Dec 1, 2011

REVIEW | I Love Kawaii, Charuka, Harper Design, 2011

I Love Kawaii, Charuka, Harper Design, 2011
Do you like cute? Of course you do. Not many of us can resist the temptations of a puppy or kitty looking up at us begging to be played with. That is unless you are Ebenezer Scrooge or have a black hole for a soul. That brings us to I Love Kawaii, a book comprised of a compilation of artists from around the world that indulge in the creation of Kawaii. Kawaii is a Japanese word meaning super cute or adorable and thus is the perfect term for this colorful and super sweet superflat artform.
Freeze!, Superduex, T-shirt, 2008

Kawaii is at heart an advertising medium. Many of the artists in the book make their living as illustrators for a variety of different companies and media. Superdeux, shown above, is a French born artist living in California. He makes, what the book calls, art toys which are figurines of characters that he designs, posters, and t-shirts. His style is rooted in graffiti culture, urban art, and electronic music, and in his case most of his work incorporates text which offer humor or some specific message the artist would like to convey.
Painter, Mizuka, illustration, 2006
Other routes that Kawaii artists take is writing children's books. There are quite a few artists in the book that write children's books but of all of them Mizuka stands out the most with her adorable animal characters. Mizuka is a Japanese artist but uses a more toned down approach when it comes to her colors which is more evident in western-style art. Her more retro style helps her stand out in a style that is populated with much in-your-face colors and strongly suggestive themes. 

Now what's with these "suggestive themes" you say. Well one artist that did catch my eye in the book was the art of Mari-chan. Her style is more what you would think when you think of Kawaii art; bright, bold and colorful. Though she also stands out for another reason. Mari-chan, in some instances, uses the Kawaii style to make art that has a definite message, usually a feminist message. The specific artworks in talking about are not in the book and I came across them while surfing around Google. I would post the image but its slightly graphic and if you really want to see it then the work is called Menstrual Dreamer so just look it up. Mari-chan is also from Japan and her intent when creating work is to express her feelings which all seem to be very happy and devious.
Poster for FEWMANY, Yukiko, 2008

Probably my favorite artist in the book was the very last one, Yukiko Yokoo. Her art is centered around food, from a deer-like thing with a spoon and fork for antlers, shown above, too some weird human thing that wears nothing but a piece of meat for a hat. Her style is more representative of Pop-art. Yukiko also uses her art for other purposes. She makes video games. Her most notable, and also the game mentioned in the book, is Taiko Drum Master. A PS2 game that was released in 2004 and was a rhythm based druming game that used her characters.  

I love this style of art but the book itself doesn't do much but offer some images and a few short sentences about each artist. Charuka does list websites for all the artists, but as many of the artists are Japanese, I found it difficult to maneuver most of them and even some of them didn't work anymore, namely Mari-chan's. I also found it difficult to locate nearly any info on any of the artists. Even typing their names in Google didn't usually equate to many results, other then maybe Hello Kitty, which I found slightly irritating. That just says to me that many of these artists aren't appreciated as artists which is sad since their work is so beautiful.  All-in-all I was happy with the book. It opened up a world that I already knew existed but knew little about and it motivated me to look into it further and also gave me means to do research myself; although, I am very disappointed that there were no stickers in the book.

 -Josh Seaton


  1. While I was reading your blog, I remembered when I have been Japan few years ago. I think most of the Asian people (mostly Japanese people) have characteristic of Kawaii. What I mean is, their life is kind of kawaii like, they don't usually do huge reaction but small, cute gestures, and even most of their tableware are little. Also they (maybe not all) like to collect tiny accessaries. I think that's how it used be in Japanese life as their culture.
    I have been interested in Mari-Chan for couple of years and I love how she conveying some kind of messages through her artwork. Want to see them again :)

    -Jihyun Woo

  2. As much as I find these characters happily adorable I feel equally heartbroken. All knowing that these artists are under appreciated in the U.S. as artists. But hey, as long as they are getting paid doing what they love or at least best at. Creating kawaii characters and smiles they will always hold an audience!

    -Liliane Ledesma