A few months ago as I was living my normal life, watching subbed seiyuu videos on YouTube, I stumbled upon this one interesting clip that featured a couple of well-known VA idols in Ohashi Ayaka (may know her from THE IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, Bandori) and Serizawa Yuu (PriPara, i☆Ris). Pretty much, the clip revolved around a sent-in fan mail which discussed Seriko, her burikko personality, and how they believe it’s a great characteristic she has.
…when I heard the word burikko being used in this video, I didn’t exactly know what that meant. Obviously I don’t know a lick of Japanese, but even after years of being engrossed in these areas of Japanese media (idols, CGDCT anime, etc), I’m surprised I haven’t heard of that term before. So I went ahead and looked it up, and I felt like I should share what I found + give my opinion on it.
To quote an article on SoraNews24 about the topic at hand, they state the following:
The term Burikko, and years before it Kamatoto, is usually used only for girls. To put it simply, Burikko describes the kind of girl who pretends to be cute, either acting in a totally different way to her true self or taking her inner kawaii to the absolute max. Even outside Japan, you might imagine some young girls doing something similar to appeal to men, but in Japan, Burikko isn’t about sex appeal so much as for the pleasure of being seen as cute and innocent.TokyoGirlsUpdate (via SoraNews24)
They also give some examples of ways people act when taking on this particular personality such as speaking at a much higher pitch than how they naturally sound, pretending to be naive, and even instantly changing how they behave when men are around them. Pretty much when you call someone a burikko, they act super cute and express a large amount of positive energy… but almost at an unhealthy level (I guess when looking at this in a Western perspective, some would compare this to the ‘goody-two-shoes’ personality type, where they act and look perfect to the point where it becomes annoying).
Ohhh, now I get it. Given that Japan has such an obsessive culture revolving around cuteness and many things being presented as adorable-looking (from kids toys, clothing, entertainment, to even advertisements not even targeted towards children), it’s no surprise that this kind of nature has influenced the individual behaviors of people, especially young or even adult women.
But there has been some debate among the masses regarding this type of behavior. On one hand, some (especially men) find that women who are burikko are easy to be around and simply give off vibes that are gratifying to the soul. But on the other hand, some people think it’s too over-the-top, fake, and just plain annoying. They believe this kind of behavior doesn’t allow women to show their true self and simply isn’t needed in order to appeal to other people, like men.
And I can totally see where both sides are coming from. Me being from the United States, a lot of us see people who act overly cute and expressive as ‘cringy’ or strange, just like what Seriko pointed out in that video clip. But at the same time, as a person who has been in the anime and female idol fandoms for so long, Japan’s love of cute things has had a major impact on myself and thus I now naturally gravitate towards enjoying idols or voice actresses with the burikko personality.
That being said, what I just talked about in the last paragraph is definitely a good segue to my next point: how the burikko personality trait is common in seiyuu and idol cultures. And if you’re familiar with either area of Japanese entertainment, you’d probably know that it’s very prevalent.
By common definition, Japanese idols are people who entertain the public by performing pop songs and dance in flashy clothing. But there’s something that overshadows that whole concept which, like with most things in the entertainment industry, is that idols are primarily for marketing purposes. Japan knows very well that the appeal of idols sells, due to there being a large and dedicated fan base who will buy anything that features their favorite member or group, from CDs to concert/event tickets to apparel, etc, etc. But why does the appeal of idols rake in so many fans (and with fans also comes money), you may ask? Well, a big part of it is because of their appearances and personalities.
I did a collaboration with my friend Leap250 a couple years ago where we reviewed Tokyo Idols, a documentary that explores the idol industry and the problematic-yet-intriguing relationship female idols have with their fans, who tend to be middle-aged men. Leap mentioned this one point/theory in our review that, I think, explains further how appearances and personalities are so important when it comes to appealing to people and fans:
One of the narratives to idol fandom (amidst the handful that try to explain why it is exactly that some people gravitate to idol fascination) is how man is naturally attracted to “youthful innocence” — to a fleeting existence that can never be reclaimed. The theory proposes the idea that the fans don’t necessarily look at the idol, but at what she represents for the viewer — which in this case, would be youth.Leap250 (via Leap250’s Blog)
And I think that’s where the whole concept of burikko comes in, how a lot of young idols tend to act overly cutesy and speak in a higher pitch since for one, they’re in the age range where they normally act that way, and two, that’s the main appeal of their body of work: youthfulness. That’s what fans love to see and that’s what fans pay money for. So while there could be some ‘fakeness’ within idols that are a little bit older and how they act in front of fans, cameras, the media… regardless, always having a high-spirited character is sort of something that is required if you pursue a career as an idol.
But since I’m more educated and interested in the culture of voice actors and actresses, how does the burikko personality apply there? At first, it may not seem like it’s prevalent in this area but from first-hand experience, I believe it is.
It’s widely known that a lot of today’s top voice actresses (as well as male actors, but I don’t know too much about that side of the culture lol) started off portraying characters in anime and different types of digital media, then later went on to also pursue music and/or idol careers. Icons like Uchida Maaya, Toyama Nao, Tomatsu Haruka, Ogura Yui; all have went through that specific process. And yes, all of them tend to have burikko-like personalities, given that they are considered idols.
Even so, I think what’s interesting about the seiyuu-idol hybrids is that in the end, they started off and still are actresses, so portraying someone other than themselves is ultimately their job. But at the same time, given that the genre of moe/cute-girls-doing-cute-things anime represents a large chunk in the industry, them being featured in shows like that could be what influenced them to have a bubbly personality. Since a lot of these voice actresses are known to play cute girls and lolis and characters of that sort, as well as perform opening and ending songs with a similar style, that personality type could have rolled over when they go on to be solo artists/idols (plus it certainly helps in the appeal towards otaku fans).
However going back to a previous point where I mentioned that some people in Japan don’t believe women need to act like a burikko in order to appeal to other people, or more specifically, men… I agree! They don’t and there are many seiyuu/idols who I love for completely different reasons, whether that be because of their interests, sense of humor, or most importantly, their TALENT. And like Seriko (strangely but accurately) said in the clip at the beginning of the post, there are a lot of people in this industry who are ‘organically cute’ anyway. But I think the fact that having that characteristic is more-or-less ‘required’ in order to be more marketable and appealing to fans is why it’s so common within this medium.
Then again, I understand that not every idol acts like a burikko. There are quite a lot of idol personalities out there who act more mature. But given that this style of behavior is so widespread, I had to discuss about it.
So yeah. Just something I found to be interesting. I also may be talking non-sense so let me know if that’s the case lol.
What are your thoughts about the burikko personality type? Lemme know in the comments!
Thanks for reading!! 😀
also I just realized… Serizawa (Yuu) + burikko = Seriko? 🤯
(…i have no idea if that’s true lol)
One thought on “Learning About the ‘Burikko’ Personality (And Its Presence in Seiyuu/Idol Culture)”
I can’t recall where or when it was exactly that I first encountered the term ‘burikko’, but at the very least I most often see it being put on display during radio/TV programs. Specifically, and in recent memory, I only ever hear about it as a prompt or role for someone to play out given a certain scenario like in one of those “act out this scene” type of games. For example, @5:24 of this clip, after Anchan was asked to introduce Chika in a burikko-like manner, Shukashuu asks Rikyako for a burikko impression of her own as she’s supposedly really good at it, to which we find out that she is, lol (https://youtu.be/KDAiTppdN3A?t=324).
The personality in these programs, usually a seiyuu or an idol, when given the prompt to act as a ‘burikko’ almost always default to the same character archetype; that of an over-the-top (you could even say gaudy), cutesy, air-headed ditz chara speaking in a childish manner. It’s actually kinda funny how almost everyone in the industry has nearly the exact same ‘burikko’ impression in their backpockets that they can just bring out when asked to do so. Of course, whenever they do do these impressions, it’s an exaggeration taken to the extremes – but I think that is also interesting to note in itself.
Burikko, to differentiate from personality types found in more prominent Japanese subcultures that share similar traits such as that of lolita or gyaru, is more of an assumed role. A caricature, as opposed to a character, if you will. Going back to the exchange between Hasshi and Seriko, no one (ideally at least) is naturally a burikko, and more often than not is just acted out in a tongue-in-cheek manner to elicit a response. Relating it to idol/seiyuu, and going to your point, I guess it’s almost like a personality type that they just end up acquiring by nature of being in the entertainment business as themselves being young females.
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