Shoko Nakagawa is a superstar. She records music, she appears on TV shows, and she even voices Pokémon anime characters. You'd think she would be happy! Maybe she is. But, in this meme, she's Japan's equivalent of Sad Keanu. Awww.
In Japanese, the meme is often called "Shoko is lonely" ("Shokotan Bocchi" or しょこたんぼっち). "Bocchi" is short for "hitori bocchi" (ひとりぼっち), which means "lonely" or "solitary". The shortened "bocchi" sounds like something little kids would say and, here, carries the nuance of not being good at talking with others.
Years ago in 2006, back when Nakagawa was beyond cosplaying at Japanese Xbox 360 game events and was just starting to go mainstream, she appeared on a big variety show special. When all the other celebrities were standing up and clapping and smiling, Nakagawa just kind of stood there, awkwardly. The image became a meme in Japan.
Ever since then, photo after photo of Nakagawa on variety specials depict her looking somewhat lonely or sad or gazing off in another direction.
Then, there are pics of her in public (well, Tokyo Disneyland), looking lonely.
Recently on 2ch, Japan's largest bulletin board, one net user compared the Nakagawa "bocchi" meme to the "Sad Keanu" meme in the West.
They're not the same, obviously. However, there is something bittersweet about both.
Nakagawa's father, the famed musician and actor Katsuhiko Nakagawa, passed away when she was young. She apparently spent much of her childhood drawing and finding solace in video games and comic books. (Likewise, Keanu Reeves didn't exactly have an easy childhood.)
That doesn't mean Nakagawa is a gloomy person! She's incredibly chatty and funny on television. And, as with most memes, this is just that: a meme.
But, perhaps, it does have an element of truth: Last month, she uploaded a photo of pasta, with the heading "Bocchi Lunch" (ぼっちランチ) or "Lonely Lunch". Nakagawa's description of the food was upbeat; she always is when she's talking about things she's passionate about, whether that's cats, anime, video games, or bugs. Who cares if she seems uncomfortable around other celebrities on TV? There's nothing sad or lonely about that. At all.
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