My Delusions As A Fanboy: If Moe Is A Cancer…

By TheBigN

What type of cancer would it be? Something slow-growing, yet considered incurable like a chronic lymphocytic leukemia? Something that could have been avoided if people didn’t use certain things too much, like smoking with lung cancers? Something that’s silent until it’s too late, like some forms of pancreatic cancer? Course, I have problems with hearing this metaphor in the first place, as it paints moe as something that’s negative, bothersome, and ultimately ruinous for anime, and I wonder why? Whether you agree with that or not (and I feel like I’m simplifying things too much here, in my opinion), I feel like moe is used as a scapegoat too much, where people use it as the answer du jour for whatever ails anime, and I never feel comfortable about that.

If you get the reference, you win.

Is the answer really cancer?

I feel more uncomfortable about it since moe is a complicated concept with different definitions for different people. For myself, I mostly see it as something that one feels: something that one becomes or gets whenever they see something that appeals to them in that way, like a character trait, or a random thing. From that I believe that one can feel moe for anything (glasses moe, train moe, show moe, etc.), and that whatever instills that feeling presents a sense of innocence, cuteness, pleasure or whatever the hell you want to call it. And that makes you want to do something to it, be it wanting to observe them, protect them, care for them, care for them in your pants, whatever. But who says that’s really the right way to look at it?

And it’s why I get confused when I hear that a show is moe, or when people refer to characters such as “moeblobs”. Terms like that make me get the opinion that the people who use them call things moe to mean that these things contain characteristics solely for the purpose of appealing to that “moe” sense. And is that sense a certain type of cute properties or properties trying to be cute (if it’s sorta like that, then why the hell not call it just that to be more specific)? Something like that I was talking about before? Something more implicitly sexual? Something just for otaku? A certain type of aesthetic for others? Something that burns with a fiery passion of manliness? Something that you know when you see it? Something devoid of any productive value? Something else?

Regardless, most of the time, to me the usage sounds derogatory, as in there’s no other worth to these shows/characters/things other than pandering to a certain subset of people that aren’t the people saying these terms (who are also the ones making things  bad for everyone else, from what I infer as well). I worry/think too much about what’s meant by those terms, since it gets to the point where I refrain from saying that a character/shows is “cute” or “adorable”, even when that’s the case to me. Those words to me sound like buzzwords that can be easily connected to moe, and the more “negative” aspects that seen to come with the term (male “dominance”, titillation, pandering, easy money make, not artistic/special) and so on.  And I wonder in turn that that means about me, who thinks these things about some anime I watch and some people that I like in these anime. Even the people who openly like moe seem to keep that worry in mind.

It seems that this is why K-On! sucked for some. Somehow. I just shrug.

It seems that this is why K-On! sucked for some. Somehow. I just shrug.

I also wonder about how moe is leading to a decline of anime, and possibly a death. I think I get the argument that as anime focuses more on “moe” or whatever the term’s supposed to mean in more works, the audience becomes more and more focused to the lowest common denominator (in size of audience and in moral standing, hurr hurr hurr). And because apparently most recent shows produced only cater to these individuals, how can the industry sustain itself as that niche begins to get older, and there doesn’t seem to be a will to make more works that cover a larger audience (again, clarify if I’m totally off here), or something along those lines?  One could claim that the seeds are sewn for that, but there’s no answer to that question for the moment, especially since we haven’t reached that “dire” situation yet. But to that, why is moe considered to be so limited in that respect (the amount of people willing to watch shows containing more apparently obvious examples of it)? Don’t different types of moe appeal to different people, and so on and so forth?

For something that seems complex, how come a lot of people (including myself) try to simplify moe so much, and then use that simplification as a scapegoat, or as something to look down at? I’m not saying that it doesn’t need criticism, but doing it that way seems like an easy way out. And yay victimization, but I also sometimes sort of see it as an “Us vs Them” argument, since sometimes it comes out to me as it the main reason people pick a bone with moe is that it’s not the anime they want to see, and are just hating on it because it’s there. I can get that some people don’t like it, but to phrase things as if it’s a scourge on anime that needs to be eliminated to me sounds like overkill. It’s why I keep asking what a person means whenever they say that a show/character is moe. Since there isn’t one set answer for what moe is, how come many seem to treat it like such?

I mean, there are different types of cancers out there with different prognoses, treatments and such, but it’s all considered to be bad. When looking at moe in that aspect, it isn’t that problematic, is it? Do I have it completely wrong?

If you also get this reference right, you are pretty awesome.

After all, Madarame is pretty moe.

P.S. Here are four of my favorite takes on moe (the first is not safe for work, and on the third hopefully SDS can update his post or repost it on Ogiue Maniax for more to see like these), but again, they aren’t the be-all and end-all, and I don’t necessarily agree with all that’s said there. But it shows a little bit of how moe is more complicated than it may seem, or more complicated than what others might want to think about it.

24 Responses to “My Delusions As A Fanboy: If Moe Is A Cancer…”

  1. 1 Vampt Vo July 6, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    No, no, no, you guys have it all wrong! We “moe-haeters” don’t hate it because we have deep personal insecurities or because we hate new things or because we’re crotchety old people who can’t adapt to understand the important meaning behind the latest fashions.

    At least in my case, I hate moe because it’s thinly-veiled PEDOPHILIA (despite what Nocturnesb so sarcastically implies). I hate it because I hate people who claim to want to “protect” and “cuddle” little cartoon girls, when really they just want to have sex with them.

    That’s not to say that all moe fans are into that, or that I hate all fans of moe. I’m just creeped out by moe itself because, whether you’re a lolicon trying to hide your shame or not, THAT’S WHAT MOE IS FOR. It exists as a male fantasy, and most of us just can’t get over the specter of pedophilia that looms over the entire concept.

    • 2 TheBigN July 6, 2009 at 11:22 pm

      So I see that you apparently focus on moe on more sexual terms, or in just sexual terms. I don’t look at it that way myself, as that’s one of the simplifications that are a little troublesome to me. Sure, in the overflowing of feelings of innoncence/wanting to protect/etc. that moe seems to bring out in people, some people might look at it in more of a sexual context (i.e. the male gaze and all that). And you can easily see how the fascination that comes with moe can also be applied to something like lolicon. But from my experiences though (though I also can be wrong, to keep that in context), it’s one of the exceptions to the rule (and you can’t really call moe a rule yet if everyone has different meanings for it :P), and because moe is a complex concept, to paint it all as just for sex is as absurd to me as saying that moe is the cancer that destroys anime, or that moe is all completely pure and good.

      But why do you think that people aren’t being honest when they claim that it’s a feeling of wanting to be fatherly, to protect, and things like that? Do you have experience to justify the believe that all moe is inherently sexual?

      • 3 Vampt Vo July 7, 2009 at 12:13 am

        Mind you, I don’t think everybody is being dishonest (as I pointed out in my previous post). For all I know, you might legitimately be interested in moe only because you like the “fatherly instinct” or whatever. But why would somebody else be dishonest about their latent pedophilia? Well, because it’s pedophilia, and few people are going to openly admit that they are sexually attracted to underage girls. Moe is a seemingly-innocent cover that they can hide behind.

        One can argue that it has become its own concept now, separate from the sexual undertones, but the truth is that moe still appeals most to those who find moe characters sexually attractive.

        But let’s work with your argument for a bit here. Let’s say that moe is NOT inherently sexual. If so, then it at least promotes a view of women that is inherently biased. It creates a vision of a sort of “ideal woman” who acts as the man’s (non-sexual, if you insist) pet, and who relies on his “protection” so that she may remain his innocent and pure companion. That is absolutely a male fantasy, and it promotes a view of women that diverges greatly from reality.

        • 4 TheBigN July 7, 2009 at 1:24 am

          “One can argue that it has become its own concept now, separate from the sexual undertones, but the truth is that moe still appeals most to those who find moe characters sexually attractive.”

          “appeals most to” is a strong phrase to me. Again, I’m reading from this that in your opinion the majority of people who are interested in things that bring out moe are pedophiles, and I don’t know why you think that (correct me if I’m wrong here). Again, I get what you’re trying to say, but I still don’t really know where you’re coming from with the idea that the main points of moe mainly = pedophile pandering. So can you further explain to me why you think that? What qualities do you think that “moe characters” have that apparently appeal more to deviant interests? Or asking from another angle, what characteristics in the “ideal woman” that moe seems to promote leads you feel that it’s main point is a cover for something more insidious?

          This is part of the whole “you know it when you see it” definition of moe that I see from people that, when based on how people use it, I don’t think I really do know it when I see it. So I want to know where you’re coming from a little bit more.

          • 5 Roy Mustang July 15, 2009 at 12:35 am

            At least in my case, I hate moe because it’s thinly-veiled PEDOPHILIA (despite what Nocturnesb so sarcastically implies). I hate it because I hate people who claim to want to “protect” and “cuddle” little cartoon girls, when really they just want to have sex with them.

            Look at this typical moe picture of Yui and Azu-nyan.

            Does sex enter your mind at all? If so, you may be projecting.

            Moe is like someone wanting to hug a puppy or a kitten. Wanting to cuddle a puppy does not mean that person is sexually attracted to animals.

    • 6 Mass July 9, 2009 at 6:06 pm

      No offense, but I’m in delivering deep sighs because of your post right now.

      I don’t think you even understand what moe is if you think moe in general = sexual, and thinking (for you, anyway) that it’s “thinly-veiled PEDOPHILIA.” Seemingly, you are stuck on the notion that moe, or all moe characters are prepubescent, which is far from accurate. Even if it does concern a character who is prepubescent, can you say for certain that the underlying cause that leads to sexual desire is because of moe? I don’t believe so. There are too many factors and reasons that exist within each individual to even say for certain. You only infer with your own perception of what you think moe is or is designed for.

      And to me, your perception for hating moe flawed.

      You are clearly confusing “normal male desire”, that is, “typical and normal sexual thought/attraction”, to moe. When it comes to moe, there should not be anything sexual about it at all. When it does come to that, though, then it no longer is because of moe, but either a natural desire, especially inside males, or because of fetishes, love for the character, and numerous other reasons.

      Again, your mindset (of moe) is warping your way of thinking. Moe is a huge presence within the otaku culture that is continually growing. Traits, archetypes and designs like tsundere, yandere… bishoujo in general, and so many other are are just small facets within the moe fandom. With that, it should be transparent to you that moe is not restricted by anything. And I’d argue that it might be possible for inanimate objects to be moe…but let’s not get into that now.

      The otaku culture is built around marketing and appealing to males since they are the dominating party. Not to say that the female party is insignificant or are not thought of, but it’s undeniable that the majority of the marketing is geared towards and for males. This includes visual novels, games, manga, anime, etc. And one way of appealing to males is through moe. And since the concept of moe encompasses many subsets within itself (that is, traits, archetypes designs, character designs, and so forth)… to say that moe exist because you think it for wanting to have sex with “little cartoon girls” is really illogical because moe is not about that, much less even form the culture behind moe. To me, you are just trying to associate moe with pedophilia for your own convenience as an excuse and just reason to hate it.

      I strongly recommending (to you) reading The Moe Image by Shingo over at Heisei Democracy. It could be beneficial to you. Even if his take is a bit restricting, I also recommending reading Ken Akamatsu’s take on moe as well. Ken’s take on moe of preserving the “present situation” and not wanting any changes afterwards is worth thinking over.

  2. 7 X10A_Freedom July 9, 2009 at 1:49 am

    The concept of “Moe” is also something which I find hard to understand. While there are many kinds of fetishes, a lot of “Moe” seems to center on innocence.

    Kagami (winner of last year’s popularity contest called SaiMoe) being an anomaly complicates matters. Her personality is mature, yet tsundere so would the way she was drawn be a huge factor?

    Hinagiku is probably the biggest anomaly – drawn like an actual 15 year old, smart, fairly mature, strong, but a hapless tsundere.

    Tsukasa on the other hand was more “stereotypical”.

    It cannot be denied that “Moe” seems to favour the younger characters as we have Rin (never watched Higurashi), Nagi (Hayate), Shana, Nanoha/Fate, CCS Sakura who all have a huge following.

    “Moe” magazines often have 10-year olds with blushing faces on the cover and well, my sister who’s more or less integrated into the “mainstream” gave a “wtf” look as she saw the “Moe” title of the magazine.

    The pedophilia bit probably applies to some aspects, since some portions of the Japanese Otaku (and to a lesser extent I hope, gaijin) do have a thing for naked young kids.

    To add another complication, in Japan it’s perfectly normal for girls up to primary school (pre-puberty) to take a bath together with her dad. I was a little surprised in Hong Kong when a Japanese dad took his nude daughter into the male jacuzzi area in a private club.

    Going back to Otakus, we can see from the amount of fanservice that they do like nudity, even child nudity as seen in Cardcaptor Sakura and Nanoha. The best (and worst) example of all this is Kodomo no Jikan which is loaded with “fanservice”, and the merchandise beyond disgusting. Yet another complication – KnJ kids are not considered “moe” presumably because they’re not innocent.

    So what have I done here? In order to clear some things up, I actually muddied the waters even further, which is good in way because it means I am nothing like the Japanese Otaku!

  3. 8 Roy Mustang July 14, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    I also wonder about how moe is leading to a decline of anime, and possibly a death. I think I get the argument that as anime focuses more on “moe” or whatever the term’s supposed to mean in more works, the audience becomes more and more focused to the lowest common

    I just don’t want to watch ugly characters. Is that too much to ask for?

  4. 9 Marigold Ran July 29, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    “Moe” ~= “sexual depiction of young girls”

    There are two caveats:

    1. The young girls are cartoon figures.
    2. Most moe is not overtly sexual. But there is that undertone to it. People who say otherwise are lying or deluded.

    In other words, “moe” bumps against our basic civilized instincts. It doesn’t infringe completely against these prejudices because of the caveats above but moe does make many people uncomfortable. Straight up “ordinary” pornography is in some ways more acceptable because at least they depict adults. If we were a society that condoned childhood sexuality then moe would be fine. But thankfully we’re not.

    • 10 TheBigN July 30, 2009 at 9:39 am

      I do understand that there definitely are unsavory aspects linked to moe and to disregard that is silly, but at the same time, it’s important to know that moe can be utilized without sexual aspects linked to it as with them. What I tend to notice is that because of our “basic civilized instincts”, moe often gets bumped to the latter more than I think it should. It’s a personal preference, sure, but painting it all as one thing when it’s not and a lot more complex than that bugs me. Some things can’t be simplified that easily. The undercurrent will always be there by moe’s associations, but it’s not always there, nor is it never there. It’s never that easy. 😛

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