My close personal friend… haha. We don’t talk. I mail him sometimes to congratulate him on a kick ass post, but anyway, John, of AnimeNation’s Ask John recently posted a very eloquent explanation of loli in the more general sense. It’s not porn, and I’m not going to bother posting porn in this post, I’m just going to recreate the question and answer here. Thanks for permission, John and AnimeNation. Buy some of their shit, people.
I don’t know if this is too scandalous a question for Ask John, but what titles would you recommend to watch as the best lolita anime?
In regards to the scandalous potential of any qualitative or critical discussion, I believe that excess anxiety over possible vilification or rejection hobbles the potential for education and analysis. If the “Lolita” theme is too taboo to discuss, it will never be understood. So I’m not afraid to discuss the genre, but I would like to approach this question with a personal objective. Simply providing a list of recommendations for erotica involving young looking characters wouldn’t be difficult, and I don’t believe in moral objections to objective qualification of the genre, but since the question posed isn’t specific, I’d prefer to answer with mainstream examples. Readers searching for examples of pornographic Lolita anime need look no farther than domestic releases like Little Monica Story, Magic Woman M, and Kite, or to imports such as the two Lolita Anime series, Imouto Jiru, and Cream Lemon: Yumeiro Bunny.
Instead, I’d like to concentrate on an exploration of the Lolita anime genre in mainstream anime by citing examples that reveal the breadth and appeal of the genre. Especially within American anime fandom, the prevailing opinion is that Lolita anime is depraved and immoral. I think that opinion is instinctive, thoughtless, and reactionary. Lolita characters are tremendously popular among Japanese fans. Self-referential anime including Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu and Genshiken even overtly state that little sister characters are an integral characteristic of (contemporary) anime. I believe that Lolita characters are cute and appealing similar to the way puppies, kittens, and koala bears are cute. Things that are petit, soft, and innocent are adorable. I don’t believe that theory is a sexist objectification of women because Lolita anime characters are fictional creations, not people. They are an artistic personification of the same spirit of cuteness that resides in puppies, except they act like human beings. In that sense, I can discuss a few of the anime series which best exemplify Lolita characters and the diverse types of anime that constitute Lolita anime.
Card Captor Sakura is the ideal example of Lolita anime. Sakura Kinomoto is a literal younger sister. She’s sweet, kind-hearted, and innocent, but also independent and responsible. Her constant outfit changing puts her in a steady cycle of adorable costumes for viewers to critique and rate. Her personality and her adventures are specifically designed to make viewers adore her, cheer for her, empathize with her, and want to look after her. The Card Captor Sakura anime doesn’t encourage any sexual objectification of its cast; the show literally makes viewers love its little girl protagonist.
The Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha series is Lolita anime specifically designed for adult male viewers. The series is a loosely affiliated spin-off from an erotic anime series, and its two television series were broadcast late at night for adult viewers, despite including no sexuality. Lyrical Nanoha, and its spiritual ancestor D4 Princess, are Lolita fighting anime. D4 Princess was possibly the first Lolita themed anime to feature bone crushing fights and character deaths. The Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s series ratchets up the action with intense magic battles and massive collateral damage between cute but steel-willed pre-adolescent girls. If Card Captor Sakura exemplifies the cute and sweet side of Lolita characters, Lyrical Nanoha A’s reflects the determined, loyal, and righteous urgency of the Lolita character.
Ichigo Marshmallow is a defining example of the placid, naturalistic side of Lolita anime. The “Strawberry Marshmallow” anime details the everyday lives of happy and cute pre-adolescent Japanese girls. Nothing in particular ever happens, leaving the appeal of the show in just sharing time with these little women. They’re young enough to not yet be preoccupied by boys or fashion, yet the anime slyly acknowledges their developing womanhood by including occasional suggestive scenes and imagery, such as showing the girls bathing, and using hips and butts as eyecatch images.
Series including Sailor Moon, Pretty Cure, and Akihabara Cyber Team don’t immediately create the impression that they’re Lolita anime since their characters don’t seem like pre-adolescents, but all three of these series are shows starring young girls which were very popular with adult viewers. Sailor Moon featured long legged teenage girls in short skirts and school uniforms, and also overtly dealt with romantic relationships. Pretty Cure, particularly the Pretty Cure Max Heart series, was specifically designed to appeal to both preadolescent girls and adult male viewers. Akihabara Cyber Team was initially designed as a series for preadolescent girl audiences, but reportedly eventually became most popular with young adult male viewers. Sailor Moon was the series that virtually single-handedly made America aware of the existence of anime that featured attractive and appealing young girl stars. The Sailor Moon anime itself doesn’t sexually fetishize its characters, but its ensemble cast and complex story made it acceptable for male viewers to watch a cartoon about teenage girls. Pretty Cure took the Sailor Moon formula and added the masculine martial arts of Dragon Ball Z. Akihabara Cyber Team contained obvious fan service, but also illustrated the theme of young girls being the origin of voluptuous adult women. The Akihabara Cyber Team television series illustrates the girls’ proxies growing into adult women. In the motion picture, two of the girls themselves reach the status of physically developing from children into fully formed adult women. Magical girl anime including Creamy Mami, Fancy LaLa, and Full Moon wo Sagashite deal with girls magically maturing, but these series are specifically shoujo anime while Akihabara Cyber Team is an action show that specifically seeks to reach male viewers.
I won’t try to argue that any of these series are among the very best anime ever made, although most of them are pretty good. I think these particular shows significantly contribute to an understanding of the characteristics and appeal of mainstream Lolita anime. These examples validate the Lolita theme as a distinct anime trend that is not inherently immoral or prurient. Lolita anime can be sexual, but it can also, evidently, be cute, fun, and even emotionally resonant. There are other Lolita themed anime which may be nicer looking or more complex than shows like D4 Princess and Akihabara Cyber Team, such as Petopeto-san, Negima!?, and Tsukuyome, but I think the shows which I’ve discussed in detail are ones which best reveal the characteristics of Lolita anime. In other words, these shows are among the best defining representations of mainstream Lolita anime.