Moe discussion in anime fandom seems to ebb and flow, and whenever it turns into an argument, both sides tend to overreact greatly. Bikasuishin over at tsurupeta.info recently pointed out a trend among moe detractors who try to argue from a position of intellectual superiority, where they attempt to give a sense of scale, history, and purpose to their examination of moe but get a little too ambitious and fail in the process, an overreaction in the sense that they are overeager to show how moe hurts anime. I want to address what is in a sense the other side of this, the tendency for moe supporters to be overly defensive in protecting their cherished genre. I will not be using as amusingly sarcastic a tone as Bikasuishin, but will instead be offering what I think is a better solution for people who tend to take the defensive position, one of understanding and civility, rather than exacerbating an “Us” vs. “Them” mentality.
Before I get into the meat of things, I want to just clear the ground for the kind of “moe” I’m talking about. Now, I am of the strong belief that feelings of moe are a very personal thing and that you can get them in works that are not specifically designed to be moe. For the sake of simplicity and convenience though, I’m mainly going to focus on titles that are usually considered “moe” either by the desires of creators, marketers, and what have you, or by the fans themselves. In other words, “moe anime” as opposed to “anime that can be moe.”
Imagine a somewhat extreme and simplified argument against moe, such as “moe anime are terrible and devoid of any real value and is a sign of stunted emotional growth.” In such a situation, I often times see a defensive, albeit well-meaning response from moe fans, something along the lines of, “Leave us moe fans alone! We’re just enjoying ourselves.” That’s fair enough, but the problem here lies in the way the accusation was brought up. Nested inside that negative statement on moe is the following statement: “Prove me wrong.” There’s a discrepancy between the attack and the response, as if the two are on completely different wavelengths.
But even though defense is not the best defense, offense is an even worse option. If the counterargument essentially boils down to “No, you’re the man-children and your anime sucks compared to glorious moe,” that accomplishes nothing. This is because hidden inside the nested statement of “Prove me wrong” is another idea: “Moe fans have no standards.” So whether the moe fan has gone completely defensive and tries to trivialize the concept of “quality” or has instead decided to counterattack by showing how moe is “just as good as” or “even better than” other anime out there, to the detractor it seems as if the moe fan could not handle the implicit debate set forth.
Rather than turtling up or fighting fire with fire, my advice is to show that you do have standards… about moe. Show that you can point to one of two moe shows and say, “I think this is a better moe anime,” and be able to state your reasons why. They don’t have to be reasons based purely on logic and rationality and a devotion to a well-crafted story, nor do they have to be overly exacting standards where only .1% of moe is really okay. You can even include your feelings towards the titles in question in your explanation. In fact, I encourage it. The key here is to be able to say, “I find this moe anime personally valuable and here’s why,” perhaps even, “This what I feel moe positively brings to anime.” By doing so, you can show that you are discerning towards the very genre of which you’re a fan, and that the moe genre itself is not simply what happens when you take anime and make it inherently worse, as some might see it.
The goal is not to convert people to moe. Some people simply cannot be convinced, and even if you show your own value system towards the anime you like (or don’t), not all reasons are going to work for everybody. If you tell me you like Show A over Show B because Show A has ten girls and Show B only has nine, while you’re free to say that, I’m just as free to find that to be a terrible reason. But by showing that you have personal standards when it comes to moe, and can perhaps even point out a moe anime that a person who is not a fan of moe can enjoy, you can make your opinion known in a respectful manner, and if they decide they can’t agree, then there’s nothing more to do. You made your case, after all. The key to this “defense” is to not defend at all, but to let people know that moe is a genre that can be utilized effectively, one that can succeed or fail on its own terms, however you want to define the terms of success.
It’s pretty much impossible to defend every single title that falls under the banner of “moe anime,” just as it’s impossible to defend every single giant robot anime or every romantic comedy film, because not only is it highly unlikely that every single one will succeed in what they’ve set out to do, but it’s even more unlikely that a single person will enjoy every approach taken no matter what. However, defending all of moe is not the same as defending moe as a genre. One is defense in absence of personal discernment and the other is defense of the potential of a genre, with hopefully some real examples to support.
If you want to see a more concrete sample of what I’m talking about, take a look at my review of Toradora! It’s not the best thing I’ve ever written, and looking back I think I’m a little too hard on the Kugimiya Rie-voiced tsundere character type, but I think it does a pretty good job of showing why I find Toradora! to be a remarkable moe show, and I don’t expect impeccable writing from every single person writing about what they like about moe. You can also see me defending the show after someone left a negative comment. I have to admit that I got a little too spirited in defending Toradora!, but that’s exactly the kind of experience which has me writing this very post.