Japanese cute has crashed onto American shores like a tsunami. Target and Wal-Mart are filling up with Hello Kitty and Domo-kun merchandise. The Japanese cute pop aesthetic is inspiring many American artists, who put their own dark twist on the innocent, childlike aesthetic.
As popular as cute characters like Bob the Builder and Elmo are in the United States, there seems to be an underlying distrust of cuteness in American culture. Cuteness, associated with childhood, carries connotations of helplessness and neediness, undesirable traits in America's individualistic, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps culture. Japan's collectivist mentality fosters interdependency, having a greater tolerance for childish helplessness (called "amae").
Thus, when Japanese cuteness is adopted into American culture for consumption by teenagers and young adults, it's given an ironic twist. Characters like Happy Bunny and the Kawaii Not series demonstrate this trend: cute smiling, seemingly-innocuous characters spouting expletives and malice, giving an adult-like wink behind their childlike facade. Web sites like Hello Kitty Hell seek - in a tongue-in-cheek way - to expose the darker side of Japan's favorite commercial character. Violent cute characters like Gloomy Bear do exist in Japan, but they're in the minority of the greater Cute Commercial Complex.