“Created Cynically”

There’s a mindset that’s recently become pervasive within the anime community (Especially within the Anti-Moé Brigade) that irks me particularly, not only because it paints moé fans as mindless consumers, but because it shows an immense disrespect for the creators involved with the anime industry.

There’s this idea that moé anime is “created cynically.” That moé is only made because people buy it. That the artists, voice actors, writers, directors, etc. don’t actually enjoy creating these kinds of anime, but do it anyway because it sells. And, of course, moé fans will eat all this “pandering,” “cynically-created” junk up because they’re mindless consumers who will cough up untold amounts of money again and again for anything that strikes the right chords for them (See: Checklist mentality).

What does this say about the moé fanbase? What does this idea of moé shows being created cynically say about how moé fans consume anime? It says that moé fans will watch literally anything that looks cute enough. Design some cute girls with big eyes, haphazardly slap them together into a generic harem situation, add a cheap gimmick or two, and you have a show that’ll bamboozle untold numbers of hapless otaku out of their money.

Except this isn’t what happens. Time and time again, moé shows do less than stellar, worse than average, even. Otaku aren’t a single massive blob that consumes moé anime. They are individuals, each with their own individual tastes, and, individually, they don’t have time for every anime that comes out, so it would make sense for some series to flop. The moé anime that do become big hits often are of exceptional quality or are innovative. These are your Bakemonogataris, your Haruhi Suzumiyas, and your K-ON!s.

What does the idea of moé shows being created cynically say about the people who make moé shows? This is where I start having a particular problem with this line of thought because, if it wasn’t for this implication, it would just be another tired assertion that moé fans are mindless consumers. This idea implies that the people who create these shows, the people who put their blood, sweat, and tears into creating these works, often for astonishingly little money, are only in it for the money. This notion is not only short-sighted, but potentially offensive to the people who make this stuff happen. It assumes that nobody who works on moé shows actually wants to be making them, that nobody in the industry actually likes or values moé, and that only non-moé shows are made with any passion.

I’m not saying cash-ins don’t exist in the anime world. Cash-ins exist within every medium. However, to say something is “created cynically” assumes a lot of things about the people whose hard work went into making it, and I’m not comfortable with those assumptions being made, especially knowing how poorly animators are paid.

If you were to ask me, I’d say that the “cynicism” argument applies more to works like Psycho-Pass, of which director Katsuyuki Motohiro said that, in meetings about the anime, use of the word “moé” was forbidden, and works like the Flowers of Evil anime, of which mangaka Shuzo Oshimi said “chara-moe types, those who go ‘Nakamura-san, unf unf’ will probably feel betrayed.”

To me, the cynicism here is in attempting to manufacture buzz and controversy around a work, ostensibly to give the work more exposure and publicity, rather than allowing that work to stand on its own and speak for itself. The cynicism is in raising a work up based on what it isn’t, rather than what it is. The cynicism is in promoting a work through negativity, because, per the amount of reaction it creates, it’s easier to articulate than positivity. Even with all that, however, I still wouldn’t consider these works “cynically created.” “Cynically conceived,” perhaps works better, but not “cynically created.”

When something’s created cynically, it says to me that no passion went into it. That nobody’s heart, or soul, or sweat, or even genuine effort went into creating it and that everything about it was manufactured, rubber-stamped, and sent out into the world to make a quick buck for a company.

There’s no way I’m going to accept that for an answer.

Stay frosty.


8 thoughts on ““Created Cynically””

  1. You know, I was actually just thinking about this recently when I was watching the K-On live concerts. And I have to say that it was very nice seeing the musicians, the VAs and all the people who organise the event trying so hard just to give a few hours of entertainment to the people they apparently see as pathetic sheep for nothing other than monetary profit

    There were a few parts that really stuck out to me, but one in particular was during ‘Tenshi ni Fureta yo’ when Satomi (Ritsu’s seiyuu) broke down in tears in the middle of the song and was so overcome by emotion that she could barely sing properly (Somehow she managed though). If they’re just in it for the money, how come the emotion feels so real? During the upbeat parts, they looked like they were having fun. During the sad parts, they looked genuinely sad.

    I don’t see me liking some moe anime as a weird fetish of mine and I absolutely don’t feel like they’re pandering to me. My liking of lighthearted anime is just a reflection of my generally optimistic personality. And K-On is basically the pinnacle of lighthearted entertainment. It’s very simple really. Which is why I really dislike it when people over analyse the show in such a manner while still missing the big picture.

    I don’t even have a preference for moe. Sure I have K-On, Strike Witches, Girls und Panzer, Idolm@ster and Hidamari Sketch in my favourites but people neglect to see that I also enjoy shows like Cowboy Bebop, Berserk, Kino’s Journey, Mawaru Penguindrum, Fullmetal Alchemist and Code Geass. Yet the fact that I enjoy K-On and dislike Eva means I’m labelled as a moe sheep. But I say that the people who believe that such people exist (Or that I would be part of such a group even if it did) are the real sheep.

  2. It’s like how I said in my blog, people assume that just because moe is meant to be an idealization of women, that automatically means that not much thought or love was put into it. I cannot put into words how incredibly disrespectful that is. I’m glad you posted this, you said it better than I ever could.

  3. Thinking about the assumption that “moe sells”, I once compiled a list with adaptations of series running in Houbunsha’s Manga Time Kirara magazines. Of those, K-ON and Hidamari Sketch are the only ones that have reached what is seen as a great success (with Hidamari consistently selling more with each season, atypical of the industry at large).

    As for the rest, A-Channel is the only one above 5k and Kill Me Baby is in there, so those people are full of crap.

  4. Ah yes, just make an anime with a bunch of cute girls and it’ll sell like hot cakes. That’s why shows like Amaenaideyo, Sumomo mo Momomo, Potemayo, Chuu-Bra, Nekogami Yaoyorozu, and most recently Mangirl, were all such massive hits.

    While I do very much agree that it’s an insult to the creators, I actually think that the Anti-Moe Brigade trot out the term “Created Cynically” because they do respect the creators, just in their own very shallow and narrow minded manner.

    See, the Anti-Moe Brigade have their heads so far up their own asses that they can’t fathom the idea of people liking things that they don’t. So when they see all these people working on a moe anime they think something like “But how could anyone want to work on this garbage? No one could seriously enjoy making this trash! Clearly, they’re only making this cynically.”

    But as you pointed out in this post, to say that all moe anime is “created cynically” shows little to no knowledge of how the anime industry works.

  5. Remember that a lot of this attitude is due to hipsterism being pervasive in the western fandom. You’re only allowed to like things “ironically”, nothing other than TRUE ART can be considered to be made legitimately.

  6. You have pointed out something that has irritated me for a fair amount of time. I don’t really care about what some of these people say about mindless consumerism, as that’s a personal beef they have with fandom at large. The other thing is what I find disappointing.

    To assume that most of these works are made due to cynicism is rather telling of one’s personality. It’s one thing to not care for what’s being made, it’s another to assume it’s all ‘Grade A’ manure on an assembly line.

  7. Great article TEA!

    I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments here. To me all anime is art and a reflection of the artist(s). One cannot separate the art from the artist(s) because it is his/her/their creation after all. I will give the AMB this though, anime is also a business and as such there’s stuff (not necessarily moe aspects for every fan of the anime) studio executives/production committee members mandate be placed into shows to help sell DVDs/BDs, merchandise, etc. However, that does not change the fact that the production staff loves what they do and does it not to sell a product but to tell a story. If that was not true they would not be slaving away on tight production schedules for minimal pay and would seek better paying and more stable jobs. Also, the original work, whether light novel, manga, or video game, is created not for cynical reasons but because the creator was inspired to make the work. Anime is simply the adaptation of their work into animated form. At the end of the day the animators and production team are proud to work on anime and stand by their work, not feel ashamed of it being too otaku-centric or some other stupid crap. The AMB will never see this fact because they don’t want to admit moe aspects can be utilized in a non-cynical or non-ironic way. Admitting that would make them question their own fandom of the animes they do enjoy because they can’t possibly have moe aspects that are sincere without them admitting they like “moe anime.” The AMB lives and dies with this catch 22. I think it’s time more moe fans called them out on their hypocritical thinking, and enlighten them that all anime can be moe to someone for reasons personal to that particular individual. We are all individuals not some amalgam of mindless drones who all say “oh, another pretty moe blob anime! Take all my moneyz nowz plz.”

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