While cruising WordPress for material I stumbled across the first and only non-professional articles I’ve found that apply the same level of scrutiny to anime that we here at Moe Sucks do. Am I losing my edge? Or hallucinating? Or is it just possible that someone else out there offers quality amateur anime analysis?
Ogiue Maniax is something of a mixed bag, but I did enjoy their piece on realism in fujoshi character design. It’s fairly short so I’ll just summarize his main points (you should really just read it though). Briefly: a number of chracters in recent popular anime and manga who are portrayed as fujoshi share similar physical characteristics; chief among these are plain, dark hair and corrective lenses, which stand out in the funky, rainbow-hued world of anime hair and 20/20 vision (bespectacled characters actually represent their own archetype; characterization for females is hilariously shallow in anime). The Ogiue Maniax author suggests that these traits are intended to make the character more true-to-life, which in turn makes them appealing to viewers because they’re more accessible.On all those points I agree, where I think the writer falls short is in not more closely examining the implications of the way this kind of ‘moe’ is created. While they do acknowledge that the division between “2D and 3D” is at issue, I think they understate the way trends in popular media affect and are affected by the real desires of the audience. The rise of cosplay and the continuing popularity of things like schoolgirl uniforms and swimsuits which are anime standbys suggests to me that otaku are not above conflating fiction with reality. With this in mind, the nature of “fujoshi moe” has disturbing implications for both the ‘moe’d and the ‘moe’rs.On one hand, although it’s now a widely-used term, fujoshi is a pretty strong perjorative that literally means ‘rotten girls’. The popular image is not of a sheltered, nerdy maiden, but of a woman whose expressions of sexuality make her unsociable or “problematic”. It’s part a double standard by no means unique to Japanese culture wherein it’s perfectly alright for men to enjoy gay pornography of women, but for a woman to enjoy gay male pornography is totally unthinkable and marks her for exclusion. Fujoshi are often portrayed as less attractive than other girls, either because their natural unattractiveness leads them to seek 2D titillation or because their “unhealthy” interests cause them to not give enough care to their personal appearance. I think it’s fair to say that in most circles a fujoshi would be thought less of than a ‘normal’ girl, and that this prejudice is reflected in anime’s portrayal of fujoshi characters. In a fictional world where every other female has been elevated to inhuman beauty (your milage may vary), fujoshi are the ones who remain the most unchanged. You can interpert this as them being given a more “realistic” aesthetic, or you can see the implication as being that fujoshi simply had less attractiveness to start with.On the other hand, with this negative image of fujoshi in mind, what does it say about otaku that this kind of ‘moe’ is being pushed on them? Anime has become more mainstream in some ways, but ‘otaku’ still isn’t the nicest thing to call someone, and is often associated, like ‘fujoshi’, with perversion and withdrawal. I think what’s being suggested is “this is the kind of girl who would be interested in you”, i.e. that the “inferior” fujoshi would be appropriate mates for the otaku audience. In this way, I think the recent increase in fujoshi characters’ appeal is a double-edged attack on both the stereotyped group and the target audience and preys on their self-hating tendencies as targets of derision from the mainstream.
(It may sound like I’m taking the author to task here, let me reiterate that actually I loved his post and agree with all the salient points, I just don’t think he went far enough in drawing conclusions from his observations.)Ogiue Manaix was also kind enough to translate and rehost a piece from a Japanese blog that I thought was even more on-target.
In cases where someone is moe for a two-dimensional tsundere character, it’s really just a matter of holding a commanding view of the character, or, perhaps, it’s a matter of cherry-picking what’s convenient. There are no alternatives. If that girl character suddenly strays from the supposedly correct path and gets closer to another guy, it’s often the case that some people will just abandon her. It’s not impossible at all. Because when it comes to “moe,” all you’re looking at is just one aspect of a girl. It’s not impossible, that is, because it isn’t “love.”
However, when it comes to two-dimensional characters, I think this is fine. Those who are capable of loving a character to the very end are wonderful and all, but there are those characters who can only be loved so much. That too is nature’s providence.
These are individuals we’re dealing with here. You’re free to say, “I fell for you,” or, “I love you,” but don’t ever say to someone, “I’m moe for you.” It’s a violent act in which you try to deny them their individuality.
Not only is this dead-on in my opinion, it’s also more eloquently put, even in translation, than anything I’ve seen before on the subject. The title is just one subheading in a longer article but I feel like it should be written in 10 foot letters on every storefront in Akihabara: “THE FOUNDATION OF “MOE” IS VIOLENT”. There’s not much to add to that.
I will say that, as in the first article, the author highly overestimates otakus’ ability to distinguish fantasy and reality. Even if consciously viewers realize that anime isn’t real they still internalize parts of what they see. And more to the point, a lot of care goes into making sure that a series will appeal to its audience, with the producers trying to make sure that it properly reflects the values of the demographic they’re targeting. Trends in popular entertainment can be a window into the psyche of the culture that created it, more often than not I don’t like what I see through that window when it comes to anime.
And just because the world really is corrupt it’s worth noting that although the translated post I quoted did spark some meaningful conversation, Ogiue Maniax later article on fujoshi character design got exactly one comment.