moe

How to write your own blog post on the moe decadence

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The anime fandom is a cliquey bunch, and the aniblogosphere even more so. You have groups like the grumpy old timers, the enthusiastic, semi-literate dimwits, the Random Curiosity copycats, etc., who tend to stay among themselves and read little of what the others are writing.

Among those, a particularly exclusive group is the bloggers you could call intellectual aestheticians, who unironically judge anime based on its adherence to (their understanding of) the conventional canons of high culture. Basically the people who consider that the only 2010 show worth watching was Yojouhan shinwa taikei—that's quite different from the old timers, mind you: those would rather mention SRT OG or some con screening of Eva 2.22. One of the core tenets of this group is that anime should be about creating art, and that it is becoming less and less successful at it as time goes by. Compared to some unspecified past when Sunrise and Studio Pierrot were putting out Golden Lion-grade magna opera at rapid-fire rate, I suppose? (It would be interesting to research the origins of that particular streak of international anime discourse, by the way; somehow, I doubt that it even existed in the 1980's, and my hunch is that it probably developed out of Eva mythological commentary in the late 90's. But I'm getting side-tracked.)

Now, the purpose of blogging is often less actual conversation than social status, and some anime blog posts can be difficult to understand until you read them in this light.

Nagato Yuki no shoushitsu

After over two weeks straight of not doing much of anything but work, last week-end was a welcome break full of otaku activities: anison karaoke, Nanoha the movie 1st and shopping for Okada Kou's new book Chuugakusei nikki on Saturday, followed by a Sunshine Creation full of Hideyoshi doujinshi and Suzumiya Haruhi no shoushitsu on Sunday. Nanoha in particular was pure joy, and though it took me several, erm, sittings to finish it (it's just too useable), I can also tell you that Chuugakusei nikki is spectacular.

On the other hand, the Haruhi movie (known in English as The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, or was it Vanishment instead?) was a bit of a disappointment for me. Since impression posts I've read about it seemed to range from contented to ecstatic, I might as well try and explain why. This shouldn't spoil anything if you're familiar with the Shoushitsu storyline; I haven't read the novels myself, but the adaptation was reportedly quite faithful.

There is more to moe than light music or sounds in the sky

For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, 2009 cake appreciation club anime K-On has become an effigy for moe haters to burn. They love to lash out endlessly about how the show was nothing but cuteness without subtance, which is really half funny. The funny part is that this is exactly was the show was trying to be—a harmless pleasure to watch every week, although nothing to write home about. Complaining about the lack of plot, character growth or realism in the portrayal of guitar learning is superlatively moronic. The unfunny part is the following fallacy: “K-On is kind of shallow and a moe anime, therefore all moe anime is shallow.” Guys, Socrates is supposed to have cleared that up for you two and a half millenia ago.

That last bit was too ridiculous to take seriously until the last few days when things got pretty much out of hand. Sora no woto, a new original Aniplex anime project, came under fire from hordes of angry fans before the first episode even aired, for no other reason than character designs distinctly reminiscent of K-On. The problem lay not so much with the moe haters, whose reaction was expected and promptly ignored, but with more reasonable people whose usual sound thinking got somehow polluted by the tea-baggers of the anime blogosphere.

The confusion about moe

Pondering the meaning of moe 「萌え」 sounds a bit 2005, back when the word qualified as a popular phrase in the Japanese media. Nowadays, it's become pretty uncommon among otaku to say that you're moe for such and such, as the term has been somewhat bastardized by mainstream exposure, or has simply fallen out of fashion (angry rants of English-speaking bloggers notwithstanding).

Still, there are no convenient replacements for at least some uses of the word moe. For example, the most concise answer I can give when somebody asks what kind of manga or anime I like is moe-kei. It's quite precise and widely understood (well, not in the general public of course, but the right answer if a Japanese person that isn't an otaku asks about your tastes in anime is more along the lines of “I've heard about that Studio Ghibli thing and what they do looks pretty cool”).

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