There's this notion that "kawaii" (可愛い) or "cute" rules Japan. That's not entirely true. Everything isn't simply cute—and kawaii isn't the only game in town. There's also gurokawaii (グロカワイイ). This is the world of the grotesque and sadistic filtered through kawaii. This is the world of Momoka Kinoshita.
The concept of gurokawaii has been increasingly popular in Japan of late. Singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, for example, is gurokawaii.
The concept of gurokawaii is similar to "kimokawaii" (キモカワイイ; "creepy cute"), but far more sadistic and gory. It's the stuff of nightmares.
The Osaka artist Mori Chack is one of the forerunners of gurokawaii; his brutally cute bear Gloomy, which launched in 2000, sports bloody claws, tearing a little boy to shreds. Chack's work is a reaction to the oppressively cute Hello Kitty type characters that populate Japanese pop culture.
Momoka Kinoshita seems to be taking the concept of gurokawaii—and running with it. She's a member of AKB48's Osaka spin off group NMB48 (one of many, many members). Those groups are wall-to-wall girls; so to stand out, you gotta be different. But in Japan, it's no longer enough to be a big anime nerd, who likes to cosplay. So how about little hellish cosplay? That's Kinoshita's trademark.
Her cosplay outfits make her look like she's straight out of a horror flick. But since Kinoshita cannot dress like this while singing with her group or while appearing at fan meet-and-greet events, in the past, she's cosplayed while riding the bullet train up to Tokyo. Mind you, her cosplay outfits tended to be fake blood soaked gurokawaii, get-ups. Her outfits have been so sadistic-looking that the group's management was worried she was offending other passengers and told her to knock it off.
It's not just her outfits that are gurokawaii. Earlier this summer, at the AKB48 art show at 3331 Arts Chiyodo in Tokyo, her gross-cute creations were on display: one was a self-portrait covered in red hand prints, while her other work showed a slashed schoolgirl in tattered clothing. Her sculpture of a severed head (below) was apparently banned from the exhibit.
Disturbing stuff! And you can't help but wonder if this kid is okay. Cynics would say that these are not cries for help, but rather, cries for publicity, cries to stand out, cries to be different. Like Mori Chack and his Gloomy bear, this idol could be a reaction to all the oppressively cute popstars that populate Japanese pop culture. A violent reaction, at that.