Japanese kawaii culture is making its impact on the lives of more and more British youths and has been doing so over the last 10 years. From costume play to anime and manga, it seems that the kawaii era is looming for teenagers across Britain.
Even the areas of art and fashion have been influenced under kawaii culture. It all started off in the ’70s when Hello Kitty, dressing as anime/manga characters and wearing Lolita-style clothing took off for real. Helen McCarthy, who is an expert on Japanese pop culture, reckons that Japanese culture is more visible in Britain thanks to the growth of the internet and kawaii items being more widely available, especially in urban areas. “Kawaii has made inroads, but is not embedded yet,” she says.
The creator of the Cassette Playa range, Carri Mundane, who’s own work is kawaii-inspired, also reckons that fashion and design have become increasingly influenced and says, “Kawaii is a phenomenon, look at the popularity of the Alessi range of products (kitchen utensils). It’s all about play, fantasy, color and imagination. Kawaii motifs are used as an accessory in Britain, rather than embedded into a lifestyle and I think that people tend to see them as a counterpoint to something.”
According to an evening London newspaper, kawaii culture had been swamping the capital as adults rushed to eat cupcakes and watch cute animals on Youtube in a bid to become more child-like.
Nevertheless, McCarthy states that British is “still quite a masculine and patriarchal culture” who “have never embraced the cute, soft side like France and Japan”.
One of Manchester University’s Japanese visual culture lecturers, Sharon Kinsella, stated, “I think it’s difficult to estimate degrees of cultural influence, but I see creeping signs of the popular acceptance of cute and anime characters as cool, neat and nice in the United Kingdom. Reading girls comics or even writing comics in the yaoi or bishonenai genre (female-orientated fictional media that focuses on homoerotic male relationships, usually created by women) is not uncommon among teens these days, neither is a following and detailed knowledge of Japanese horror films, cute characters, art or anime.”