of cute or kawaii characters in anime (previous posts including “Just Add Cute” and “Is Being Kawaii Enough To Make You Watch an Anime?“) however today I really do just want to discuss the Winter 2020 anime Bofuri also known as “Itai no wa Iya nano de Bougyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu” or ” BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense”.

At the time of drafting this post, we are two episodes in and what I know about Bofuri so far is that it is about a girl named Kaede who, at the invitation of a friend, decides to play a VRMMO for the first time and without knowing anything about character construction she decides she would be sensible to stack all of her stat points into defense. And that’s about it. It is perfectly delightful viewing but would it still be so delightful if the protagonist wasn’t a cute female character?


Kaede isn’t trapped in this game unable to escape.

The game isn’t glitching and trying to kill the players.

The other players aren’t trying to kill one another either in the game or in real life.

There’s no mysterious secret hidden in the game or some family legend or some angsty back story to uncover.

And there’s no one dying who has a last wish of conquering the game.

There really is zero tension or drama in the story so far. Kaede is a complete newb and because her friend is banned from playing games until after exams she starts out on her own. Happily she asks some random players for advice about where to start and then off she trots (very slowly because she has no agility points) into the forest where we learn that her build is pretty much invincible and she can literally just let things hit her until she builds up a resistance and then squish things to death with her shield.

Strong? Maple laughs in the face of danger (and then hides behind her shield).

Even soloing a dungeon isn’t a problem for our intrepid adventurer. Trapped in a boss room and out of weapons? No problem. Just eat the boss gaining skills in the process and then a very sweet new set of armour and a shield.

The second episode brought along a tournament where players tried to fight each other but again Kaede’s character build is just unbeatable but there were no claims of cheating or bitterness. Nope. One comment about the build being broken and then a lot of admiration for the new shield user who owned a whole bunch of other players.


We also finally got to see her playing the game with her friend and her friend has decided to go for an unconventional character build as well. And that’s the state of the story after two episodes.

Normally, if someone pitched a story like that to me for an anime I’d have to ask them, “What is the point?” If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you know I’m very easily bored by anime that I don’t feel are ‘going anywhere’. I don’t mind if it is a character journey or a plot driven journey but normally I need to feel like something is going to be accomplished somewhere along the way.

Bofuri literally has nothing that would indicate there’s a greater story at play. Kaede has no goal outside of enjoying playing her new game with her friend. There’s no goal for either of them outside of playing and levelling up and having fun. While I’m sure they’ll go on quests, encounter other players, maybe join some more tournaments, there’s no end game in sight.


Neither character has some deep flaw or trauma that needs to be worked through. They are both perfectly pleasant people who seem pretty well adjusted. So character development doesn’t seem to be the goal either.

Yet despite this lack of tension, purpose, or depth of character, Bofuri is fairly delightful to watch for the sheer joy Kaede seems to have at playing the game. The characters are cute, Kaede’s reactions when she succeeds at something or even when she’s startled, are adorable, and now that her friend is playing with her we have a second personality for Kaede to bounce off of and that only added to the enjoyment of watching the anime.


All of which made me wonder if I would forgive the story for being practically non-existent and the characters for being generic and the only real thing the anime has going for it being the practically invincible gimmick due to Kaede’s own misunderstandings about how to build a character, if the anime wasn’t cute?

What if Kaede, our central character, was a surly, teenage boy who for shits and giggles decided to build a broken character to play the game. Would I be as delighted traipsing through the forest with him as he shield bashed rabbits to death? Would his eating of a boss have been an adorable epiphany moment where the character comes up with an unconventional solution or would it have been just terrifyingly gruesome?

What if Kaede was not in school but actually in her thirties or forties and a mother who decided to try a game for the first time but was relatively inept? Would the story still fly or would we want more information about why this mother suddenly decided to play a game other than her friend invited her? Would it still be relaxing to watch or would I be more judgemental about all the things the anime lacks?


It’s all just hypothetical of course because Kaede is in fact a cute, female anime character. Her character design is relatively ordinary but they’ve made some lovely choices in her clothing and the fact that she’s a shield user helps her stand out. The rest of the cast are so far pretty cute to and the whole gaming world is just nice to look at. Generic for an in-game world as depicted in an anime, but perfectly pleasant.

I really have enjoyed the first two episodes of Bofuri. I think it is great fun to watch so far and I’m looking forward to seeing what Maple and Sally get up to next inside the game. However, the question remains whether or not this anime would work without the cute factor and that’s really quite hard to answer. I’d like to think it would, but I also know that objectively there’s little else as a claim to the appeal of the anime so far.

If you’ve tried Bofuri, what do you think? Would Bofuri work if the protagonist wasn’t a cute female character?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

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.


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.


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.


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).


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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Karandi James.