Tag Archives: Philosophy

Lolita – Mere Frills, or a Light in the Darkness?

Welcome to our series on Lolita fashion! There are many sites and blogs  devoted to Lolita fashion, but we like to think this one will be a little different – for our interest lies not just with the fashion itself, but with the philosophy and meaning behind the fashion.

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So is this about “lifestyle Lolita”? Yes and no. We think this series will appeal to lifestyle Lolitas, but we are hoping to offer a perspective that is rather different from what is available elsewhere.

For the uninitiated, Lolita is a style that emerged from Japan in the 1990s. The style is characterised by knee length skirts with petticoats, lace and bows, and a girlish yet elegant aesthetic. Although it is heavily inspired by Western historical fashion ranging from the 18th century to the 1950s, the style is something unique to Japan.

So what makes lolita so different from any fashion current in the West?

In most Western countries, the clothing of the average woman on the street is often sloppy and baggy, or scruffy and casual. Or else there is the other side of the coin: an over sexualised parody of femininity: the “glamour model” aesthetic. Or there is “high fashion” which in spite of the name, is often deliberately ugly and grotesque. It seems that in the world view of these designers, straight up prettiness is unchallenging and unartistic.

This is exemplified by the disturbing term “heroin chic” which was widely used in the 1990s to describe the trend of already thin models made to look outright gaunt and ill with dark make up.

Then there are “alternative fashions” which are mostly really just more variations on the same theme. Often taking elements of traditional femininity, but adding an ugly and discordant element, like 50s dresses with tattoos and facial piercings.

conceptLolita on the other hand is truly different.When I found Lolita, I finally had an ideal to aspire to. It gave me permission to be what I had always wanted to be: feminine, elegant, and pure. It spoke so deeply to the part of my heart that had resisted the corrupting influence of the culture I had grown up in, and showed me an alternative. A real alternative in a world where “alternative” is a rallying cry, but whose “individual and alternative” choices are all variations on the same theme. It really is completely different from anything else, and I don’t think it could have come into being in a Western country.

The traditional classic and sweet Lolita looks are unaplogetically feminine; lace, full skirts, cute or dainty shoes, neat and feminine hair, enough makeup to look polished, but not too much.

IMG_8214Look at this model from Victorian Maiden; her demure and peaceful expression, her gentle pose – now, compare that with a Western fashion model, any style you can think of. The Western model will likely either be making a highly sexualised pose, or looking distant and cynical, or even aggressive. There is so much pressure when dressing in a feminine style to add a harsh and discordant element, whether it is through facial piercings or tattoos, a pair of stompy boots, or even just an just an angry facial expression; to add an “edge” to one’s image, to show that one is not “weak”, not “vulnerable”.

It seems to the present writer that this is a defense mechanism towards the harshness of 21st century life: “the world is hard and coarse, so I need to harden myself, and coarsen myself to protect myself”. This is understandable, but is it really true strength? Isn’t this just playing into the idea that femininity is weakness? We believe that femininity, cuteness and innocence are powerful things and will always prevail against darkness and coarseness in the end.

Some of you may now be wondering, “Isn’t it just clothing? Something we use to cover our bodies? It doesn’t really mean anything does it?” or “I just like frilly clothes, why does that mean I should be pure or innocent?”. It is understandable that you may feel this way. This is the standard view of the 21st century West, and for many who have grown up in this culture it can seem like the only logical viewpoint. But for the vast majority of the history of humanity, people have held the belief that clothing and design do have meaning, and that they are important.

Now, we understand that not all Lolitas will feel this way. If you just want to wear the clothes, but think and behave as a typical 21st century young Western woman we are certainly not here to stop you. This site may not be for you and that is fine. We are writing for the minority who feel lost and out of place in the modern world and are yearning for something deeper, gentler, and more beautiful. If you are one of these girls please stay true to your principles, and please keep checking back here for more!

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The Philosophy of Doki Doki Precure: Overview

Recovering the True Heart
Recovering the True Heart

Very few and small spoilers.

The new Precure series is already up to episode 14, so what do we think? Does it continue the surprising metaphysical depth and wisdom of the other later Precure shows (not to mention the delightful cuteness)? Let’s take a look.

People who dismiss Precure as superficial fluff are really looking in the wrong place for profundity. I blame modern media studies and literature courses and suchlike. They teach people that “depth” lies in such essentially superficial matters as “social reality” or “character development” or “moral ambiguity” rather than in the reflection of cosmic realities and the fundamental moral realities without which there wouldn’t be anything to be ambiguous about.

So, on to Doki Doki Precure.

Doki Doki is a common Japanese term for excitement. It is onomatopoeia for a fast-beating heart, and on one level indicates the exciting nature of the show, but on a deeper level indicates the show’s theme of the heart. “The heart” in the West has become a relatively superficial term indicating the emotions as opposed to the reason, rather than the center of each soul which is ultimately one with the center of the cosmos (which is why the individual Heart Flowers were connected to the Great Heart Tree in Heartcatch Precure).

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The symbolism of playing card suits is a primary theme

The primary theme of Doki Doki is the four card suits: Hearts, Swords (spades), Diamonds and Rosettes (clubs). Swords, of course, are the original form of spades, as anyone familiar with the tarot knows (the English name comes from espada = sword). Rosettes for Clubs is a little less easy, but recall that clubs are wands in the tarot and the wands are all depicted as living things sprouting green leaves. Cure Rosetta’s surname is Yotsuba (四葉)= “four-leafed” and the four-leafed clover is her symbol, which is a vertically symmetrical version of the traditional Club symbol.

We should also realize that while in the Western system Clubs/Wands are attributed to the element of Fire, in the Eastern system they very naturally fit the element of Wood. This has a further ramification in that Wood is connected in the eastern system with Jupiter (or Sai Thamë in the feminine system) and thus with the rulership of life and nature from the courses of the stars to the smallest growing thing. Alice Yotsuba, Cure Diamond, as the head of the Yotsuba organization has enormous power which she often uses to help the precures in their work. She is also surrounded by the opulence of traditional aristocratic wealth which is a very Thamic (Jupiter-y) motif.

However, the costumes of each of the Precures are adorned most prominently with a heart at the front, while the other suit motifs are relegated to hair decorations and earrings. Similarly the respective fairies each have a large heart with a small heart above it at the center of their foreheads with the other suit-motifs on their ears. Even the baby (tiny spoiler) has a heart that glows visibly when she works her magic.

Cure Rosetta, in her battle-speech, indicates the profound reason for this:

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The heart is the primary symbol even for Cures of other suits

世界を制するのは愛だけです
sekai wo sei suru no ha ai dake desu

Now this is a little hard to translate directly into English. I would be inclined to say “It is love alone that reins the world”. Sei suru is defined as “to rein in (e.g. a horse, unruly people); to bridle;to control; to command”. The word sei 制 alone is a root-word meaning: system; organization; imperial command; laws; regulation etc.

The statement is very close to the feminine scripture “It is love that holds the stars within their courses” which unites the Thamic, or world-controlling harmony,  function with the Sushuric or love function indicated by the prevailing heart-motif of the series.

Even kakkoii warrior Cure Sword is adorned with a heart
Even kakkoii warrior Cure Sword is adorned with a heart

The battles in this series (reminiscent of Heartcatch) are to return the true heart of the owner, which have been taken over by selfishness. When a heart is taken over by selfishness it becomes dark and has bat wings. When it is recovered it returns to being bright and pink with angel-wings. This clearly depicts the deeper metaphysical significance of the choices each of us makes every day.

Interestingly, each of the people thus “tempted” actually resists the temptation and returns her own heart to its true, healthy state (an optimism one would hardly expect in a Western production) but it is then violently taken by the Selfish who “grant the wish” of the victim by turning her into a monster.

We have only looked at a few of the fundamental motifs of the series. The stories contain lots of interesting philosophy which we may look at later, but it will be harder to keep that spoiler-free!
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Personal note from Cure Dolly at time of writing

Watching Doki Doki Precure has been a bit slow as I watch in Japanese with Japanese subtitles, but I find I get faster and faster as I go on. Episode 14 aired yesterday and I am currently on episode ten. Cure Peace (another writer for this site) has recently found a site that relays the Japanese broadcasts in real time and has invited me to watch with her. I should be up to date by the next broadcast. But watching in real time with no subbies is kind of scary, so wish me luck.