Hello Kitty. Anime. Pikachu on passenger jets — the Japanese sure have a thing for mass commercialized soft culture, or kawaii, which means cuteness. Formed nearly three decades ago in Osaka, pop-punk trio Shonen Knife might appear to jibe with that pastel fantasyland of lollipops and condom monkeys. One of the original female rock groups in Japan, members may sing about things sweet and sugary, but their chops are solidly planted in do-it-yourself, old school American punk and '60s girl-group harmonies. In the '90s, they gained a foothold in alt-rock circles thanks largely to Sonic Youth, as well as fanboy Kurt Cobain, who had the group open for Nirvana. If you never got a chance to see these international underground legends, and you can stomach the aural equivalent of bubble lettering, be sure to catch the group's latest incarnation, featuring original members Naoko Yamano on lead guitar and vocals and Atsuko Yamano on bass. It gives us a chance to behold the rare foursome Knife attack. (Hee-hee-hee, giggle lightly into fingertips here.) Shonen Knife appears with Hot Lava, Hex Machine and Jeff the brotherhood at Plaza Bowl, 521 E. Southside Plaza, on Friday, Nov. 13, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. 233-8799.