Thoughts on Fandom Structure: Facilitating the Moe “Lifestyle”

In a recent conversation, I was presented an interesting question: why is that moe seems to engender the type of fandom which seems on some level staunchly devoted to it and has fans who can take attacks on moe personally? After some consideration, I thought of two reasons.

The first reason is that on some level, whether it be deep or shallow, I think moe fosters a very individual, perhaps even private connection. Regardless of the specifics and any sort of moral/aesthetic tastes, the idea (nebulous as it may be) begins to resonate with concepts such as catharsis, fantasy, sexual desire and identity, self-reflection, stress, and so on.

The second reason, and the one I’m more interested in for this post, has to do with the ease by which one can become a fan of moe. In a recent interview concerning Starcraft 2 fandom, commentator and personality Sean “Day[9]” Plott was asked why so many SC2 fans have a tendency to identify themselves as “Starcraft fans” and to put down other games as inferior products, to which he responded:

There’s a lot of people who are into Starcraft and it’s just become their identity because, honestly, there’s so much Starcraft content that you can watch it all day, every day, just like you can be into football or baseball. And so, rather than just say, “I like this,” they look down on other things.

I think these words can apply to moe as well, in the sense that not only is there so much of it currently available that you can watch and read nothing but moe genre titles and have your entire day filled, but that the system behind it actively promotes and encourages this sort of obsession. On the fiction-production side, you have this tendency towards characters who each possess easily expressed individuality, and so make it easy to define a favorite, and it’s a process that can be renewed with the next show and the show after that. On the merchandise side, you have figures, posters, limited edition DVD boxes, fan clubs, official events, and so on. If you’re into some show, there’s a good chance you can buy something related to it, and though there’s a lot of talk these days about how fandom is moving beyond expressing itself through simple consumption, it can’t be denied that it is still in its own way an expression of one’s self.

Obviously this model doesn’t only apply to moe or even just anime/manga, nor does every single fan of moe do this (and I want to make the point clear that I’m not characterizing an entire fanbase as having a singular mindset). However, when combined with that very personal connection which moe fosters, I think it creates a particular kind of devotion, which, while not entirely unique, more easily manifests itself as something just that personal.