Operation Shion Fujino Phase 4: The Vilification of Sexuality in Moe

Something has been afoot in the anime community for quite a while. While I’d hesitate to call it a “conspiracy,” it’s sort of like that, and, of course, its endgame involves the vilification of moé fans and moé anime.

Before I break this scheme down, it’s important to understand the status quo. We’re currently in an anime fandom environment where moé fans are quick to deny any link between moé and sexuality, and where they will argue vehemently that moé is a completely nonsexual thing. At the same time, the Anti-Moé Brigade is very quick to call out moé as being sexual, and will often portray that sexuality negatively.

Part of what makes this sex-negative attitude pervasive in not the Anti-Moé Brigade, but, to a lesser extent, the general Western fandom, is the idea that anime needs to be “legitimized” to the general public, and that the proliferation of fanservice titles and moé have held the medium back from that. To a certain extent, that assessment is correct (Though, one might argue that “legitimacy” of anime in the West was doomed as soon as Urotsukidoji was released in the West), but it’s important to remember that part of what makes anime special to us is the culture it comes from, and it’s not exactly fair to expect the cultural product of one culture to cater to the sensibilities of another.

The Anti-Moé Brigade realizes this. They understand that there’s just no swaying the Japanese anime industry to cater more to them and create more shows that could “legitimize” anime for mainstream Western audiences (Except, perhaps, for supporting the shows that have that potential). They know that they can’t hope to supplant the market forces that determine what kinds of anime get made.

Their endgame isn’t to take “legitimize” anime by somehow forcing the creation of more anime they like. Rather, their strategy is one of suppression: Convince the Western fanbase that sexuality and fanservice in anime are negative things and vilify those who enjoy those things. That way, a false dichotomy of “bad” (Fanservice, ecchi, harem, etc. anime) and “good” (Story-heavy, “mature” shows) anime develops, and the people who enjoy the “bad” anime are dismissed and set a level below those who enjoy the “good” anime. At the same time, because moé is another force holding back the “legitimization” of anime, associating moé with sexuality is an easy way to make it look bad, as it’s already been established that sexuality is negative in anime.

Unfortunately, much of the moé fandom has played into this trap, denying any interplay between sexuality and moé, and refusing to have a discussion about it, or even to question whether it’s bad or not. Like the rest of Western fanbase, they’ve blindly accepted the conventional wisdom as fed to them by the Anti-Moé Brigade.

This is why it’s important to have a discussion about sexuality and moé. By having this dialogue, even amongst just us moé fans, we call into question the standards set by a small group of people with an agenda, and that brings us a step closer to a fandom of open opinion and discussion, rather than one where acceptable preferences are dictated by a few opinion leaders and “unacceptable” preferences are shouted down.

It’s really easy to defend a position when your side has convinced everyone that the opposition are “perverts” and “pedophiles.” The first step to reversing this is calling this perception into question. The next is debating it. The step after that is spreading the discussion, and encouraging people to give this stuff a fair shake and draw their own conclusions.

As long as the Anti-Moé Brigade is driving the discussion about moé, it will skew negative toward moé fans, and people will get the wrong ideas about it. Only the moé fandom can bring the moé discussion into a realm of reason and rationality from which an actual exchange of thoughts about the role of sex in moé can occur.

 

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Let’s discuss:

Why is sexuality so looked down upon in the Western fanbase?

Was the Western fanbase tricked, or did their perspective on sexuality in anime develop more naturally?

Why is moé so often conflated with sex?

24 Replies to “Operation Shion Fujino Phase 4: The Vilification of Sexuality in Moe”

  1. Great article
    There are a few answers the question “Why is sexuality so looked down upon in the Western fanbase? First and the one that I hear often is that when you start sexualizing a character (for example a character who has a moe look) then they stop being a character and becoming an object for masturbatory purposes. Another answer that I often here is that most of the sexualization is done for underage characters and in doing so children are being sexualized (if this was real children I would tend to agree). I would also tend to think the Western fanbase looks down on sexuality for three other reasons. One being that too much of the sexuality or fanservice is slanted towards a male fanbase than towards a female fanbase. Another reason is that to them when fanservice is often used it is never used in a positive manner or that is becomes the sole existence for the project. The last reason is that looking how the West (not just the Western Fanbase) looks are sex or the even the human body in general. People are usually okay with violence when you start showing skin that is too much. Most of those who look down on sexuality (in anime or otherwise) often state that sexuality is almost never used in a positive light and usually superfluous in nature. It only exists to titillate the audience or to objectify a character instead of trying to make that character a person.

    To answer the question “Was the Western fanbase tricked, or did their perspective on sexuality in anime develop more naturally?” I don’t think so much as they were tricked and as I stated above the West (more so in North America than Europe and South America) sexuality is looked at from a different perspective. People are often taught from either their parents, guardians, clergy members, etc. how dirty the body is and that sex should only be used for the purpose of procreation and not enjoyment or pleasure. I also tend to believe that religion plays a large part in these viewpoints.

  2. I was gonna write an article/rant about a similar notion. Mainly, I was going to address about that there’s shows that even if you the viewer acknowledge that they’re “goofy mindless fanservice”, it’s OK to enjoy them. So shame to like shows like Senran Kagura, MM!! and recently Noucome.

  3. I think maybe the reason sexuality in anime is looked down in the Western fanbase is that most of the west consists of, for lack of a better term, prudes. Most people that live here are disgusted by sex, even afraid of it. I could go into why I personally think this is, but then this would turn into a debate on politics and religion and I don’t want that.

    When I followed anime reviewers, a common argument they gave is that they don’t mind fanservice if it’s done “tastefully”. So to them, sexuality in something like Revolutionary Girl Utena (which I’ll admit I haven’t seen yet) is “artistic,” while the pole dancing in the end credits of Highschool DxD is like “pornography”. The whole thing can be turned into a debate about when something is considered “art” and when something is considered “porn”. People have argued that moe melodrama is just ecchi without the fanservice, meaning it shows young girls in tragic situations as a substitute for pantyshots so that otaku won’t feel bad about being attracted to these girls.

    Since people here in the west are naturally prudes because of our difference in culture, I don’t think they were “tricked”. I just think they feel that sexuality for the sake of indulging in one’s desires is bad because they think that it is all done in poor taste. They will especially think sexuality for the sake of sexuality is bad if it’s something like ecchi because ecchi tries to tell a story, so people come up with arguments like “why didn’t they just make a hentai?”

    I think moe is often conflated with sex because moe usually involves having romantic feelings for young girls. Sex is just something that naturally comes with being in love, and things like moe eroge try to create the illusion that one has fallen in love with the character, so sex just comes in as something to express that love.

  4. The West generally has a pretty negative view of sexuality in media, with conservatives crying immorality and liberals crying exploitation. As such, defining a work or a medium as “merely” sexual can be used as a rhetorical bludgeon when attempting to convince people that it isn’t worthy of appreciation and that its defenders are not worth listening to.

    This is further complicated by the fact that just about any online discussion of moe ends up turning into a retelling of the parable of the blind men and the elephant. To use Heisei Democracy’s terminology, the detractors attack moe as entirely Erokawaii-kei, while its proponents defend it as entirely Junai-kei, without much acknowledgement of the full spectrum of moe on either side. It doesn’t help that moe is a notoriously hard to define concept, and most people aren’t interested enough in the subject to do their research before entering the fray.

    1. The Frontier life mixed with Puritan values I suppose. Death and such was life and eventually glamoried…partly to get people to move out west. Nudity however was a no-no. Even more so when the Americans took on some Victorian values in the late 19th century. It took a long, long time for it to be acceptible for women to show any skin other than their faces, maybe part of her neck, and her hands…sometimes even their arms.

  5. I personally think that all good art should be praised whether it be a work made for children or hardcore pornography. While I would agree that religion does play a minor role in the western fanbase not accepting sexuality, I can’t agree with it being a major role or being the only reason why. (For example, my brother is very strongly atheist and he was extremely creeped out by the fanservice in the second half of Sword Art Online.)

    I think another issue here is that of feminists who think that if a female character is sexualized in any way possible, she’s automatically a bad character and the work is automatically misogynist. As a female fan, I personally strongly disagree with this mindset as I think that a female character can look sexy and also be well written (C.C. from Code Geass is my go to example of this.)

    Really though, the western fanbase really needs to stop trying to make anime a more mainstream thing because at the end of the day, anime’s really never going to become mainstream with the exception of a few titles. It’s just too different culturally for it to ever be truly accepted, and you know what? I’m okay with that. If being accepted by the mainstream means I have to give up eroge, then I don’t want to be part of the mainstream.

  6. It isnt a conspiracy. Its just that some of us expect more from our entertainment than jerkoff material, and we resent the fact that the industry is controlled by idiots whos sexual and emotional maturity stopped at 15 years old.

    1. (Evidently missed the part where I specifically said that I don’t consider this a conspiracy.)

      (Evidently missed the rest of the article, too.)

      We get that you guys don’t like ecchi. The problem isn’t that you don’t like ecchi. The problem is that, for a while now, there’s been an effort to suppress ecchi fans and make them feel like second-class anime fans. Making people feel like garbage isn’t going to get you guys more anime you want.

      Also, just making an observation, but has anyone else noticed that most detractors can’t seem to make an argument here without including some hamfisted insult?

      1. I know, right? I have always noticed that people who hate ecchi and moe feel the need to insult the fans in the most ridiculous and immature way. I think it’s because they can’t give any legitimately good arguments to why they feel a certain way, so they resort to childish and creatively bankrupt insults to make them feel like they’ve won an argument.

      2. “there’s been an effort to suppress ecchi fans and make them feel like second-class anime fans.”

        No, there really hasn’t. but if the shoe fits…

      1. My parents named me, I had no choice in the matter. Its a very sad situation so please don’t make jokes about it. Thanks.

    2. Greetings Sir Nutsack,

      I’m pretty sure that’s why he used quotes around conspiracy. Anime is by its very nature a young person’s game. It’s simply not feasible to market things at a dwindling older crowd that no longer holds a valued interest in it.

      I won’t dignify the latter part with a response as befits its relevance.

  7. I think Otaku Anthony and Niwa really hit the answer out of the ballpark. For that reason there’s very little for me to add.

    @Otaku Anthony
    You’ve been doing your homework I see, but there’s one little correction I’d like to make if you don’t mind. All the criticisms you stated in your post is entertainment targeted towards males. You won’t see any man calling a female fan a pedophile because she wants to fuck ten year old boys from Pokemon. Its only male sexuality that’s evil, never a female’s. But even before feminists invaded nerd culture American anime fans largely recoiled from cute girl shows like Cosmic Baton Girl and Mao-Tan. So while some of it is feminism, its really just personal taste and cultural differences.

    @Niwa and Drawing Girl94

    Thank You both for being sensible minded female anime fans. If you girls are ever in college be careful of your gender studies courses. Take what they say with a grain of salt and realize that men like women are sexual creatures.

    And for everyone else who thinks woman don’t objectify men, just open any romance novel and you’ll see what I mean.

  8. People are allowed to like Ecchi, I really don’t see why people care. Get over it. Do you think that Scarlett Johansson is dress up as Black Widow in a skin tight outfit. This is something that is socially acceptable. Why do drawings of get so up tight about drawings that convey sexuality. I seriously don’t get it. Look at La maja desnuda painted by french artist Francisco Goya in painted in 1797. It’s art at the end of the day. Paint on a canvas.

    People need to get over this weird obsession with sexuality and how art portrays it. Is anime high art; no probably not, but at the end of the day art is in the eye of the beholder. You shouldn’t react to someone else not being so uptight and appreciating someone else art. At the end of the day, that what all artist are looking for.

    Good Job Annubis for speaking the truth. Nerds need to get over the fact that they like sexuality in art.

  9. It’s the pervert/prude dichotomy, which is a false dichotomy. The internet in general suffers from this, but the online anime fandom in particular suffers a lot from it (probably because of the nature of some anime content).

    The idea is that everybody gets pigeonholed as either a pervert or a prude. If you express dislike over any sort of animated sexual content, for any reason, then out comes the “prude” label.

    The thing is that not everybody is turned on by everything that’s of a sexual nature. It doesn’t make them a prude, it just means that certain animated sexual situations are unappealing and/or disturbing to them. The same person who feels bothered by naked Rias in Highschool DxD might have no problem with naked capt. Kusanagi in Ghost in the shell. So it’s not a question of prudishness, it’s merely a question of different taste.

    1. That’s fine if they’re not turned on by it, but that doesn’t give them the excuse to insult people who like it. When I say they’re prudes, I’m making a general statement based on my personal experiences. Those people are so offended by anything animated meant to arouse, that I think I have every right to call them prudes.

    2. To a certain extent, I agree with you. The anime community likes to do this thing where if a fan enjoys any ecchi, they’re an irredeemable pervert, and if someone expresses dislike toward ecchi, they’re a horrible prude.

      Where I disagree, however, is with your perception of where the problem lies. The issue isn’t that people have different tastes and some don’t like ecchi shows. The issue is that there are people out there in the anime fandom who vilify ecchi anime and people who like ecchi anime. They value-judge fans of shows like Date-a-Live and Highschool DxD as beneath them.

      It’s not that they don’t like the shows. I couldn’t care less who likes what. The issue is that they use ecchi and the “pervert” label to keep fans they don’t like underfoot.

    3. Personally I am not bothered by whatever content anime throws at me, I’ve seen more disturbing shit in real life to be really offended by anything fictitious. That being said, I don’t like blatant fanservice, especially sexual fanservice, because more often than not it goes out of its way to be jarring and in-my-face. This is why I don’t like many fanservice-oriented shows and whatnot. Take Queens Blade for example. I disliked it not because of the content, but because a supposedly serious story about a monarch coming out to defend her people and forming her own country sounds too serious for it to feature overly sexualized scenes.

      I’m willing to bet that people who automatically reject this type of content don’t do it solely because of the content itself, but also because it’s poorly placed into the context of the work. If Japan is going to make a show that’s all about fanservice, that’s completely fine, then we know the nature of the beast. But if Japan tries to make a serious show and then throws in some fanservice just to keep the otaku happy, then they’re just giving the soccer mom crowd excuses to hate and rally against it, because they automatically see it as the show’s primary selling point–aka they’re creeps for selling it to creeps. I won’t find it disgusting like they do, but I will certainly think it degrades and detracts from the work’s overall theme or goals, and I think that is unacceptable.

      1. My question to you would then be: “How does fanservice detract from a work’s overall theme?”

        What I mean by that is, anime isn’t made like cars are made, where the parts are made in a multitude of different places and then brought together and assembled in one facility. When you watch an anime, you’re watching a work of media that was created to be the way it is. The fanservice isn’t created separately from the theme. They’re both parts of the same work created ostensibly at the same time to work together with one another. They don’t “make a serious show and then throw in some fanservice.”

        I think the issue is more that some people just hate fanservice and can’t see past it because they hate it so much, so then when they see a series that has fanservice, but also has an actual point to it, the fanservice becomes “distracting” and “detracts from the work’s goals” when, in reality, it does no such thing because it was created at the same time as all of the show’s other content.

        These shows were obviously made for people who can enjoy fanservice. It’s okay to just not like them and not watch them, but to say that the fanservice “detracts from the show” misses the point entirely and implies that fanservice isn’t legitimate content or a legitimate part of any given show.

      2. Hmm. I kinda have different take on this.

        Here’s the thing with ecchi – It’s basically hentai contextualized with a plot and some degree of characterization. In other words, the plot and characters are there to serve the sexual content, not the other way around.

        This is an important distinction, as it determines what gets prioritized in the creation, writing, and production of an anime show.

        A show like, say, Highschool DxD, has plenty ecchi fanservice, but its there to spice up the plot/characters. People may or may not like it, but it nonetheless doesn’t represent a lasting shift in primary focus – the plot and characters remain the primary focus.

        With ecchi-as-primary-genre shows, the plot and characters are designed and written to maximize sexual content. I think this approach runs a greater risk of having plot contrivances (in order to squeeze in all the sexual content), and of having thin characterization as characters are less likely to be explored in depth beyond their sexual side.

        Whenever something takes precedence over plot and characters – And this something can be ecchi, it can be in-jokes, it can be playing with tropes, it can be any number of things – the plot and characters tend to suffer for it. At least in my experience, and opinion. And depending on how much importance one puts in plot and characterization, this can lead to “lower quality” works in their opinion.

        Based on my experience on anime fandom, i think the reason many people don’t like ecchi has less to do with the ecchi itself, but more like :

        1) It tends to be lowbrow and brainless, and some people just don’t like lowbrow material, for various reasons. It should be noted that a show can have sexual appeal and also be highbrow (I’d argue that some of the better VNs are like this – G Senjou, for example).

        2) Some people don’t have an interest in contextualizing porn with a paper-thin plot. If they want porn, they just want the porn – They don’t want some paper-thin plot to go with it. This might contribute to the reason that hentai is more well-received in the west than ecchi

        1. I would disagree wholeheartedly with the concept of ecchi being “hentai contextualized with plot.” Not all media with sexuality in it is porn. Besides, that would put ecchi shows with no actual sex at all in the same category as actual hentai that just happens to be contextualized with plot. I mean, would you really put Photo Kano in the same category as Princess 69? Because, going by the definition of ecchi as being “hentai contextualized with plot,” you would have to. Princess 69 does have a plot, however crappy it might be.

          As far as things taking precedence over plot and characters, I think the people complaining about that are watching the wrong shows. Once again, I have to say that anime isn’t created in parts, then assembled at the studio. The only reason things appear to take precedence over the plot and characters is because that’s the plot and characters weren’t meant to have the spotlight. If the plot and characters are bad, that’s another thing, but the plot and characters aren’t created separately from fanservice, etc., and then one given precedence over the other when it comes time to finalize the show.

          I can 100% understand not liking ecchi on account of it being ecchi. I can even understand being soured on ecchi because it’s so often low-brow entertainment. But the people whose argument is “why don’t you just watch hentai?” are missing the point entirely.

          Also, I’d dispute hentai being more well-received in the West than ecchi. It might appear that way, but that’s probably only because hentai is more niche, generally easier to avoid for people who dislike it, and because communities like FAKKU! exist.

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