Opinions on Moe: A response to Akamatsu Ken

I came across this post, which translated the thoughts of Akamatsu, the mangaka of Negima, regarding moe. I’ll just address bits and pieces that stood out to me.

I suppose it’s silly for me to debate someone who will probably never be able to offer me any rebuttal, never mind the fact that I’m responding to something written four years ago. I just thought it was, uh, interesting to say the least.

First of all, “moe” must meet the following conditions

1. It does NOT include sexual action: “moe” is being calmed/soothed by watching from afar. It is not an object of sexual action. There are other classifications such as “2D-con” for those who include sexual conduct. Looking at a bishoujo and thinking “I want to do her” is a normal sexual desire for a man; looking at a biyoujo and thinking “I want to be calmed/soothed” is “moe”.

I would say that moe does not have to include sexual action, but I think it’s silly to assert that it categorically does not include sexual action. I think my reasoning is purely intuitive: do you seriously think that most otaku who consider Mio to be moe also doesn’t want to fuck the shit out of her? Maybe Akamatsu’s original intention for moe doesn’t include all that, but words change as cultures change so it doesn’t really matter what his authorial intent was.

2. The person feeling it must be stronger: the object of “moe” is weak and dependent on the person, or is in a situation where she cannot oppose. Also, the person is raising her. Accordingly, being fond of the girl as if loving a pet cat, the person is willing to put themselves in harm’s way if danger approaches.

I don’t necessarily disagree with this; “moe” does elicit protectiveness, but his point misses an extra element to moe: possessiveness. The object of “moe” is rendered weak on purpose just to cater to the needs of the otaku. I think his point here is thus an oversimplication. The otaku is not doing the object of moe any favor by “[putting himself] in harm’s way if danger approaches.” He is the one responsible for putting her there. After all, the otaku contrives for the object of moe to be weak, necessitating her danger so that he can “save” her afterward.

In the above-mentioned (1), I think you realize that, rather than a male’s emotions, it is a feeling similar to that of a mother looking at her daughter, or of other females looking at someone else’s child and feeling soothed/calmed…

To compare it, it resembles a parent’s strength.

I think this is an insult to motherhood. Moms wish to protect their children when necessary, but they also wish that their kids grow and learn to be strong by themselves. The otaku don’t wish for their characters to ever grow as human beings (thus the static dynamics in harem relations); the object of moe must forever be weak in order to require the protection of someone like the otaku; moe is static,–I won’t deny that–but it’s also possessive and destructive.

…but, in fact, it is not the denial of the process of “The object of moe growing, loving, and moving on from the present condition”, it is similar to a positive sense of denial, such as “I don’t want my daughter to get married.”

I personally don’t see his point here because “I don’t want my daughter to get married” is still possessive and destructive. You might protest–surely parents naturally feel this all the time. Yes, they do, but good parents learn to move on and accept change and growth in their children. No reasonable parent dwells on the issue and refuses the marriage. On the other hand, the otaku will never allow the object of moe to progress. Have we forgotten the otaku outrage when there was just a slight possibility that Nagi (of Kannagi) might have had a husband before? Or would you argue, in that case, that the otaku were not feeling moe for Nagi?

“Moe” is a “maternal affection” which a part of males have been left with that has undergone a change and shown itself and, originally, is an irregular feeling a male should not have, however, it is a pure love which does not include any sexual action and is an exceedingly peaceful desire.

Moe is nothing like maternal affection. I find it highly unlikely that moe categorically–absolutely–does not include any sexual action in every possible case (though I don’t deny that in some cases, it may not). I also find moe to be possessive and destructive–it mutilates the object of moe–so the idea that it is “pure love” is also dubious at best and thus hardly a “peaceful desire.”

If we suppose that “moe” occurs from a maternal affection that should be lost, could we then assert that moe otaku are basically peaceful, and do not wish for physical conflict?

Do verbal conflicts not matter? If an otaku expresses his displeasure at the object of moe progressing (and we all know how passive aggressive nerds can be), is that not a violent act (albeit not a physical one) toward someone?

If we think of “Love towards a pet” as an compensatory action for “Love towards a child”, then it is, after all, a variation of motherly love. In other words, could the “moe” of putting nekomimi on be motherly love?

A mentally stable mother would never render her child into a pet.

I think that the “moe” that has recently been occurring among females is an imitation of male “moe”, and is false.

I don’t even know what to say to this.

The aggressive males who go so far as to rape to satisfy their sexual desires have been reported on, but on the other hand, there are a large number of males who possess this peaceful essence. Moe~

:I

That’s me–that’s what I look like after reading that last bit. It just feels like Akamatsu wants to legitimize his love for moe, but–to me, at least–his arguments are wholly unconvincing and I’m being terribly polite here (I initially reacted by rolling my eyes, to say the least…). And for all the moe-fans out there who say “but I don’t wish to hurt or mutilate any female characters; they just happen to require protection,”–um yeah, you do. A ton of anime and manga are produced every year and they are full of weak, pathetic female characters in need of protection from the shounen hero (the personification of the otaku). Some girls are born tsundere so that they seem powerful, only so that they are broken down later because people love a challenge. That’s all a tsunderekko is–a challenge waiting to be conquered; a girl who seems cold and independent  at first but really just has a character flaw waiting to be unearthed so that she will jump into the arms of the closest shounen hero (loser), e.g. when she sees a rat. What strikes me as hilarious is the huge number of shoujo material that does nothing but simply turn the formula around as if a reverse harem is any better.

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2 thoughts on “Opinions on Moe: A response to Akamatsu Ken”

  1. I still think that, of the various shots that have been taken at Akametsu’s spiel, [NSFW] Ecchi Attack’s is still the best. It’d be nice if anime blogging had some kind of central archive so that we could easily pull up everything that’d been written before on (for example) this; Google’s hit and miss and Nano and the AB.net Antenna are very limited.

    But yeah, unless a lot was lost in translation, a lot of what Akametsu said didn’t make sense. It’s hard for me not to see possessiveness and violence in moe, but I’m not sure I’ve experienced it myself and trusted friends would disagree vehemently. Nowadays I try to avoid using the word.

    We need psychologists. Japanese ones, probably.

    1. You’re probably right that Ecchi Attack’s article is better. I wrote my response on impulse that night and somewhat regretted even bothering with something so old. I personally had never seen Akatmatsu’s (as you called it) spiel on anything else on it before, however, but not that it makes my response any less stale.

      A lot of defenses of moe have been written before. I think one of the weirdest I’ve come across was someone (I can’t remember who) calling moe non-commercialized which just seems intuitively false. Psychologists might help, but as with any youth movements, it’s hard to nail down concrete definitions of these new terms anime and anime fandoms are prone to invent every year, every month and everyday. Akamatsu was the first time I had ever heard someone compare moe to motherly love. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were more “official” definitions of moe out there I haven’t read that (as fans are apt to do) are defended to death if you dare question them.

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