As anyone who reads this blog would know, I like girls in anime, and I like moe. However, there are times when even I question the kind of conversations that arise from talking about female characters and what effects they’re having on fans.
Growing up, I was taught various lessons on beauty, namely that inner beauty trumps simple appearance. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” “It’s the inside that counts.” Adages such as these shaped the idea that while physical beauty is more prominent in society, emotional beauty, personality, and character are considered to be deeper aspects to admire. While I do not discount physical beauty in people be they fictional or otherwise, this idea of personality trumping looks is something I still believe in. In anime, especially with the current prominence of moe, something which I think is much more personality-based, with moe visuals derived from personality, this seems to be the case.
However, with the increase and proliferation of moe terms, it can sometimes feel like character traits are no different from physical traits. Calling a character a tsundere becomes not much different from calling a character a busty redhead. Personality can become just as simplified as appearance and turns into something very immediate, very at-the-surface, and easy to fetishize. Liking a character for their personality becomes just as shallow as liking someone because they have nice legs.
Sexualization isn’t the thing that bothers me. Rather, it is that the type of sexualization that can occur as a result of this categorization of traits makes it difficult to see if someone actually genuinely likes a character or not. If I ask someone why they like a character, and they say, “Because she’s a shy twintail tomboy meganekko,” then I myself wonder, “Is that REALLY why you like them?” If an entire conversation is spent simply throwing out these categories as descriptions in lieu of actually talking about the characters, it can give the impression that these characters are undeveloped and shallow. Maybe they actually ARE that shallow sometimes and it’s all in good fun, but it still creates the feeling in me that personality becomes just another facet of a character to get gratification from, rather than something to cherish on a deeper level.
This is I assume a personal thing, and I don’t expect others to necessarily feel this way. I’m not faulting anyone for doing this, nor am I criticizing the existence of otaku vocabulary, as I do this myself pretty often. Still, there’s this gnawing bit of doubt that can occur when I see it when I think a real dialogue or discussion should be occurring.