Moe Revisited – An Argument for a 萌え-centric Perspective

Berserk needs more Sad Girl in Snow

萌え? What is moe? Why do I think it’s good?


It’s a dead horse beaten even before it became something to be beaten by the English-language fan scene. But when people start to talk about the term again, how are you suppose to deal with the language-purists and the evolutionists in this never ending debacle? The Sub v. Dub argument has long died with the advent of soft subs and multiple audio tracks on DVD (score one for technology bringing world peace a step closer) but we’ll never see eye to eye when it comes to a subjective appreciation of aesthetics. Or can we?

Sometimes, you just have to be big and manhandle whiny kids arguing stupid on the intarweb, though.

Because there will always be someone who’s going to say “LOL Teresa can’t be moe.” Ugh. At this point the issue isn’t what’s right or wrong, but rather “why would you say that?” Isn’t it plainly obvious that moe is a highly subjective term?

I think a lot more effort should be focused, when talking about moe, on the ability to typecast different kind of moe as characterized by different people. It’s one thing that you don’t think Clare is moe but it’s much more practical if you can determine what kind of people would think she is. At the very least you can use it to troll people, right? In the hand of a good character designer, this insight can be made into win and gold.

More commonly, moe is broken down into different categories. Perhaps one better way to look at what is moe redefined through the eyes of others is to take a big-picture perspective. In terms of character design, we all know that one paradigm (that I particularly abhor, as an aside) is the one illustrated best from NHK ni Yokoso’s “how to make an eroge heroine” sketch. Characters are not Aestivalises where you can modularly add and subtract fetishes and hooks (unless you’re designing something like an Aestivalis), and one can say that a character designer produces a design that impresses with its overall aesthetic value rather than merely the sum of its parts. The parts work together–it’s a simple function of fashion in terms of matching colors, agreeable accessories, having focal points (think of them as the hooks) but only properly accentuated with less notable features working in accord.

The concept of moe, accordingly, I think, matches a more well-rounded and holistic view of what is appealing and ultimately a truer-than-words way to describe the reality of anime/game/manga character designs. I believe this is partly why we debate it and it is something hard to quantify. Even if you take the purist definition of the word, moe still describes an overall effect. And the overall effect is usually what strikes the audience, rather than merely “oh so and so is showing her panties.”

But with all that said, to an extent some of the parodies (like the whole figure moe zoku nonsense) and some of the more parallel takes on the term focuses on the “sprouting” aspect of the actual meaning, rather than treating the lexicon on its own. For example: Is Darry moe? You bet. In this sense of the word, moe is a compelling motivation rather than a physical description. I think that would be a better use of the term as it’s relatively incontrovertible, but so few English-speaking people think of the word in that way.

It’s going back to the motivation of people, and what makes them tick–that’s really the essence of moe. Of course it is subjective, and extremely so; but it’s more about our perception on the whole and much less than trying to mix and match a flexible list of traits that some characters have or have not. The latter is just something we should do only in the context of the former.


8 Responses to “Moe Revisited – An Argument for a 萌え-centric Perspective”

  • TheBigN

    Why is “Aestevalises” the plural and not something like “Aestevali”?

    Is GAR a subset of moe in the sense of having je ne sais quoi about them? Is it an entity to itself really?

    Why do people always feel like things have to be defined?

  • Anya

    You know, I constantly hear about the English blogging community being highly responsible for spreading imported otaku slang, but I would also highly credit said community for its improper use. And only now am I seeing why this is so–because everybody needs to have an opinion on everything in this community, even if they don’t know what the f*** they’re talking about.

  • omo

    And that’s the difference between fans and pros–and praytell, who does?

  • Jeff Lawson

    To be honest, I think anime fans have trouble when it comes to subjective things. There’s a strong tendency within the community to seek out the “correct answer” to questions that don’t have correct answers. A fanboy does not an expert make.

  • omo

    TheBigN: Aestivalis is the name of some Greek thing. I am not sure if it even has a real plural form, so es it is.

  • DS

    I think moe refers more to the feeling that’s produced in the observer than to what’s being observed. So that is quite subjective.

  • TheBigN

    Jeff: It’s all fun and games till someone takes that third option. :P

    But then again, is that how most of society is?

    omo: Maybe it’s just Aestevalis. It doesn’t detract from the awesomeness of the Aestevalis March though. :3

  • Miria

    And they have an every year tournament to choose which anime characters of the current season are the most moe o.o

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Zcml4j0qFFc

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