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Lolicon (ロリコン?), also romanised as rorikon,[1] is a Japanese portmanteau of the phrase "Lolita complex".[2][3] In Japan, the term describes an attraction to underage girls,[4] or an individual with such an attraction.[5][6] Outside Japan, the term is less common and most often refers to a genre of manga and anime wherein childlike female characters are depicted in an erotic manner. The phrase is a reference to Vladimir Nabokov's book Lolita, in which a middle-age man becomes sexually obsessed with a twelve-year-old girl.[7] The equivalent term for attraction to (or art pertaining to erotic portrayal of) young boys is shotacon.[8]

Some critics claim that the lolicon genre contributes to actual sexual abuse of children,[9][10] while others claim that there is no evidence for this,[10][11] or that there is evidence to the contrary.[12] Although several countries have attempted to criminalize lolicon's sexually explicit forms as a type of child pornography, Canada, Australia,[13] New Zealand, Sweden,[14] the Philippines[15] and Ireland are among the few to have actually done so.[citation needed]

In Japan

Generally, lolicon is a term used to describe a sexual attraction to younger girls or girls with youthful characteristics. In other words, it can refer to actual or perceived pedophilia and ephebophilia. Strictly speaking, Lolita complex in Japanese refers only to the paraphilia itself, but the abbreviation lolicon can refer to an individual that has the paraphilia as well.[5] Lolicon is a widespread phenomenon in Japan, where it is a frequent subject of scholarly articles and criticism.[16] Many general bookstores and newsstands openly offer illustrated lolicon material, but there has also been police action against lolicon manga.[16] There are also stores that target the lolicon audience.[9] The consumers are said to be white-collar workers in their 20s and 30s who do not complain about the high prices of lolicon merchandise such as figurines and accessories.[9]

The "kawaii" style (which translates to "cute") is extremely popular in Japan, where it is present in many of the manga/anime styles.[17] The school-age girl in a school uniform is also an erotic symbol in Japan, comparable to the image of a cheerleader in the United States. Burusera shops cater to men with lolicon complexes by selling unwashed panties, men can make dates with teenagers through terekura ("telephone clubs"),[18] and some schoolgirls moonlight as prostitutes.[19] Together, these create the "strange collusion which exists in Japanese culture between the hentai (pervert) and the kawaii (cute)."[20] Conversely, the great cultural respect associated with old age would make it incompatible with portraying ecchi behavior in manga, except in a greatly exaggerated farce context (typical examples being "Dirty Old Men", Dragon Ball's Muten-Rôshi, Master Happosai in Ranma ½).

Sexual manga featuring children or childlike characters are called lolicon manga and are legal in Japan.[16][21] Lolicon manga are usually short stories, published as dōjinshi or in magazines specializing in the genre such as Lemon People, Manga Burikko, and Comic LO. Common focuses of these stories include taboo relationships, such as between a teacher and student or brother and sister, while others feature sexual experimentation between children. Some lolicon manga cross over with other hentai genres, such as crossdressing and futanari.[16] Kodomo no Jikan is an example of a series that, while not pornographic, draws on lolicon themes for its plot.

Lolicon is a subject of criticism in the Superflat exhibition.[4][22]


The use of the term "Lolita complex" in Japan began in the early 1970s with the translation of Russell Trainer's The Lolita Complex. Shinji Wada used the word in his Stumbling upon a cabbage field (キャベツ畑でつまずいて Kyabetsu-batake de tsumazuite?), an Alice in Wonderland manga parody in 1974.[23]

The "lolicon manga" genre closely related to manga media began with Hideo Azuma's works, such as The machine which came from the sea (海から来た機械 Umi kara kita Kikai?), in the early 1980s. Azuma had been publishing some sexual manga featuring girls in his own self-published magazine Cybele before that time.[24] Azuma's works became popular among schoolboy readers because most of the pornographic manga up until then had featured mature women influenced by gekiga, but Azuma's works are not pornographic in a strict sense though they contain many sexual elements. Following Azuma's success, some pornographic manga magazines, such as Manga Burikko and Lemon People, began featuring prepubescent girls. Throughout the 1980s, notable lolicon mangaka who published in these magazines include Nonki Miyasu, Kamui Fujiwara, Yoshito Asari and Aki Uchida.

Gender roles

Sharon Kinsella wrote that lolicon manga was a late-1980s outgrowth of girls' manga,[7] which included male homosexual love stories and parodies of boys' and adult manga.[25] This occurred as more men attended amateur manga conventions and as new boys' amateur manga genres appeared at Comiket. Kinsella distinguished between the attitudes toward gender of amateur lolicon manga and that of male fans of girls' manga.[7] While parody manga created by women ridicule male stereotypes and appeal to both male and female fans, lolicon manga "usually features a girl heroine with large eyes and a body that is both voluptuous and child-like, scantily clad in an outfit that approximates a cross between a 1970s bikini and a space-age suit of armor".[7] This latter feature expresses both fear and desire for young women, who have become increasingly powerful in Japanese society.[26] Kinsella noted dominant British and American genres and imports of animation video in the 1990s derived from lolicon manga, suggesting women in all of these countries have gone through similar social and cultural experiences.[27]

Female mangaka who draw what has been interpreted as lolicon include Chiho Aoshima (The red-eyed tribe billboard),[28] Aya Takano (Universe Dream wall painting),[29] Kaworu Watashiya (Kodomo no Jikan),[30] and Yukiru Sugisaki (Rizelmine).[31] Male artists include Henmaru Machino (untitled, aka Green Caterpillar's Girl), Hitoshi Tomizawa (Alien 9, Milk Closet), and Bome (sculptures).[4]

Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki said in a 1988 interview with Animage that while he prefers to have female protagonists, "It's difficult. They immediately become the subjects of rorikon gokko (play toy for Lolita Complex guys). In a sense, if we want to depict someone who is affirmative to us, we have no choice but to make them as lovely as possible. But now, there are too many people who shamelessly depict (such protagonists) as if they just want (such girls) as pets, and things are escalating more and more". He expressed concern as to what this might mean for "human rights for women."[32] In shojo manga, characters of stories may enter into relationships with others due to circumstance or mutual attraction. The relationship may even blossom into romance. In 2006, an editor-in-chief of a major shōjo magazine said "Love affair is a big theme in today's shojo manga. It's impossible to completely take out descriptions of sexual activity—that's just the result of love and affection".[33]

Outside Japan

The meaning of lolicon has evolved much in the Western world, as have the meanings of other words such as anime, otaku and hentai. In the West, lolicon refers to anime or manga that contains sexual or erotic portrayals of prepubescent or childlike characters, and is thus close cognate to the Japanese term lolicon manga. The use of the word lolicon in the West is an indication that the material is overtly, even if not explicitly, erotic.[34][35]


Laws have been enacted to criminalize "obscene images of children, no matter how they are made," for preventing abuse.[36] An argument is that obscene fictional images portray children as sex objects, thereby contributing to child sexual abuse. This argument has been disputed by the claim that there is no scientific basis for that connection,[37] and that restricting sexual expression in drawings or animated games and videos might actually increase the rate of sexual crime by eliminating a harmless outlet for desires that could motivate crime.[11] This is exemplified in a case involving a man from Virginia who asserted at his arrest that after viewing lolicon at a public library, he had quit collecting real child pornography and switched to lolicon.[38]

Cultural critic Hiroki Azuma said that very few readers of lolicon manga commit crimes. In the otaku culture, lolicon is the "most convenient [form of rebellion]" against society.[10]

Milton Diamond and Ayako Uchiyama observe a strong correlation between the dramatic rise of pornographic material in Japan from the 1970s onwards and a dramatic decrease in reported sexual violence, including crimes by juveniles and assaults on children under 13. They cite similar findings in Denmark and Germany. In their summary, they state that the concern that countries with widespread availability of sexually explicit material would suffer increased rates of sexual crimes was not validated and that the reduction of sexual crimes in Japan during that period may have been influenced by a variety of factors they had described in their study.[12]

Sharon Kinsella observed an increase in unsubstantiated accounts of schoolgirl prostitution in the media in the late 1990s, and speculated that these unproven reports developed in counterpoint to the increased reporting on comfort women. She speculated that, "It may be that the image of happy girls selling themselves voluntarily cancels out the other guilty image".[10]

A Japanese non-profit organization called CASPAR has claimed that lolicon and other anime magazines and games do encourage sex crimes. The group, founded in 1989, campaigns for regulation of depiction of minors in pornographic magazines and video games.[39] Public attention was brought to bear on this issue when Tsutomu Miyazaki kidnapped and murdered four girls between the ages of 4 and 7 in 1988 and 1989, committing acts of necrophilia with their corpses.[40] The Tokyo High Court ruled him sane, stating that "the murders were premeditated and stemmed from Miyazaki's sexual fantasies"[41] and he was executed by hanging for his crimes on June 17, 2008.[42]

Public sentiment against sexual cartoon depictions of minors was revived in 2005 when a convicted sex offender, who was arrested for the murder of a seven-year-old girl in Nara, was suspected as a lolicon.[39] Despite media speculation, it was found that the murderer, Kaoru Kobayashi, seldom had interest in manga, games or dolls.[43] He claimed, however, that he had become interested in small girls after watching an animated pornographic video as a high school student.[44] He was sentenced to death by hanging.

According to Michiko Nagaoko, director of a non-profit organization in Kyoto called Juvenile Guide, founded in 2003, approximately half of the 2,000 pornographic animation titles distributed in Japan every year, including films and video games, feature schoolgirl characters.[44]

On March 11, 2008, UNICEF Japan issued a statement calling for further tightening of child pornography laws in Japan, including the ban of sexual depictions of minors in manga, anime and computer games.[45] Such a ban, however, is not being considered by Japan's officials for the time being.[46]

See also

  • Enjo kōsai (where older men give money and/or luxury gifts to attractive women for their companionship, and possibly sexual favors)
  • Shotacon (male equivalent of lolicon)
  • Moe (a similar aesthetic but less sexual in nature)
  • Junior idol[47] (child or early teenager pursuing a career as a photographic model)
  • Pedophilia

Legal aspects


  1. Connolly, Julian (2009). A reader's guide to Nabokov's "Lolita". Studies in Russian and Slavic literatures, cultures and history (annotated ed.). Academic Studies Press. p. 169. ISBN 1934843652. 
  2. Mead, Rebecca (March 18, 2002). "Shopping rebellion; what the kids want. (Letter from Tokyo)". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved January 13, 2008. 
  3. Script error
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Darling, 82.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rosemary Feitelberg (June 22, 2007). "On the drawing board. (Lehmann Maupin gallery)". Women's Wear Daily. Archived from the original on December 9, 2012. Retrieved January 13, 2008. 
  6. Script error
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Kinsella, 305.
  8. Pandey, Ashish (2005). Ashish Pandey, ed. Dictionary of Fiction. Delhi, India: Gyan Books. p. 234. ISBN 8182052629. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "'Rorikon' trade nurturing a fetish for young females". Japan Today. March 22, 2004. Retrieved January 13, 2008. [dead link]
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Tony McNicol (April 27, 2004). "Does comic relief hurt kids?". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved January 18, 2008. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Script error
  12. 12.0 12.1 Milton Diamond and Ayako Uchiyama (1999). "Pornography, Rape and Sex Crimes in Japan". International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 22 (1): 1–22. PMID 10086287. doi:10.1016/S0160-2527(98)00035-1. Retrieved January 6, 2008. 
  13. McLelland, Mark. The World of Yaoi: The Internet, Censorship and the Global “Boys’ Love” Fandom Australian Feminist Law Journal, 2005.
  14. Script error
  15. "House wants to ban pornographic cartoon". House of Representatives of the Philippines. Retrieved April 16, 2009. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Kinsella, Sharon (2000). Adult Manga. University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0-8248-2318-4. 
  17. "The Darker Side of Cuteness," The Economist, May 8, 1999.
  18. "Breaking the Mold," Sydney Morning Herald, October 7, 1995
  19. Willis Witter (April 6, 1997). "Teen prostitutes sell favors after school in Tokyo" (fee required). The Washington Times. Retrieved January 13, 2008. 
  20. "TURNING JAPANESE? TURNING JAPANESE? I REALLY THINK SO," by Nick Currie. The Herald (Glasgow), September 26, 1998.
  21. Gelder, Ken. The Subcultures Reader, 2nd ed. Oxon: Routledge, 2005. p. 547. ISBN 0-415-34415-8
  22. May Abbe (July 20, 2001). ""Superflat" art from Japan collapses hierarchies by merging "high" and "low" art, populist and elite genres, advertising and noncommercial media, even 2-D and 3-D concepts". Star Tribune. Retrieved January 20, 2008. 
  23. Shinji Wada, "Kyabetsu-batake de tsumazuite" in Bessatsu Margaret, June, 1974, p.121
  24. (Japanese) Maruta Hara and Kazuo Shimizu, "The Lolicon Dōjinshi Reviews" (ロリコン同人誌レビュー Rorikon dōjinshi rebyū?)[1] in Apple Pie, March, 1982, p.116
  25. Kinsella, 304.
  26. Darling, 82. Kinsella, 306.
  27. Kinsella, 307.
  28. Darling, 85–6.
  29. Darling, 86.
  30. Jason DeAngelis (May 29, 2007). 29, 2007/jason-deangelis-nymphet "Seven Seas Entertainment Talks about Nymphet" Check |url= value (help). Anime News Network. Retrieved January 18, 2008. ...those who are speaking out against Nymphet seem to be disturbed by the relationship between two characters in the story, namely an elementary school student and her adult teacher. [dead link]
  31. "Rizelmine (book review)". Publishers Weekly. September 19, 2005. Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved January 18, 2008. ...this irrational and unsettling love story will disturb all but the most dedicated shonen manga otaku. 
  32. original source: Animage, vol. 125, November 1988. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  33. "A History of Shojo, Loli, and Harmful Books". Comipress. July 17, 2007. 
  34. "Glossary Entry: Lolicon". Anime Meta-Review. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved January 6, 2008. 
  35. "Does comic relief hurt kids? | The Japan Times Online". Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved September 17, 2008. 
  36. White House (April 30, 2003). "President Signs PROTECT Act". Press release. Retrieved June 11, 2007.
  37. In Free Speech Coalition v. Reno (later Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition), the court held that "[f]actual studies that establish the link between computer-generated child pornography and the subsequent sexual abuse of children apparently do not yet exist."
  38. Mike Allen (October 7, 2006). "Man will serve 10 months for child porn". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved January 7, 2008. 
  39. 39.0 39.1 "Lolicon Backlash in Japan". Anime News Network. January 13, 2005. Retrieved June 7, 2007. 
  40. "Serial killer Miyazaki must hang: Supreme Court", The Japan Times. 01/18/2006. Retrieved July 7, 2007.
  41. "Court rules serial killer Miyazaki sane", The Japan Times, 06/29/01. Retrieved June 7, 2007.
  42. "Reports: Japan executes man convicted of killing and mutilating young girls in 1980s". International Herald Tribune. June 17, 2008. Retrieved June 17, 2008. 
  43. "Otaku harassed as sex-crime fears mount". The Japan Times. February 6, 2005. Archived from the original on December 16, 2007. Retrieved January 6, 2008. 
  44. 44.0 44.1 "Child porn, if animated, eludes regulators", by Akemi Nakamura, The Japan Times. 05/18/2005. Retrieved June 7, 2007.
  45. Reynolds, Isabel (March 11, 2008). "UNICEF says Japan failing to control child porn". Reuters. Retrieved March 11, 2008. 
  46. McCurry, Justin (March 10, 2008). "Japan to outlaw possession of child porn". The Guardian (London). Retrieved March 11, 2008. 
  47. Hongo, Jun (May 3, 2007). "Photos of preteen girls in thongs now big business". The Japan Times Online. The Japan Times. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2008. 


  • Michael Darling (Autumn 2001). "Plumbing the Depths of Superflatness". Art Journal (Art Journal, Vol. 60, No. 3) 60 (3): 76–89. ISSN 0004-3249. doi:10.2307/778139. Retrieved January 20, 2008. Lolicon imagery is well-documented in Superflat, and relies on the angelic stare of the young girl for its erotic charge. [...] Kinsella writes, "The little girl heroines of Lolicon manga simultaneously reflect an awareness of the increasing power and centrality of young women...  More than one of |work= and |journal= specified (help)
  • Script error Titled "Amateur Manga Subculture and the Otaku Panic" by Kinsella on her website. Retrieved on January 14, 2008.

External links


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