Aug 29, 2011

"Kawaii" and "Cool", "Moe" and "Sexy"; Japanese and American Pop Culture

When I stayed in New York, I went to the store "Forbidden Planet" which sold American comics and figures. I really enjoyed this store, but at the end I didn't buy anything.

I guess that I might like American comics very much, but I stop myself from getting into the world of American comics, because I know I couldn't stop collecting comics and figures, if I started it once. I don't have enough time, money and space in my house for them. I'll keep it as a hobby in my old age.

My wife used to tell me that she had found I was an Otaku only after our marriage. I thought of myself as an Otaku at that time, but now I doubt if I'm really an Otaku. Actually I'm maniac to pop cultures and often writing about them on my weblogs, but I'm not interested in Japanese Anime and AKB48 at all, which are the core of the Otaku culture and I don't frequently go to Akiba, which is the center of the Otaku culture.

I wrote about three of my favorite Manga authors, Moto Hagio, Katsuhiro Otomo and Taiyo Matsumoto. They've had a major impacts to Otaku culture, but their works themselves are outside of the Otaku culture.

Japanese "Girls (女の子)" (a "Girl (女の子)" isn't limited to a child and every woman who has "Girl's" mind is a "Girl") and "Otakus (オタク)" are making up contemporary Japanese pop culture. The key concept of the Girl's culture is "kawaii (カワイイ)" and one of the Otaku culture's is "moe (萌え)".

It's impossible to translate "kawaii" and "moe" into English, but if I try to translate them, "kawaii" might be "cute" (although "kawaii" has wider connotations than "cute"), and "moe" is a kind of excitement often with sexual emotion.

"Hello Kitty" ( is the symbol of "kawaii". Every "Girl" (including "adult Girls") loves Hello Kitty. An "Otaku" feels "Moe" from characters of Anime, such as "Precure (プリキュア)" or "Idoru (アイドル)" such as AKB48.

"Kawaii" and "moe" are spreading into every corner of Japanese society. When I left Tokyo International Airport, I found "Kasutamu-kun (カスタム君)", which might symbolize (?) Japanese customs. Why do Japanese customs need such a "kawaii" being? In Japan even customs should be "kawaii" now. Of course I didn't find anything like "Kasutamu-kun" at the U.S. customs.

I don't like Hello Kitty, Precure, AKB48 and (of course) Kasutamu-kun. They are so childish, unsophisticated and decorated. On the other hand I don't find "kawaii" or "moe" but "cool" and "sexy" in American comics and, as I wrote, I love them. I like "Catwoman" better than "Precure". I'm not an Otaku but a geek, aren't I?

It's quite difficult for me to explain today's topic. I simplified explanation of the relation between Japanese pop culture and American pop culture.

In fact they've deeply affected each other. I found Japanese Anime in "Forbidden Planet" and there are geeks who like "kawaii" and "moe" in America. On the other hand American comics and Hollywood movies have influenced Japanese Manga and Anime.

For example the anime "Transformer" was made in Japan in order to export to the world market and the movie "Transformer" was made in Hollywood.

Anyway "kawaii" and "moe" are the most important concepts of the contemporary Japanese pop culture, but there are people who don't like "kawaii" and "moe" in Japan.


  1. I'm new to reading manga although recently read the first book of Tatsuhiko Takimoto's Welcome to the N.H.K, I guess this is a typical Otaku manga?.I enjoyed it but don't think I'll read the whole series,but the word moe is featured a lot in it,so I was interested in your post.I'm not sure how I came across your blog but I enjoy reading your posts!

  2. Thank you for your comment.

    I've not read "Welcome to the N.H.K.", but I heard that it was one of Otaku mangas.