My dissertation explores the rise and shifting perception of kawaii in Japan. By chronologically tracing one of its origins in the early 20th century, it investigates the role of shōjo artists leading up to Japan’s involvement in World War II. From here, it explores the existence of kawaii in terms of culture and aesthetics as well as the arrival of a ‘cute’ consumer culture and fashion subcultures – notably the Lolitas. My investigation is brought into the 21st century through the findings of two focus groups with Japanese students that centred around perception and experience and provided key primary research for my investigation.

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