The Appeal and Criticism of “Moé Military”

I’ll admit, part of this blog’s aesthetic is tongue-in-cheek. Even I think that the notion of a “moé war” is ridiculous, which is part of why I gravitate toward a military motif. By taking the debate to a level of absurdity, I hope to make people understand just how silly it all is.

At the end of the day, though, I just like the aesthetic.

For as long as I could remember, I’ve been into military stuff. I always owned some kind of toy gun, I played computer games like Rainbow Six and Delta Force, as well as plenty of flight simulators, and outside, pretend war, in some form or another, was the most common game between me and my friends. Nowadays, Airsoft guns and tactical gear fill boxes and bins in my room, my videogame library is still dotted with military-themed titles, and I play Airsoft whenever I get the chance.

Looks like IOTV-chan figured out what the lanyard does.
Looks like IOTV-chan figured out what the lanyard does.

I honestly don’t know exactly when moé aesthetics got involved, but I’ve certainly enjoyed the concept of “moé military” for as long as I’ve been aware of it. It’s more than just two things I like coming together, either. If you look at “moé military” artwork, the creativity and attention to detail is almost scary at times. Specific pieces of equipment are represented faithfully, and specific weapon variants can be identified by those with knowledge, right down to the minutiae. Artistically, I admire the hell out of the artists that draw this stuff. They’ve quite obviously done their homework, and it shows through the attention to detail in their art.

The Suzumiku Machinegun Team prepares to lay down suppressive fire on a pervert.
The Suzumiku Machinegun Team prepares to lay down suppressive fire on a pervert.

The injection of cute girls into this detail-heavy militaristic aesthetic helps from both sides. It serves to both “soften” the bite of all this heavily-militaristic stuff, and “hardens” the fluffiness of moé aesthetics. While retaining the adherence to detail, the addition of moé gives things a more lighthearted feel, and though the girls are cute and moé, the military themes give them a sense of toughness and can-do, amid the often ultra-saccharine nature of the moé aesthetic. Shows like Upotte!!, Girls und Panzer, and C3-bu take this duality into animation, retaining the military aesthetic’s attention to detail and focus on action while also retaining the endearing qualities of moé.

Naturally, some might be put-off by this juxtaposition of cute girls and military equipment, and that’s perfectly okay. I’ve spoken to moé fans who are put-off by the aesthetic, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The aesthetic obviously isn’t for everyone.

Not liking Upotte!! on the grounds of being anti-gun is fair, but is it fair to make political judgments about its fanbase?
Not liking Upotte!! on the grounds of being anti-gun is fair, but is it fair to make political judgments about its fanbase?

There are those, however, who aren’t simply put-off by the aesthetic, but denounce it as “fetishism” and promotion of “gun culture.” Then there are the people who proclaim the ignorance of military otaku when they say that they don’t like war, don’t condone killing, and are really just into the aesthetics and history of military affairs. Then there are the people who apparently wear their political opinions on their sleeves, and will take one look at Taskforce M.O.E. and judge me as a “conservative,” presumably based on the blog’s moé militaristic aesthetic.

I can understand not liking the aesthetic on socio-political grounds. People’s socio-political views are many and varied, especially concerning topics like guns or the military. What bothers me, however, is the misrepresentation (at best) and vilification (at worst) of people based on their apparent stance on these issues. I say apparent stance because liking moé military anime or a moé military aesthetic really says nothing about a person’s social or political views. The points about “gun culture” and “fetishism” are legitimate opinions, though I’d assert that the use of loaded near-buzzwords like “fetishism” comes close to vilification of the moé military anime fanbase. The “conservative” line of reasoning is particularly heinous, however. In an effort to vilify moé military fans (Often, moé fans, in general, as well), the Anti-Moé Brigade conflates moé fandom with political conservatism, no doubt portraying the moé fanbase as small-government-loving “straight, white male” monsters to all of their compatriots, and leaving the moé fanbase with their hands out in a mix of disbelief and confusion, uttering a collective “Wait, what?”

The moé military aesthetic is just like any other aesthetic. Not every aesthetic will appeal to everyone. Some people liked the aesthetic Aku no Hana had. I didn’t. Similarly, while I’m a huge fan of the moé military aesthetic, some other people might not like it, and that’s understandable. It doesn’t, however, give people the right to misrepresent and value-judge people who are into the aesthetic.


Stay frosty.


12 thoughts on “The Appeal and Criticism of “Moé Military””

  1. I actually like your aesthetic, its definitely a unique one that’s for sure.But honestly I think this happened because you were honest with your passions which is military stuff and cute girls and there is nothing wrong with that. So don’t think that what makes yourself unique is silly its actually quite a refreshing to see such an honest site!

    1. When I mentioned “how silly all this is,” what I was more referring to was how silly it is that the moé debate has reached the level of hostility it’s reached.

      Of course, I don’t think my love for moé military is silly. That’d be doing that “laughing at myself” thing that the Anti-Moé Brigade always wants moé fans to do, but can’t be bothered to do themselves.

  2. I have always had an affection for girls with weapons. They don’t have to just be guns, they can also be swords like with Shana and Scythes like with Fate Testarossa. I will admit, it is a bit fetishistic in my case. I’m sorry, I can’t help but think a girl who could tear your ass up with a weapon is sexy. I find badass girls sexy, especially if they look cute and innocent. For a while, I didn’t know why I enjoyed the idea of a cute and innocent looking girl with a weapon, but now I know why because of this blog post. It’s as you’ve said, a nice mixture between “hardness” and “fluffiness”.

    I find it absolutely disgusting that the Anti-Moe Brigade would make assumptions about moe military otaku, especially about their political backgrounds. I myself am very liberal in terms of politics, but I can appreciate the history and detail of guns and the military. I especially appreciate it in art because I love the attention to detail artists put in their work and how educational it can be. This is why I love shows like Upotte, Strike Witches, and more recently Stella Women’s Academy. I always find beauty in art depicting women with weapons, and I will continue to do so.

    1. Guess I am not the only one who finds action girls sexy! Give me some fanservice to go along with that and I am happy. I am really not into meganekko’s but you should give G-On Riders a try I think you’ll really like it! 🙂

  3. I think the attitudes of the Anti-Moé Brigade towards the military moé stuff comes from (at least) two directions. First, there are those who hate moé and find this to be another easy way to criticize the whole moé universe. Second, there are those who are virulently anti-gun, and since military moé involves guns, that right there is enough to make them hate it. Also this latter group is likely to be against military moé as they may think that the cuteness of the moé girls might make guns and gun culture more enticing to those not yet ensnared in its hellishly evil ways. (yes, that last bit was sarcasm)

    I can tell you, though, that as an actual “small-government-loving straight, white male”, from what I’ve read of your writings (and a few podcasts), you have never come across as such to me. I’m not saying you’ve come across as not being one — I have no idea — just that none of your writing has been about that kind of thing so it hasn’t come up. Nor should it have, because it’s irrelevant to what you are writing about. Anyone trying to pin that particular label on you is really displaying their own fevered imaginings.

  4. While I’m more of a fan of moe without the military, I’ve had no problem with the combination of cuteness and war as it’s been as it’s been there since the 80’s.

    Part of the anti-moe brigade’s idea of moe fans as crazed gun nut conservatives comes from the fact that as I’ve stated in the past, no enough moe fans are being vocal about their love for moe. Thus, bad assumptions are made.

  5. I’m not really into military or guns, but there has been moe military anime that I’ve enjoyed (I love Strike Witches and I found Upotte to be cute and entertaining). It’s mainly because I enjoy cute girls being bad ass.

    I find the idea that your taste in anime is determined by your race, sex, sexuality, and political beliefs to be stupid and rather offensive.

  6. This has always been a bit of a tricky zone for me. Because while I’m fine with mixing cute girls into just about anything, conflicts can and have arisen. For both Upotte and Girls und Panzer, people talking too much about the military aspects (namely, the gun and tank specs) while seemingly de-emphasizing the girls really rubbed me the wrong way.

    Now, I love Strike Witches and am currently enjoying C3 Bu (and Sabagebu has a platypus. I cannot hate platypi.), though that’s partially because I made the decision to avoid forums for this particular season. I’ve always been left-leaning, and am not fond of focusing too heavily on military elements, or at least making it seem like that’s the important thing and the people who are there for the girls (ie. me) are just hangers-on.

    I don’t dislike GirlPan, and I can see how it appeals to a certain group of people, and I don’t want to appear hypocritical. If tokusatsu is involved (which has just as much fighting, but it’s more fantastical), then I can turn into a fanboy, so I don’t want to disparage people for their tastes, but at the same time, when I think of the kind of people who (generally) tend to talk at length about guns/tanks/the military, it’s not a very positive image, at least in part because of the circle of friends I have and the media I consume.

    This has actually been one of the trickiest issues for me in the anime fandom, second only to how comedy and drama should be mixed (I favor comedy). So while I do wish GirlPan had more civilian scenes and Upotte focused a little less on gun trivia and both of them more on character interaction, I’m not sure how much of that comes from the fans I encountered and how much of that is myself, though both are clearly important.

    I don’t DISlike military and cute girls, but there are parts of it I could do without.

  7. While the “Moe Girls with Guns” theme is not my main interest, I do enjoy the aforementioned shows like Strike Witches, Upotte!, Girls Und Panzer as well as C3-bu, and it has never been “in spite” of the military elements to which in real life, I am ambivalent to in even the best of situations and highly unnerved by otherwise. For me, the girls and their relationships/interactions come first, and the gun thing is a perk that satisfies an itch for fight scenes I get (and itch I get more of now that I have stopped reading Shounen Action Mangas). I do agree though that the “roughness” of the modern military aesthetics juxtaposes incredibly well with the “softness” of the girls present, and that it shows incredible range on the part of the artists to transition seamlessly from the incredibly detailed hyper-realism of the military hardware to the soft and gentle simplicity of the girls wielding them. Despite the fact that my preference has always been to pre-black powder weapons (particularly the Sword, which is the best example of a functional symbol in my opinion) and the fact that my preferred “Badass Moe Girl” is usually more in the Magical Girl vein or Sword-weilding, I do enjoy the Military Moe shows however.

    As for this assumption of my political affiliations as well as everyone else who enjoys media with this theme, I find a scene from Black Lagoon very poignant at this time: Greenback Jane is complaining about the violent tendencies of her protectors Revy and Eda. She remarks that it is useless explaining the details of her counterfeiting plan to gun toting idiots who watch COPS all day long. Revy then points her pistol strait at her and says “What if I told you I watch Oprah?” It illustrates quite well that you will find people of all stripes when they are bound together by only a single interest (here being Moe Anime in general) and that to try and pin a singular lifestyle of value set on a whole group of people is not only futile, but also hopelessly short sighted.

    Once again people who say this type of thing are not really interested in debate, they just hate this type of media and they don’t have the stones to admit it outright. If you hate something, you should at least be honest in your hatred, or not talk about it at all. Don’t try to pin broad terms to a group that most likely don’t apply to all of it’s members (they certainly don’t apply to me), as it shows you don’t really want to talk about the media, you just have an axe to grind independent of the work. And if you don’t want to talk about the media, why the fuck are we even talking in the first place?

    1. I can’t agree more with your sentiments, VillainousHanacha. I also do not understand this fascination in the AMB with labeling people as gun nuts or ultra conservative because they like a show that happens to have girls and guns (I guess it’s easier for humans to categorize things they don’t understand by nature, but come on! People are more complex than a label/stereotype).

      I too am ambivalent at best with the military elements but can also enjoy something like “Girls und Panzer” for both the girls and the tank battles. I like strategy games and thought the tank battles were a fun take on that, but if you listen to the AMB I must be some gun crazed military otaku. In reality, I have no interest in owning or using weapons of any nature, and find it very offensive when people label me based on a cartoon. Under this same construct, anyone who enjoys “Looney Toons” is a serial killer because of all the weapons and the cute animal characters killing each other with them, lol. Funny how some in the AMB preach tolerance and understanding, but yet cry bloody murder about moé fans when a cartoon offends their sensibilities.

      I liked the Black Lagoon reference. I think it says a lot about how people all too often operate from a preconceived notion of what someone else should be, and when they don’t actually conform to the stereotype these people still often won’t allow themselves to be enlightened to the fact everyone is a unique individual. I guess because it’s just easier to be a bigot than to try and understand someone else who differs from yourself.

      I laughed at the last part about people who talk about stuff they supposedly hate endlessly, but won’t ever admit why. They really need to get a life and do as their parents should have told them, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. The ANN forums are full of these people who just drone on about how bad this or that moé show is, but never want to admit they just personally hate the aesthetic and it’s really only their bias speaking. They usually have nothing constructive to say and yet they somehow are allowed to continue to just spout random crap unchallenged all day everyday. I don’t know how the mods can stand it, let alone any sane minded poster.

      And don’t even get me started on some other anime sites, so much hate and vitriol for no reason. I really wish these people would just grow up and learn the world does not revolve around their simple minded opinions. The saddest thing is, they are converting unsuspecting people into their narrow minded construct due to being so militaristically (pun intended) vocal. I’m thankful for people like Anubis and others here who challenge these voices with reason and encourage a real discussion.

      1. Sonic, I think the reason the AMB labels people who like these types of shows as ultra-right wring has do with the fact that it has to do with guns the right-wing tends to be obsessed with guns themselves. This is also especially true of the right-wing who usually has such a hard-on for the military and “protecting” our so called “freedoms” from enemies which… well I’m not going to get into here. I don’t mind the moe military or the girls with guns show even though I’m more or less a socialist myself, I do enjoy them. I fail to see how shows like C3 and Upotte! support gun culture. It is just a bullshit way for those who don’t like the show smack a label on it and put into a box of “Why I don’t like said show”.

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