The Lolicon of 1982

Kransom recently showed me this image from a 1982 issue of Animage Magazine. The image is a chart which is designed for you the reader to figure out your lolicon level. The further down the list your preferences go, the more of a lolicon you are.

I don’t expect people to recognize every character. I certainly didn’t, which is why I’m including this handy guide. From left to right:

Top Row (You’re Normal): Fiolina (Dagli Appennini alle Ande), Clara (Heidi), Monsley (Future Boy Conan), Hilda (Hols: Prince of the Sun), Lana (Future Boy Conan), Clarisse (Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro)
Middle Row (Serious Symptoms): Aloise (A Dog of Flanders), Diana (Anne of Green Gables), Megu (Majokko Megu-chan), Becky (Tom Sawyer), Angie (Her Majesty’s Petite Angie), Heidi (Heidi)
Bottom Row (Already Sick): Lighthouse Keeper Girl (Wanwan Chuushingura), Princess of the Purple Star (Gulliver’s Space Travels), Shizuka (Doraemon), Makiko (Tetsujin 28 (1980)), Ulala (Robokko Beaton), Mayu (Space Pirate Captain Harlock)

Though it might seem unnecessary for me to repeat it, I have to restate that this comes from 1982 and a very different era of anime. This is not the modern-age pandering lolicon of Kodomo no Jikan and other similar shows. Looking at this list, the majority includes characters from shows that were produced by future Studio Ghibli staff such as Miyazaki and Takahata, as well as characters from famous children’s literature around the world such as Tom Sawyer and Anne of Green Gables, and I don’t think anyone would accuse Diana Barry of being a one-dimensional character.

Though moe is not lolicon, the generally youthful look of moe characters means that the two ideas are often associated with each other. And aside from the idea that Miyazaki and children’s literature created the lolita complex in anime fans, accusations which are not new, I think the real implication is that as much as we decry lolicon and the like for being shallow, vapid, and creepy, this shows that it came from a real source consisting of strong storytelling and visual quality. Though I might be reaching a little, I really think that the people who realized their own lolicon-ness as the result of these shows were taken in by the excellent characterization of the young girl characters present in these anime, and not because these characters hit any specific buttons. This sentiment was then carried over, becoming reduced and simplified in the same manner that resulted in the current understanding of moe, and also in a fashion to how the people who fell in love with Gundam would go on to work on their own giant robot anime years later.

It’s not my goal to defend or condemn lolicon, but rather to say that this aspect of anime fandom, like it or not, appears to be born from high-quality Japanese Animation from some of the greatest masters in the industry. In other words, even though there are shows that pander to lolicon, it was not lolicon-pandering shows which created the market in the first place.

フィオリーナ・ペッピーノ
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14 thoughts on “The Lolicon of 1982

  1. This sentiment was then carried over, becoming reduced and simplified in the same manner that resulted in the current understanding of moe, and also in a fashion to how the people who fell in love with Gundam would go on to work on their own giant robot anime years later.

    So it’s all Chinese whispers then, this devolution of lolicon? As it passes down, generation to generation, it gets diluted and withered, until it’s a shell of it’s former self?

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    • I may have been mistaken in using the word “simplified.” What I meant was that gradually it became not a side product of having characters that happened to appeal to lolicon through strong characterization, but something that was consciously targeted.

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    • It’s not devolution, but rather literary evolution. The more prominent visual and personality traits of these characters, over time, became visual and personality signifiers for the traits; in other words, the signifiers become cues to the audience as to what to expect from this character (e.g., to build a different character around the signifiers, or to subvert them)

      What happens sometimes, though, is that characters are constructed entirely out of signifiers, with nothing beneath the surface. Sometimes this serves a useful literary purpose (especially if we’re subverting the signifiers, or if the idea is to create a more abstract work). Other times it simply happens to grab a quick buck from those who don’t look beyond the superficial, In other words, the signified implied by the signifiers ceases to exist.

      Call it postmodernism, call it moeblobs, call it otaku pandering, call it loli fetishism, call it what you will: it’s a natural process of literary evolution, and, like most things literary, it’s a double-edged sword that can be used for good or for ill.

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  2. Two things leap out at me instantly with that chart.

    1. The entire top row is either Miyazaki or the key guy who did cleanup on his designwork, at least it SEEMS that way visually.

    (and remember, Miyazaki wasn’t really that big a deal back then, altho there clearly was much love for his work on Future Boy Conan and the bits of Lupin III he worked on)

    2. the squitch level seems to be more fixed by age or perceived age more than anything else. Of COURSE being MOE for Mayu would be creepy because she’s like 7, while Clarisse is an ‘acceptable’ 16 or so.

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  3. Wouldn’t it be more apt to say that it is “born” from individuals who interpreted these characters as sexual? Probably from the characters non-threatening nature? Probably in a backlash against the furthering movement of women to become equal? Some of these individuals then went on to create anime/manga with just such ideas in mind?

    Children’s literature and entertainment had been around a long time before so it would seem more likely that a societal factor led to the rise of lolicon.

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    • I agree with you in that it’d be more accurate to say that it was born from the individuals watching these shows, but I’m not sure if it’s the result of these characters being non-threatening so much as it is them being endearing, though the two could be conflated by viewers, and I’m sure that grouping everyone together so closely might also be a problem in my interpretation.

      Carl in the comment below mentions Manga! Manga!, which reminded me of the fact that Fred Schodt mentions in the book that at the time he wrote the book (1983 or earlier), there was a trend that was going away from the demure, quiet female character towards a more outgoing, assertive female character who supported the male protagonist as more of an older sister. While obviously there’s some difference between an “older” sister and a young girl who is considered lolicon, it still makes me think that the formation of lolicon was all not that simple, that it didn’t just take some nice visuals. Though I’m sure the visuals helped, even then it had less to do with the base design of the characters and more about how they looked as they moved and acted and felt alive in their stories. This might be why Miyazaki’s characters were so popular for this over others, as he is a master animator.

      This is kind of a bad example, because it’s very visual, but this whole thing makes me recall the way in which Bridget from Guilty Gear XX helped to popularize the “trap,” and in some cases even made people realize their own sexual orientation. Though Bridget was designed to have this sort of appeal, the detailed animation on his sprite (take a look at his standing animation) contributed significantly to the appeal by giving him a sense of livelihood.

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      • I feel you are somewhat ignoring the fact that at its core lolicon is sexual. And also that a major societal and sexual movement was starting in which grown women were (and still are) looking to be treated on a more even playing field. This can easily translate into feeling threatening to some men. Whereas young girl characters, even willful ones, are still a step below.

        I too wouldn’t say that lolicon is simple to explain, I just think there are more outside factors that contribute to it rather than it being a result of some well placed, well written, female characters who are supposed to be role models to young girls than anything else.

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  4. “Disturbingly, this has become a major trend. The rori-kon comics of erotic artist Aki Uchiyama have become so popular that, in 1981, by toning down the emphasis on the sex act and concentrating on voyeurism and diapers, he was able to break into the mainstream boys’ magazine Shonen Champion.”

    —Frederik L. Schodt, Manga! Manga! (Kodansha International, 1983)

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  5. Pingback: From Cutie Honey to Keijo!!!!!!!!: The Rise of Big Butts in Anime History | OGIUE MANIAX

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