Taisho Matthew Musume: A Biblical Look at Moe

In thinking about my Taisho Yakyuu Musume-related post from yesterday, I was reminded of one of the difficulties some people have with understanding how varied the appeal of moe can be while still being considered moe. Sometimes people ask, “Why would you want to see helpless girls? Do you like them that way?” And the answer to that is, they’re not helpless, they’re just at a disadvantage, and that has its own appeal from the perspective of a consumer of fiction.

I’m going to present here a quote from the Bible which I think is appropriate given the subject. Better known perhaps as the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30 (New International Version) reads:

14“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents[a] of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

21“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

23“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Religious connotations aside, this parable highlights the appeal of watching, say, the girls of Taisho Yakyuu Musume strive to beat a boy’s baseball team instead of aiming for a loftier goal: the desire to watch characters try their best to succeed with the abilities they have. You can even see that not all of the girls are the absolute best at the positions they’re given. Sure, some of the girls are already athletic, but many have to train, some harder than others, and ultimately no one expects them to easily surpass the ones with more training and talent, but we look approvingly upon the progress they’ve already made.

While the parable does not map completely to the case of the Baseball Girls, the gist is that the servant fearing that he was not good enough chose instead to bury his head in the sand and hope for the best. What the master wanted to see from the servant was for him to value what he has, even if it wasn’t as much as the servant with ten talents, and do something with it. What I and others want to see is characters who may not be the most skilled or even capable of simple tasks trying hard to accomplish what they can.

In a more secular vernacular, the proper term would probably be, “Work with what you’ve got.” This is why we enjoy watching moe girls try to cook even though they’re terrible at it. This is why we enjoy watching them learn to play baseball without any indication of skill. We’re not hoping for them to fail, we just want to cheer them on and congratulate them for not running to the backyard and burying their one talent.

Don’t compare the moe girls to those more capable than they, but rather look kindly upon what they manage to accomplish taking into account the amount of “talent” they were given.

For examples of character equivalents of the man with five talents, see: Akagi Shigeru, Kenshiro.

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14 thoughts on “Taisho Matthew Musume: A Biblical Look at Moe

  1. The mistake you’re making is in thinking the moe characters are the equivalent of the man with two talents. In fact, they’re the equivalent of the man with ONE talent: the worthless one you’re supposed to cast outside into the darkness.

    Anime girls who can’t cook/ARE CLUMSY/whatever aren’t exactly the types who become better over time. The fact that the girls of Taisho Yakyuu Musume gradually get better at the sport isn’t testament to their moe characteristics, but the genre with which the series occupies: the sports series.

    “Underdog who eventually gets better [even though they may not win it all in the end] through hard work” embodies the sports anime protagonist. [Yes, there’s also the “is perfect at the sport but doesn’t care” type, but those ones are never as good.] If they weren’t that way, then the sports show wouldn’t actually be about anything. Now THAT would be moe.

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  2. Actually, what I meant from the example is that the moe girls could have very well been the man with one talent but turned out not to be.

    The actual moral of the parable is that even the man with just one talent is supposed to do SOMETHING with that talent instead of being afraid of failure and retreating into his shell of comfort. Even if they don’t get better at what they do, at least they still tried.

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  3. I think Daryl makes a good point about it being a sports show, therefore its goals are ultimately different.

    One of the problems I see with moe is its sometimes stiffing nature of character growth. The idea that if a character were to succeed or succeed too much then they wouldn’t be moe anymore.

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    • I don’t know, since I see characters that are stereotypically “moe” try to succeed at whatever their quest is at. Seeing if they’ve learned something from it, or if the goal is something that they keep from then on sorta sounds like something else entirely.

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  4. I think the actual moral of the story is that masters are assholes who profit off the hard work of his poor servants and reward them with sucky promotions, and the one talent servant should band together with other abused servants and overthrow the aristocracy.

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  5. I mean, the argument that the one talent servant is supposed to at least risk it doesn’t quite work, because we aren’t given as a comparison a servant who took the money and lost it, only a comparison to the case where the servant could have alternatively lazily deposited the money in a bank instead. (Which doesn’t seem morally superior, particularly as usury was then considered a sin.) So the servant isn’t lazy, but either stupid, or religiously righteous.

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  6. But you are given a comparison case of sorts: The reason the master is angry is that the servant, instead of using his one talent and accomplishing as much as he could, looked at the greater amount of talents received by the other two and devalued his own position. “Why try at all if I’m so likely to fail?” This was his problem, and not the fact that he didn’t gain anything, because if he tried at all that itself would have been a gain.

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  7. I’d rather talk Bible, if you don’t mind. The two servants who went to put their master’s money to work for him didn’t really try hard at anything. In fact, the servant with only one talent went out of his way to try and teach his master something good, probably knowing the consequences that await him. This whole story is like spitting in the face of good if it’s meant to teach that the servant should’ve done something similar to what the other two devised.

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  8. But the master didn’t say, ‘you should have at least tried.’ The master said, ‘you should have at least deposited it in a bank, so that I’d have earned more profit that way.’ The servant was obviously afraid that the master was using this as a jerkass test by a greedy and lazy and unjust master to create some justification for sacking him or selling him off or something. Heck, in the original greek, ‘slave’ was used instead of ‘servant’.

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  9. I’m not going to argue the context of the parable based on small technicalities influenced by your desire to subvert the intended meanings of a parable because my point isn’t to show how it matches the situation of the moe character perfectly, but to give a rough look at the mindset of those who enjoy watching moe characters struggle.

    If you want to talk about how this means moe girls are actually slaves or whatever, feel free, but you’re purposely driving the point away.

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