Psycho-Pass, the Forbidden Word, My Thoughts

People have been making kind of a big deal about how the director of the new anime Psycho-Pass, Motohiro Katsuyuki, has mentioned banning usage of the word “moe” among the staff, in order to counter current trends in anime. I’ve seen some people take this as a psuedo-rallying point, a sort of “BOOYAH! In your face, MOE!” attitude. I’ve seen reactions taking it as an attack on moe, a “Why are you so unenlightened?” response. For me, when I first read about it, I laughed, not because I’m for moe or against it, but I immediately thought of how ambiguous a word like moe could be and how it can potentially impact the creative process by being so ambiguous.

Other than the information we already have, I don’t have any insight into the production of Psycho-Pass so everything from here is purely hypothetical and speculative.

When you think about actually having the word moe be a part of discussions when creating an anime, you inevitably have to deal with “moe” as a conscious effort, and I can imagine it impacting the direction of a work. This is not an inherently bad thing, but I feel that just by banning the word you might end up having to explain things more concretely, or at least in a way that doesn’t use such specialized language. In some ways, I can see how “make it more moe” as a way of describing how something should be can be about as helpful as asking someone to “make it 20% cooler,” as the My Little Pony saying goes.

To say a word is banned doesn’t meant that elements won’t slip back in. Let’s replace “moe” with “hardcore.” Imagine if the interview said, “We banned the word ‘hardcore’ from our staff meetings.” While you might not have direct references to pro wrestling or other similar material, there’s a fair chance some kind of physicality or extreme imagery might make it back in. I don’t know if it’ll really happen with Psycho-Pass, but moe does not need a specific directive for it to appear. Even without the intent behind it, it can still happen.

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3 thoughts on “Psycho-Pass, the Forbidden Word, My Thoughts

  1. Drawing it out as a venn diagram helps. There’s A, there’s B, then there’s overlap. In this case, moe and hardcore tend to be mutually exclusive. But in banning moe, you have also forbidden people from going into the overlap. Better to say “be hardcore,” and accept the occasional venture into moe territory.

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  2. I think context is sort of key here: it would be one thing if they had said this regarding, say, Robotics;Notes—a show that’s much more ambiguous regarding the elements traditionally termed “moe” than either Psycho-Pass or (at the opposite end of the spectrum) Little Busters—but considering how grimdark’n’edgy (hardcore?) Psycho-Pass is, and considering that people who hate moe usually want shows that seem more “adult” and “mature” (and will sometimes take “hardcore” in place of actual maturity), it’s hard to take this as anything BUT an “in your face, MOE!” sort of statement.

    I think you’re absolutely right about the ambiguity, though. For one, people who’ve declared war on “moe” often use the word in a different sense than people who declare their undying love for “moe” do (the “moe” of Hyouka seems to me to be a different beast from the “moe” of K-On!). And the things that people try to use as a replacement—I’ll use “mature” from up above—often mess things up thus: one person wants something “mature”: thoughtful, subtle, less flashy or gaudy, more substantial (note how many of these words are ALSO vague!), etc. while somebody else also takes the word “mature” as a good thing, but uses it to mean violent, gritty, “hardcore”, pessimistic, etc. (Note that these two definitions are not necessarily incommensurable.) And when you’ve got an essentially collaborative form of art, it’s important that everybody agree on what they’re trying to do when they want to make their show “mature”—or “moe”, or anything at all!

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  3. I honestly thought he just said it because Psychopass is a show that’s intended to have a more serious atmosphere. I mean, I think the MC’s sense of morality is pretty moe, but it’s not the sort of thing I pay attention to when it’s causing her to have a mental breakdown.

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