As my Japanese is nonexistent, I’m just hoping it’s nothing scurrilous written on the box.
1. Where does moe (or moé for the pronunciation pedants among us) happen? The site of moe must be in the viewer. When, therefore, we say of a character that she or he ‘is moe’ we are identifying the presence in her or him of traits which provoke or stimulate moe in us (and perhaps in an imagined community of ‘people like us’).
2. Moe is, to put it another way, a subjective event in the viewer’s mind, stimulated by the presence in a ‘moe’ character of certain qualities (youth, naïvité, innocence, weakness, glasses, cat-ears, a maid’s uniform, cyborgification et cetera, et cetera).
3. It would therefore be possible to produce a society of fans whose moe was stimulated by a completely different set of qualities, if that society saw those new qualities as things to be protected, cherished, succoured.
4. Moe is not the same as sexual arousal. It does, however, operate in a similar way: the qualities a character possesses can stimulate arousal in the viewer – if, of course, the viewer feels those qualities to be sekushay. The wide range of traits and qualities which people find arousing is therefore a useful model for the variety of traits which stimulate moe. The word ‘fetish’ is therefore not literally applicable to a moe trait, but may serve as a useful metaphor.
5. It is worth noting that certain viewers find that some traits stimulate both a moe reaction and a sexual reaction. A maid’s uniform implies a power relationship, which may provoke moe or arousal – or both. A doubled reaction – both sexual and moe – to youth may be where the lolicon comes from, but ‘Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen‘ – that’s Deutsch for ‘I don’t like little girls, so I couldn’t say’, by the way.
[There are alternative formulations. For example, in my understanding moe is restricted to parts of the upper-left-hand quadrant of this moe compass. If you're interest is piqued by the lolicon/moe issue, you may wish to peruse 'If Moe is to Survive, Compromises Must be Made'.]
6. Since a desire to protect, cherish, succour is a necessary (though perhaps not a sufficient) part of moe, feeling moe means the viewer is making two speculative assumptions, that
- he or she is stronger or more knowledgeable about the world than the character who is provoking the moe; and that
- he or she is in some way able to enter the character’s world (to do the protecting, cherishing, succouring)
7. This is moe’s most dangerous element. Imagining (1) to be true leads very easily to pride, and certainly encourages the viewer to be blind to his or her own weaknesses. It is self-centred. Imagining (2) to be true is an exercise in hopelessness. Moe, uncritically accepted, can therefore become hopeless, foolish pride: hubris.
[Alert readers may notice that Kodomo no Jikan questions (1) by portraying characters who are likely to stimulate moe but who are also knowledgeable about the world - too cynical, in fact. The franchise does not completely deny (1), however, since these characters are also portrayed as having moments of genuine weakness.]
8. There is, therefore, a need to question the moe that one experiences. It is not an emotion, or structure of emotions, which must be rejected – but neither is it a consequence-free emotion which can be unthinkingly enjoyed. The same might be said of most (but definitely not all) of the emotions which are provoked in us by anime characters. Do not cease, gentle readers, from your mental fight, and do not let your critical sword sleep in your hand (stop laughing, you at the back).
[The 'fun'? That was the fun I had writing it, not the fun you had reading it - a situation perhaps analogous to a recent experiment in mass manipulation executed by a group of cunning minions. And be thankful you didn't get an entry explaining how the resemblance of School Days: Magical Heart Kokoro-chan's nipple control-wire assemblages (image shamelessly 'borrowed' from jpmeyer) to dairy equipment is a comment on the milking of a successful franchise. Because I very nearly wrote one.]
- OGT identifies a new trend in more characterful moe.
- Apparently moe has come to define a genre for some people. Koneko-chan considers this through the lens of ANNtv’s Kanon V1 review.
- [NSFW; also vitriol.] Many moons ago, Akamatsu attempted to describe moe. Detecting obfuscation at work, Reverend Ragu saw fit to launch an all-out assault on the idea that moe can ever be disconnected from sex. Not for the faint-of-heart.