The Moe Heroine and the Yamato Nadeshiko

A “Yamato Nadeshiko” is defined as the traditional ideal Japanese woman. These qualities include being loyal to their husband, putting family first, modesty, and being skilled in domestic matters. Belldandy from Ah! My Goddess is a prominent example in anime and manga of a Yamato Nadeshiko, and the fact that Ah! My Goddess has continued to run for many years indicates that this type of character is relatively popular today.

Of course, the spotlight in recent years has been on moe characters, and while some character traits reinforce the idea of the Yamato Nadeshiko, others defy them. Key’s heroine of heroines Tsukimiya Ayu has loyalty as one of her important traits, but is also a clumsy tomboy whose cooking ability is on par with Homer Simpson pouring cereal. Tsundere characters such as Hiiragi Kagami are strong, capable, and put family and friends first, but are independent-minded and are anything but submissive. Aisaka Taiga from Toradora! meanwhile is a clumsy tsundere.

I don’t think the intentional increase of moe traits in characters is, at the very least on a basic level, “progressive feminism,” but I think it’s worth taking a look at how these characters relate to a concept with a long history in the society from which their fictional media are produced. In American fiction, particularly television and movies, there are certain stereotypes for female characters, particularly when it comes to romantic interests. The Girl Next Door can be considered a reaction to the Bombshell (or vice versa). Any time there’s a shy girl who turns out to be highly sexual, it’s actually just a simplified form of “what you see isn’t always what you get.” Though they are now recurring, even stereotypical concepts in fiction, their basis is in the trends of what most people want in their entertainment, at least as it pertains to female characters.

Granted, otaku are not “most people” in Japan or any other country in which they (or should I say we) reside. And when non-typical people look at something typical, I think there’s often a desire for something “different,” though perhaps not drastically so. But the line between “different enough” and “too different” is a very personal thing, and I think it’s the area in which disagreements regarding the validity of moe characters arises.

5 thoughts on “The Moe Heroine and the Yamato Nadeshiko

  1. > Tsundere characters such as Hiiragi Kagami are strong, capable, and put family and friends first, but are independent-minded and are anything but submissive.

    Well, Kagami is not a good example of what I am about to say (because as she would be the first to say, she’s not REALLY tsundere!), but: Tsundere really is all about subverting the strong and assertive personality to make it less threatening. So that’s not all that progressive, really.

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  2. I gave this some thought and I think the conclusion is fairly obvious. I mean, yeah, even among weirdo otaku like us, we don’t see eye to eye on subjects like ‘moe’ because of many different reasons.

    The whole concept of feminism, to me, rings from that human-connectivity school of thought. And it makes the most sense to talk about anime in that context as it is one that is explored in the Japanese society, of all things.

    In as much as stereotypes and archetypes in fiction can be criticized as objectification of the feminine identity, it’s no more credible as claiming how pixels on a LCD TV ruins the true nature of art by turning it into interchangeable mechanical parts. So I think when we break things down into components it makes more sense to talk about the framework and not so much what your GirlNextDoor equals to in moe otaku panderings.

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  3. Pingback: MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Tezuka and Taniguchi online; more on Yen

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