Yamikawaii the dark side of Japanese fashion

Yamikawaii and Menhera-chan


Yamikawaii (病みかわいい) is a Japanese fashion aesthetic that has evolved from Yumekawaii (ゆめかわいい).

Kawaii means cute, Yume meaning dreamlike, and Yami being dark. Yamikawaii adds opposing elements to traditional Yumekawaii style to juxtapose the fantasy playfulness against darker themes and style. Yamikawaii is what happens when ‘”Yume” becomes dark.

Yami can also mean sick or dark in Japanese and is used to refer to mental health issues and darker themes.

How did Yamikawaii start?

A little known artist by the name of Bisuko Ezaki began posting illustrations to social media platforms as a way to deal with his mental health issues. Having been brought up by disapproving grandparents and facing difficult exams, he began to illustrate as a way to deal with his anguish and fears. His illustration became his therapy, and he introduced to Japan and the world Menhera chan a manga-style character that became the face of Yamikawaii. In 2013, Bisuko’s artwork began to gain popularity in Japan, especially from those who identified with the name and the meaning behind Menhera-chan.

Menhera-chan expresses vent art by following the story of a group of kawaii girls using magical box cutters and fighting against the evils of the world. You’ll see Menhera in a pink sailor suit; she has cute features and pink twin tails. She has a bunny friend named Usatan, his ears resemble medicine capsules, you’ll find her with two of her close, and relatively like-minded friends, Sabukaru-chan and Yumekawa-chan, and they are called wrist cut warriors. 

Yamikawaii illustration
Illustration
menhera-chan
Menhera-chan
Yamikawaii
Menhera -chan, and friends

How would you recognise Yamikawaii?

Japan is known worldwide for its unique and diverse street fashion. From visual kei style to lolita and Decora.

When looking at Yamikawaii style at first glance, it seems like regular Yumekawaii. It is only upon closer inspection that one might see accessories that complete the outfit, such as skulls, guns, syringes with blood leaking and gauze wrapped around the wrist to indicate self-harm.  

Adding such sick cute aesthetics is what makes it Yamikawaii. This style you will find on t-shirts saying, “I want to die”, or “Kill you”. Images such as pills, deep wounded scars, fake blood dripping, scissors, and similar dark yet cute themes run throughout. Yami kawaii boys or girls generally would wear pale pink makeup, dark pink undereye blush, also known as byojaku which means sickly in Japanese. Depressing looking eyes enhanced with red and pink eyeshadow. 

Yamikawaii can also sometimes be confused with the gurokawa known as creepy cute to westerners; however, this trend tends to be more casual and has more grotesque or gory themes. Monsters and blood are common.

Yamikawaii illustrated stockings
illustrated Stockings

Yamikawaii and Mental Health

Although Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, talking about depression and mental illness is considered taboo. Which is why Yamikawaii is so interesting, it’s an expression of something that should not be mentioned. Yamikawaii is not just fashion but is also a coping mechanism for complex emotions. Joshua Paul Dale is a professor from Japan who specialises in the impact of kawaii culture says “when you express kawaii, you are expressing a desire to appeal to the people, and expressing a desire for healing. So maybe that can help people with those dark and more difficult issues that cant be openly expressed in Japanese society”. 

For those that don’t know Yamikawaii may seem sort of frivolous teen fashion. Still, for people in Japan who are suffering from mental health issues; for them, Yamikawaii is bringing light to an important issue which also allows them to stand out as who they are, express their feelings and let them know they are not alone.

menhera-chan nad friends
Cute and dark
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