Cuteness Abounds in I Love Kawaii

How many different kinds of cuteness are there? An artist named Charuca counts the ways in I Love Kawaii, a small but beautifully produced art book that introduces 32 different artists that create big-headed children, smiling hamburgers, happy cats and dogs, and literally hundreds of other adorable mascots and characters.

"Kawaii" is the Japanese word for "cute"—it's as much an exclamation as an adjective—and many of the creators in the book are Japanese, but Charuca also features practitioners of kawaii from China, Singapore, France, Spain, Colombia, Germany, the UK, Canada, and the U.S. Some, like Devil Robots and Lilidoll, have a touch of darkness to them. Others, like Catalina Estrada's folkloric paintings and Ryoko's candy-colored illustrations of happy animals, children, and rainbows, are pure sugar.

Charuca devotes four to ten pages to each artist, and she shows a variety of pieces by each one: character sketches, magazine covers, ads, sticker sheets, and stand-alone paintings. She writes a brief paragraph about each creator, but the text is mostly her own reactions to the art; some background material would have been nice, and I would have loved to see some interviews with the creators to learn more about their influences and inspirations. Still, that would be a different book. Charuca does include websites and e-mails for each creator.

I Love Kawaii is a great introduction to the joys of kawaii. I had no idea there were so many different artists working in this genre. This book goes way beyond Hello Kitty to show just how interesting, creative, and even edgy kawaii art can be.

Here's a sneak preview of the art in the book, which goes on sale this week.

The City, by Bukubuku

Four designs by Leo Espinosa

White Rabbit, Brown Bunny and a T-shirt design by Aranzi Aronzo

Fortune Pork, Series 2, by Tado

Three drawings by Ryoko

An ad by Mimio

Higambana (left) and Ichigo (right) by Mizuka

Summer, by Meomi