Why We Need the Moé Discussion to Happen

We’re quickly catching up to the Japanese industry. Nowadays, it’s possible to watch new anime within a day or so of its airing in Japan, which wasn’t possible just a few years ago. It’s nice to be able to ride the nuance and freshness of being this close to the source time-wise, but the speed at which we’re catching up to the Japanese industry has caused problems as well.

First of all, I think it’s important to understand that the US is an auxiliary market to the Japanese anime industry. That is to say, the vast majority of anime is created to sell in Japan first, with only a handful of exceptions created specifically to appeal to Americans. This being the case, we ride the waves of their industry and there’s not much we can do about that, unless we all decided to collectively drop a whole lot of money on DVDs.

That brings us to moé. Right now there’s a lot of moé in anime. Not quite as much as there used to be, but a lot nonetheless, and people still complain about it and demonize it, pretending to have a discussion about it, all while shooting down any legitimate discussion being had about it. This is very harmful. Not only do we get a lot of people (As well as a surprising number of high-level fans) who are ill-informed about moé this way, they go on to spread their misinformation mostly unopposed to less-experienced fans. It becomes a cycle of misinformed people misinforming people and creating more misinformed people.

It’s not just that they get the wrong ideas about moé, however. The wrong ideas they get are almost wholly negative. It’s a perfect storm. The Anti-Moé Brigade spreads negative misinformation, which gives more and more people a negative view of moé based on false pretenses. The fact that the people these newer fans trust to give them perspective on the anime world are themselves underinformed about certain issues, but pretend to be informed about said issues, is one problem, but I want to address a different, further-reaching problem with this situation.

We are indeed quickly catching up to the Japanese industry, and this brings several pressing issues to light, including what we make of the elements currently prevalent in anime. In the past, because we generally fed off of the Japanese industry’s older works, it wasn’t necessary to stay abreast of and understand the trends going on in the anime industry. We happened to catch up at a moé-heavy point in time and, for some people, it was a culture shock.

Some people would find out that anime is not necessarily what they thought it was and that anime would go some places they thought it wouldn’t or shouldn’t. Some people would demand that the Japanese industry somehow return to doing something it hadn’t even been doing: Making anime to appeal to Western audiences. Some people would attack the people who enjoy the new stuff, with words like “creepy,” “loser,” “deviant,” and “pedophile.”

What this all boils down to, and the reason this animosity continues, is a failure to understand. A failure to make an effort to understand. Because back in the day, we didn’t need to understand. Anime was violent, exciting, filled with robots, guns, ninjas, and sexy women. We understand violence, sex, and giant robots. It’s understandable that once shows like Lucky Star and K-ON! showed up, a large subset of the anime community scratched their heads and uttered a collective “Huh?”

Suddenly, it became necessary to understand. Concepts we do not have words for here in the West began showing up more frequently and were more visible as we got caught up to the Japanese industry. The “Japanese-ness” of anime was becoming more and more apparent. Loanwords became more prevalent, as many concepts in anime were concepts for which we had no established words, like “moé,” “yandere,” “iyashikei,” and “yamato nadeshiko.”

It’s easier to just demonize it. Rather than make an effort to understand, it’s easier to just pretend moé is what took all the “good” anime away. It’s easier to scapegoat moé to make up for the West’s impotence as a market force within the anime industry. The reason we’re not getting more anime for Western audiences isn’t because the Japanese industry rarely sees a reason to spend time and money catering to a fickle, unreliable overseas market. No, it’s all moé’s fault.

This is why the moé discussion needs to happen. If we’re going to understand and engage on a deeper level with this medium we all love as anime fans, we need to make an effort to understand all aspects of it, including ones we might not completely enjoy. And I’m not talking about “understanding” like the Anti-Moé Brigade claims to “understand” moé. They’re lying to our fellow anime fans, pure and simple. A real understanding can be reached. I’m confident of that.

What needs to happen for that understanding to be reached, however, is a legitimate discussion of moé. This thing we currently have, where the Anti-Moé Brigade not only holds the majority of the prolific positions within the anime fandom, but are also the most vocal when it comes to the moé debate while the fans of moé are both not as prolific and not nearly as vocal, won’t work. The status quo in the anime fandom, with regards to moé, only serves to further spread anti-moé sentiment and marginalize those who actually enjoy moé.

The anime community is special, however. We’re a community where the actual difference between high-level fans and lower-level fans isn’t actually all that much. Those in high positions within the fandom really aren’t too far removed from the average fan, and it’s relatively easy to reach them, especially compared to people in high positions in, say, the gaming community. Those who write about anime professionally are akin to prolific bloggers (Some of them actually do have personal blogs on the side) and, likewise, many prolific bloggers write on a level that could easily belong in a professional publication. Indeed, the separation between a professional anime journalist, for example, and a knowledgeable blogger is basically arbitrary.

Why, then, are we so afraid to call these people out when they spread falsities about moé? Sure, they will resist being called-out, but that’s how we start a discussion: By disagreeing. A discussion where everyone’s talking in a circle and agreeing with each other doesn’t really help anybody, but the Anti-Moé Brigade has convinced themselves that not only does it help, but that their “discussion” is the only real discussion going on about the subject.

Now that we, the Western fanbase, are catching up with the Japanese industry, we’re going to be exposed to their cultural influence over the medium more often and more directly, and the longer we stall, the longer we pretend to have a discussion about things like moé instead of actually coming together and having a genuine discourse, the more we risk the Western fanbase at large becoming alienated.

The longer we pretend that moé is the problem without taking the time to investigate it genuinely and understand it, the further and further we will really be from the medium we all love as fans of anime.


Stay frosty.

28 thoughts on “Why We Need the Moé Discussion to Happen”

  1. Another excellent post. It’s like you took the thoughts right out of my mind and put them into writing.

    The “Anti-Moe Brigade” often complains about how moe is “killing the anime industry.” What they fail to realize is that by demonizing moe for new anime fans, they are just attributing to that. New anime fans might be interested in moe at first, and then after reading the lies and misinformation spread by the anti-moe elitist fuckwads, they’re turned off from it because at that point, they don’t know any better.

    I love how the AMB often pretends they’re experts about moe, but they really don’t know a damn thing because they don’t give moe shows the light of day. Even the most renowned “moe shows” out there, such as Clannad, Toradora, Strike Witches, and even Madoka (yes, Madoka) are never given a chance by these people, yet somehow they’re “experts.”

    Fortunately, the AMB is only a very loud minority, and moe is doing just fine, because people like cute things (shocker!), and even when these cute things are sexualized, people know the difference between fantasy and reality (a concept the AMB has a tough time grasping).

    Keep on fighting the good fight.

  2. Here’s another notion that’s apparent. Back before the internet even though anime was still coming out in the west, we had no way of knowing who actually consumed this stuff in Japan. We had to invent our own fandom. Now that we have access to such information, many have quickly to demonize otaku rather than trying to understand what they enjoy. Of course then there’s those who OVER analyze this info and try to put into notions that ALL Japanese otaku are creepy loners who are just one step away from kidnapping schoolgirls and that Japan promote “rape” as “culture”.

  3. You are truly wise beyond your years Anubis keep preaching the good word! I hope we one day see fans getting along instead of being at each others throats.

  4. Another good article there Anubis. What gets me upset about the AMB is that some of them want to attack those who like moe as some kind of basement dwelling people who don’t play with themselves enough. I’m not a fan of those who claim moe is some sort of misogynist.

    I tend to be more sympathetic to otakus even though I have a disagreement with how they behave towards certain things (don’t get me started on the female seiyu stuff)

  5. @FattyJanai
    It gets to me how these otherwise experienced anime fans, who are supposed to be the ones who are knowledgeable and the ones who guide new anime fans, are the people who are most content with being underinformed. I think, to a certain extent, being anti-moé is a something like status symbol to them.

    The overanalyzation of moé elements in anime, to me, is mostly just another way to vilify moé and moé fans, and the evidence is clear. Whenever these criticisms pop up (Moé is sexist, moé is pedophilic, etc), you always see moé fans shut out of the discussion. I remember in one of the response threads for an Answerman article on the ANN forum, I had presented a differing opinion about sexism in anime and Zac himself tried to shut me down. They don’t want to actually discuss these issues. They just want to circlejerk to make themselves feel like better people.

    I’ll give that article a read. Thanks for linking it!

    To tell the truth, that’s really my endgame: To bring a sense of unity, solidarity, and passion back to the anime community and to strike down the animosity, hate, and cynicism that’s consumed it.

    I think I’ll always identify more with otaku than people like the Anti-Moé Brigade, if only for the simple fact that, while I might not always agree with every otaku, I feel like we can have a discussion that won’t devolve into a cynicism-and-derision pissing contest.

  6. @Anubis
    I think it could be possible to have a discussion with those of the AMB that won’t devolve into a cynicism-and-derision pissing contest but those people seem to few and far between.

  7. I’m not sure if this has been brought up elsewhere, but why do you add an acute accent on the word “moe”? I can accept animé (as the French word, spelled the same, means “animated” and is a possible source) but moe is a hundred percent Japanese.

    1. The reason I do that is because I have, on multiple occasions, heard “moé” pronounced like “Moe” from the Three Stooges, and I want to emphasize that it’s pronounced a certain way.

      That said, this is the only place I really do that.

      1. I guess if Pokémon can get away with it… Still, what pronunciation are you indicating? I immediately think French, though “mo-ay” is wrong.

        1. “Mo-ay” isn’t 100% correct (The correct pronunciation is somewhere between “mo-ay” and “mo-eh”), but it’s much closer to correct than “moh,” which is what I hear people pronounce it as surprisingly often.

  8. What’s the best way to engage the AMB to even discuss moé? Funny how moe fans can be fans of other anime genres but most of the AMB won’t touch moé.

      1. I just finished watching the first episode of Girls und Panzer and that site seriously pissed me off! DX

        So where are some good places to launch our attack commander?

      2. I’m not even going near these pretentious thundercunts. Comparing something you don’t like to a shitty made-for-tv horror film just to show how badass you are is juvenile, let alone fucking stupid. Another group of people who pretend to be anime fans, when in reality, they are about as douchy as ANN.

        And yes. We need to curb the amount of negativity here in the anime fandom.

    1. Basically, we need to force the conversation into legitimacy. Whenever it’s brought up and the Anti-Moé Brigade starts in on it, we need to bring in that alternate viewpoint. Otherwise, it’ll look as though their viewpoint is unopposed.

      1. If we’re gonna do this let’s try to restrain ourselves and debate them civilly. I know it’s hard to do but if we launch personal attacks against them, then we aren’t any better then they are and the audience we’re trying to convince will see us as just rabid fanboys making our goal even harder.

        1. I agree that the debate should be conducted civilly, but at the same time, it’s important that we be passionate. We can’t be so afraid of disagreement that we become complacent.

          Besides, and this is just my opinion, but to a certain extent, civility only goes so far when we’re being called pedophiles.

          1. Who says we can’t be passionate enough to refute their arguments and be civil and calm at the same time? Since they are going to hit us full force its even more vital that we keep level heads and attack their ideas and not the people behind them. If we resort to ad hominems, then we’ll lose and prove the AMB right and I don’t want to see that happen.

  9. Moé and the people who support it are the cancer of the anime industry.

    I can’t fathom guys liking it/defending it. It’s just so effeminate to me. Like a guy that has no male friends and who only hangs around with girls.

    1. Moé and the people who support it are what’s been keeping the anime industry afloat for the better part of the last decade. They’re quite the opposite of a cancer.

      As far as it being effeminate, there are a couple ways I can approach this:

      #1: “Effeminate” is an interesting word to use to describe moé, particularly because it’s designed specifically to cater to men (Though I would consider fujoshi-oriented media also a type of moé, that’s obviously not what we’re talking about here.). Now, certainly, there are elements of femininity endemic to moé, but to say that that compromises the viewer’s masculinity is a stretch at best.

      #3: What exactly is the problem with liking effeminate things? Using myself as an example, I’ve got plenty of male friends, plenty of female friends, and not only do I greatly enjoy moé, but I’m a big fan of traps and Boku no Pico. Is there something wrong with that? Please enlighten me.

    2. Thank you for proving something I thought all along about western male fans who hate moe. And Anubis how do you get that apostrophe in moe I’ve it done, but I don’t know how.

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