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Old 6th December 2009   #1
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default Hachi Koi: Kasugaoka Kurumi

We have often wondered what it would take for size celebration to come to Japan. Unlike the West, which idealized full-figured femininity from the dawn of Classical civilization until the advent of Modernism, East Asia lacks a strong tradition of curve appreciation.

On the other hand, there is much to admire in Japanese society. Today, traditional femininity is more culturally alive in Japan than in any other first-world nation. In fact, between the "princess" trend that Kirsten noted last year, and the lolita culture that Tamika recently described, the girly style is particularly well represented in the country's fashion industry.

Regrettably, though, while femininity thrives in Japanese culture, size celebration does not. We featured one post on the forum a while back about an isolated pro-curvy campaign in Japan, but other than that, the news from the Orient has not been propitious.

The lack of feminine curves is particularly glaring in the characters of Japanese anime--an indigenous style of animation. Anime films and television shows feature realistic backdrops, but stylized renderings of human characters, with large eyes, exaggerated facial expressions, multicoloured hair, etc. Young female anime characters often have pretty faces, but are universally underweight.

That makes the new dating-simulation game Hachi Koi an interesting case.

"Dating sims" are male-oriented video games that require players to romance an assortment of female characters. If that sounds like an odd premise for a video game, bear in mind that while the Western perception of Japanese animation may be of large robots battling gargantuan monsters, Japanese anime also has a venerable tradition of series such as Love Hina, which might be termed "romance entertainment for men." There really is no Western equivalent for this, but it testifies to the uncorrupted traditionalism of the Japanese psyche. The same type of masculine personality that can enthuse over samurai warfare can romantically idealize the kind of essentially feminine characters who populate Japanese anime.

But back to Hachi Koi. A serviceable outline of the game's premise runs as follows:

In Hachi Koi, the young male protagonist learns that heís going to die in one month--unless he can fall in love and convince one of the titleís ladies to return his feelings.

This is a standard hook for a dating sim.

What makes the game unique, however, is evident in the following image:

That's right. Amidst the game's usual stock group of waifs and overly vampish types, there is one honest-to-goodness plus-size girl.

Her name is Kasugaoka Kurumi, and while we wish that the animators had given her a longer hairstyle, she is fairly attractive, with fair features and a sweet, wholesome, demure look.

The game-makers deserve praise for endowing her with a natural and believable plus-size figure. She is buxom, but full around the waist, with a round face, and, compared to the other girls, shapely legs.

The following is a reduced screenshot of her profile on the Hachi Koi site. Heaven only knows what most of the text means, but one item is rather interesting: The text balloon at the bottom right, which shows Kurumi holding her head in her hands, obscures the character's measurements. Presumably, Kurumi is saying something like, "Oh, no, no, I can't let you see those." While that isn't exactly a size-celebratory sentiment, it doesn't seem overly negative either; more a coy gesture than anything else, suggesting that Kurumi sees her generous proportions as an embarrassment of riches.

You might have noticed the cookies and milk that appear in the screenshot, above. The game unapologetically associates Kurumi with a love of food and eating. It even offers a widget whereby if you right-click the cookie and drag it over the character's mouth, she is shown eagerly consuming it (accompanied by ecstatic sound effects).

Likewise, Hachi Koi previously issued a Tetris-inspired game associating Kurumi with chocolate squares.

Furthermore, a Hachi Koi wallpaper features the game's characters enjoying a traditional Japanese thermal bath, and Kurumi is shown with a tea tray, devouring a generous helping of tea biscuits. In each case, the character's love of food is presented as something joyful and delightful--not at all a source of shame or self-loathing. The game is not sending her up, but presenting her appetite as one of her most endearing qualities.

So how beneficial could this game be to the advancement of plus-size femininity? Well, Kurumi is regrettably not the kind of self-assured, voluptuous vixen--the self-aware timeless beauty, Venus reincarnate--who represents the pinnacle of size celebration. But neither is she depicted as being ashamed of herself (the coy bit about hiding her measurements notwithstanding). If not quite drop-dead gorgeous, she is nevertheless reasonably attractive. She is a viable romantic prospect in a dating simulation game--and that in itself is important, because it means that (a) there is a market in Japan for such a character, and (b) the company that created this game recognizes the existence of such a market, and is willing to cater to it.

In other words, enough people in Japan find full-figured girls attractive to make it a culturally recognized preference. By the existence of a Kurumi character, the Japanese media is acknowledging that plus-size girls are "datable" just as they are.

Better still, the overall public reaction to Kurumi, at least as much of it as exists in the English language, overwhelmingly acknowledges her attractiveness, as seen in this assortment of quotations from the Web:

"A new Japanese Nintendo DS dating sim called Hachi Koi features a cute plump girl named Kurumi Kasugaoka."

"The team behind Hachi Koi certainly is playing up the dating simís only distinguishing feature ó its Rubenesque love interest Kasugaoka Kurumi."

"She looks pretty cute."

"I do love the character design, she's very cute."

"Whenever I hear about this game the first thing I hear about is Kurumi Kasugaoka (the plus-size girl). To be honest, I think that this will be an interesting dating sim. I wouldn't mind dating her."

"I like that they included a plus-size girl character. And she's sooo cute!"

"She's rather adorable! Pink hair, shy smile, well drawn and clean, and an absolutely adorable apple shape."

"They portray her as pretty and cute, which is a definite step-up from how other places seem to treat larger girls."

"The chubby girl is portrayed in a visually nice way."

"One way or another, she's cute. . .I'm happy to see a [curvy] girl in there and like you said displayed favorably."

"She looks like a more accurate portrayal of [plus-size girls] than we usually get, in that her weight isn't showcased in a negative manner, although it is used to set her apart from the others."

* * *

Whatever one may think of the whole "dating sim" genre of video games, the fact that a character like Kurumi exists, and is presented in a visually favourable way, and represents a romantic preference just as she is, is a definite step forward--especially in Japan, where size-celebration is still in a pre-natal state.

One hopes to see more incarnations of full-figured beauty in Japanese culture in the future. The potential merging of the country's appreciation of traditional, girlish femininity (as seen in its indigenous fashion trends), with a love of the curvaceous figure-type, is an exciting prospect to contemplate.

- Kurumi's page at the Hachi Koi site

Last edited by HSG : 7th December 2009 at 01:38.
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Old 6th December 2009   #2
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Default Re: Hachi Koi: Kasugaoka Kurumi

This is incredible! I've always been a fan of anime, but while I adore the art style, I've often lamented the universally underweight standard of appearance for otherwise quite feminine anime women. Not only that, but the absolutely beautiful feminine clothing that Japan produces has always, sadly, been made to fit the typical thin Asian figure. Now, finally, an attractive plus-size girl has been represented in Japanese culture- and it can't have happened soon enough.

The fact that she is portrayed as attractive, and as a potential love interest, is wonderful. One thing I noticed was that in the first picture, she seems to be wearing the same uniform as her underweight rival- but look at how much more alluring Kurumi's version is drawn! Her skirt is shorter, hitting mid-thigh and revealing more of her wonderfully curvy legs. The fit of her top is extremely snug and defines her waist, as opposed to the underweight girl's shapeless, loose fit. Even Kurumi's collar is left slightly unbuttoned. It's a shame that she doesn't have longer hair, but it's also valuable to note that curly hair is quite rare in anime, so it's interesting that Kurumi was given cute feminine curls rather than the typical straight or spiked-up anime hair.

Let's hope that Kurumi inspires more full-figured appreciation in Japan. Perhaps her character design will influence other anime artists and produce more curvaceous characters. Hopefully this growing appreciation for full-figured anime will lead to a love for the curvaceous figure in general Japanese culture, and coupling this with the country's traditional feminine dress would be undeniably fantastic.
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Old 15th December 2009   #3
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Default Re: Hachi Koi: Kasugaoka Kurumi

I thought of the lovely Kurumi today when I came across this frightening article from Korea. People sometimes excuse the emaciation trend in Japan and the Far East be saying that being thin is typical for East Asians. Well, being underweight is never typical or natural, as this article shows.

The title spells out the problem:

One in Five Women Undernourished

Almost two in every 10 women suffer from undernourishment, with intentional starvation being the main cause, according to the latest survey by the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs...

In its latest report, 19.2 percent of women were found to be undernourished. The figure is high for a developed country, the ministry said.

In this year's report, the number of females suffering from osteoporosis was five times higher than males...

"The large gap between the sexes is one of many signs that an unhealthy diet is even more prevalent among women," ministry official Oh Sang-yoon said.

Experts warned that females could face even more severe health problems, if they do not maintain a balanced diet. Conditions from hair loss and depression to bulimia, constipation and anorexia are often seen among women who diet, Seo Jung-wan of the Korean Pediatric Society said.

Prof. Noh Dong-young of Seoul National University hospital says that underweight women have a higher chance of getting breast cancer than those of normal weight

I find it admirable that the report specifies the health dangers associated with dieting of any kind. Instead of repeating the usual weight-epidemic hysteria, this article states how harmful it is to be underweight. It's encouraging to see the truth finally getting across, at least in certain parts of the media.

The most damning information is the article's revelation about why girls are doing this to themselves.

Wanting to be "beautiful" was the key reason.

About 88.3 percent of the females were doing so to make their appearance "better."

As many on this site have said, the crucial motivating factor is the definition of beauty. If beauty is defined as being malnourished, women will starve themselves to achieve it, even at the point of putting their lives at risk.

The solution is, and always has been, to restore the natural definition of beauty as being well-fed and comfortably full-figured. Then, the pursuit of beauty will no longer ruin women's health. Given that being curvy is actually beneficial, it will even improve it.
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