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 more severe instances of the problem came from old schoolers who have a fetishistic devotion for anime that aren't adaptations (nevermind the fact that most anime masterpieces I can think of, starting with Hotaru no haka, are not original material). They put a lot of hope in the Anime no chikara project, as some sort of salvation opportunity for modern anime, something that could bring about the Fourth Impact they have been waiting for. And it doesn't make them happy that this project was actually about producing moe mediamix (Sora no woto has a tie-in manga in Daioh, people). “But hey,” they say, “this is a show with an actual plot, about war and serious stuff. Surely, it can't be moe, right?” Wrong. Not all moe is light music.

The milder form of the problem has come up in a lot of “first impressions” posts after episode 1. They praise the show but complain about “moe-ified” character designs, and bemoan the fact that the concept art by Kishida Mel wasn't used instead. Don't get me wrong, I find the Atelier Rorona designs as gorgeous as the next guy does, and the original artwork was definitely prettier than the actual character designs. But there is no way in hell to animate that sort of CG art on a TV anime budget. And more importantly, the original artwork is just as moe, if not more, than what ended up being used. Heck, if the actual designs are reminiscent of K-On (moe~), the original art looks like Love Plus (not moe?!). Not all moe is light music.

Anyway, besides that particular gripe, I'm pretty noncommital towards Sora no woto. Episode 1 was fine, I guess, but doesn't tell us much about where the show is headed. We'll see. But I'm more interested in that other Yoshino Hiroyuki show, the one with naked vampire lolis. Also, expect more serious posts over the week-end.

21 comments for ‘There is more to moe than light music or sounds in the sky’.

"And more importantly, the original artwork is just as moe, if not more, than what ended up being used."

That's something I was thinking when I first saw the original character designs for the show, which I think was when all the fuss started about the character designs changing. The originals are just as moe, if not more. But since the hate is strong with the K-ON flamers, they'll burn Sora no Woto to the ground just for that reason.

Love Plus ? In my opinion it's more reminiscent of the original character design for Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto...

Anyway, people complain about this character design (me too >_>) but it was probably a good call to make sure that the first Anime no Chikara production would be seen by a lot of animefans... Who hasn't heard talk about Sora no Woto, the K-On! look-alike now ? Even if it's bad for the show's own identity since the comparisons won't stop anytime soon, it may be a good way for the producers to make sure it'll get more viewers.

... And I'm pretty scared about the contents of the more serious posts now o_o

I can see the Love Plus similarities. Get the artbooks~

I think if it looks like YumeMaho it's because the tools Kishida used to illustrate those drawings I guess?

This just prompted me to check my MAL page, and it looks like something like 80% of the titles I've given 8-10s to are adaptations. lawl.

>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.
And here is the problem : a tremendous lack of ambition and everything else that plague this show. K-on! is as generic as an fiction can be, just look at the Christmas episode : you could use it in any moe-slice-of-life series just by swapping the characters and doing a few minor adjustments. And I'm not talking about the second half of the show which is just the fist half with one more character. Saying that K-on! was a good show is simply accepting a dumbing down of the anime culture. (And I know that the anime is a faithful adaptation of the manga, which lead us to the second (and real) problem : a lack of ambition coming from the studios and producers).
As I already said, the problem is not moe or slice of life or anything, but what they do (and more important, don't do) with it.

The fact that an anime is an original creation is clearly not a sign that it will be a good one. To name a few, Fafner was pure crap, KonoMimi is an everlasting pimple in the face of Gainax and Mai-HiME was just a bad joke from Sunrise. And as you say more than a few masterpiece (but I don't agree on the "most") are adaptation of manga/novels/whatever.
But if there is no more original creations, anime as a media will be indentured to mangas, ranobe, visual novels ou video games. Maybe you find this idea appealing but I clearly don't.

I wasn't complaining about the moe-ified artwork itself, I just don't think it fits the show. Apparently, I missed a section in my post, but I did at least mention in the comments somewhere that I know it would be impossible to animate Kishida Mel style art. I'm no fool.
That doesn't, however, mean that they have to go the exact opposite way and pick moe enhancing artwork. And I know I mentioned that much in my actual post.
Plus, you're living on the assumption that the thought is that the Kishida Mel art is not moe. Which I don't think anyone has said, least of all myself. ;)

I don't really see the characters designs as being that close. Brown hair? A tendency to get lost? Yes, all brown haired, lost characters must be Yui! Even though she was far beyond that slight bit of clumsiness.
I guess it's a matter of perception, but I agree wholeheartedly that what people have said about that sort of thing is absolutely ridiculous.

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.


Words cannot tell how warm and fuzzy this makes me feel inside, so:


>>"And here is the problem : a tremendous lack of ambition and everything else that plague this show."

If the point of the show is to be just that, is that really a problem if it's doing what it's supposed to do? Not necessarily doing what it's supposed to do for you, mind you, but in it's general purpose?

This is the heart of the problem, while there are hundreds of interesting things you can do with the story of girls who don't know how to play music well who are trying to save the light music club of their high school K-on! is none of them. K-on! is nothing more than a 13x25" series of advertising about CD, PVC figures, H doujinshi and left-handed basses. Judging by the blu-ray sales there is a strong demand for this, so be it. But I find it kind of sad that when even the last Pretty Cure series is trying (and succeed) to be more than that, a major hit with the otakus can wallows itself in such low-end ambitions (or that otakus are praising such a series).

yeah.....yeah..... .....yeah.

@Nazarielle: Sadly true.

@FFenril: So you think this choice of designs is a marketing ploy? Could be. And you can be scared, although this particular post is not the one I'll make first :3

@omo: One picture or two is admittedly a bit of a shaky ground for a well thought-out comparison, but yeah. As for a Kishida–YumeMahō connection, I've never heard of that. Did he really?

@jpmeyer: 75% for me, which isn't so much seeing as adaptations vastly outnumber original works. But then, most of the originals are actually movies by Ghibli or Kon.

@Tetho: K-On is not an ambitious show, it's true, but as TheBigN says, this is not in and of itself a bad thing. It's fluff, but very competently executed entertainment, and as such, I find it quite good (though by no means top of the crop, of course). There are those times when you're prepared to listen to deep and challenging music (say Stravinsky or Schoenberg) and others when you'll just put a random Johann Strauss disc (pick any, they're all the same), sit back and relax. There's nothing wrong with liking generic fluff like the Beautiful blue Danube, and it has never prevented higher-brow music to be made. In the case of anime, there's a case to be made that the main effect is in the opposite direction, in fact (see this insightful comment by relentlessflame over at lelangir's).

As for original anime, that's an interesting discussion for some other time (on which we'll probably have to agree to disagree, as usual ^^).

@mefloraine: My main gripe here is with your concept of “moe enhancing artwork.” Since you seem to agree that Kishida's art is quite moe itself, I fail to see what you're getting at, or why you describe the two types of artwork as polar opposites. Are you saying that the Akai Toshifumi designs are intrinsically ill-suited to this anime? To be blunt, I'm wondering if the main problem people have with these particular character designs isn't that it makes them think of K-On (which can cause some cognitive dissonance with the more serious setting of Sorawoto).

Otherwise, I think we do agree that the two shows or the characters within them don't have a whole lot in common (although I still laughed as Moonphase's sarcasm).

@Owen: Socrates moe? www

@lelangir: Thanks for the resounding agreement :3

Whatever response I had in mind seems to have been overridden by the thought "I want to see Socrates-tan <3"

Moe is for real. Srsly.

Personally I liked the first episode of “So-Ra-No-Wo-To” and more than the resemblance in character design with “K-ON!” that first episode intrigued me because it doesn't quite say yet what genre the series will be or where it will go.

All the lush backgrounds and unique mountain village setting gave it a fantasy-like atmosphere which also reminded me of “Last Exile” or “Fullmetal Alchemist”.

The more slice-of-life elements of the characters behavior and interaction give a heartful, joyous core not unlike series like “Aria”.

The legend about Fire Maidens seemed more sci-fi genre. Actually the skeleton under water the skeleton reminded me of “Macross Zero”.

Am keen to see which direction “So-Ra-No-Wo-To” will take, if any of those above.

@mt-i There is more than one type of moe.
The Kishida Mel illustration is a very soft moe, that I wouldn't classify as moe per se, but for the purposes of what I see as your definition of moe, I thought the word was fine. The moe that the current artwork enhances is a more fun moe. And I don't think Sora no Woto needs fun moe enhancements.

And you cannot say that the beautifully rendered, intricate details of the Kishida artwork are on the exact same level as the anime work. That's just...not right, in my opinion. And while I don't think the designs are ill suited for this anime, I would have preferred something a little different.

And "To be blunt, I'm wondering if the main problem people have with these particular character designs isn't that it makes them think of K-On (which can cause some cognitive dissonance with the more serious setting of Sorawoto)." must have a word (or entire thought?) missing or typed incorrectly, because it doesn't make sense to me. But if something is typed incorrectly, it kind of sounds like you and I have the exact same thought about all of this.

@ghostlinging: I'm at a loss for words... Belated congratulations anyways :)

@Smithy: If you found the first episode of Sorawoto intriguing and liked it for that reason, you might want to try Vampire Bund. It's a totally different level of “intriguing.”

@mefloraine: What I was trying to say is this. It seems to me that, rather than the character designs per se, it's the resemblance with K-On that puts people off—the art reminds them of K-On, therefore it feels out of place in a less fluffy setting, regardless of its own merits. Nazarielle was probably making a similar point previously.

That said, I can appreciate that less sketchy designs might have looked more “serious” somehow. But that “seriousness” has little to do with moe in my opinion. And as I said, I find it difficult to picture what the show would have been like with designs closer to those of Kishida, because it's hard to imagine them animated.

Lack of ambition is not the central problem, the fact is that K-On ! is a very bad anime, even in its own "moe exclusive" category. The second half is strictly identical to the first one, that's the same lame story with an additional character for more PVC business - and be prepared for others useless girls in series two. The main theme of the young girls who try to play guitar despite their amateurism is shown approximatively two minutes... in thirteen episodes. The anime repeats the same two shitty jokes each week : Mio is moe and Miss Sensei likes maid's costumes. Hilarious. Don't search the script, the character's progression, the fun or the ideas, you'll be seriously disappointed. To my opinion, the massive success of K-On ! perfectly illustrates the loss of anime culture as an alternative medium built around the base called passion - the passion of data, the passion of narratives, the passion of experimentations. There is nothing to share in K-On !, except "I like it" or "It's crap" cause the content of the series does not mean anything.

Plus, your depicted "moe haters" don't exist. What you call "moe haters" are a bunch of people who think that moe cannot be the beginning and the end of an anime series. That you must have several reasons of existence as a fiction. Moe can be an element among others, but if moe is the only way and goal, yeah, you get crap. And that's what K-On ! is about. Greedy crap.

If the character designs are said to be "moe", but it doesn't really make you go "moe", wouldn't that invalidate its being "moe"? *ba dum psh*

K-ON / "moe" bias aside though, this made me wonder how people's perceptions of a series are affected by virtue of character designs, as is the case with certain shoujo horror mangas with big-eyed cutesy character designs. On one hand, there's the "this doesn't fit the mood of the story" argument, and also the "the contrast between the horror and the cutesiness makes for an intriguing paradox" argument. Cognitive dissonance might be inevitable in this case, but can we consider those who are able to overcome that to be commendable?

Seems like Sora no (W)oto is becoming this season's 'aniblogger litmus test'. Would be interesting to see how my "moe-hater" friend/co-blogger finds Sora no (W)oto. I can only hope the "moe" designs won't drive him off, or that he'd be able to acknowledge that there's more to this show than s-s-silly moe character designs.

@Amrith Zeta:your depicted "moe haters" don't exist.” Denial. That's the first stage of grief.

@usagijen: Insightful. There's definitely a litmus test aspect to the way bloggers have reacted to this show.

As for your first paragraph, it might be related to the difference between meanings #1 and #2 of moe.

It's a very belated response to this, but retrospectively, I enjoyed Sora no Woto more than I enjoyed K-On. It just struck a chord with me. No pun intended.

But, in general, I don't get the moe-bashing at all.

K-On! and K-On!! are exactly what they were intended to be, adaptations from the 4koma of the same name. There's a lot of added in stuff for the music-otaku to otaku-gasm about, but in general, it's about as close an adaptation of the 4koma as 4koma adaptations get. On that end, I'd argue it made the transition better than Lucky Star did. I don't quite get how one could bash it for being a good adaptation of the in my opinion just as moe-blobby source material. It seems sorta ass-backwards to expect anything different.

I mean. Two words: Kanon. Uguu.

The chardesigns in Kanon are basically the definition of strangely-distorted moeblobs, this goes especially for Ayu. It was still very well done. There was no flaming for the chardesigns.

I'm thinking people who flame about this stuff nowadays just have their heads up their own asses too far to just go and comfortably sit down to enjoy it.

@Amrith Zeta: “your depicted "moe haters" don't exist.” Denial. That's the first stage of grief.

You should at least put the Ellen Bass's copyright when you say something as stupid as that. ;)

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