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.

The Moe Heroine and the Yamato Nadeshiko

A “Yamato Nadeshiko” is defined as the traditional ideal Japanese woman. These qualities include being loyal to their husband, putting family first, modesty, and being skilled in domestic matters. Belldandy from Ah! My Goddess is a prominent example in anime and manga of a Yamato Nadeshiko, and the fact that Ah! My Goddess has continued to run for many years indicates that this type of character is relatively popular today.

Of course, the spotlight in recent years has been on moe characters, and while some character traits reinforce the idea of the Yamato Nadeshiko, others defy them. Key’s heroine of heroines Tsukimiya Ayu has loyalty as one of her important traits, but is also a clumsy tomboy whose cooking ability is on par with Homer Simpson pouring cereal. Tsundere characters such as Hiiragi Kagami are strong, capable, and put family and friends first, but are independent-minded and are anything but submissive. Aisaka Taiga from Toradora! meanwhile is a clumsy tsundere.

I don’t think the intentional increase of moe traits in characters is, at the very least on a basic level, “progressive feminism,” but I think it’s worth taking a look at how these characters relate to a concept with a long history in the society from which their fictional media are produced. In American fiction, particularly television and movies, there are certain stereotypes for female characters, particularly when it comes to romantic interests. The Girl Next Door can be considered a reaction to the Bombshell (or vice versa). Any time there’s a shy girl who turns out to be highly sexual, it’s actually just a simplified form of “what you see isn’t always what you get.” Though they are now recurring, even stereotypical concepts in fiction, their basis is in the trends of what most people want in their entertainment, at least as it pertains to female characters.

Granted, otaku are not “most people” in Japan or any other country in which they (or should I say we) reside. And when non-typical people look at something typical, I think there’s often a desire for something “different,” though perhaps not drastically so. But the line between “different enough” and “too different” is a very personal thing, and I think it’s the area in which disagreements regarding the validity of moe characters arises.