Kawaii Aesthetics from Japan to Europe

Kawaii culture and aesthetics are a peculiarity of contemporary Japan and move across mass media, impulse goods, creative industries, and juvenile tendencies. The concept, graphic styles, and commodities related to a kawaii culture are composite. This article, in its first part, outlines the theories and general features of this cultural trend in Japan and as it is framed in most western countries. In the second part, it also focuses on whether and how the concept and the related styles and commodities have found a place in Europe, with particular reference to Italy and France. These two countries, in fact, have been since the late 1970s the key markets in the Euro-American region for Japanese contemporary culture for youths, namely Japanese comics (generally called manga) and commercial animation (or anime). Anime and manga are, in effect, an integral part of the theoretical discourse on kawaii in the two markets considered, as it is discussed accordingly in the second part of the article. In its last section, the article addresses the impact of kawaii styles on youth cultures in Europe, which is, although limited, multidimensional: it has involved spontaneous drawings among children, a certain amateur and professional comics production, amateur and commercial animation, toys and a diverse merchandising, street art, and fashion design.


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