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.