Tuesday, September 30

Moe/ 萌え

Definition: oe (萌え, Moe? /mo.e/, pronounced "mo-eh" literally "budding", as with a plant) is a Japanese slang word originally referring to fetish for or love for characters in video games or anime and manga. (Wikipedia, 2008)

It's difficult. They immediately become the subjects of lolicon fetishism. In a sense, if we want to depict someone who is affirmative to us, we have no choice but to make them as lovely as possible. But now, there are too many people who shamelessly depict (such heroines) as if they just want (such girls) as pets, and things are escalating more and more

- Hayao Miyazaki

The anime maestro like Miyazaki is expressing worry about anime fans hyper emphasize certain traits of female character while ignoring the rest. That shows how powerful demand is, to have a "moe" characteristics. That to me, is a symptom of selective viewing by anime fans which undermine the character real strength and integrity. It is tough to have normal, mentally matured female anime characters in current mainstream shows. Miyazaki style female characters are very notable for their strength, courage and believable human traits but to have him prompted such opinion means this aspect was often overlooked by his audiences.

Few like Shinbo made this a running gag in his latest series, Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei. He shamelessly portrayed the girls in very compromising scenes that is designed to create the moe as form of mockery; the characters doing 4th wall jokes hitting on this at the same time.
Sometimes I do wonder if people watching anime for story or just more baser fulfillment of certain paradigms (hence my largely negative outlook of shows like Lucky Star). A thing come to mind when I did a review on Haruhi, I commented wryly if the most fans were watching it for sheer brilliant discussion on science fiction concepts like Singularity or powerful questions of "Why are we here?" or checking out the short skirts of their school uniform and other physical traits for moe appeal (Asahina Mikuru is good example here). Even Macross Frontier has to morphed the idol image to be more moe (Ranka Lee's signature pose) versus a more traditional idol star in mold of Lin Min Mei ( in form of Sheryl Nome). It is as if Kawamori put these 2 idols and have them fight each other as statement of his view on the issue.

Ranka Lee

Sheryl Nome

Another troubling aspect is the focus on childlike qualities to elicit the moe appeal. I do wonder if it issue of most anime fans simply refuse to grow up and the market feeds on their insecurity/fears of adulthood in vicious circle. Asian culture itself venerated youth appeal especially females as purity of essence for thousands of years. No exception here, from China to southern archipelago of South Pacific. Japan just take the step further and twist it into more sophisticated childlike infatuation art. Some social commentators even went as far that 30 something Japanese women actually has to resort to giggle like a school girl or cuddle a teddy bear in order to get hitched by guys. Seriously, WTF.

Strike Witches

Demands fuel supply and such as moe now becoming more pervasive as anime fans with money demanded it in home market of Japan. To me, it is a self made vicious cycle; studios keep churning out the moe anime at the expense of good storytelling and fans to lap it up without restraint, demanding more. "Moe" should be a bonus, not a driving force in anime storytelling. A good example is the recently concluded (when this post is made) Strike Witches. What is the point of this anime if not appealing to twisted segment of anime population that can't grow up? It is troubling enough to note that all the principal female characters are very young looking but the final nail is the fact they don't wear pants. The fact it is quite popular disturbs me even further.

I have grave misgivings for future of mainstream anime.

Miyazaki's complaint
Balanced Wiki entry