In the hyper-reality of popular Japanese culture nothing is ever as it seems. Every month thousands of the young Japanese girls that read teen magazine Nicola send in illustrated postcards to Yonehara, the editor. On blank cards the girls draw Manga style personifications of themselves. With wide eyes, dilated pupils and cutesy ponytails the characters mouth thoughts, naïve, tragic and revealing by turns. The saccharine sweetness of the stock phrases ‘Be yourself’ and ‘We are all princesses’ are matched by the despairing knowingness of the girl who wrote ‘There is no place for me’. Caught between the new, shiny surface world of consumer individualism and the old rigid, hierarchical society that still lurks beneath that skin, these pre-teen and teenage girls struggle to form coherent selves.
It is a dark irony that the girls almost uniformly express their search for individuality through images and words lifted straight from the veil of media that surrounds them. And yet in a culture where emotional displays are still frowned upon, postcards that declare ‘You can cry whenever you want’ are revolutionary. As with all evolutionary processes, when a current of rapid change springs up within a culture, the appearance of weird mutant phenomena can be the result and here they are—the psyches of Japan’s youth.