Static vs Active: Another Moe Discussion Part 2

Yesterday, I made a post about how the “issue” of moe basically came down to whether or not it was personally offensive to someone. I didn’t go into what “is” or “is not” moe, as what was important there was not to get people to agree to any one definition but to point out the fundamentals of why moe can make for such heated debates and arguments. Today though, I want to talk about one of the possible reasons why discussions regarding moe can often seem like the two sides are arguing two entirely different topics. Keep in mind that my goal is not to show one side being right and another wrong, but to help you better understand why it is you, I, or anyone has developed their respective opinions on the topic of moe.

In the past, I’ve defined moe as a strong empathy for a character’s weaknesses, but knew that not everyone would necessarily agree with my interpretation. The more I studied my own definition and others’ however, the more I realized that there was some mix-up as to what different people considered the most important element in defining moe. From there, I thought up two general categories: static moe and active moe.

Static moe is where a character’s design and basic attributes are moe. The character’s voice, personality, unique physical traits, etc. all contribute to static moe. The idea is not to pull a character completely out of their context, but to see them in a stilled moment and gain moe from that.

Active moe is achieved through a character’s actions or what happens to them in the context of an animation. It is in the way they change or interact with their world that creates moe. In a way, this moe lacks concrete evidence, and is built into how the character grows on the viewer.

If we look at Tsukimiya Ayu from Kanon, her love of Taiyaki, tomboyish personality, lack of cooking skills, and penchant for saying “Uguu~” are all elements of static moe. Ayu’s interactions with Yuuichi, the way the two characters grow closer as friends, and the manner in which we learn about her true identity are what comprise Ayu’s active moe. To generalize, static moe is the stationary character, while active moe is the character in motion.

Now, what contributes most to your perception of moe? Whether you like moe or not, do you view moe as primarily static, where the most vital aspect of it is the design of the character, or do you view it as primarily active, with the greatest emphasis on the path the character takes?

Using myself as an example, when I examined the characters I found to be the most moe (Ogiue, Eureka, Hinata, etc.), I realized that my views on moe were shaped mostly by my own emphasis on what they had done as characters. In other words, I was moved strongly by their active moe. Again though, it’s not as if moe as active will make you like it, or thinking of moe as static will make you dislike it, but I think that the view of moe people have shaped in their mind relative to this dichotomy strongly influences their opinion as a whole, whether they realize it or not.

That’s Part 2 of Another Moe Discussion. Is there going to be a Part 3? A likely possibility, as I do have something in mind.

Dai Gurren Dango Dai Kazoku: Kyoto Animation’s Clannad

Oh, Furukawa

More than any other company in the world, Key associated with the concept of moe. It is responsible for revolutionizing the visual novel with its heavy emphasis on tragedy and empathy. The heroines of Key games are deeply flawed (some might say too flawed), and to care for them is to feel the pain of your own existence. Their fantasies come with a price.

Kanon and Air, two of Key’s most famous works, were adapted into animated series by Kyoto Animation with great success. They remained faithful to their original source material while adapting them to fit the needs of the television series format. In 2008 they took on the third of the “Seasons” tetralogy (each major Key game takes place in a different season of the year), Clannad.

Clannad is the story of Okazaki Tomoya, a young man in his senior year of high school, whose aspirations in life have been rapidly fading away ever since he had a falling out with his father a few years ago. A chance meeting with Furukawa Nagisa, a shy, soft-spoken high school girl with a love of anthropomorphic snacks, and her desire to re-establish the defunct Drama Club puts Tomoya on the path to rediscovering what it’s like to have hopes and dreams.

The gentle Furukawa Nagisa, the starfish-obsessed Ibuki Fuuko, the introverted genius Ichinose Kotomi, the athletic and aggressive Fujibayashi Kyou, and the dangerously powerful Sakagami Tomoyo comprise the main heroines of Clannad with significant story time devoted to all of them. Behind them is an even larger cast of secondary and minor characters, chief among them being Sunohara Youhei (Tomoya’s best friend), Fujibayashi Ryou (Kyou’s twin sister), and Nagisa’s parents. However, don’t take my brief descriptors as evidence of the characters being shallow or underdeveloped. They are all given time and room to express the many facets of their characters, even the minor ones.

Delving into the characters’ pasts can at times become overly reliant on exposition, and though I am a fan of exposition in general I’ve found the best moments in the show come from when Clannad does not present you with all of the facts. The most notable example that comes to mind is a moment where Youhei, in an angry outburst, hints at the reasons why he and Tomoya became best friends. No more explanation is necessary to understand Youhei’s character at that point in the story.

Clannad is Key improved through years of experience. It doesn’t break any genre conventions, as it is still, at its heart, an anime based on a relationship-heavy visual novel, and it has its cast of cute, moe female characters, but it and the people at Kyoto Animation did try some new things to set it apart from the other Key adaptations.

Clannad, while still very much a conventional Key-style moe drama, does do a few things different from its predecessors. Aside from a few exceptions, there is less emphasis on the supernatural. Also, Kyoto Animation structured it differently compared to Kanon and Air. While there is a strong focus on each of the main heroines and the series can be divided into chapters, the girls do not suddenly stop mattering when their story arcs finish. Nagisa’s story is the most notable, as it is developed throughout the series, from episode 1 on. It clearly puts her in the position of the Clannad heroine, though based on any remote amount of information or even the events of the first episode this should not be a surprise or a spoiler to anyone.

The character designs in Clannad are much like the ones used in Kanon and Air, and they are the most prominent aspect associated with Key, even more than their penchant for supernatural tragedy. There are no surprises in this regard, though the school uniforms are much better designed compared to the ones worn in the previous two major Key works, and the spring-time setting of Clannad results in a more subtle atmosphere for backgrounds and overall artwork. The series also has a surprising amount of animation for a show so heavily based on words, but at this point it’s par for the course with Kyoto Animation.

Clannad is not entirely based in sorrow and anguish, and in many respects it is lighter on the tragedy than the previous Key series. It has more than its fair share of comedic moments, most notably with Fuuko, and it blends the lighter and heavier sides of its story with a sort of deftness that’s not easy to achieve. More than likely, this is the result of both Key and Kyoto Animation gaining experience working with these types of narratives.

If you’re not a fan of the Key-style moe, then Clannad is probably no exception. Clannad is the flavor of Key distilled and refined, and those who treasure its taste will be pleased.