"Lolicon" is a common Japanese abbreviation for "Lolita complex," used to describe everything having to do with the sexual attraction some grown men feel towards underage girls (aka pedophilia). Sometimes also romanized as rorikon. In Japan, this is frowned upon but tolerated, because it usually stays in the realm of fantasy and focuses on fictional girls in mangas instead of real ones. Compare Shotacon.

The term "Lolita Complex" is applied to older gentlemen who eroticize young girls, especially those who are on the cusp of puberty. It takes its name, of course, from that famous novel by Vladimir Nabokov.

In Japan, the Lolita Complex, or "Lolicon" as it is called, has become a social phenomenon. The Japanese are unfortunately rather well known for this rather disturbing little fetish. A good look at contemporary Japanese art provides an ample example; women are usually drawn with extremely youthful faces (the famous Big Eyes, Small Mouth combination is an example of this), and the plots of numerous manga and anime revolve around young girls who become interested in men who are much older than they (Sailor Moon, for example).

Outside of the realm of comics and cartoons, the Japanese pop-music scene is constantly beset by an endless rotation of new girl bands, usually with singers between the age of 13 and 17.

Interestingly enough, many Japanese artists are aware of Lolicon art and seek to subvert it by taking it to extremes, often particularly unusual or grotesque extremes. Several excellent examples of this phenomenon were organized by Tokyo-based artist Takashi Murakami as part of the exhibiton Superflat.

As for why Japan has always historically been subject to a relatively high occurance and tolerance for Lolicon may have to do with the integration of Japanese culture with shinto, Japan's indigenous animist religion. Shinto associates divinity with the concepts of newness and purity, which are two qualities traditionally found in children, but especially (I suppose) little girls.


Thursday, August 23, 2001 at 05:27:35
khym chanur:

I agree that not all Japanese Big Eyes, Small Mouth styled artwork (or even most of it) directly caters to any form of Lolita Complex. However, if we agree that lolicon is an actual living Japanese social phenomenon, then I think that BESM artwork can be taken as a sign of its acceptance (or at least quiet acceptance) and influence (even unintentional influence) in the greater culture. My hypothesis is supported by the literature that accompanies several of the exhibits of the Superflat, exhibition of Japanese art I mentioned earlier when I talked about the artists who actively seek to subvert BESM and other artistic styles that, on some level, sexualize children, or, as is almost always the case, childize the sexy.

I, personally, am I big fan of anime and manga. Some of my stuff though, such as the later issues of the Dragon Half manga published in Japan by Kadokawa Comics Dragon Jr., and the Pure Trance manga and fractured fairytales illustrated by Mizuno Junko and published in Japan by Cue Comics contain artwork and plot points that could be seen as being related to lolicon. Both of these are comics that I enjoy. There are elements, but they certainly don't dominate the books, or even come close. They are subtle elements, but they are there.

I don't think that Big Eyes, Small Mouth (in anime), young girls having relationships with adult men (also in anime), and 13 to 17 year old pop stars can be construed as evidence of lolicon in Japan; I'm not saying that it isn't prevalent, to some degree, in Japan, just that these things aren't good evidence for it.

Most anime/manga characters (in my experience) have small mouths unless they're smiling, frowning, or talking loud. And while women tend to have larger eyes in anime than men, I'm under the impression that this is because "big eyes" = "cute" in the Japanese culture. Thus, I don't think Big Eyes, Small Mouth is any indication of lolicon.

And while there might be a lot of anime with adult men and younger girls, I don't think that much of this is catering to, or influenced by, any sort of lolicon. Most of the stories where this occurs is written by women for girls. Many of the girls who watch/read this anime/manga have fantasies about going out with older men, and many of the writers had such fantasies when they were girls themselves; it's a form of wish fulfillment. The only shounen (boys) series I can think of with lolicon element is Maze, where the barely-pubescent Mill is in love with college age Maze. However, she's in love with both male and female Maze (who switches genders depending on if it's day or night), male Maze goes after anything female old enough to have breasts (which Mill barely has), and... It's just so weird in the sex/romance/gender departments that I don't know if it should count.

Of course, in all anime/manga there's lots of unrequited crushes by girls on older/adult men, but I don't see that as having to do anything with lolicon; that's just life.

And the 13 to 17 year old girls who are Japanese pop stars... Considering the popularity of the likes of Britney Spears among young girls in the U.S., I wouldn't be surprised if their primary audience was young girls. While men with a lolicon would obviously be fans of these idol singers, I seriously doubt that they're the driving force behind the phenomenon.



Examples of shoujo (girl oriented) anime/manga which have loliconesque relationships (and not just crushes by a young girl on an adult man):
  • CardCaptor Sakura, the manga. 10 year old girl Rika gets engaged to her homeroom teacher, Mr. Terada. (That's right, engaged)
  • CLAMP Campus Detectives. 5th grader Takamura Suoh and 4th grader Iyuujn Akira each have an, err, "girlfriend" who is in kindergarten. Really.
  • In Magic Knight Rayearth, 14 year old Hikaru ends up with an adult man.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, 15 year old Miaka gets a virtual harem of adult men who are interested in her, and she returns her love to one of them (Tamahome).
  • In Sailor Moon, 14 year old Usagi (Serena) and college age Mamoru (Darien) are a couple in the anime. (Mamoru is somewhere from 18 to 20 years old; it's never laid down exactly how old he is). In the manga, he's a high-school senior.

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