Check Your List at the Door

A big strike against moé that the Anti-Moé Brigade pulls out is the “checklist mentality” of moé fans. They posit that moé fans operate on a mental checklist, and evaluate the quality of shows based on whether or not a show satisfies a shopping list of tropes they find enjoyable. That, actual show quality notwithstanding, moé fans will watch anything that includes enough of their favorite tropes.

The problem is, either checklist mentality is not at all congruent with how moé fans think, or it’s something that can be applied to more than just moé.

The “checklist mentality” argument is commonly used by the Anti-Moé Brigade to make moé fans seem indiscriminate and lacking in critical thought. This breaks down, however, when you look at some of the shows that are popular with otaku. The checklist mentality argument is often coupled with how “shallow” moé characters are, how they’re just “piles of clichés and tropes,” but if the checklist mentality were actually a factor, shows like Madoka Magica would never have had a chance of becoming popular, when pitted against your average harem or slice-of-life show.

One problem I see is that, despite their “intellectualism,” the Anti-Moé Brigade seems to have fallen into the trap of only thinking of characters in terms of archetypes. What I mean by this is, when someone sees a character and immediately categorizes them into a particular character archetype, it becomes easy to see all characters as archetypal. For example, Kotonoha Katsura from School Days seems like a character meant to portray an extreme of the Yamato Nadeshiko archetype, but because of that, she’s simply considered a Yandere. While archetypes are not a negative thing, the Anti-Moé Brigade uses them as a crutch in their arguments, claiming that moé characters are nothing but archetypes, when, for the most part, that stance is formed through a failure to look past whatever archetype that character falls into.

A second problem is that the “checklist mentality” is simply not how moé fans think. To a certain extent, there is a “this work of media has things I like in it” kind of appeal, but that’s extremely basic and can apply to anything. Past that, production quality, execution, story, and other criteria not solely based on basic content, factor into a moé fan’s enjoyment of a show.

Using myself as an example, I really like the “cute girls with guns” aesthetic. I love Strike Witches, Upotte!!, and Gunslinger Girl. Going by checklist mentality, I should have loved Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino as well, but I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t like it at all, despite it 100% satisfying my checklist of having cute girls with firearms.

The checklist mentality can’t explain why I liked all those anime, but not Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino, despite the basic content being the same, but looking past the checklist, it’s easy to see why:

Strike Witches has fantastic, expansive worldbuilding, beautifully-choreographed aerial combat, charming character interaction, all wrapped up in a fun, alternate-reality WWII that’s only as serious as it needs to be.

Upotte!! has a mixture of very funny slice-of-life interaction mixed with surprisingly intense action sequences, as well as very well-informed fact about guns presented in a cute, hilarious manner.

Gunslinger Girl has intense, visceral combat coupled with absolutely beautiful animation and scenery, and a very unique art style.

On the other hand, Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino’s combat has no bite to it, the overall visual quality has taken a considerable drop, and the art style is a great deal more generic.

Checklist mentality die-hards might say that appealing art style, good animation quality, charm, and humor are still part of the checklist, but that’s reaching, at best. At that point, everyone has a checklist, since everyone looks for appealing story elements, an aesthetically pleasing art style, and good production quality in their anime.

The checklist mentality argument is just another way the Anti-Moé Brigade seeks to make moé fans look like mindless consumers and make themselves look like connoisseurs. Fact is, moé fans have just as discerning tastes as everyone else does.

 

Stay frosty.

5 Replies to “Check Your List at the Door”

  1. You bring up a good point about the “check-list mentality” that some people think the hardcore otaku have when it comes to a show. Too bad those people forget in reality ANY show or any piece of medium can be considered “check-list”. For example lets take the show Escaflowne. It’s an excellent well written show with a great cast of characters, but it could be considered a check-list show if someone would have a check list for “strong females, well written script, and great music”.

  2. I’m sort of a balanced viewer who values both moe and good execution in anime. I think of moe as cultural frosting – adds flavor but doesn’t really add any nutritional value.

    That being said, I think that “checklist” argument stems from the fact that anime “elitist”s take pride in that they have unique tastes, and thus feel superior to the masses. But in actuality, the anime common to elitists have common themes that could be considered generic if you only consider them as anime – mostly cynical commentaries about the human condition. It’s funny, elitists pride themselves in being unique AND conformed at the same time. And most of them say the EXACT SAME CRAP – humanity sucks, prone to corruption, naturally stupid. Don’t get me wrong, I think balance is key when considering anime. Uplifting moe coupled with a few reality checks really help broaden perspective and overall appreciation of the medium.

    No really, here’s a good thought experiment: imagine moe being the minority and the “intellectual” stuff being the majority. I bet you the so-called anime elitists would call out the majority in that case for being so obsessed with pessimistic sophistry. And I bet you that instead of the “people who watch moe are pedophiles snark snark snark” the critique would be “people who watch this sophistry are emo, empty, materialistic assholes who only want to steal my money and get vagina/suck dick”

    So really I totally agree with you on that anti-moe folk have a major causality/correlation problem. Since a lot of anime that include moe tend to include really obvious “archetypes” that generally don’t get executed very well, they just naturally think moe = bad.

    1. You bring up a good point. The Anti-Moé Brigade takes pride in enjoying anime that’s “unique,” which isn’t a problem in and of itself. The fact that they feel the need to disparage other anime fans for not having similar tastes is the problem, which is where the “checklist mentality” comes in.

      I think that the fact that Anti-Moé Brigade anime is the current minority makes the Anti-Moé Brigade believe (or want to believe) that they have more discerning tastes than moé fans and that moé fans will simply watch anything with X, Y, and Z tropes. Like you said, it’s a causality/correlation issue. They see the correlation between moé anime containing similar archetypes or tropes and the general popularity of moé anime, as well as the relative minority of other types of anime, to be a “moé fans will watch & buy anything” sort of thing.

  3. I agree that the checklist mentality is BS.

    I like moe and am a huge fan of Kyoto Animation, so of course I’m going to blindly fall in love with Chuunibyou and Tamako Market right?

    I like K-On and Azumanga Daioh, so of course I’m going to love A-Channel and Yuruyuri because my taste in anime is shallow and I’ll eat up anything that has cute girls.

    Both of those assumptions would be completely wrong. Sure I like KyoAni, but that doesn’t change the fact that I think their two newest shows feel like little more than shameless parodies of their previous works.

    And yes, I do really like K-On and Azumanga Daioh. However, I still thought A-Channel was one of the worst shows I’ve ever watched and Yuruyuri was probably the blandest comedy series I’ve ever seen.

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