Breaking out of the moe box

So many of us are missing out on great anime for no reason other than ignorance.

moe.jpg“I don’t want to put people off of watching purely moe anime, but I would be a lot happier if more people started to actually watch some anime as a legitimate form of art and entertainment, rather than just quick fix for entertainment or lust. Basically, just think about what you’re watching and ask yourself, “Am I really enjoying this, or am I just wanting to enjoy this because of my moe preferences?””

The above quote was taken from The Fortune’s “Moe Factor” and though it’s obviously referencing the ever-trendy moe genre, I think most of us are at least a little guilty of allowing our eyes to deceive our minds in creating superficial reasons to justify our tastes in anime. The truth is, as should be blatantly obvious to any of my regular readers, I’m not a moe fan; aside from a general frustration with intensely “cute” characters, I’m disturbed by how the moe aesthetic blatantly panders to its older male otaku fan base. Because of all this, I’ve never bothered to watch the likes of Lucky Star, Kanon or Haruhi; in fact, looking at Wikipedia, I’ve managed to avoid everything produced by Kyoto Animation altogether! These days, I guess that’s pretty rare for a bloggin’ otaku!

I suppose I could just say I’m not into “school life” anime and leave it at that, but then that’s false because I still managed to sit through all 22 episodes of “angst-&-flowers” Red Garden. The funny thing is, and with the benefit of hindsight, this was never a particularly outstanding series anyway, but I managed to stick with it because, first and foremost, the art was deliberately unique in eschewing the cliche anime school-girl style. If it had looked like Haruhi, or My-Hime, I never would have bothered with it in the first place.

And there-in lays the fatal flaw in my logic; if all we ever create are superficial reasons for avoiding anime, sooner or later we’re bound to miss out on something great. I adore both Azumanga Daioh and Fruits Basket, but I didn’t pick them up because I knew I’d love them, rather I was sent the DVDs to review and reluctantly forced myself to give them a fair chance; I’m glad I did! These days I’m in a better position to pick and choose what I want to watch, but that’s as much problem as it is a luxury; I’m getting bored knowing what to expect, and basically, I think I’m about ready to pop the Kyoto Animation-coloured cherry.

A rather deplorable facet of human nature requires that we label everything, and I’m guilty of it as much as the next guy. Just like I’ve been avoiding anime slapped in the moe box, you’ll often see others dismissing Claymore or Death Note because they are from the dreaded Shonen Jump magazine, and therefore, must be exactly like Dragonball Z or Naruto. Maybe you think all anime with bishonen characters is “gay” and that “classic” movies from the 80s are boring and unsophisticated? It’s sad to think that so many of us are missing out on great anime for no reason other than ignorance.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

25 thoughts on “Breaking out of the moe box”

  1. How people ruled by preconceptions can enjoy anything is beyond me; to dismiss a show because it looks cute or because there are no spectacular battles between supermen/giant robots or just because it looks grim, is just plain stupid.

    I only dropped Gurren Lagann after watching 12 episodes. It turned out not to be my thing, but I was not going to put it down just because it had a weird looking robot. (My favorites right now are Claymore and Lucky Star).

    Ignorance. This certainly resumes the core of the problem quite nicely.

    PS. about Kyoto Animation works: to enjoy Haruhi it might be better if you have some developed taste for Sci-Fi (books rather than TV), Kanon has a slow 5-6 first episodes and for Lucky Star, well, watch it only if you like japan pop culture trivia.

  2. I’ve gotta admit that I dismissed a fair share of series because of the label slapped on them, with Evangelion and Death Note being the main two culpits. With Eva being classed as a Mecha series by many many people I just seemed to push it aside (and seeing an episode of the dubbed version aired the Sci-Fi channel didn’t help in getting me wating to watch it). I was surprised when I actually got around to watching the series and found that the Mecha elements were minute compared to the time it took to emphasise the extremely strong and realistic character development.

    In the case of Death Note it was a literal case of judging a book by it’s cover. I’d be recommended it by a couple of people so I decided to check out the manga but when I saw the Shonen Jump logo slapped across it and the rather deceptive looking cover artwork (which could have easily been a ‘battle’ series) I subtlely placed it back on the shelf. How was I to know I was missing out on a complex cat and mouse story that twists and turns and remains intense throughout and just when you think it can’t put you more on the edge of your seat… it does. The only bad thing I can really say about it is that a lot of the fan base just seem to be in it for the yaoi pairings.

    Well that turned out to be a rather long winded comment. :P

  3. so after seeing how high kanon is rated on anidb, i tried to watch it. i watched the first ep and fell asleep. then said i was prolly tired so i tried to watch the second ep and fell asleep. this happened till ep 7. no joke. seriously. and the animation… ugh… even tho its based on an H game like utawarerumono, utawarerumono was full of mysteries and awesomeness from the get go. Kanon bored me and bored me… Now i am supremely positive that moe and stuff is definitely not for me.
    so what exactly is appealing about zero and lucky star show??? is it the plot?? (it aint no GITS, planet ES or EVA) ir or the horrendously 2 dimensional characters?? (Angry loli chick fighting pervert bo) or just the fanservice?? whatever it is im really curious. or is this a show that people just watch because of all the boobies, colors and loli?

  4. i don’t have many preconceptions i think if a show looks interesting from a review, from the artwork, or if a friend tells me i should try it i usually give it about 3 episodes to see if i like it. the only preconception of an anime genre i have are shows that are centered around ninjas. i generally think there will be a lot of jumping from trees, a lot of inhuman powers from a few people, and a lot of drawn out fights when in my opinion ninjas are assassins and meant to get one hit or quick and silent kills. however strangely enough shows involving ninjas are the ones i try the most. maybe because I’m looking for more that don’t fit my preconceptions or that blow them away completely.

  5. what are you talking about? don’t people watch anime just because they like what they see?

    :)

    I liked red garden. It’s fun, sometimes for the wrong reasons, but…

  6. >Nemo_N
    Actually, it’s quite easy: I know what interests me and what doesn’t. I know can’t stomach moe – cute characters are okay, bishoujo are generally okay, but there’s a line I’m simply unable to cross. There are also some other styles I don’t like (long-haired überprettyboys, for example), and generally, I won’t watch a show or read a manga if the art style really rubs me the wrong way. And I can’t say I’m sorry – I found that shows are usually not my cup of tea, anyway, and while I might kinda-sorta enjoy some of them, I’m sure there’s nothing I’d be really sorry to miss this way. My tastes are still diverse enough to always find something interesting, even if it’s not the show that’s currently being praised to high heavens.

    When I was new to anime, I watched everything that I happened across, but as my taste developed, I learned that there were elements that signalled if a show wasn’t worth my time. And as my beginning enthiusiasm diminished, I learned to watch only what I’m actually interested in. If I’m interested in something I’ll definitely at least take a look at it, but I have no time, no patience and no indication to “find out” if a series I’m not even moderately interested in is worth my time or not.

  7. You’ve got to try the unlikely stuff at least once a month. Anime doesn’t come out fast enough for me – I have to dredge the past or try unlikely genres to feed my eyes. This week it was Armitage and Battle Athletes (no and no). Last week it was Pani Poni Dash (hmmm, maybe). The hunt goes on –

  8. I’m ignorant. I watch what I like. What do I like? Hot guys, guns and mecha. It’s that simple. The driving force behind everything: hot guys, guns and mecha. I do try, often, to step out of the box and venture into other things. Claymore, for example, has one male, Raki. I watch it anyways because it’s pretty interesting. Gurren Lagann has no uberprettyboys, but I lack words to describe how brilliant it is. However, the bulk of what I watch has a good looking male lead.

    I know a guy who won’t watch anything under fifty episodes. I won’t watch anything over fifty episodes (usually) because it’s just too much work to keep up. I lose track of shows like Bleach, how many characters are there? Did episode three million and two come out yet?

    You build your own metal detector to navigate the anime minefield. After a while, I kinda figure that shows like Haruhi and Lucky Star are going to blow up like claymores (the proximity mines), while Claymore (the show) won’t even leave a scratch.

    With that said, I’m always on the look out for unexpected things and am always liable to step on a mine and loose a limb or two. Heck, that’s just life. If you’re always expecting the unexpected, then won’t it become expected? I try, more than anything, to just go with the flow. If I read about a series and it looks interesting, I’m going to watch it. I’ll miss out on good shows, but I can always be convinced otherwise.And I have plenty of time to correct my mistakes. Besides, as they say, ignorance is bliss. XD

  9. What amuses me is that Haruhi, Kanon and Lucky Star, all hereby classified as “moe”, are in fact very different shows in theme and art. Haruhi is sci-fi/parody/mystery/slightly experimental/high school comedy (love it). Kanon is romance and comedy with a touch of drama and fantasy (like it). Lucky Star is absurd 4koma/slice-of-school/parody/self reference/otakubait (not seen yet).
    Sure, they all have moe modes (parodied in SHnY and LS) but the treatment varies widely. Bundling them because of the common studio is indeed questionable. I mean, Sailor Moon, CardCaptor Sakura and the Nanoha series are all mahou shoujo, ne? And yet quite dissimilar.
    Anyway, good cherry-popping!

  10. This is where having friends who have different tastes from you comes in handy. Though, I tend to suggest titles to my friends more than the other way around, but it works.

    I know for sure shows like Haruhi and Lucky Star work for me, but I’m not going to watch JUST those shows. So I’ll pick up another title that I may or may not heard about before, but I’ll try it for a few episodes. Then I’ll try another series. And then another. Even if it’s a genre I may or may not really like as a whole, there may be one that just clicks with me.

  11. Just to bounce off of omo’s question “don’t people watch anime just because they like what they see?”

    It’s more about the entrenched reasons we use to avoid certain anime. Like Sy has already illustrated, a lot of us seem to avoid a series just because it has mecha, or moé character designs or shares it’s origins with Shonen Jump. These are lazy, superficial reasons for missing out on something you may well end up enjoying.

    I suppose it’s more of a problem that effects people who have been watching anime for a while and from those early years of trying everything under the sun, have developed a well defined criteria of what they like. kuromitsu has admitted as much, and I suppose what I’m trying to say is, much like Xerox’s final paragraph, that while watching what you know you will like is all well and good, it’s easier to stagnate and become bored. I’m going to try and watch 3 or 4 episodes of Lucky Star later today (I’m aware it starts out slowly), and I’m pretty excited about it because it’s so far beyond what I’m used to seeing.

  12. Ah, you’re talking about the Snobbery Elitist. Or not. Anyway.

    My two Golden Rules For Watching Anime:

    1) Watch anything.
    2) Expect nothing.

    With those in place I’m actually liking Nanatsuiro Drops and School Days a lot more than I thought I would. As I see it preconceptions are a fatal flaw — they play a huge part in destroying the enjoyment of an anime, because you’re thinking ahead and expecting Anime X to conform to your perceived structure of it, or compare it wrongly to Anime Y and start whining about how they aren’t the same. Which is what a lot of fans do, really.

    Also, the author of the blog you linked to is quite the ignoramus.

    “However, people need to stop pretending they’re something they’re not. They are not clever. They are not great stories. The characters are not well developed or interesting.”

    Brilliant, really, let’s bash anime we don’t see! I should totally start knocking something I haven’t got the time to watch or the brains to understand just because I have a blog, an opinion, and because I can.

    Prejudice is lame. But that’s human nature for you…

  13. Yeah, preconceptions and looking for what you know you’ll definitely like are dangerous, in a way… but as long as you’re not too wrapped up in your own expectations, and there are people who know how to influence your opinion and thus introduce you to new stuff by making you interested in it, I think everything is fine. (This is how I got to like Bleach – after not being interested in it in years, a friend who knew I’m always interested in the characters more than the story or the setting, sent me a chapter from the manga where the main characters were being their usual stupid selves. That made me fall for it in an instant.)

    It’s good to have an open mind, basically. It’s good to have a clear idea of what you like and what you don’t, and I don’t think it’s worth anything to force yourself watch stuff you know you definitely won’t like for whatever reason, only because you’re afraid of missing out on something. But as long as you’re open to stuff you might like, all is well. I think.

    (Gah, my English-fu is weak nowadays.)

  14. Oi, bateszi, trying Lucky Star right after coming from a non-moe anime background is not really recommended (IMHO).

    The show makes references mostly to Japan’s pop culture, but the few anime it refers to are rather obscure and/or moe.

    I would put Lucky Star at the end of the line of the “let’s try something new” row. I like it, but I doubt it’s the right one for you right now.

    Just a friendly warning. :)

  15. LOL… I like to read what you write, but it has surprised me repeated times when you bring up Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu in a critical context without actually having seen it. Allow me to suggest that you give it a try, if for no other reason than for the animation and camerawork. I think there is a fairly good chance that you will like it.

    About Lucky Star, I do not really enjoy the show. It seems to me that a lot of people did not like the first episodes that much, but according to them the series is getting better and better. For me it is the other way around; I liked the first episodes but I am gradually losing interest.

  16. Oh, and Owen S, if you want to comment about my blog, it would also be less rude to actually do it on my blog rather than moan about me on another blog. I hope you come to realise how prejudiced your own comment was.

  17. In theory, at least, and to paraphrase a quote from the wonderful movie Ratatouille: not all anime is great art, but great art can come from anywhere, any genre. I try to keep that in mind as I review shows, even in genres I normally don’t like (mahou shoujo, action-oriented stuff). One of the greatest pleasures of reviewing is being surprised positively.

  18. Maxon: My comment, prejudiced? I giggled a little. You make sweeping, unintelligent generalisations about eight anime, out of which three I’m personally acquainted with, and you have nothing, absolutely nothing to show for it bar your eloquent ignorance; no elaboration, no substantiation, no previously written posts on aforementioned anime, not even a single written opinion by which to stand it by; nothing.

    There’s terrible irony in how “pseudointellectual” seems to be a favourite word of yours when you exhibit signs of obviously being one yourself. Are you looking for deep, potent characterisation in Nanoha, by any chance? Feminist theory in Lucky Star? Post-modernism in Haruhi? You could have found all of that and more, really, if you had the brain matter for it, or a lack of blinkers on your eyes. Get stuffed.

    The fact is, they are clever. They are great stories. The characters are well-developed and interesting. You cite FMP as a benchmark for every other anime, and I giggle, again, at your pitiful ignorance because you evidently love making strawmen out of your anime comparisons — that’s right, folks, now you too can compare Evangelion to Azumanga Daioh! Serial Experiments Lain to Midori no Hibi! Wolf’s Rain to Shuffle! Because you shouldn’t do something reasonable like compare within genres or anything like that, no, just pick your favourite anime and lambast away without using that thing between your ears.

    I hate to break it to you, but you lost all credibility when you said Chobits set a standard. Chobits? Standard? The only standard they set was for the sound of CLAMP jilling off drunk in their excesses of fame. You claim to “watch anime as a legitimate form of art and entertainment” but you hold all anime to a single favourite series you like, no matter how blatantly obtuse the comparison? Awesome. Absolutely ripping.

    I’ll go the extra mile here and call you out on this one. Prove that what you said has coherent basis from your point of view and I will respond in kind, and/or rebut every single point you make. Go on, make my day. Write a post about all three of those anime (Haruhi, Lucky Star, Nanoha), making separate posts if you want, and go into detail about how it isn’t clever. How it isn’t a great story. How the characters in those three shows aren’t well developed or interesting. I’m not even asking you to do all eight, just these three will be fine.

    Next time, try having an opinion that isn’t the product of a 5 minute rumination. Try thinking a bit more than what you’re used to, and do try to realise that moe is style, not substance; it doesn’t make an anime lesser if it’s utilizing moe as an aesthetic. It does if that’s all the anime has.

    And you wonder why I didn’t bother commenting on your blog?

  19. Haa Roo Hee: Fanbase ruined the series for me. Annoying pricks don’t know when to die.

    Kanon: A shot of Google would reveal the fact that it isn’t animated. Oh wait, judging by your sweeping statement, it and pretty much every game like it are moé and thus crap. :V

    Lucky Star: See Haa Roo Hee.

    Fate/Stay Night: If Nas writes real horribly, then I must have such poor taste. OH WAIT IT’S LIKE KANON AND THEREFORE FAIL.

    It’s posts like this that make me go “I want to go kill myself right now.” You prick.

  20. DrmChsr0, I can’t work out if you’re talking to me or not. If you are, you missed the point, but anyway, tell Him bateszi sent ‘ja.

    I take kuromitsu’s point on there being a difference between something you <i>might</i> like and something that’s just so profoundly incompatible. The thing is, much like DrmChsr0 is saying above, the fan base killed a lot of these shows for me. Despite curiosity, it’s hard to watch something like Haruhi when so many people are saying it’s like, the best anime, ever!

    Nemo_N has successfully scared me away from Lucky Star for now, so I think I’m finally ready to step up and sit through the epic Haruhi. As pointed out by buster_machine, I tend to mention it a lot in these moe-tinged articles, so I may as well make good on my promise to give the show a fair shot to impress. I’m hoping, like Mike, to be pleasantly surprised by something I wouldn’t normally watch.

  21. that happened to me with onepiece i didnt watch it because of its character design
    then i gave it a try and i didnt get into it after another 7 tries i finished all the series in less than 6 months and it turned to be one of the best anime i have ever watched
    and oh now i love onepiece character design i am sure if one piece had character design like naruto and bleach its fanbase will be 10 times what its now

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