- Warning: This article mentions topics like mental illness and suicide. Although it’s not graphic, please don’t read any further if you are uncomfortable with this.
If dressing adorable isn’t enough, have you heard of Yami Kawaii? I know I didn’t recognize it at first, but I looked into it so that all of us can better understand what this unique fashion style is all about.
Yami Kawaii is a fashion style that wears both pastel colors and black. It uses accessories, images, or words that display some form of mental illness or hospital-like sickness to bring awareness to Japan’s taboo on the subject.
During the rest of this article, I answer questions regarding what Yami Kawaii is about, why it started, the things and clothing they wear, and the biggest question that pops into people’s minds; Is this glorifying mental health, or is it helping it?
What is Yami Kawaii about?
Yami Kawaii is about expression and comfort. Some people use this style as a way to cope with traumatic situations they’ve been through. So they use this style of clothing as an expression of themselves and their struggles.
It gives a person confidence and happiness, and this is important for everyone to experience. But how did suffering from illness start the Yami Kawaii trend?
Why Did Yami Kawaii Start?
I touched on it a little bit earlier, but Yami Kawaii started because of Japan’s viewpoints on mental illness, specifically suicide, considering it as a sign of weakness. But many people like Bisuko Ezaki wanted to challenge that idea and spread awareness by speaking up about his experience, ultimately creating this unique fashion style.
Ezaki is both a Japanese illustrator and Manga writer that experienced mental illness due to being in an abusive household. During this time, he created Menhera-chan, a character that discovers her powers by slitting her wrists. He was drawing as a form of therapy and ultimately designed her while exams were inching closer.
Because of this, she became the mascot of raising awareness for the Yami Kawaii community. But what does someone like this wear?
What do Yami Kawaii lovers wear?
A good thing about this is that you don’t have to have an illness to partake in this great style! There are many cute and unique clothing items and accessories that people use when wearing Yami Kawaii outfits. I’ve seen gas masks, syringes, pill necklaces, bandage-themed clothing, bandaids, chokers, and so much more. Amazon and Etsy were the first places I thought of when looking for Yami Kawaii clothing.
I felt that Amazon had good clothing options with images when you search for ‘Yami Kawaii,’ but if you want clothing pieces that are more on the cute side, there’s Paloliworld. They have cute pastel outfits and accessories that you can add to darker clothing, but they also have cute black outfits if you want to use them.
I found that Etsy has almost everything from clothing to accessories that emphasize the illness aspect of the style. There is a lot of talent there, and finding cute and illness-driven pieces is not too hard when searching for Yami Kawaii. These places can be used to create a Yami kawaii style, look at one site or look through them all!
Now, what about the idea that this kind of style is glorifying mental health?
Is Yami Kawaii Glorifying Mental Health?
Some people think this is not spreading awareness; they believe it’s doing the opposite, but why?
According to some, this style and Menhera-Chan is a dangerous way to cope with mental illness. The COMM has claimed this regarding Ezaki’s character, “The message that you become magical when you slit your wrists is a dangerous one.” I can see why they see it this way; it’s not the most friendly way to achieve abilities.
Summoning powers this way is not common, but so is the topic of mental health in Japan. Yet The COMM doesn’t see how this is helping raise awareness, and they see a problem with Mental illness being represented as kawaii.
They’ve mentioned how making this seem pretty and cute spreads a wrong message, and it shouldn’t be, “—wrapped up in a neat little bow—.” There is more to this article, but I can understand this person’s viewpoint with this being said.
Although, I also see how this style and the people behind it are using it to achieve awareness.
The Pleiades from The Treasure Box Press looked into this topic even deeper. In summary, some people of Japan sometimes fall into the idea of “pity arousing compassion.” They feel so wrong about something that they start paying more attention to it, which is Mental illness in this case.
We know mental health awareness is almost nonexistent in Japan, so “—public perspective—might shift from ‘people who are hopeless’ to ‘people that need help.’” Although The COMM said mental health shouldn’t be wrapped in a present, sometimes sugar coating is precisely what they need to ease them and unsure people into Yami Kawaii and mental illness.
Going from 0 – 100 is tough, so taking baby steps towards raising the visibility of mental illness is more manageable and easy to swallow. What makes them uncomfortable possibly makes others with an illness feel safe and reassured; everyone is different.
The Pleiades said, “improving visibility alone would be a step towards normalizing mental illness,” and as some would say, something is better than nothing.
Yami Kawaii is about mixing dark and pastel clothing to spread awareness around hospital-like and mental illness issues. It started because of illnesses that some people of Japan refused to acknowledge and accept were a problem.
Thanks to people like Ezaki, awareness, self-love, and comfort were spread using his character Menhera-Chan and his creation of Yami Kawaii. Although some people will think of this as a negative thing, I can assuringly say that this is (in its way) helping people through struggling times and is raising awareness in Japan through fashion expression.
Yami kawaii is not just a fashion style, though; it’s a part of people’s stories and experiences. Finding clothing options for this kind of style is sometimes tedious, so hopefully, the ones I mentioned were an excellent small step towards helping you find what you’re looking for. So if you like this style and wanna try it, not only will you be helping raise awareness around mental health, you’ll look good doing it too!
“Bisuko Ezaki and Menhera-Chan.” Tumblr, menhera-chan.tumblr.com/about.
The COMM. “Think Piece: Movement or Misinformation?” The COMM, 22 July 2020, the-comm.online/blog/movement-or-misinformation/.
“Menhera-Chan Aka Momoka Sakurai.” Wrist-Cut Transformation Subculture✡Menhera Wiki, menhera.fandom.com/wiki/Momoka_Sakurai.
Pleiades. “Taboos Transformed into Cuteness - Yami Kawaii.” TreasureBox PRESS, 1 Nov. 2018, treasurebox-press.com/taboos-transformed-cuteness-yami-kawaii/.