Archive for the 'moe' Category

In Light Of Recent Revelations of the Beijing Olympics…Or, Should I Say, Moelympics?

As some of you may or may not be aware, the performance of China’s national anthem at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics were actually lip-synched.

Now, of course, this is an entirely logical thing for China to do, since they’re so obsessed with presenting a positive image to the world as the whole world watches the Olympics (to the point that they might actually be stabbing themselves in the back, given this and several other cases I’ve heard [see below–ed.]) that presenting an extremely photogenic girl instead of a much more down-home girl for the grand national anthem singing backed by choir, but that’s not the point here.

The point is the moenetic analysis of the two girls in question.

Let us consider the on-stage “singer”, Lin Miaoke:

Twintails. Hair clips. Making a weird and seemingly nonsensical yet still terribly cute and adorable hand gesture. “Low” moe.

Now consider Yang Peiyi, the actual singer:

Down-home appeal. Barely visible hairclip, or possibly flower. Damn good voice. “High” moe.

I don’t know about you, but the concept of a cute, twintailed girl actually being voiced by a much more down-home kind of girl seems pretty anime to me. And there was that Olympic promo art that bore an eerie resemblance to Haruhi

Now, of course, we here at Anime wa Bakuhatu da! (by “we” I mean “me” but the “about” page fails to mention that I am actually bizarro zombie Queen Victoria, since I am amused, unlike actual Queen Victoria, who was not) can’t really have a post about Chinese girls, now can we?

Yes. Yes we can. But here’s something to make up for it:

Klan Klan wants to sing, too. She fits all the criteria posed by Lin Miaoke! GIVE HER A CHANCE~

[DISCLAIMER: My apologies to the families of both Lin Miaoke and Yang Pinyi, and probably to Chinese people in general. The Beijing Olympics are probably going much smoother than the Western media outlets seems to tell us. You know, because they’re the media and all. Remember the Yellow Scare of the early 1900s (that was in reaction to Japan’s growing military, I know, but just bear with me here)? Yeah. Yellow journalism’s a great thing, isn’t it? How DARE someone not be like us. I hate you, Joseph Pulitzer. Hate hate hate.]

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Moenetics: Hooray for Kadokawa Pictures USA!

So I have a certain unnamed series that was licensed for release in the US by Kadokawa Pictures USA sitting in front of me that somehow arrived on my doorstep a couple weeks before the street date. I don’t really have the slightest clue as to why TRSI does this, but it’s quite fun.

Anyway, in the liner notes of said unnamed anime, there is a defintiion of moe. It is as follows:

Moe is defined as a strong but innocent love of anime or video game characters based on their appearance and personality. To a hardcore otaku, moe is not about sexual attraction, but about looking at an idealized character that is so innocent and loveable to the point of triggering an emotional response.

Let’s look at a certain segment of that quote again:

[…]moe is not about sexual attraction, but about looking at an idealized character that is so innocent and loveable […]

Just to be absolutely clear that you’re se eing what I’m seeing:

[…]moe is not about sexual attraction[…]

Thank god the industry understands this. As a short, concise definition of moe (the actual definition would require a doctoral thesis, and at any rate that definition would simply belong to the author of the thesis and wouldn’t really apply to anyone else) that communicates essential fundamentals about the concept to an unknowing audience, it’s brilliant. The adjectives are perhaps a bit limiting, but I wholeheartedly endorse this official definition. It’s much better than Tokyopop’s as found in the back of Welcome to the NHK! volume 1.

If only I could find some way to send a message to every anime fan by generating subliminal messages that would be recorded onto every broadcast of every anime ever, so that all fans everywhere understand the concept of moe, even if they, personally, don’t like it. Maybe I should read more of The Mysterious Benedict Society, it might give me some important hints and tips as to this feat. Step one: find an island loaded with precious metals and gemstones that no one knows has precious metals and gemstones. Step two…

Moenetics: The Rise of the Sophisticated Moe Series

Post to be broken up with ridiculously huge images, as is my tradition for longer essays, because otherwise there’s a huge wall of text and no one likes walls of text, least of all me, so you can either stay for the text or just stare at pretty pictures for a few minutes. Either way, you’ll hopefully have fun!

It’s occurred to me in the past couple of days, basking in the warm afterglow of finishing true tears (which, by the way, I think blogging it really helped me appreciate it much more than I would have without such, as doing the entries gave me the opportunity to properly think about each character’s motivations and emotions, even if most of those posts revolved around Noe), that anime in general and moe in particular is kind of undergoing a sort of sea change. We’ve seen, in the past six months, the airing of four very, from a historical perspective, odd galge/eroge conversion series: Kimikiss, ef – a tale of memories, Clannad, and true tears. They’re odd not in the sense that they’re quirky, but odd in the sense that they break from tradition

Three of them were handed to major creative directors–Kimikiss to Kasai Ken’ichi of Honey & Clover and Nodame Cantabile fame; ef to Shinbo Akiyuki’s very capable supervision hands, with Oonuma Shin providing a very strong initial showing; and true tears to Nishimura Junji, who directed Simoun, as well as a portion of that little-known series Ranma 1/2; Clannad to Kyoto Animation’s extremely competent Ishihara Tatsuya, responsible for Haruhi and Kanon. In addition to these four series, I’d like to throw in, partially because I’m very fond of it, and partially because it works very well with the concept, Nishimori Akira’s Hitohira (Nishimori also directed the extremely pleasant Petopeto-san, which I was probably one of the few people who genuinely liked it). I’ll probably talk more about true tears, ef, Clannad, and Hitohira, as I’ve seen them, and I haven’t had the chance to see Kimikiss yet, but all signs point to that series being excellent as well, so I look forward to it.

Whew.

What that all builds up to, then, is a discovery of what moe actually is. As a term. it has a flexible definition, and one way I’ve always looked at it is as a sort of bridging the gap between the male audience and the female audience, at least when accomplished properly. The concept of “cute girls” preys upon the male’s need for eye candy, and the frequently deep emotions and development of the “cute girl” into a more complex character is strongly reminiscent of shoujo characterization. Put another way, moe offers character-driven (or primarily character-driven) series featuring cute female characters and officially targeted at a male audience. It’s a kind of transference of shoujo sensibilities into seinen anime and manga–again, when accomplished properly.

The deep character focus of the five mentioned series (in Kimikiss’s case, it is assumed, but I don’t think I’m wrong) demonstrate moe in this sense effectively. Consider Hitohira, for starters: it’s an entirely character-driven series, as the plot exists only to further Mugi’s development as a character. She is a quite cute character, with somewhat exaggerated traits, but it’s clear to anyone who’s seen the series that she changes over the course of the series. In true shoujo form, we get a glimpse inside the person of Mugi, and then we get the joy of cheering her on as she slowly comes out of her shell. It’s the total opposite of what you’d think a guy would enjoy, but there’s certainly a small (yet devoted) male fanbase for the series.

The extreme example of this shift in narrative focus from “plot” to “character”, from characters existing solely as flat personalities (such as you’d see in a Da Capo series) with a quirky trait to characters existing as a complex whole, is of course true tears. As I’ve mentioned in my posts about the series, the six main characters are incredibly complex, and developed so well that I find it difficult to grasp how so many people have enjoyed the series seemingly without getting underneath the characters’ skin and trying to decipher how they work. (Then again, maybe all these sorts of people just read my blog, where I attempted to do that for them, to varying degrees of success depending on the person) This kind of depth of character is something you only see in shoujo and josei in anime, and is even what you get in women’s fiction here in America, such as The Time-Traveler’s Wife. It’s what females seem to thrive on, this depth of character, and true tears gives it in a package that both males and females can share, if they try hard enough.

On the Clannad front, you’ve got, at its heart, not a complex “love heptagon” plot, but rather the simple story of two people, Tomoya and Nagisa, who gradually fall in love as they help those around them. I haven’t quite seen the second half of this series yet, unfortunately, but I’m led to understand that the conclusion is decidedly Tomoya x Nagisa. The important thing about Clannad is that, while it may lack some of the character depth found in true tears, it makes up for it by telling a simple, honest story of a romance between two people. It’s almost like girl fanservice to see the little tantalizing bits of relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa, such as hands brushing against one another while walking. Again, here the package of sweet, almost girly romance is tied up with a wrapping of a number of cute girls designed to appeal to the male aesthetic.

ef is somewhat more complicated, but, like Clannad, it’s at its heart a tale of pure romance. Fans of love triangles got their fill with the Kei/Miyako arc, and fans of a tale of true love crossing all boundaries and impediments got their fill with Chihro and Renji. Again, the characters are drawn to the bishoujo style, but also, there’s depth of emotion here. The characters may be somewhat on the flat side, but ef truly shines at bringing out their raw emotions and showing to the viewer exactly what it is they’re feeling, which is a difficult act to accomplish. Part of that is due to the clever direction, of course, but there’s enough of it in the writing that it’s not wholly directorial.

On the whole, I think that this trend towards a more characterized moe (rather than an arbitrary character trait moe) is fast becoming the new wave of the future. We saw its beginnings back in 2006 with Toki o Kakeru Shoujo, I think, and there’s certainly proto-series of this type floating around that I’ve forgotten about from even earlier time periods. I’ve also noticed that as we’ve been getting more and more of these sorts of series, we get far less in the way of series along the lines of Rosario + Vampire, which offer little character depth but plenty of superficial and visceral enjoyment for males (and, it should be noted, females of a rather odd persuasion). I think that the enduring popularity of these series with the American and Japanese audience will only go to encourage the producers of anime to create more in the vein of the five series mentioned here.

Maybe someday I can write a post titled “Moe: The Rise from the Ashes” and everyone who hated moe will suddenly comprehend the concept and appreciate it for what it is supposed to be. Or maybe I’m just delusional, or overly hopeful, or both. Surely there’s some middle ground, right?

I didn’t think CLANNAD could top Fuko, but…

Now I get why everyone loves Kotomi.

Her shyness is so hyper-exaggerated it’s absolutely endearing. Since SDS has told me on number occasions that he believes that true moe comes from a character whose personal weakness is similar to that of the viewer’s, I’ve always seen the truth, kind of, in that, but since watching things like Hitohira (and falling in 2d love with Mugi-Choco) and after seeing how absolutely adorable Kotomi is here in CLANNAD, I think I’m understanding what he’s about.

Moe, to me, has always been a kind of subset of love, a specific word that one could use to signify that you loved a fictional character. That sounds really silly in concept, but it’s not really “love” in the sense that two human beings experience love. It’s almost similar to the response one feels when one encounters someone in reality that has a similar behavior pattern to you–you feel a sense of attachment to that person, not necessarily a romantic attachment, but a kind of emotional, “I’m not the only one in the world who acts this way” attachment. Anime characters, through exaggerating the character’s weaknesses, offer this kind of comfort, this sense that you are not alone in your ways. It’s like through shared experience, one feels empathy with a character. Empathy is almost a default reaction to me; whenever I watch or read something, I rarely hate a character because they don’t act in a mature or sensible way. Stories are, at their most basic, about affecting the person experiencing it in some way, small or large. If one can feel empathy for a character, then in some small way the reader or viewer may recognize a similar fault or feeling in their own experience. Aristotle always said that one of the most valuable things fiction could provide was catharsis, a purging of emotions through the act of crying (or feeling any emotion, really, but especially crying) at a work of fiction that served to heal the reader or viewer and cleanse them. It’s like a mental car-wash.

Derailed by moe, sorry.

CLANNAD continues with the storyline of finding Nagisa some members for the drama club. This derails, however, into making friends for Kotomi, who is shy and quiet and reads a lot. Since this is pretty much me (anime has a habit of creating characters who are me, except anime, and except girls), of course I find her adorable, as mentioned above. I don’t quite think she’s a Fuko topper, but there isn’t a single character in CLANNAD that I’m not gung-ho about (even the guys). It’s already better than Kanon in that regard, but I don’t really hold that against Kanon as it was the first Key title. Whatever her story’s going to be about concerns her parents, so maybe we’ll get at a deeper reason for her shyness and quietness. Which would be delicious.


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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