Apollo: Isn't she a little old for cute?
—Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
Quinn: Isn't that outfit a little young for her?
In Japanese, kawaii means "cute", but the concept has far more overtones than it does in English—and far more power. For many Japanese schoolgirls (and some women), being kawaii is kind of like being sexy for Western women: it means that they are desirable, attractive and wanted. It becomes a primary goal in their social lives, and success, as measured in the reactions of their peers, is practically an affirmation of their worth as a female.
As always, whenever there is a goal like this, there is always someone who overdoes it. The kawaiiko (literally "cute child"), or burikko ("fake child" or "pretend(ing) child"), is the case in point. She takes being kawaii to an almost unhealthy extreme by making it the sole focus of her life. In clothing and fashion, this manifests in frilly, flouncy outfits, often with ribbons and lace. In behavior it appears as a tendency to act childishly "young", particularly in speech—she may speak entirely in baby talk, giggle mindlessly, habitually refer to herself in the third person, and/or use nicknames as well as the -chan Honorific for virtually everyone she encounters. In short, the difference between kawaii and kawaiiko is the difference between "cute" and "cutesy". (The difference between kawaiiko and burikko, however, is the difference between "cutesy" and "somebody please kill her.")
In some cases, the decision to go kawaiiko is a not a desperate plea for social acceptance but a calculated step intended to further a career goal as an Idol Singer—for which lacy, frilly cutesiness appears to be required by the Japanese music industry.
It would be reasonable to assume that there is some kind of connection between kawaiiko and Lolicon, but the nature of the relationship—if one does exist—is not clear.
- Azusa Shiratori from Ranma ½.
- Tamama from Keroro Gunso is pretty much this... just don't get him mad.
- Hikaru "Rabi~en~Rose" Usada from Di Gi Charat is a subversion—like other Di Gi Charat characters, she's sweet on the outside, but petty and overbearing on the inside (not to discount her moments of genuine niceness, mind you).
- Ran from Urusei Yatsura is another Yandere who acts like a Kawaiiko when she's trying to look good.
- An overbearing agent attempts to force tough-girl thrash rocker Priss Asagiri into going kawaiiko in an attempt to sell her as an idol singer in Bubblegum Crash. It doesn't work.
- Lillith from Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito.
- Ropponmatsu II (the Catgirl robot, not the adult robot) in Excel Saga.
- Subverted in Paranoia Agent, where anything kawaii turns out to be life-threatening, and anything that is merely sweet turns out to be merely dangerous.
- Amane Misa from Death Note, who is also a psychotic killer. Who kills for love.
- Although, being an idol and all, she has an excuse.
- The same goes for Munakata Shiho from My-HiME. She's very cute and cheery, but when she gets angry, she gets angry.
- Akira Kogami in Lucky Star's Lucky Channel is a cutesy, sugary Genki Girl to the public, and when she gets tired of it, she reverts back to her true personality of a jaded, bitter entertainment industry veteran.
- A challenge for fans of Cardcaptor Sakura: Find one of Sakura's Tomoyo-designed costumes, even one, that doesn't push the Kawaiiko content to Glurge-worthy proportions. To be fair, though, Sakura doesn't seem any happier about wearing them.
- Similar to Nermal, Chi from Chi's Sweet Home. She's more of a kawaiiko, though, because she's naive about it.
- Both Suzu Sakuma and Miki Koishikawa in Marmalade Boy.
- Quattro of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, a Meganekko who looks all cutesy, speaks all cutesy, and acts all cutesy. Naturally, she's turns out to be the evil, nasty one of the Numbers.
- C-ko Kotobuki from Project A-ko.
- Choco is downright adorable.
- Marilyn from Pokémon, except that she's more obsessed with cute Pokémon.
- Para-Para from Sailor Moon.
- Yugi Mutou in the English dub anime of Yu-Gi-Oh!! has traits of this. He is fifteen year old, but acts like a seven-year old sometimes. In season 0, his eyes are bigger and he's voiced by a girl...
- Also in season 0, Miho was this to burikko extents.
- Natsuru Senou from Kämpfer, when in female form.
- Lampshaded in Engine Sentai Go-onger, with a character called Bukkorin. She may walk around in a fluffy dress and act all cutesy, but she's the daughter of an alien mob boss, and tough enough to catch a blade with her bare hands.
- Wakana Sonozaki from Kamen Rider Double in her DJ job.
- Himeka from the Nightmare Dopant arc.
- Kelly Kapoor from The Office seems to have a large dose of this in her character makeup.
- Saito Ayaka. Anything she does. Apparently, her voice is soft and high-pitched even for a female seiyuu. Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard to Westerners.
- The dubbing of Iron Chef had a lot of the young actresses on the tasting panel sound like this, earning them the Fan Nickname "bimbos du jour".
- Traci Van Horn of Hannah Montana, at least in the episode "No Sugar Sugar", in which she hosts a sweet sixteen birthday party ("emphasis on sweet") despite being two years past the deadline. She seems to be pushing herself as some childish brand of trying really-too-hard to be sexy, as she proceeds to simper about in a saccharine, disturbingly coquettish manner, waving an oversized rainbow lollipop in Oliver's face while flirting with him. He's more interested in the lollipop, but who could blame the guy?
- Lina, the yellow archer from Riviera: The Promised Land, is concentrated Kawaiiko.
- Alice from Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, who is also a sadist and even has an overly cutesy looking riding crop.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All had, in the third case "Turnabout Big Top" a 16 year old girl with big eyes and blonde hair.. Who was so cute she had several marriage proposals (one by a 36 year old!), and had the titular Phoenix Wright and his plucky sidekick powerless to decline a request of finding her outfit (as shown in the But Thou Must! page). ... Err, her other outfit.
- Nao in The World Ends With You. She even asks you to call her Nao-Nao. For short.
- Momo from Rival Schools. To the point of intentional parody.
- Desco from Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten. She always refers to herself in the third person, refers to another character exclusively as "Big Sis", and is such an adorable ultimate killing machine you can't help but love her.
- Candi Shugari in Angel Moxie, pictured above.
- Joan in Namir Deiter.
- Rumy in Fans originally dressed in a Japanese anime-style schoolgirl uniform and wore bangs over her eyes—until she realized that people could see her underwear whenever she went into battle, or grab her hair in a fight. She has since cut her hair short and started wearing karate gi in the field. T. Campbell wrote in response to fans who were upset at her new look:
On the day Rumy changed her hairstyle to something that wouldn't present such a tactical weakness, she was a little sad, feeling like something was lost. And she imagined her mother-- whom she hasn't spoken to for longer than ten minutes in years-- saying, "But dear, your hair looks so kawaii!" And then, the anger of a misspent childhood renewed in her heart, Rumy replied to her imagination, "Kawaii is for the lazy."
- Nermal from Garfield and the animated series Garfield and Friends is a Western "burikko" example, in that he (yes, Nermal is male) calls himself the "World's Cutest Kitten" and forever annoys Garfield with his antics, and is often shipped off to Abu Dhabi -- but somehow always finds his way back.
- Dot Warner might be a Western example of a kawaiiko, as she constantly brags about her cuteness to the point of having an entire song titled "I'm Cute", and being referred to in the theme song as the "cute" one.
- Really, all three Warners are pretty adorable.
- The Brain, of all characters, assumes a kawaiiko persona in the Pinky and The Brain episode "Whatever Happened to Baby Brain?" He accomplishes this by wearing contact lenses, fake dimples, and long curls. It's a Paper-Thin Disguise.
- One episode of Danny Phantom had the Alpha Bitch Paulina declaring she wants to be as cute as the Kawaiiko Sayonara Pussycat. She gets her wish...literally and is dolled up in the most cutest, chibiest look ever.
- Deedee from Dexter's Laboratory.
- Cadpig from One Hundred and One Dalmatians: The Series.
- The ditzy, genki, and constantly squeeing Katie and Sadie from Total Drama Island.
- Spoofed by Japanese actress/model Kikouden Misa, who frequently appears on TV as a Kawaiiko parody—a ditzy, cosplay-loving, squeaky-voiced Genki Girl burikko called Hakyuun, whose speech is absolutely full of Verbal Tics.
- Idol Singer Matsuura Aya used to affect a kawaiiko stage persona called "Ayaya" (which made her convincing portrayal of surly and violent near-delinquent Saki in the 2006 Sukeban Deka film a major surprise for her fans). By 2012, however, she seems to have gone from Ayaya to just Aya, releasing more mature songs and acting less cute.
- Hello! Project "replaced" her with Mano Erina.
- This is the primary schtick of Taiwan's Regine Lee, host of Diamond Club, despite the fact that her voice is very far from squeaky.
- Also from Taiwan, Guo Shuyao aka YaoYao, who's actually closer to the intended age. Maybe too close.
- Before these two made waves in Taiwan, the soft-spoken and equally leggy model Lin Chiling (of Red Cliff fame) was often accused of this, but actually fits a completely different Japanese demographic.
- The perceived relationship between Lolicon and Kawaiiko is undermined by Elegant Gothic Lolita style. While it does appear to Western sensibilities to incorporate some measure of Lolicon, the style, along with most other Lolita styles (Sweet Lolita, Classic Lolita, Punk Lolita, Trash Lolita, etc.) intentionally de-emphasizes sexuality in opposition to the perceived over-emphasis on Lolicon trends in Japanese culture. Only one style, Erololi, consciously combines Kawaiiko and Lolicon; and that was a Western-originated style that was based on a misunderstanding of the original Lolita Fashion; and was later adopted back into Japan. While a related and very deranged style, Gurololi, may seem to also be an Erololi offshot, it was intended to be more disturbing and classic kawaii than erotic.