About Me

Newfoundland, Canada
I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Defending Moe


Welcome back, everybody!

After a two-month long hiatus, I've decided to make a short return to focus on a topic of much contention within modern anime fandom. And that topic is moe.



No, no, not you, Szyslak. Your dirty secrets are quite safe on this blog.

But the dirty secrets of this kind of moe is what this blog will be delving into.

And what do I mean by "dirty secrets", exactly? Well, 'dirty' might be blowing it out of proportion a bit, because it's nothing particularly scandalous. But they are the sort of secrets that a lot of people would rather not see the light of day. Before getting into what those secrets are, let's put forward some basic facts on anime that serve as important background for our upcoming Detective work!


One such fact is that anime, beyond its own borders of course, is a cultural export of Japan. Arguably Japan's most well-known cultural export, although karate and its teachers were pretty big back in the day too.

What we can easily deduce from this fact, my fellow Jimmy Kudos, is that anime reflects the current cultural norms and values, and hence sociological conditions, of modern Japan. In other words, the rise of moe did not occur in a vacuum. It wasn't simply the exotic brainchild of some powerful corporate executive. Something in the modern Japanese culture and/or society gave rise to it.

Some critics of moe argue that this something is simply sexism, and a culturally ingrained overarching chauvinistic patriarchy that reinforces it. In the eyes of these critics, the prevalence of moe within modern anime reflects a desire within many otakus for weak, submissive female partners.

However, that doesn't really make a great deal of sense to me.

Why?

Well, here's one reason why:

Nobody takes a punch quite like Keitaro does...

Love Hina! is one of the more prominent harem animes, and arguably popularized the genre. Being a harem anime with a large variety of female characters within the cast, it also no doubt contained moe.

If the dirty secret of moe was sexism then one would expect for the male leads of moe-centric shows to be paragons of traditional masculinity. To be real gar guys.

To be more...



And less...


"This. Is. Sexist Sparta!" ?

No, rather...

"I-I'm just the doormat messenger! Nobody kills the doormat messenger!" ;)


Now, don't get me wrong, anime does have it's real gar guys. But it's not often you see them alongside the most moe of females. It's probably fair to say that the target audience for Gurren Lagann is a bit different than the target audience for K-On! Or, at the very least, that the two anime shows are meant to have very different sorts of appeal.

To truly discover what's driving the popularity of moe in recent years, we have to uncover what's happening in Japan that might be giving rise to it. After all, the rise of the internet coupled with Japan's Lost Decade were in turn the catalyst for somewhat dark and philosophical musings on modern technology in the form of animes like Serial Experiments Lain, and Ghost in the Shell.

So what modern issues in Japan could logically give rise to moe?

The key clue is to be found here.

That's a long write-up, but let me sum up the pertinent points here:

  • Japan has an aging population
  • The nation's fertility rate in 2008 was only 1.37 (a healthy norm is 2.1).
  • Up to 80 percent of Japanese singles over the age of 30 don't have a partner.
  • A "Parasite Singles" lifestyle (i.e. being a NEET) has become more prevalent.
  • Male temp workers, or those on low salaries, have virtually no chance of finding a marriage partner.
To put it into laymen's terms, this is a growing issue in Japan: Adult males and females in their 20s and 30s that are unable or unwilling to find steady work, are supported by their parents, have not smoothly transitioned into adulthood as their culture and society would have liked, and (here's the key part) have great difficulty in forming lasting romantic bonds.


So, let's break this down to the individual.


You're a Japanese man in his mid-to-late 20s or early-to-mid 30s that has had little to no luck with the opposite sex. You're either just making ends meet, or you're being supported by your parents.

Chances are that you look back quite fondly on your high school days, given how you had fewer cares and less concerns back then, than you do right now.

Or, perhaps you look back on your high school days as a time of missed opportunity. If only you had met that right young woman; the young woman who would actually accept you for you; maybe things would have turned out differently for you.

Yes indeed, you may be very insecure, and shy around women, knowing instinctively that your socioeconomic status does not lend itself to finding female mates in Japan's current society and economy. You may not have had sexual relations with a woman in a very long time, if ever.

You want to find entertainment that offers you some sort of blissful escape from the bleaker aspects of your reality.

What are you likely to turn to? Who are you likely to turn to?

Are you going to turn to entertainment with strong, firmly independent, and very competent female characters who would have no use for a loser like yourself? Are you going to dream about women impossibly out of your league, or at least that's what you think they are?

No, you're going to turn to entertainment featuring NEETs like yourself:



One of my earliest blog entries delved into how K-On!'s popularity probably lay, at part, in its natural appeal to the NEET demographic. Yui's appeal does come in large part because of her airheaded nature, and tendency towards goofing off, and eating cakes instead of practicing her guitar. But it has nothing to do with sexism. Quite the contrary, it has to do with the "Parasite Single", or lowly paid single, male viewer being realistic about the sorts of females he could ever hope to catch in modern Japan. Someone very approachable, cute and cheerful, but a fair bit airheaded and almost wastefully playful, is perhaps as good as it gets.

This even explains high-achieving tsunderes like Haruhi Suzumiya and Shana. The male viewer realizes that to win over a strong young woman like them, the young woman in question would need to be a bit eccentric and/or have a heart that could be won over by appeals other than simple socioeconomic status.


And this is why I defend moe in this blog. A lot of it is wish-fulfillment, but it's innocent wish-fulfillment. It's about anime presenting female characters that the male viewer could feel comfortable approaching; female characters that wouldn't make him feel hopelessly inferior to her or out of his league.


Beyond this straight-forward eroge game-esque romantic appeal, there is another aspect of moe that bears looking at. And that aspect is how perhaps moe is meant to counteract the stiff sociological socioeconomic structure of modern Japan.

Moe girls are often carefree. Innocent. Playful. They are not jaded, or cruel. They are often caring and genuinely nice. They often lack competence but at least they have a good heart.

And perhaps a lesson that comes from moe is that there is value to simply being a good person. That there is value to being a caring person who wants to help out other people, and have real friendships. And that people like this, no matter how airheaded they may be, are deserving of protection, yes.

Personally, this is something I saw a lot of in this anime:


The hatred that Nagisa Furukawa receives from some corners of the online anime community is a bit surprising to me. Perhaps we in the west have become overly accustomed to fictional characters that are ubercompetent. The forensics experts of CSI, the lawyers of Law and Order, and the effective gamesmanship of winning Reality TV contestants.

Competence, intelligence, shrewdness, efficiency, and pride in one's work: these are all highly valued in the western world. And rightly so, they are invaluable to have in a society.

You need all of those aspects to make this possible.

But to make something like that worth it, it helps to have good people with good hearts worth making that effort for. Good people like this:


And that, friends, is the heart of moe.

It's about characters that may be very flawed, but come across as approachable and friendly.

It's about characters that the domestic (and in some cases foreign) NEET audience wouldn't feel are out of their leagues, perhaps even as just friends.

And it's about characters that do in fact cause feelings of protectiveness to arise from within the viewer; not just because they're vulnerable, but also because at their cores they tend to be good people deserving of the effort to protect.


All of that being said, I will certainly concede that moe may be a bit too prevalent in anime today, and I certainly understand criticisms of it under that basis. However, I don't think that moe's very presence is as insidious as some make it out to be. It does reflect on a sad reality in Japan today, but moe itself does not push for a sexist reality.

And with that, I rest my case when it comes to defending moe.


However, I may branch off of this blog entry to discuss fanservice, and one other key point, pertaining to anime today.

But for now, that's all.

Any and all responses are welcomed. :)

15 comments:

  1. Given the approach you take, I probably would have recommended simply defining moe as “innocent, and not jaded or cruel” rather than linking TVtropes. I’ve never really liked TVtropes’ definition because it overemphasizes the character’s vulnerability when neither the “classic” definition of the term nor any definition that accurately reflects modern usage emphasizes this. Nanoha is as much “classic” moe as Mikuru is, while a modern definition needs to account for the fact that characters like Rin Tohsaka and Kagami Hiiragi are incredibly popular in Japanese moe tournaments.

    Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s discuss the actual content of your argument:

    First, I really like the general approach you took to this. I’ve often felt like I’m fighting a completely defensive battle over moe, and you did a pretty good job of emphasizing the positive traits of moe characters and that they should be given respect, both of which I agree with.

    However, there are a number of points I would like to raise:
    -I’m a bit unsure how much of a role the NEET phenomenon plays in moe, simply because NEETs don’t strike me as having much money. In cases where the anime is supposed to promote the source material there still may be some point in targeting the NEET crowd (manga is like $4 a volume in Japan), and I suppose there’s probably a rental market for DVDs among NEETs as well. But K-On’s 40,000 DVD/Bluray sales a volume probably isn’t coming from NEETs. However, part of your argument may still be applicable: I don’t think working otaku have it much easier on the dating front. I’ve also heard at least one academic pitch the idea that loli characters appeal to otaku who may want their own kids, but I’m mentioning that one only as a curiosity because I’m not sure I agree with it myself.
    -While I do agree that one appeal of many moe characters is that they are “approachable” for otaku (part of the attraction I have for my girlfriend is simply that I can be myself around her), “approachable” has never really been a requirement for a character to be popular because it is fantasy. Just witness the huge popularity of Hitagi or Rin Tohsaka and consider that the latter hails from an erogame. The interesting question to me is whether we’re seeing a shift towards more approachable female characters and why.
    (It is also, of course, possible to make characters who are both strong and approachable, I think that’s the appeal of Tomoyo and Kyou, both of whom are more approachable than Hitagi and Rin. If one assumes Key’s characters are designed to be approachable, they certainly know what they’re doing.)
    -The one anti-moe argument I tend to grant some validity is that some moe characters are not just weak, but dumb/childish/helpless/etc – I know this was Theowne’s big complaint about Kanon and Air. Given Yui’s extreme popularity in waifu surveys in Japan, it’s safe to say that the “airhead” type is popular over there. However, for me how valid this complaint is depends a bit on whether I think that the show takes a diminutive approach to such characters. K-On!, in my opinion, doesn’t tend to be all that diminutive towards Yui – she’s a lovable idiot character, which is staple archetype for comedy anime. Mio is actually far more subject to diminutive treatment IMO, what with the ”fraidy-cat” personality and the way harassing her is portrayed as funny. I will admit that Key also tends to be pretty bad about this one – Tomoya’s treatment of Fuko is fairly typical of a Key male lead dealing with an airheaded girl.
    I’m not sure if moe otaku tend to think diminutively of girls or not. Personally, I don’t tend to think of myself as doing so, although I must admit I tease my girlfriend quite a bit, especially about her height.

    (continued in next post)

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  2. The other thing I remember bugging Theowne about Kanon and Air was the fact they’re erogames. Personally though, I don’t think that the characters in those games were designed with much attention to their sex appeal. I went all “moe” over my girlfriend before I started thinking “wow, I’d like to have sex with her” (and before you ask – not yet). Moe characters are the same: the moe comes first, the sexual appeal second. I’ll admit that Air’s Misuzu was childish enough that the idea of having sex with her kind of squicked me a bit, although in general this hasn’t been a problem for me even with Key stuff – when I think of Clannad’s major characters, the only one I really think it’s squicky to have sexual thoughts about is Fuko.

    (Side note: airheaded characters are not new to anime. The OVA series Devil Hunter Yoko is pretty much the early 90s equivalent to modern “girl fights and takes clothing damage” anime like Kampfer and its main girl is an airhead.)

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  3. Thanks for the lengthy response, 0utf0xZer0!

    I wanted to avoid definitional debate over moe, so I linked to two different moe definitions from well-known sites. I actually prefer the more streamlined definition offered by ANN myself, but I don't know how many of my readers like ANN, so I offered the TV Tropes definition in case they don't consider ANN authoritative here.

    I also felt that if you're going to defend certain character types, it's helpful to promote the positives of those character types and not JUST defend them against criticisms. It's important to show the valid reasons for why many people like moe characters. I'm glad that we're in agreement here. :)

    My general idea with the current demographic issues in Japan (not just the NEET phenomena, but that is a part of it), is that it's probably lead to a larger than usual portion of the Japanese adult population having little experience with the opposite sex. Combine that with the stereotypical view of Japanese otakus, and it's not hard to see why having female characters seem very approachable is very important in anime today.

    You're right that strong and approachable are certainly not mutually exclusive. Nanoha and Tomoyo are two great examples of that. Somewhat ironically, though, something that stuck out in my mind when I wrote this blog entry is the "Tomoyo After" special that Clannad did. I recall how this special really emphasized how Tomoyo was, sociologically, out of Tomoya's league, and the two's relationship almost ended forever because of that. And that made me think that perhaps that's why you don't necessarily see the high-achieving always-with-it female characters a lot in moe-centric anime. They might represent a sort of person that would be beyond what the average hardcore anime watcher in Japan could realistically hope to have as a girlfriend.

    It is true that fantasy does not bend to realistic concerns, but maybe there's a shift there as well. What's driving that, and hence the shift towards "approachable" characters, I'm not quite sure of. Pure fantasy does seem to be falling out of favor a bit in modern anime.

    It's true that moe can go to an overly weak extreme, and Mikuru is probably a good example of that. As is Mio, often. But these cases seem to be a minority of all moe characters, the flipside of characters like Nanoha and Tomoyo. Characters like Yui and Nagisa are probably the "average" moe characters, when it comes to strength, if you know what I mean there. So that's who I decided to focus on in my blog entry here.

    Also, some moe characters are probably designed to be "comically abused". The source of prankster comedy. But a case could be made that these characters are really just the female equivalent of the male "buttmonkey" characters (Taniguchi in Haruhi's anime, and Sunohara in Clannad's 1st season).

    Anyway, I'll leave it at that! Hope you enjoyed the read.

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  4. -ANN and TVtropes both have somewhat similar definitions in my opinion, and truth be told they both do reflect how the term is used in the English language fandom to a large extent. Problem is, I get the impression that many English speakers base their idea of what moe is off Mikuru Asahina (Haruhi is probably the anime responsible for popularizing the term in the west) and Kyoto’s adaptations of Key works, which is a bit of a narrow definition – and I think that’s reflected in the traits they choose to emphasize. Those of us who take cues from Japanese fans as to what the term means (ie. Saimoe results) have a broader definition of the term, I think.

    -I do agree that approachability tends to make moe girls more appealing, I’d just be careful about taking this argument too far. When I start to hear people talk about how moe fans can’t handle that aren’t approachable, I immediately think of characters like Hitagi and Rin – and whether or not they meet the particular definition of moe being used, they appear to be popular with the moe crowd.

    -Good observation on Tomoyo, that actually gives me more respect than I had before for Key’s writing talent (I think I’ve mentioned before that while I like Key, there are works produced by other companies I like more and I dislike their seemingly dues ex machine endings). Anyway, this got me thinking about the tricks used to pair guys with “out of their league” girls in anime. Rin and Shirou meet after he gets caught up in her fight, in School Rumble Harima meets rich-girl Eri through her more normal friend Tenma, and Koyomi gets to know Hitagi primarily due to the fact they discover they both have encountered oddities. There’s always some trick to it, although I wouldn’t say that this makes the plots feel contrived, I’m just acknowledging that they’re there.

    -I have to wonder if the falling out of straight fantasy flicks is related to the sudden rise in slice of life type storytelling in anime. In my experience, most pure fantasy tends to have running plot threads.
    (Personally, while I like stuff like K-On for their mood, I must admit that in general, I prefer dramatic fair to typical slice of life – even among moe shows, I prefer EF and Bakemonogatari to K-On.)

    -Fuko is definitely comic relief, and it helps make her treatment more bearable. But I get the impression that what bugs a lot of people about certain shows – Kanon, Air, and K-On! in particular – is that they prominently feature girls acting strange or just plain dumb. Even I’d admit that I can kind of see their point on this one, although I do feel obliged to point out the K-On and pretty much every other similar slice of life comedy focuses on a group on “oddball” girls, hence some level of strange behaviour is probably to be expected. I’ve actually had a couple people say they think that the behaviour of the girls in K-On isn’t anywhere near as unrealistic as it’s sometimes made out to be. Interestingly enough, K-On has a female director and she’s been quoted by one animesuki poster as saying that you don’t really have to try to make moe anime because girls are naturally moe, although I have never actually found the original quote to verify this.


    -Also, if you ever want to engage in a bit of historical research, I believe the big “breakthrough” title for 4koma based slice of life comedy is probably Azumanga Diaoh from back in 2002. It sold about 25K per volume in three 8-9 episode packs.

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  5. I'm quite apathetic on the topic of moe. So I don't really have much to say, though it amuses me that a lot of people must get on a soapbox for it.

    Though honestly, when I think of a "moe" dominated show, I tend to think of shows where you can chill out. :D Which some people need to do.

    People may think of moe as a fetish towards weak and pitiful characters. Though honestly, you can fetishize any archtype or character and even supposedly strong female characters can still be portrayed in a sexist way. (Usually the concern is still towards the female character being hot or whatever)

    Any badly written stereotype is gonna be insulting regardless; it's not just moe. I am a huge hater towards tsunderes, but Shana is ok to me since there's more to her character than just a mere trait where I could just live with.

    I don't really have a trouble with Key style moe; in most of those stories, it's actually immaturity in which the characters try and hope to grow out of.

    Of course, people will say that the market has too much moe blah blah blah. All I can say that thoughtful, breathtaking masterpieces are called that for a reason; they don't show up easily! You can't expect a god-tier show every year, regardless of what you want.

    Interesting you brought up Higurashi. That show certainly twists this moe trope around.

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  6. >>>>If the dirty secret of moe was sexism then one would expect for the male leads of moe-centric shows to be paragons of traditional masculinity.<<<<<

    Your argument is based on a faulty premise that you contradict a few paragraphs later. There is no reason why the leads would be expected to be "gar" guys, because then the primary audience (young otaku males) wouldn't relate with them. Seeing "losers" like them as the heroes is wish fulfillment, as you said in later paragraphs.

    >>>>Moe girls are often carefree. Innocent. Playful. They are not jaded, or cruel. They are often caring and genuinely nice. They often lack competence but at least they have a good heart.<<<<<<

    They are also often stupid, weak, and act like children. The idea of the empty-headed star of Kanon being a teenager is laughable for anyone who has actually spoken with a living teenage girl - which I suppose is why she appeals to otaku audiences. This is their idea of what an ideal female is - none of that worrying "intelligence" that adults possess, just a cute face and a simple, readable personality that isn't too hard to manipulate when necessary.

    >>>>>But to make something like that worth it, it helps to have good people with good hearts worth making that effort for.<<<<

    The idea that the only motivation people have to do anything productive is the promise of an empty-headed cute pet waiting for them depresses me.

    Frankly, I don't understand how to more deeply respond to such a flawed argument. You dismiss the sexist argument within a few paragraphs without really disproving it, then somehow end by claiming that "moe" is about making otakus like characters with "good hearts" (as if only fetishized moe objects have good hearts).

    I suppose it's alright to convince yourself of whatever you wish, but the reality is that the otaku subculture, with its ero-games filled with hentai scenes involving characters who look like ten year olds, or the abundance of doujin manga with female characters who are *identical* to "moe" anime characters except portrayed sexually in a more explicit manner, the reality is that your view of "moe" is naive at best.

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  7. Anonymous - But that's just it. The male leads of moe-centric shows are typically not "heroes". The male leads tend to be no more impressive than the female harem members themselves. In fact, they're often LESS impressive than the female harem members.

    A genuinely sexist man would be turned off by this. He'd prefer to watch a show where the male character is not presented as inferior (or at least not superior) to the female characters around him. He certainly would loathe a male lead/tsundere relationship, where the male lead is constantly abused.


    As for the female lead of Kanon, I agree that she didn't seem teenager-esque. In fact, that's precisely what I argued in my Kanon 2006 review. I found her verbal tics amusing, but the romance sections that she was in were undermined by her lack of maturity.

    There's also plenty of people (including myself) who would have preferred a Yuuichi/Shiori ending. Now, Shiori was far from "stupid and weak". Well, her health was weak, but she was not a weak character. Shiori was presented as a thoughtful and conversationally strong character. The fact that her character design is arguably moe does not detract from that.

    So no, Ayu is NOT every moe fan's idea of the ideal female. I preferred Shiori myself.


    Now, do I agree with everything that the otaku subculture dabbles in? Of course not. But I judge anime adaptations on their own merit. I don't judge them by the source material that they are based off of. To be honest, I've never played an eroge game. An eroge game may indeed be very questionable, but the anime based off of it may be lacking hentai completely (as Kanon 2006 did).

    Question: Are you from the blog Moe Sucks?

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  8. >>>>>A genuinely sexist man would be turned off by this.<<<<<

    No he wouldn't. You are taking a very narrow, simplistic view of the word "sexist". It does not always refer to the traditional definition of men distrusting or hating women. In this case it refers to the depiction of women as objects who are idealized for regressive traits like airheadedness and simplicity.

    >>>>>He certainly would loathe a male lead/tsundere relationship, where the male lead is constantly abused.<<<<<

    No, because the tsundere relationship is merely another way of simplifying female personalities into a hot-cold nature that is easily manipulated, so the otakus can all squeal when she goes "dere-dere".

    >>>>>As for the female lead of Kanon, I agree that she didn't seem teenager-esque. In fact, that's precisely what I argued in my Kanon 2006 review.<<<<<

    You are a Western anime fan who is not connected to the deep and narrow otaku subculture that these anime are aimed at. You say you couldn't buy the romance. Well, the original games featured this romance-with-a-child in all its explicit sexual glory.

    >>>>>>Now, do I agree with everything that the otaku subculture dabbles in? Of course not. But I judge anime adaptations on their own merit.<<<<

    Power to you if you are able to ignore context from affecting your interpretation of a show (I certainly can't), the problem is that you're not reviewing Kanon in this post, you're trying to make some naive argument about how "moe" is not sexual, not misogynistic, just a harmless love of "good hearts", despite the fact that this does not mesh at all with a complete look at the Japanese otaku subculture.

    >>>>>Question: Are you from the blog Moe Sucks?<<<<<

    No.

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  9. Anon - I strongly disagree with you. I would argue that you are taking an overly vague and broad definition of "sexist".

    Simplicity is not necessarily a "regressive" trait. Airheadedness is not idealized, so much as its simply played for laughs.

    Why should female characters be entirely immune to being played for laughs, Anon? Going by your broad and vague definition of sexist, isn't it very sexist for only male characters to be played for laughs?

    And as for the tsundere/spineless male lead combo that is so common in anime, how is that not sexist AGAINST MEN?

    You see, this is what I dislike a lot about viewpoints like your own. All you see is how anime female characters are handled, and YOU are the one who approach that without any thought to context. In other words, you don't compare how anime female characters are handled to how anime male characters are handled. Anime male characters are not handled with any greater treatment. Many male characters are pure buttmonkey characters; arguably the male equivalent of very airheaded female characters.

    Are you against the "sexism" shown against male characters by these buttmonkey portrayals, Anon?


    Finally, judging an anime by its source material, when the two differ quite a bit, is downright foolish. The fans of the source material would find such an approach absurd. The anime canon is an entirely different canon from the source material canon, with very few possible exceptions. Eroge adaptations are generally not one of those exceptions.


    Your kind of one-sided double-standard viewpoints, Anon, is exactly what I hate about political correctness in entertainment. You will harp on and on and on about how female characters are treated, but turn a blind eye to how pathetic the depictions of many male characters are.

    Like many modern sitcoms, the male lead/father can be made to look like a fool all the time, but the female lead/mother can never be wrong. Isn't that a sort of sexism in and of itself?


    And if it's Ok to have male characters that are played mostly for laughs, why is it not Ok to have female characters like that as well? Don't we want true equality between the genders?

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  10. You seem to be wandering across different positions merely to be contradictory. In your last comment you claim airheadedness is simply played for laughs. Yet, in your original post, you write the following,:

    "Yui's appeal does come in large part because of her airheaded nature..."

    You proceeded to describe such traits as "romantic appeal" towards otaku in great detail. Curiously, you've avoided referencing such aspects in your past few comments. An interesting shift, though you were more on the mark back then.

    Simplicity is without a doubt a regressive trait. When women are children, they possess simple, uncomplicated minds. When they grow into young women and teenagers, they become complex beings with complex thoughts and emotions. Idealization of simple-mindedness and childishness in teenagers and young women is idealizing a regressive trait - particularly when you are talking about romantic appeal. Do you think it's appropriate to have female characters with the minds, and sometimes appearance, of children, like the main females of Kanon, Lamune, or Saikano, portrayed in a romantic context? Are we supposed to find it endearing and cute?

    Tsunderes? Please. The "tsundere" exterior haughtiness is treated as little more than a shallow surface by the otaku fanbase who glees in rating how "tsundere" a girl is and squealing when she goes into "dere dere" mode, like a toy with an on-off switch. That last analogy, of course, is a succinct way of describing the appeal of "moe" to otakus as a whole. Like toys.

    Judging an otaku anime without thinking about its source material is pointless. The otaku audience in Japan is small and specific. Mainstream Japanese families are not watching Kanon after dinner. Otakus are watching Kanon, the ones who bought the games in enough numbers to warrant an anime. The reason why certain characters have certain characteristics and behave according to certain archetypes is intertwined with the audience they are attempting to target.

    It's easy to pull out the political correctness card, but there are some topics worth arguing against, regardless of how much one may be labelled for it. I'll take it.

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  11. Yes, but I said that Yui's airheadedness was an appeal in how it helps to make her a character that the "lowly paid single male viewer" could hope to attract. It's not a positive trait in a vacuum, or in and of itself. It serves a purpose in that it helps to make Yui seem not "out of the male viewer's league".


    Simplicity is not necessarily a regressive trait.

    Complexity is not always a positive.

    There are times when simple solutions are the correct solutions.

    In the case of characters, added complexity can often create characterization inconsistency and make a character very convoluted.

    Batman and Superman are fairly simple, straightforward archetype characters. For legions of fans, that's much of their appeal. The driving force behind these characters is very straightforward.

    Certain ideas and themes are sometimes better presented in a simple, and hence clear and unencumbered fashion, than as part of a complex mosaic that can lose many a viewer.

    This is why many anime characters - male and female alike - are rooted in particular ideas or personality quirks. It gets that added personality color across in an effective way that could be lost if that personality color was the proverbial needle in a haystack of character complexity.


    The "political correctness card" that I'm pulling out has more of a sound basis behind it than your "sexist" card.

    You don't really deny anything I said about how MALE anime characters are handled.

    That's because you can't deny it as what I said there is true.

    If you start to take issue with how deplorably many MALE anime characters are handled, I'll start to take your criticisms of how female anime characters are handled a bit more seriously.

    Until then, I wonder why it's not Ok for Yui to be airheaded but perfectly fine for Sunohara (Clannad) to be a complete and utter buttmonkey who's on the constant receiving end of abuse. Usually by female characters, I should add. And it's not like Tomoyo ever really softens on him...

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  12. Anon - A couple things I'll say to your credit, however.

    I appreciate how you've continued the discussion, and weren't a "drive-by critic". It's much better to have an actual discussion with people you disagree with than to simply read one short troll-esque reply from them. So I do appreciate you sticking around to discuss this further.

    I'll also say that I agree with your criticisms of the actual eroge source material. A lot of that stuff really is pretty questionable, I'd agree.


    Something I should point out here is that most animes I watch I've never seen or read the source material. I'm a bit different this way, I'll admit. For example, I read very VERY little manga.

    I'm a fan of animation in general, so I typically take anime works on their own terms, often since I honestly am not an active fan of the medium that the source material is a part of.


    Your critiques of the "Otaku subculture" may very well be valid. I guess part of my point is that you don't have to be part of that subculture, or even share many of its tastes, to enjoy an anime like Kanon 2006 or Clannad.

    Both of these animes have nothing even approaching an actual sex scene, for example. They're very "clean", for lack of perhaps a better term.

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  13. I don't know why you went off on a string about conceptually simple characters, when I am talking about simplicity of mind. Your long response doesn't have anything to do with that. Simplicity of mind. What anime has a nearly-20-year old male character with the simple mind of a toddler in a teenage body (sometimes in a kids' body) to be "cute"? If you idealize childish simplicity of mind in older females, you are idealizing regressive traits, you are finding attractiveness in the regression of women to children. (using "you" in general there).

    If you're going to respond with more stuff about conceptually simple characters, please reread that paragraph and the one in my previous post where I describe my use of the term. I hope you will understand the difference between the terms simplicity of mind - like the girl in Lamune, versus a simple concept of character - like Batman. I'm probably not going to discuss this point further, because it seems deathly obvious to me, and I have no idea how to explain it more.

    Male characters and female ones are both played for comedy in anime. Miyazawa was pretty funny in Kare Kano. Narusegawa could be funny in Love Hina, though the show sucked. These female characters actually were believable for their age and not portrayed in a condescending moe manner, but were funny. This seems like an obvious point, but yeah, it's not impossible. The key difference is that only female characters are portrayed as endearing and cute for their stupidity or naivety, as if it is a positive thing to have a 17 year old muttering catch-phrases like a toddler, as in some of Key's stuff. This is an entirely specific thing found only in female characters in otaku products.

    So if it wasn't obvious, I didn't address your discussion of male characters initially because it is apples and oranges to the topic (idealizing and sexualizing stupidity and regression in female characters). Frankly I think the attempt to introduce that into this discussion is more of a distraction than anything.

    In response to your second reply, if you wanted to write a post called "Hey, it's possible to enjoy some of these moe shows for clean reasons", you could write that and I would have no problem. Unfortunately instead you chose to write this post called "defending moe".

    The fact that you have some tangential interest in some moe shows does not change the trend, the original audience, or what the primarily appeal across the demographic is. You can't (or rather, shouldn't) make a post called "Defending Moe" which tries to end off by making some naive point about how moe is about "appreciating good people" (a far cry from the initial point about otaku romantic attraction, and an even farther cry from the Japanese otaku subculture's interests) while ignoring everything about the target demographics and source materials.

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  14. Anon - Ok, I see what you mean by "simplicity of mind" vs. "simple concept of character". I read more into your initial use of the term "simplicity" than what was intended.

    All I'll say is that some anime characters at least have good in-canon reasons for simplicity of mind (Ayu, from Kanon 2006, was comatose for years since her childhood, and never mentally aged into even adolescence as such). Simplicity of mind is NOT an attractive trait, at a romantic level, for me. Such characters can be very comedic to me (for the same reason as the Three Stooges are funny to me; stupidity or silliness can be amusing ^_^;;), but I wouldn't want a person like that character as an actual girlfriend.

    For me, "moe" means a cute (at a sheer aesthetic level) character with an unjaded personality. A lot of modern entertainment has a certain cynicism or jaded nature to it that I just don't like. So a character with a positive outlook like, say, Nagisa from Clannad, is a character that I tend to find appealing.

    However, I'll concede to you that "moe" might mean something very different (and more insidious) for the otaku subculture that are the primary audience for these shows, and certainly for the games that they are based on.


    This will be my final comment on this debate, as I think we probably have a good understanding where each other are coming from now, and any remaining disagreements will have to be "agrees to disagree".

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  15. Anonymous!!! Shut up would you!!! Just because YOU don't like moe characters doesn't mean you have to ruin it for the people who do(myself included). Also It's perfectly OK for guy characters to be airheaded and dumb, but not girls characters. Sigh when will you get it not all anime girls have to be "lara Croft" inorder to be likeable or good characters.

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