Bump of Chicken‘s seventh album, “Ray,” came out today along with the announcement of a Hatsune Miku duet remix of the titular track. It’s available now under the artist name “Bump of Chicken Feat. Hatsune Miku” on iTunes and Recochoku and is the first time the band has done a collaboration of this type. Not only that, but Crypton Future Media is producing a video using tons of new tech, including a “14 [ichiyon] model” of their virtual idol. Hatsune Miku will not be edited in later, but perform in real time with the band. Find out more details about the development process in the documentary above.
Babymetal - “Gimme Choco!”
Cuteness has never been this metal. Blending hard rock and idol pop, Babymetal has been recording since 2011, but it was only with the release of their first major album last month that they went viral. “Gimme Chocolate!!” is a tale of chocoholism that cannot be cured even though “I’ve been worried about my weight lately.” If that particular instance of will power isn’t the most hardcore, how about this for metal? Trio member Yuimetal fell 2 meters off the stage at their Budokan show earlier this month, but was back up and performing again within minutes.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - “Yume no Hajimarinrin”
Kyary’s popularity continues to grow, and not only in Japan. Her latest single is used in a commercial for the apartment listings company Chintai. The video, however, remains solidly in the Kyary universe, including plenty of references to her other videos. Toast clapping! How nostalgic.
Bonus: Omodaka, who engineers a quirky harmony between traditional Japanese folksongs and chip-tunes, released a new album today called “Bridge Songs.” Wonder when we can expect another amazing music video . . .
Kimo-kawaii, the slang that mashes up kimoi (yucky, gross; which is a shorter, slangier version of kimochiwarui, itself) and kawaii (cute, sweet) has become an apt description of more and more things over the years. While aficionados might disagree on what defines kimo-kawaii, generally if something has an eerie, sweet creepiness that makes it hard to look at but harder to look away, it’s kimo-kawaii.
Here are 13 things deemed so in Japan, in chronological order:
1999: Dancing Baby, a funky CG animation, became a meme in United States in the ‘90s (even appearing on the TV show “Ally McBeal”), but it became so popular in Japan that Toyota put it in a Cami ad (above). Young people of the time who had already begun saying kimo-kawaii applied it here in an early use case.
Mid 2000s:Ungirls, the comedy duo comprised of Takushi Tanaka and Yoshiaki Yamane became known as kimo-kawaii, somewhat cruelly, mostly due to their looks. Over the years and depending on whom you ask the assessment seems to change from “Tanaka is kimoi, but Yamane is kawaii” to just deciding that Tanaka himself is kimo-kawaii. Or maybe not even kawaii. . . Last year on the variety show “London Hearts” when Tanaka ranked high (low?) on a list of most disliked celebs, hesaid everyone should give being him a try because it’s a hellish life, but he will keep doing it as long as he lives.
By the way, 2006 is the year that the word “kimo-kawaii” is considered to have really “arrived.”
August 2007: Face Bank, the piggy bank designed by artist Eiichi Takada that actually pigs out on your savings, went on sale. When you place a coin near its mouth, it opens and swallows the currency — a perfect way to add some kimo-kawaii to your everyday life.
2008 Noi Asano’s manga “Chiisai Oyaji Nikki” (something like “Little Old Man Diary”) about a girl who one day discovers a tiny man began airing as a series of anime shorts last year and most recently got promoted with latte art at Double Tall in Shibuya.
October 2010 Nishiko-kun (right), the mascot of Nishi-Kokubunji, was born. The “fairy” is one of many regional mascots that have become widespread across Japan in recent years. Unlike its traditionally cute counterparts, however, Nishiko-kun is a lanky, armless thing with a huge head that evokes the image of a happy manhole. His proportions have made for some especially awkward dance moves, but he remains oddly alluring, don’t you think?
June 2011BeeWorks‘s “Mushroom Garden” (aka “Nameko Saibai Kit”) smartphone game series has exploded in popularity since its release two years ago. These nasty-yet-endearing fungi have gained quite the following (ask almost any elementary schooler), leading to an avalanche of merchandise, including a Nendoroid that reaches back to its “Touch Detective” roots on Nintendo DS.
June 2012Body part jewelry makes a kimo-kawaii splash from across the globe. Handmade in the U.K. and sold on crafty website Etsy, these doodads allowed people to attach ears to their ears, mouths to their fingers and noses to their necks, among other things.
Fall 2012: Later that year, the freaky-looking toy with its own language, Furby,relaunched with a smartphone app and a Momoiro Clover Z campaign (including the above commercial).
March 2013: There are plenty of kimo-kawaii videogames, but Cocosola‘s smash hit “Alpaca Evolution” is a textbook example of how strangely addicting bizarre characters can be. Your objective is to absorb other alpacas in a cannibalistic fashion as you mutate into a more and more grotesque creature. A prequel has already been released and it looks like the merch parade is marching along.
June 2013: “Attack on Titan”-branded LINE stamps feature a number of human characters from the anime, but also explore a kimo-kawaii side of the monstrous titans that will give fans a chuckle (or surprise/gross out the unsuspecting friend on the other end of your LINE chat).
This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor do we presume to be authorities on the matter. In fact while researching we noticed Tofugu had nicely summarized the trend recently. We’re sure the wave of kimo-kawaii will be good surfing for years to come, so remember this useful word when you come across a sort-of-cute character that makes you feel kind of icky at the same time.
Additional research for this story contributed by Emily Balistrieri. (Full disclosure: Emily is the Japanese-English translator of “Alpaca Evolution.”)
What was cool – or perhaps more importantly, cute – in 2012? Here are our top picks.
What would a year in Japan be without a newly coined look? This one isn’t exactly head to toe, like say the yama girls of years past. Its pièce de résistance is a hairstyle: the neko-mimi (cat ears), which basically involves twisting and rolling two chunks of hair to resemble cat ears. Then you can wear whatever you like with it, so long as it’s cute. Because cats are cute.
R25 cites model/fashion blogger/pop singer and official Kawaii Harajuku Ambassador (an honor bestowed by the mayor of Shibuya Ward) Kyary Pamyu Pamyu as the inspiration. Ms. Pamyu is known for her wacky looks and has also appeared with her hair twisted to resemble devil horns and bat wings. But it was the cat ears that caught on, perhaps because it’s the only style that can realistically be done at home. A neko girl website is packed with do-it-yourself tips and cute pose suggestions.
It’s not just the hair though. Samuel Thomas, Japan Times fashion columnist and Tokyo Telephone editor, told us that anything with cat ears – like hats, headbands and hoodies – were big sellers this year.
These two fans of boy-band Arashi got creative and made their own tattoo stockings with the band members’ names. Photo courtesy of Tokyo Fashion
Cat mania aside, the hit item for 2012 was without a doubt tattoo stockings. Interesting, considering that real tattoos will still get you banned from most public bathhouses (meaning they are still largely associated with the yakuza). However, these stockings, usually nude, are decorated with images that more resemble Western-style tattoos (also called “fashion tattoos” in Japan) – hearts and butterflies and Ed Hardy-like biker designs, for example. Too bad, because some full on irezumi-style tattoo stockings would be pretty cool.
Samuel also tipped us off to the origin of this one, citing Avantgarde, a small boutique in Harajuku, as the locus of the tattoo stocking trend. According to Trendy magazine, Avantgarde has sold almost half a million pairs since September 2011. Their sales on shopping site Rakuten for June through August 2012 were 200 times greater than sales during the same period of the previous year. During summer, really? As it gets colder, we’re seeing the same concept with white or gold patterns on black tights. Not quite the same double-take effect, but a clear evolution of the idea.
Mushroom character goods inspired by the smart phone game Nameko Saibai Kit. Photo by tsukacyi from Flickr
The most popular smart phone game in Japan is called Nameko Saibai Kit (literally “mushroom cultivation kit”). Yes, a simulated mushroom farm. But the mushrooms are, apparently, cute, and have launched a “star” character – the first to come out of a smart phone game.
The game, a free download from Beeworks Games, debuted in June 2011 as a spin-off of another popular game, Touch Detective (the main character in that has a pet mushroom who helps solve puzzles); to keep things interesting, new seasonal versions are added regularly.
According to Trendy – which ranks nameko goods as the #7 hit product of 2012 – there are now some 50 companies licensed to make mushroom mobile phone accessories, stationery, stuffed animals, etc. In total there are about 800 different goods on the market. Events this past spring to promote new items, at shops like KiddyLand in Harajuku, drew lines with waits of over an hour. Perhaps watching mushrooms grow is good training for patiently waiting in line?