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.