We’re quickly catching up to the Japanese industry. Nowadays, it’s possible to watch new anime within a day or so of its airing in Japan, which wasn’t possible just a few years ago. It’s nice to be able to ride the nuance and freshness of being this close to the source time-wise, but the speed at which we’re catching up to the Japanese industry has caused problems as well.
First of all, I think it’s important to understand that the US is an auxiliary market to the Japanese anime industry. That is to say, the vast majority of anime is created to sell in Japan first, with only a handful of exceptions created specifically to appeal to Americans. This being the case, we ride the waves of their industry and there’s not much we can do about that, unless we all decided to collectively drop a whole lot of money on DVDs.
That brings us to moé. Right now there’s a lot of moé in anime. Not quite as much as there used to be, but a lot nonetheless, and people still complain about it and demonize it, pretending to have a discussion about it, all while shooting down any legitimate discussion being had about it. This is very harmful. Not only do we get a lot of people (As well as a surprising number of high-level fans) who are ill-informed about moé this way, they go on to spread their misinformation mostly unopposed to less-experienced fans. It becomes a cycle of misinformed people misinforming people and creating more misinformed people.
It’s not just that they get the wrong ideas about moé, however. The wrong ideas they get are almost wholly negative. It’s a perfect storm. The Anti-Moé Brigade spreads negative misinformation, which gives more and more people a negative view of moé based on false pretenses. The fact that the people these newer fans trust to give them perspective on the anime world are themselves underinformed about certain issues, but pretend to be informed about said issues, is one problem, but I want to address a different, further-reaching problem with this situation.
We are indeed quickly catching up to the Japanese industry, and this brings several pressing issues to light, including what we make of the elements currently prevalent in anime. In the past, because we generally fed off of the Japanese industry’s older works, it wasn’t necessary to stay abreast of and understand the trends going on in the anime industry. We happened to catch up at a moé-heavy point in time and, for some people, it was a culture shock.
Some people would find out that anime is not necessarily what they thought it was and that anime would go some places they thought it wouldn’t or shouldn’t. Some people would demand that the Japanese industry somehow return to doing something it hadn’t even been doing: Making anime to appeal to Western audiences. Some people would attack the people who enjoy the new stuff, with words like “creepy,” “loser,” “deviant,” and “pedophile.”
What this all boils down to, and the reason this animosity continues, is a failure to understand. A failure to make an effort to understand. Because back in the day, we didn’t need to understand. Anime was violent, exciting, filled with robots, guns, ninjas, and sexy women. We understand violence, sex, and giant robots. It’s understandable that once shows like Lucky Star and K-ON! showed up, a large subset of the anime community scratched their heads and uttered a collective “Huh?”
Suddenly, it became necessary to understand. Concepts we do not have words for here in the West began showing up more frequently and were more visible as we got caught up to the Japanese industry. The “Japanese-ness” of anime was becoming more and more apparent. Loanwords became more prevalent, as many concepts in anime were concepts for which we had no established words, like “moé,” “yandere,” “iyashikei,” and “yamato nadeshiko.”
It’s easier to just demonize it. Rather than make an effort to understand, it’s easier to just pretend moé is what took all the “good” anime away. It’s easier to scapegoat moé to make up for the West’s impotence as a market force within the anime industry. The reason we’re not getting more anime for Western audiences isn’t because the Japanese industry rarely sees a reason to spend time and money catering to a fickle, unreliable overseas market. No, it’s all moé’s fault.
This is why the moé discussion needs to happen. If we’re going to understand and engage on a deeper level with this medium we all love as anime fans, we need to make an effort to understand all aspects of it, including ones we might not completely enjoy. And I’m not talking about “understanding” like the Anti-Moé Brigade claims to “understand” moé. They’re lying to our fellow anime fans, pure and simple. A real understanding can be reached. I’m confident of that.
What needs to happen for that understanding to be reached, however, is a legitimate discussion of moé. This thing we currently have, where the Anti-Moé Brigade not only holds the majority of the prolific positions within the anime fandom, but are also the most vocal when it comes to the moé debate while the fans of moé are both not as prolific and not nearly as vocal, won’t work. The status quo in the anime fandom, with regards to moé, only serves to further spread anti-moé sentiment and marginalize those who actually enjoy moé.
The anime community is special, however. We’re a community where the actual difference between high-level fans and lower-level fans isn’t actually all that much. Those in high positions within the fandom really aren’t too far removed from the average fan, and it’s relatively easy to reach them, especially compared to people in high positions in, say, the gaming community. Those who write about anime professionally are akin to prolific bloggers (Some of them actually do have personal blogs on the side) and, likewise, many prolific bloggers write on a level that could easily belong in a professional publication. Indeed, the separation between a professional anime journalist, for example, and a knowledgeable blogger is basically arbitrary.
Why, then, are we so afraid to call these people out when they spread falsities about moé? Sure, they will resist being called-out, but that’s how we start a discussion: By disagreeing. A discussion where everyone’s talking in a circle and agreeing with each other doesn’t really help anybody, but the Anti-Moé Brigade has convinced themselves that not only does it help, but that their “discussion” is the only real discussion going on about the subject.
Now that we, the Western fanbase, are catching up with the Japanese industry, we’re going to be exposed to their cultural influence over the medium more often and more directly, and the longer we stall, the longer we pretend to have a discussion about things like moé instead of actually coming together and having a genuine discourse, the more we risk the Western fanbase at large becoming alienated.
The longer we pretend that moé is the problem without taking the time to investigate it genuinely and understand it, the further and further we will really be from the medium we all love as fans of anime.