My problem with the moe

Psych hats on everyone because this may get freudian.

If you know me, you’re probably aware that I have a general dislike of archetypal moe girls. My biggest peeve is K-On personally. I’ve found that most communities on the internet against this type of moe culture are very hated, often called different names like oldfag or whatnot, but I just never saw the appeal. If anything this brand of moe is unattractive to me. Yet I’m a huge fan of Key games, does that cause a contradiction? I think I’ve come to understand exactly how my brain operates to give me such a dislike of typical moe culture.

The answer I’ve come to is quite simple: Unintelligence is unattractive to me.

I think it’s fair to say that most typical moe girls are portrayed as one-dimensional and stupid for lack of a better word. The clumsy maid who spills the drink she’s serving, the simple schoolgirl who doesn’t know anything about society, etc. Whether or not they’re actually intelligent or not, these girls are portrayed as dumb (or worse ACT dumb), and for some reason that’s attractive to people. This is what doesn’t click with me. Why are stupid girls cute? I’ve always felt that intelligent = attractive, but it’s these silly ideas that stupid girls are cute that I just can’t agree with. This is my problem with moe culture.

One might argue that characters from Key games do this too. Top example would probably be Komari Kamikita from Little Busters (Kud is a bit different so I’ll leave her out of this argument). She has been proven to be an intelligent character, but her actions always portray her as a dumb girl, and her route even stretches that a lot further (in a different way sure but it’s still the same idea). But even so, I can’t hate her. She’s got a huge amount of personality and an interesting mind behind that moe exterior, that I find her interesting. I put up with the moe tropes she’s bound to as a victim of this moe-driven medium, and am able to appreciate her for the well-designed and fascinating character she is, the sincere and earnest Komari. I can’t say the same for most moe characters I see in Anime and Visual Novels.

One thing I can’t agree with is that moe-styled art = typical moe. Many call Key’s work moe styled, and sure it looks that way, but Key’s characters aren’t even close to the typical moe that I see everywhere. Some characters may suffer the tropes, but each has their own unique, fascinating personality and story that always interests me as a reader. I can look behind their failings as products of mass appeal, and appreciate them as they really are. But even saying this, it’s not like I hate moe altogether.

Chihiro Shindou from ef – a fairy tale of the two is probably my all-time favourite ‘moe’ character, probably the closest thing to an anime crush I’ll ever have. She’s incredibly shy, she’s quirky, she wears an eyepatch (another moe trope), she has the mind of a younger girl, yet she’s mind-bogglingly deep and complex. Her story is one of the most fascinating, emotional and inspiring stories I’ve ever seen, and it just brings me to love her even more as a character. Despite her moe appearances, this is an incredibly strong and intelligent character, and it all goes back to her story. Honestly, this is probably the pinnacle of moe as far as I can see. They used her story to create the most admirable moe character possible, the perfect match for someone like me who values strength and intelligence in characters, but can also appreciate the ‘paternal appeal’ of a moe character. This is moe how it should be, but never really is. I don’t hate moe, I hate some of the concepts which constitute moe, like this idea of atractive stupidity. I’m still going to go on denying K-On! and all other second-rate moe shows and games, while pursuing the ideal of this intelligent, strong moe character. It’s not that I hate moe, I just don’t see the appeal most people do.

I guess in the end, I’m just big for gender equality. Don’t dumb women down to make them more attractive. I can’t approve of that. And women, don’t act dumb to look cute, you can be cute while maintaining your own unique personality. Well, I’m just glad I’ve finally been able to make use of a bit of psychological insight to figure just why this genre never worked for me. It all makes sense now. Unintelligence is plain and simply unattractive to me. This isn’t just in moe, it applies to the western media as well. The whole world dumbs down women for mass appeal, and I just can’t accept that, no matter what country it comes from.

Row row fight the power!

About Aspirety

Australian J-geek with a passion for Gaming and Writing. Psychology student, Nintendo/Key/Ryukishi07 fan.
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8 Responses to My problem with the moe

  1. In my opinion, the problem began when moe started being considered a “genre”. I suppose I subscribe to the old idea of moe being a subjective feeling inspired by a character. Unfortunately, since this moe feeling sells so well, more and more game/anime creators have latched onto it. This has resulted in an enormous flood of media that is so focused on the tried and true methods of inspiring moe that it seems to have little other thought and substance put into it.

  2. Brendan Silva says:

    I think that a show being Moe for the sake of Moe is bad. A show like this will never be great. I did find K-On watchable, but it wasn’t great by any means.

    I don’t mind the typical art style either thats typically used, just the whole character concept behind moe itself which I find annoying. Clannad for instance is great. While the art style is Moe, the characters aren’t really(cept for Fuuko, but I will say, Clannad without Fuuko would be the closest thing to perfection). Little Busters, I do think is more One dimensional for most characters, even Komari(again, it’s either the typical Moe fan fare, plus then the whole, repressing terrible memories that burst out and make her a looney, which has been played many times elsewgere, but better). I do enjoy Little Busters though, but yes, the characters in that are definitely more One dimensional then the likes of Clannad, but at least raises the bar from K-On occasionally.

  3. Aaeru says:

    I like girls who are smarter than me and better than me. why can’t they make more of those

  4. Yumeka says:

    I wrote a post a while back about how “cuteness” in Japan is actually considered attractive over, say, being “beautiful” or “sexy,” especially for young girls. Westerners naturally find it strange and even demeaning when girls like idol pop stars talk and act very childishly, but it’s simply part of the ingrained appeal (and yeah, I can’ say it’s not sexist). You’re right that the typical moe attributes make the girls appear unintelligent, but I suppose the cuteness factor is what’s seen as attractive to the otaku audience. I don’t think they think of the girls as unintelligent; just, well, cute and relaxing, soothing, and fun to be with since the lack of intelligent matters makes them and their show pleasantly simple and something to just “chill” with.

    I agree that people tend to “judge a book by its cover” with moe anime; if the characters even look moe-ish and the story doesn’t sound like anything seriously dramatic or action-packed, they’re quick to assume it’s just a cliche moe series. Like you said, just because a character looks moe and has some moe traits, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad character. I also don’t have a problem with moe as long as it’s done right and isn’t solely used for the purpose of selling a trait. If they’re well written and given an interesting personality, on top of a cute design and a few human flaws, that’s what I like to see – not just fan service bait or one-shot gags.

  5. Logopolis says:

    I never really thought of the K-ON characters as being unintelligent, in particular. (Well, maybe one or two of them.) Rather, I’d observe them as living in a world without complex challenges. They’re in a position of luxury, they don’t have to deal with anything which requires much intelligence, (the details of schoolwork not being part of the world which is presented to the viewer), so they can afford to relax and indulge reasonably low instincts when on-screen. K-ON is showing us a world in which intelligence isn’t really a factor, so in a sense, if you think of them as creations which are purely part of a story rather than imagining the real people they would be equivalent to, they don’t even have an intelligence level. Whereas by contrast, Chihiro needs intelligence, because she’s got a difficult problem to deal with.

    I definitely find intelligence attractive, and unintelligence only really of value for humourous or contrasting purposes, most of my favourite characters are intelligent. But I find the degree to which this matters depends a great deal on context, and how one watches a show in the first place. I find you can get away with marginalising intelligence if it isn’t really relevant, just as you can, for instance, get away with thin characterisation in general if you’re got a plot-based narrative. You need to concentrate on the aspects which are most important to a show, putting in detail where it isn’t required can be good for world-building purposes, but it can also be distracting and lead to a lack of focus. These are difficult judgements.

  6. Not to sound like a terminology nazi, but I think you are confusing the terms “kawaii” and “moe”. The way I see it, both do relate to the same thing – that being whatever it is that inspires in us feelings of adoration towards youthful innocence, AKA the “HNNNGH” effect. However, I think “kawaii” refers to the idea on a more superficial level. It’s not hard to create an image of something “kawaii” – a slavishly thought-out girl with the right attributes (what you called “moe cliches”), or a simple drawing in the right way (your so-called “moe style”) would easliy qualify. To provoke “moe”, however, it needs to inspire feelings that go a lot deeper. Of Ef’s Chihiro, for example, you wrote:

    “She has the mind of a younger girl, yet she’s mind-bogglingly deep and complex. Her story is one of the most fascinating, emotional and inspiring stories I’ve ever seen, and it just brings me to love her even more as a character. Despite her moe appearances, this is an incredibly strong and intelligent character, and it all goes back to her story.”

    Young but emotionally mature; cute but at the same time strong and intelligent. That’s classic moe. Komari was another good example. She does have many “kawaii” boxes ticked, but what perhaps makes her “moe” to some is how she’s not, like you said, unintelligent. Her intelligence means she has the *potential* to become great; but we slowly discover she’s got some emotional baggage which means she needs a bit of help getting there. It’s the character that doesn’t let you look away –the kinda a character that makes people “burn” (moeru, as you know) with passion to want to help. Again, you correctly identified Key as a major player in this – and I’d bet money that it’s precisely because Maeda Jun did psychology, and probably had clinical experience in the field before he went into the business on VNs.

    I should probably also point out a lot of this is very subjective – especially in terms of what we would feel kawaii/moe towards. As much as I agree with you in saying that typical “moe” stereotypes are now really uninteresting, mind you it’s only because it’s become so mainstream that everyone knows about it already. However, the first time I was introduced to that concept, I was so head-over-heels I literally didn’t know what hit me!

  7. milly says:

    I think “moe” has been in anime for years we as an aduience haven’t noticed it until the turn of the century. Sailor moon, DN Angel, tokyo Mew mew, Galaxy Angel, Wedding Peach, Mahoromantic, This Ugly yet Beautiful world, Magical knight reyearth, Magical Cannan, Divergence Eve, and Misaki Chronicles.

  8. Libre Literary says:

    Simple solution – don’t watch the shows that bugs you. There are tons of other shows around.
    Yeah – Japanese culture is sexists compared to ours. Probably best you tune off all things Japanese going forward or you might burst a few veins here and there.

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