Willful Ignorance and The Anti-Moé Brigade

Let any given moé debate go on long enough and eventually, it’ll end up at a point where someone mentions how “hard to define” moé is, despite the fact that it had still been a debate about moé up to that point and past it. Interestingly enough, this point is almost always brought up by the anti-moé side of the debate, who evidently don’t understand what moé is, but certainly know enough about it to hate it.

Moé fans talk about moé all the time. They’ll talk about how moé they find a particular character, or how moé such-and-such trait or archetype is to them. Rarely do they need to define moé between themselves, because they’ve all known moé. They’ve felt moé. They know what moé is and what’s moé to them.

The need to define moé is mostly for the benefit of the uninitiated, those who might have heard the word once or twice before, but don’t quite know what it means and are neutral to it as a result. The reason we need a definition for moé is the same reason any other term needs a definition: We need to know what it means.

Moé can best be described in short-form as a positive feeling that comes from seeing a character, character trait, or object.

That amazing feeling inside that you get when you’re at a convention and you see a dakimakura cover of that one character you love, and he/she is in just the right pose and has just the right expression and you literally do not care how much it costs, you can’t get your money out fast enough to buy it? That’s moé.

For a some of the Anti-Moé Brigade, however, that’s not good enough a definition. Some want specifics as to what the “moé feeling” is. Maybe an endocrinologist could give a specific, scientific definition as to what hormones and chemicals cause moé, but to the rest of us, that’s an absurd request. I mean, who can tell me, specifically and in detail, what being happy is like? You can’t just describe an emotion like that. Not in detail and specifics.

The definition can be extrapolated. A “moé aesthetic” is an art style that’s designed to invoke moé. “Moé traits” are character traits designed to be moé to those who enjoy them.

So, if it’s so easy to define what’s the problem?

Much of the Anti-Moé Brigade already has a definition of moé in their head. Surprise, surprise: It’s very often negatively skewed. They define moé as things like “a warped view of what girlfriend material is,” or they’ll try and define it as the entire slice-of-life or harem genre, or they’ll dismiss the word entirely as superfluous.

When the Anti-Moé Brigade calls for a definition of moé, they aren’t really looking for a definition. They’re looking to derail a discussion, or trip up the pro-moé side of the debate by calling their knowledge of the subculture into question. It’s a tactic used to make one side of the debate look good while making the other side look uneducated.

The Anti-Moé Brigade’s clamour for a definition of moé actually works against them, however. Sure, it’s easy to call the other side’s expertise into question in order to derail an argument, but what does it say about the Anti-Moé Brigade when they’re so against moé, but don’t even know what it really is?

They hate and fear what they don’t understand, and they’d rather remain ignorant than actually learn something and participate in a discussion. They want to stick their fingers in their ears and sing loudly to avoid having to gain any perspective, lest they find out that their hatred of moé and moé fans is unfounded.


Stay frosty.



12 thoughts on “Willful Ignorance and The Anti-Moé Brigade”

  1. This reminds me of when a certain YouTuber defined moe as “porn for otaku”. She didn’t really mean porn as in depictions of sexual acts, but in the same way Twilight is porn for teen and tween girls. Strategic pandering for a specific audience, if you will. I’d say, to an extent, this is how moe could often be used, but not necessarily what it means.

    The problem with defining moe is that I don’t think one can just say it’s a happy feeling you get because of a character archetype, or character traits. Because, if that’s the case, ALL positive feelings one can get from a character is moe. My personal definition of moe is basically a specific type of “cute” or “endearing”. It’s a specific thing a fictional character does that makes one want to cuddle and protect them. Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s what moe is to me.

    1. Well, that’s sort of the issue, isn’t it? It’s an emotion, but the thing about emotions is that it’s impossible to describe an emotion in absolute terms. That’s why I think a lot of people have a problem with moé being defined as an emotion or a feeling. They want to know what exactly it feels like, but the only way to fully understand that is to have felt it.

      1. That’s very true. Emotions are difficult to describe, even if you explain it as chemical reactions in someone’s brains. In all honesty, defining moe is like defining being in love. It can be a very subjective experience, and it’s difficult to generally make sense of it to someone who doesn’t understand. That’s why I sometimes feel the criticism of some anime reviewers are somewhat invalid, because they’re criticizing something they don’t understand.

  2. I’m going to take a stab in the dark and guess this was inspired by the meltdown on the Miyazaki thread. I would say more than anything else that the term has become a catchall buzzword for concepts and tropes that certain people don’t like. There are various comments that seem to indicate said individuals think it is another word for the Harem/SOL subgenre.

  3. It’s not so much that they won’t have a discussion on moe but more like the “discussion” ends up being revolved around moe fans (how they’re terribly lonely creeps) , that Japan is “backwards” on female rights issues and that it’s the reason for Japan’s population decline.

    1. Well, that’s the thing. They’ll have a “discussion” about all of this auxiliary bullcrap, but they won’t have a discussion about moé that isn’t just to talk about how awful it is and how it’s bad for the industry.

  4. Many don’t necessarily hate moe, but the moe fandom. It’s easy to hate someone who doesn’t seem to know or care anything but one topic, and so insists on talking about it all the time as though it matters. Especially when it is completely irrelevant to anything except itself, and the person uses any hatred as fuel to prattle on about it even more.

    It’s fine when someone is able to take the fan-glasses off for a bit and discuss something else, or at least even acknowledge the flaws inherent in their pet topic. It’s also fun to just wax idiotic about it, like anything else that doesn’t matter. But at a certain point it’s just plain annoying, and no amount of pride in the cause will be able to gloss over that.

    1. I remember my Japanese teacher in college explaining that that is the reason why there’s discrimination against otaku in Japan in the first place. It’s understandable if it gets annoying if that’s all we talk about, but that’s no excuse to lump us all together in the same category. I love talking about anime and moe, but I am more than willing to talk about other things in life too. Not all otaku are obsessed with and interested in only one thing, even if it seems that way.

    2. I can partly understand what you. I’m a Transformers fan that absolutely detests the Transformers fandom.

      The thing is when the topic of moe IS brought up, it’s either shutdown or elicits certain generalizations about what it is and who its fans are.

      BTW I don’t consider idol otaku the same as moe otaku. Those people are generally the otaku otaku that can creep me out because they’re involving real people and thus comes off as stalking almost.

    3. Sure, it’s easy to hate on someone who doesn’t care about anything but one topic, but that doesn’t make it justified or fair.

      First of all, most of the time, the issue isn’t really “He/she doesn’t care about anything but topic X,” and is more akin to “He/she only cares about topic X and not what I care about.”

      Second of all, positivity and passion about a topic doesn’t really do anything to anyone besides maybe being a bit annoying in large doses, and even at that point, it’s easy to just ignore those people.

      Third of all, responding to that positivity and passion with negativity is actually pretty damaging in that it actively discourages passion, and passion fuels the creation of media.

      Fourth of all, for the same amount of energy expended, overwhelming positivity and passion, no matter how targeted at a singular topic to the exclusion of all others, is infinitely more productive than overwhelming negativity and disdain.

      Take moé, for example. Being passionate about moé encourages its fans to spend money on moé anime, games, figures, etc, pumping money into the industry and facilitating the creation of more media. What does negativity about moé encourage? Fandom animosity and bitter forum comments. One of these things is more valuable than the other.

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