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Paper Children are paper cut-out models of anime characters that are staged in such a way that they appear to be interacting with the surrounding real-life objects. One of the most common forms this takes is a real life hand holding a drawing up as if they were being lifted by their shirt.
Photographing paper cut-out models and sharing them online began on the Korean web in early June 2004 when web illustrator Ciba uploaded pictures of her hand-drawn paper models in a blog post on the portal site Daum. Titled “Paper Child” the images quickly spread through blogs and bulletin boards, spawning numerous derivative images that were hosted by Ciba’s blog. The Internet phenomenon also received media coverage and the illustrator was interviewed by the Korean newspaper Donga Daily on June 19th and TV show Marvelous World on July 20th, 2004.
The first paper dolls known to archeologists are kimonos cut and folded from ancient paper in Japan, c. 800 AD and the first manufactured paper dolls were produced by S&J Fuller in London, 1810. Modern paper dolls are often found as cutouts inside various paper products ranging from children’s books to happy meal containers from McDonalds.
The earliest known instance of Paper Child to circulate on the English-speaking web can be found in a DeviantART page posted on December 16th, 2006. The DeviantART group “Paper Children” was formed on January 25th, 2008 and a notable series of Paper Child artworks were uploaded by DeviantART user Pimmy on April 27th, 2008. Throughout the year, the origami phenomenon quickly spread via English imageboards including 4chan, spawning hundreds of photographs depicting paper cutout models alongside real life objects. The meme was covered by Moe fan blog MoeSide on July 27th, 2008.
In June 2009, a website showcasing examples of these paper dolls called Paper Child was started. Multiple Deviantart groups have been set devoted to them, the most popular of which, Paper Children, has just under 1000 watchers.
As we can see from the Google Insights charts, search interest into this meme has been fairly high for a long time now, being searched a considerable amount even before the Insight’s beginning year of 2004. This unfortunately makes it a lot harder to determine the time of origin, although it does demonstrate the longevity of the meme, with only a minimal decline in interest over the years,