Pharrel Williams' latest video It Girl has caused a commotion on the music scene: some consider it 'an animated epic', others labeled it as 'Pokémon-inspired', other found it uncannily disquieting. What's so special about it? The video is born from the meeting between the hip hop world and otaku culture: the protagonist is an anime-inspired, wide eyed girl. Co-directors are fashion designer Fantasista Utamaro and Takashi Murakami's mysterious pupil, Mr., who also participated in his mentor's 2001 show Superflat and 2005 show Little Boy. In a 2007 interview, Mr. defined himself as a lolicon: “I always loved manga, since I was a child. In high school, however, I developed my artistic side, I didn't want to be just a consumer any longer. I was embarrassed about being an otaku. In Japan there are many otaku with a 'lolita complex' and one of these, while I was in high school, killed four girls. I had the same complex – I still do – but the event made me understand I didn't want to be part of that world. I didn't want to be associated with that kind of people” (Source).
Lolicon (Lolita complex) indicates a preference for manga depicting young girls in erotic settings, but also the individual who feels such a preference. The phenomenon is widespread in Japan – in anime, manga, and music. Lolicon, however, mostly concern themselves with 2D material, eschewing 3D and therefore maintaining a semblance of legality. The phenomenon was born in the 70s', when erotically bent parodies of established franchises were fairly common; it then became more niche, and now it's mostly restricted to sci-fi and fantasy – some examples can be found in Akira and in Miyazaki's first films, the same media that contributed to the 'cool japan' phenomenon.
Talking of lolicon, one must also mention moe, a more indirect take on sexuality that focuses on less erotically-charged aspects of young girls' lives, allowing the male gaze to peer into the forbidden world of pre-adolescent sexuality from a legally acceptable point.
Pharrel Williams was not the first artist to collaborate with Kaikai Kiki, Takashi Murakami's factory. In 2007, the master created the cover for a Kanye West album.
It Girl 's protagonist is a girl named 'Yoshic[ch]!!', a meaningless utterance that is often repeated throughout the song. That same phrase can be found in a 2011 panting by Mr., Okay!!, depicting a girl in a sailor suit suggestively lifting a leg toward the viewer.
It might not be immediately clear to the eyes of us foreigner, but it seems evident that there is a link between the world of lolicon and It Girl.
Read also: Intervista a Murakami Takashi