What Does Moe Mean?

Moe has a complex history and meaning. Most people believe it’s a certain type of anime character. Namely, cute, innocent girls with big eyes that do cute things. While moe does deal with this, it’s true definition goes beyond kawaii.

Now, some may wonder why it matters to define anime slang (moe isn’t really slang) precisely. However, anime and its associated terms have a large impact on story telling. In 2012, 60% of the world’s animated cartoons were Japanese anime (Cooper-Chen, 2012). Such a large market means anime terminology will have a widespread influence. Wherever people consume anime, moe and other terms enter people’s awareness.

Moe has roots in the 1970s and 1980s. During these decades, artists began creating characters specifically to inspire moe within people (Saito, 2017). It’s a common misconception that moe is just a name for images of cute girls. Moe is an affectionate response to fictional characters. The word comes from the verb moeru which means “to bud or sprout” (Galbraith, 2009). The verb describes how people’s feelings toward characters sprout over time. During the 1980s, marketers began to study which character designs, relationship patterns, and styles of drawing were most likely to create a this feeling of affection (Galbraith, 2009). This is why people confuse moe with a specific style of art or type of character. They are engineered to make you feel moe. Sagisawa Moe, a character from Kyouryuu Wakusei, Takatsu Moe from Taiyou ni Sumasshu, and Hotaru Tomoe from Sailor Moon S make good examples. In fact, the verb moeru combined with an abbreviation of Hatoru Tomoe to give us the word moe. Young girls with large, pupil-less eyes, glossy skin, small (or no) breasts and an innocent personality make the archetype for moe-seeking character design.

Feeling Moe

Sagisawa Moe from Kyouryuu Wakusei,

Feelings of moe vary. For some, it’s a mild sexual arousal and love for a character. For others, it is “the ultimate expression of male platonic love,” and for still others its pure love without sexual components. For many men, moe is an innocent girl that doesn’t “demand masculine excellence” and provides an outlet for nurturing that isn’t available to traditional masculinity. For women, moe is a romance without the “confines of womanhood”–childbirth and responsibility (Galbraith, 2009).

Because moe is an emotional reaction to a fictional character, it varies from person to person. However, it involves a desire for fantasy; it isn’t a desire to realize that fantasy.  Fujoshi, or “rotten girls,” provide a good example of these. Fujoshi are women who consume, produce, and reproduce romances inspired by manga and anime. They particularly focus on yaoi.

Women account for the majority of online fan-fiction like yaoi. Yaoi are stories that focus on relationships between androgynous men. People call fujoshi “rotten” because they are attracted to sex fantasies that can’t produce children. However, they embrace that categorization as positive, and most live heteronormative lives. Yaoi “erases the female in fantasy because female-male, or even female-female couples are too close to reality. (Galbraith, 2011).  Yaoi focuses on moe. In his interviews, Galbraith (2011) found moe drives yaoi, including its production and shared discussions between fujoshi. These discussions are even called moebanshi or moe talk. These discussions about favorite pairings (such as Link and Sidon, from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, or Naruto and Sasuke) inspire more writing and conversations.  As Galbraith (2011) phrases it:

“Moe communication is about feeling out overlapping desires, or exploring one’s own desires through delving into the desires of others for the same or similar objects.”

People learn about each other through their taste in characters, settings, and situations. It’s a form of self-expression that allows people to connect through their shared moe. Moe  allows people to share deeply personal emotions through the shared feeling of fictional affection. The details behind the affection may vary, but moe still allows enough overlap to communicate.

Fujoshi see moe in everything, changing the way they perceive the world and imagine relationships between things. In Galbraith’s study (2011), the fujoshi he interviews saw how a road and a car can be a metaphor for an intimate, moe-inducing dojinshi they had read:

Hachi impulsively decided to use her surroundings as an illustration of the coupling: “Is this road moe? See, it’s virgin, freshly paved, but is doing its best with the cars on top. What if he was trying so hard to please his lover?” Megumi chimed in, “The road is a loser submissive in love with one particular car, the top, who is an insensitive pleasure seeker. In order to win his love, the road agreed to be his sex slave and is now being broken in by the top’s clients.” Tomo seemed convinced—by the creativity if not the concept—and joined Megumi and Hachi in laughter and a chorus of “moe, moe, moe.” The fantasy effectively reenchanted their world, adding a layer of potential to the mundane (the very ground under their feet!) and making the familiar other and exciting.

Fujoshi stand out against otaku in a key way. Otaku are typically people who use fantasy as an alternative for things they want but cannot realize for various reasons. Fujoshi are people who use fantasy for the sole purpose of play. They don’t seek to live through fantasy. Rather, its a place to let imagination, creativity, and emotions frolic without needing to ground them in some sort of reality. The difference is subtle. Both groups focus on fantasy and seek the confluence of affection called moe. They approach the quest from different angles. Waifuism is the otaku quest for moe. Yaoi is the fujoshi quest for moe. Of course, as we’ve seen there are still other paths for finding this comforting set of emotions.

Moe and the Male Gaze

Scenes can also inspire moe, such as this from Tsuki ga Kirei

Many people accuse moe as being a part of female objectification: cute girls doing cute things for guys to watch. However, as you can see with the fujoshi, moe extends beyond the sphere of objectification. You could argue fujoshi objectify men through yaoi. But the feelings objectification creates–possession and lust–differ from moe’s feelings. Of course, objectification can overlap with moe just as kawaii culture does. Objectification’s emotions can be confused with affection. People often confuse possession and the resulting jealousy with love. As publishers seek to leverage moe–after all, it sells–we see it mix with objectification more often because the combination pulls a wider, admittedly, male audience. This makes many believe moe centers on the male gaze on women and the gaze of fujoshi on men. But this isn’t the only part of moe. Moe allows men to explore emotional aspects society doesn’t consider a part of masculinity. One Western example, My Little Pony, creates moe, and it attracts men of all ages. However, society is more comfortable with the usual objectifying male gaze than with men exploring their nurturing, protective, and affectionate sides. This familiarity causes the confusion we often see, and the focus on the small overlap of moe-seeking and objectification.

Moe’s Contradiction

On the surface, moe appears a contradiction. It has an element of innocence to it, but it also has adult desires built into it. In our above fujoshi conversation, the innocence of the road changes to a sex slave. Moe often moves along this spectrum because it is pure fantasy. As fantasy, it allows people to project what they want or explore otherwise taboo subjects. For example, Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion is considered a moe-inspiring character. She has an innocence to her that tugs at nurturing and protective feelings. At the same time, these feelings can shift toward sexual desire. English-language media over-emphasizes the sexual components of moe (Saito, 2017). It doesn’t always have to be sexual. Someone who grew up watching Pokemon, for example, may find themselves comforted by their favorite characters. This is moe.

Kawaii is often confused with moe because of their overlap. Kawaii, or cute, focuses on the design of characters and objects. Kawaii often creates moe, but it doesn’t always. A cute skirt, for example, may be kawaii, but it doesn’t create moe because the skirt is a physical object. However, if it would become a metaphor or a reminder for a fictional character, it could generate moe. It works in the same way as the road in Galbraith’s example. The road and its cars may create feelings of moe in the girls, but they aren’t kawaii.

Defining Moe

So we’ve come down to creating a single definition for a complex, variable set of emotions. First, moe isn’t a type of image or character design. It’s the emotion inspired by those designs. Second, moe provides an indirect way to express your feelings to others by sharing why you like a character or relationship. It’s a taste in characters, settings, and situations that comes from your experiences and preferences. With this in mind, I’ll offer my definitions:

moe (mo-eh) noun. The feeling of fondness and affection a person feels toward fictional characters or toward any setting or object that reminds the person of those characters.

moe-talk (mo-eh-tôk) noun. The mutual sharing of fondness and affection people feel toward a fictional character that creates a feeling of connection between the people involved in the conversation.

References

Cooper-Chen, Anne (2012), ‘Cartoon Planet: The Cross-Cultural Acceptance of Japanese Animation’, Asian Journal of Communication,  22 (1), 44.

Galbraith, Patrick W. (2009). “Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan”. Electronic journal of contemporary Japanese studies.

Galbraith, Patrick W (2011). Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan. Signs. 37 (1) 219-240.

Orbaugh, Sharalyn. 2010. “Girls Reading Harry Potter, Girls Writing Desire: Amateur Manga and Shojo Reading Practices.” In Girl Reading Girl in Japan, ed. Tomoko Aoyama and Barbara Hartley, 174–86. London: Routledge.

Saito, A.P. ( 2017). Moe and Internet Memes: The Resistance and Accommodation of Japanese Popular Culture in China.Cultural Studies Review, 23:1, 136-150. http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/csr.v23i1.5499

Anime as a Teaching Method

I didn’t grow up with anime. In fact, I didn’t grow up with television shows at all. Sure, I had shows I watched as a child–Voltron, Super Maro Bros Super Show, He-man. But I didn’t grow up with them as many have with anime. Anime like Naruto and Bleach grow with you. The protagonist starts as a whiny, annoying kid at the same time you are a whiny, annoying kid. As you grow into a teen and start facing the social pressures of dating, relationships, and approaching adulthood, so too does your anime hero. Finally, many anime heroes follow you into marriage and full-on adulthood.

I didn’t have that.

Now, I don’t write this to make you feel pity or to whine about this. Rather, I want those of you who grew up watching shows like Naruto to appreciate the experience.

Growing up with anime shares similarities with growing up with folklore. Many folktales contain stories that hearers appreciate only as they grow older. Growing up with such stories helps you navigate events as you come to them. For example, Naruto experiences awkwardness toward Hinata and Sakura just as many of its viewers begin to experience that awkwardness. Experiencing this with a protagonist helps you feel less self-conscious. Knowing others go through the same isn’t the same as watching it unfold in a story where it provides possible solutions.

Stories Teach Best

Believe it or not, fiction provides the best means of learning. Characters can make mistakes and face the consequences of decisions we too may have to make.  Fiction that grows up with you helps even more. Characters will face the same challenges as you encounter them, providing timely guidance. It seems silly to say an anime like Naruto can provide guidance, but for most of human history that was what stories did. It wasn’t until fairly recently our education system developed this silly idea that learning has to be dry and mind-numbingly boring. We remember the shocking and the funny easier than facts and figures. We remember stories! The Greeks studied the Illiad and the Odyssey. The Japanese studied the Tale of Genji.

Today we segregate entertainment from learning. Today’s fiction offers entertainment and not much in the way of guidance or lessons. Although there is some great fiction that still do. Television shows, our modern version of folktales, offer tripe for the most part. Stories don’t have to moralize to teach lessons. Naruto, for example, rarely sermonizes outside of Kakashi’s lectures. Instead, the anime uses events and the actions of the characters to provide examples of moral behavior: loyalty, stick-to-itness, and the like. If you read Odyssey, you will see a similar method. Likewise, folktales teach in indirect ways, such as this short folktale:

In Wasedochi, there is a small persimmon tree that never bears any fruit. Sometime in the 1150s, there was a battle between the Minamoto and Taira families, and many warriors died. It is said that his persimmon tree was planted on top of the mound where the corpses of the soldiers were buried. Legend has it that this is why, even though the souls of these soldiers make the tree’s flowers bloom, there is never any fruit.

The tale speaks about a conflict that lasted several decades between the Minamoto and Taira families. The conflict eventually erupted into the Genpei War. The skirmishes before the war ended with dead on both sides and neither side gained anything. While samurai considered the battles and heroics beautiful, they ultimately didn’t matter. In other words, they didn’t bear fruit.

Mistakes of Modern Teaching

American teaching methods suck. They focus too much on tests and textbooks. While there is a place for textbook learning, it’s tough to retain that information. However, if a story features the information, we are more likely to remember it. This is especially true if the information helps the hero. I’m sure many of you remember Naruto’s jujitsu hand gestures. Why? Not only did you think they were cool, but you remembered them because they helped the hero. You probably remember the elemental attributes (which are based on Chinese and Japanese lore) too. And the memory comes effortlessly. For those of us who grew up watching MacGyver–yeah, I’m really dating myself here–we remember many of the physics lessons that helped him get through his jams.

We remember information based on context. Without context that matters, we can’t remember, and tests really don’t matter. Tests measure the ability to take a test. How did the world of Naruto measure performance? Through real-life application of their ninja skills. Barring ninja fights, stories provide a framework to help us learn information.

Modern teaching, at least in the United States, focuses on getting the right answer. Well, reality doesn’t typically have right answers. It has actions and consequences. Multiple jujitsu can potentially win a fight. Teaching should impart how to think instead of how to arrive at a correct answer. Again, stories provide a way of teaching this. In many stories, the thought processes of the hero is available to the reader. Even more important, these thought processes don’t always result in a victory. Sometimes there is no correct answer. But the thought processes behind a hero’s failure helps us avoid the same faulty thinking. Naruto’s thinking matures as the anime progresses. We can see his mistakes in logic and learn from them.

Fiction provides an important method for learning, one often ignored. Sure, schools analyze Shakespeare and Homer, but analyzing isn’t the same as growing up with them. Perhaps schools should consider analyzing Naruto or Bleach or Sailor Moon for lessons. Many of you grew up with these stories and already have the lessons deep within you. Examining these anime would drive home the importance of fiction as a way of educating people. History and other dry facts can be woven into the discussion. You are more likely to remember the Japanese Iga clan that way. Such a lesson would help students learn how to think rather than merely seek a right answer. Speculative writing that merges the world of Naruto with the Sengoku period of Japanese history doesn’t have a right answer, but it does teach students how to think.

The Advantage of Growing up with Anime

Growing up with anime gives you unique guidance that I didn’t get to experience. Characters grew with you close to the same pace. After all, the Naruto manga ran from 1999 to 2014. That’s 15 years. The anime ran from 2002 to the present, or 16 years as of this writing  (including Boruto). Growing up with a story like this gives you a specific framework that teachers can leverage, or you can leverage for yourself. Often, what the characters struggle with align what you struggle with. In that way, you don’t feel as isolated.

A long-running story like Naruto or Dragonball Z shapes some of your most formative years. From 10-21 or so, you are shaping your identity. Stories shape identity far better than any textbook. Heroes matter. They instill values within us, values that ingrain into our bones. I know, I am in danger of being hyperbolic, but stories really do matter that much. They shape how we think about the world. Stories teach as no other method can. It isn’t an accident that Jesus, Buddha, and other spiritual teachers used short stories to share their messages. They understood how stories worm  into our minds and souls.

As I watch Naruto and Dragonball Z now, I envy those who grew up with them. They provide great entertainment, great lessons, and great role models. They are not without their problems, nor could either be considered high literature. But they are stories that shape character, and teachers would do well to leverage stories like them.

Anime’s Big Brother and Little Sister Complex, Examining Incest in Anime

Recently, there seems to be a glut of anime focusing on sibling incest. Known as the big bother complex or little sister complex, sibling incest has become a subgenre of romance. The level of romance varies. Most of the time, the complexes appear between siblings without any genetic ties or removed cousins. Sometimes, you have blood relatives flirting with each other but never going all-in to a romantic relationship. As you can guess, I’m staying away from hentai for this discussion. I also recommend you check out the article at Manga Therapy in addition to my analysis here. In any case, the complexes center around an attachment toward an elder brother by a younger sister, as in Oreima, or an attachment toward a younger sister by an elder brother. The attachment goes behind normal sibling behavior and into the realm of dating and romance.

When I started to research this topic after noticing just how many anime on Crunchyroll center on this lately, I had wondered if it was unique to anime. But it turns out that western Romantic literature teems with incest between siblings and cousins. Lord Byron writes about it in Manfred, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein features an incestuous relationship between Victor Frankenstein and his cousin Elizabeth. Throughout romantic literature is a single theme: love is agony (Reed, 2012). Manfred describes his sister using this theme:

She was like me in lineaments—her eyes,

Her hair, her features, all, to the very tone

Even of her voice, they said were like to mine;

But soften’d all, and temper’d into beauty;

She had the same lone thoughts and wanderings,

The quest of hidden knowledge, and a mind

To comprehend the universe: nor these

Alone, but with them gentler powers than mine,

Pity, and smiles, and tears—which I had not;

And tenderness—but that I had for her;

Humility—and that I never had.

Her faults were mine—her virtues were her own—

I loved her, and destroy’d her!

In Frankenstein, Victor accounts of how painful his affection for his cousin is:

“Sometimes, indeed, I felt a wish for happiness; and thought, with melancholy delight, of my beloved cousin.”

He goes on:

“At these moments I often endeavoured to put an end to the existence I loathed; and it is required unceasing attendance and vigilance to restrain me from committing some dreadful act of violence [upon myself].”

Romantic period literature introduced a sibling story line we’ve seen in Star Wars. A brother and sister were separated a birth and fall for each other only to learn about their blood relationship after they become involved. Only Luke and Lea didn’t get as involved as in Romantic period stories. Anime usually involves stories where the siblings grow up with each other. Sometimes they go through a period of separation. Of course, the siblings aren’t always blood relatives, such as Sword Art Online’s Kirito and Leafa. Nor do they always develop full romantic relationships. Anime likes to flirt with sibling romance rather than fully commit as English Romantic literature does. But anime fans would readily recognize the 3 main relationships found in Romantic literature (Richardson, 1985):

  1. Erotic relationships between foster brother and sister who are raised as siblings and believe they are blood relatives.
  2. Brothers and sisters who are close and share a common fate but lack a sexual relationship.
  3. Brothers and sisters who share a sexual relationship.

The first type of relationship is the most common in the literature and fairly common to anime too. All three types involve a death of sort sort that relates to the consummation of the siblings’ romantic feelings. The death may be a physical death or an emotional death, but either way, the theme ties back to the idea that love is pain. I have to point out that anime touches on this theme in many stories too. Oreima, for example, while not a full-on incestuous romance touches on how the taboo of incest can make the feelings of affection feel painful and unnatural. Romantic writers linked pain with pleasure, considering them inseparable. Incest, with its pleasure and destruction (incest being unacceptable) represents the single theme that captures the Romantic view (Reed, 2012).

The Taboo of Incest

Among traditional societies, death was the most common form of punishment for sibling incest (Yates, 2016). Most societies, but not all, have a taboo against sibling relationships. There are times when this taboo broke down, such as during Ptolemaic Egypt. Language sometimes confuses things. People sometimes think all of Egyptian history involved incest among the pharaohs. Hawaii and Peru also confuse because of the custom of referring to a spouse as sister or brother and how the language didn’t distinguish between siblings, cousins, and unrelated peers (Bixler, 1982). Sometimes incest isn’t a matter of language. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries, it was common for lower class brothers and sisters in Roman Egypt to marry.

There are two explanations as to why the taboo is almost universal, the Freudian view and the Darwinian view. In the Freudian view, incest is a universal feeling that must be repressed. The Darwinian view considers the taboo to be a built-in avoidance mechanism because incest hurts the ability of genes to survive (Tidefors, 2010).

Despite the near universality of the sibling relationship taboo (blood relatives or otherwise), modern studies have found incest to be more common than originally thought. Some of these studies seem to contradict each other, but the problems come from the definitions used in the studies. Surprisingly, the definition of sibling incest varies–some require one or both parents in common. Others count it as among those who call themselves as a family. The definitions of sexual relationships also varies from study to study. And these definitions give us the variety of numbers we will see, but in the end, it seems sibling relationships are common enough to explain why anime and English literature feature them.

Medical Studies of Incest

Sibling incest can also be between brothers and between sisters. Most of the time, they are step or adoptive siblings such as in Super Love

In a study in the 1980s, a sibling incest study in New England found such behavior in 25% of respondents and the majority of them regarded it as a positive experience. This study and others like it, shaped medical professionals’ view that sibling sexual behavior is usually harmless. This view leads many to downplay sibling sexual abuse as a problem. Other studies estimate anywhere between 2%-13% of the general population has engaged in sibling incest behavior during childhood. Again, definitions explain the strange data ranges (Yates, 2016). Researchers have drummed up a few other trends (Kokkola, 2016): most incidents happen between 13-15 years of age and consensual fondling is the most common event with 80% of respondents reporting this in various studies.

The taboo of incest along with the apparent commonness of it makes it hard for medical professionals to know what is medically normal and what is abusive. Literature and anime also normalizes what is essentially abuse. From the medical studies I’ve read, abuse comes down to a few indicators. Harmful sexual behavior usually distracts the siblings from other important developmental tasks” but defining what is harmful is still up for debate (Yates, 2016). The three indicators: large age gaps between involved siblings, the use of threat or force, and the use of bribes and other forms of manipulation. What constitutes normal sibling sexual behavior remains unclear to medicine, making it more difficult for nurses and other professionals to know when they are required to act.

Parents shape the chances of sibling incest.  Researchers have found families with parents who are victims of abuse sometimes reinforces abusive behavior between siblings–including witnessing abuse and not stopping it, such as what happens in Oreima. Parent absence results in a higher degree of bonding between siblings and that comfort-seeking can become sexual (Tidefors, 2010).

Westermarck and Childhood Friends

A common theme in romance anime is the childhood friend who has romantic interest with the protagonist who doesn’t share the same feelings. This trend in story telling comes from observation and the Darwinian view of relationships. If you remember, the Darwinian view states there are natural mechanisms against incest that are built in by natural selection. Edward Westermarck developed this idea by hypothesizing that people lack sexual attraction toward those they had lived with during childhood. Anime’s childhood friend falls directly into Westermarck’s idea. A few studies have put Westermarck’s idea into question: “…people brought up in small involuntary groups with high levels of social cohesion are less likely to be sexually attracted to each other, and less likely to act on attractions, in order to maintain the social order.” Some studies suggest incestuous marriages were encouraged in human societies when they preserved social harmony. Some cultures, like the Hoti in central Venezuela lack defined family boundaries. Incest has no meaning for them and marriages between ‘siblings’ are not uncommon (Yates, 2016).

However, more studies support Westermarck’s conclusion. A 2003 study found a correlation between the time children live together and sexual aversion in males and females. Females also report higher aversion than men. De Smet’s study (2014) was the first to study women and this aversion:

Our study is the first to indicate that, at least in women, frequently shared “sibling-typical” experiences (i.e. bathing together and sleeping in the same bedroom) with an opposite-sex sibling during early childhood (0–6 years) correlates positively with later sexual aversion…

The studies that support Westermarck’s idea suggest blood-relationship doesn’t matter as much as time spent together during the most formative years. Romantic literature mostly ignores Westermarck, but anime often follows this observation. In many–though not all–sibling romance stories, there is some type of early childhood separation, either emotional or physical, that halts the bonding process found to correlate with incest aversion. Of course, this becomes comedy fodder when a sibling or childhood friend, often the lady, wants to try to recapture this lost bonding by bathing with the guy. Westermarck explains why the childhood friend rarely becomes the protagonist’s romantic interest: they are too close. Of course, this is also a piece of the rom-com formula anime has perfected.

Anime doesn’t focus as much as the Romantic period on the idea that love is agony. If anything, anime finds love amusingly awkward, but I guess you could argue that embarrassment can be painful. Anime, like the Romantics, enjoys flirting with the sibling incest taboo. As Kokkola (2016) points out, sibling relationships disgust and fascinate. The dichotomy of comfortable bonding and understanding with the taboo against such relationships attracts many people. After all, forbidding something makes people curious. As we’ve seen, incest has deep roots in history and language. Most cultures have forbid it, and it appears humans have natural mechanisms that reduces attraction toward those we share childhood.

Candy Boy features a romance between twin sisters.

Sibling relationships aren’t unique to anime. English Romantic literature teems with it more than anime does today. It is a relatively small subgenre of romantic comedies. Sibling relationships of all stripes gains more appeal as we fragment and struggle to connect with others. Communication has become superficial and rife with problems. Siblings, on the other hand, mostly skip the awkward getting-to-know you period. They also share a closeness (usually) that many romantic couples wish they could achieve. While the Romantics viewed sibling relationships as the best representation of “love is agony,” anime views sibling relationships as a stand-in for the state of relationships today–often a forbidden place rife with problems but still containing a deep level of connection people often can’t achieve.

Of course, anime avoids the problems of real-life incest: abuse, psychological issues, and birth defects. It avoids the fact Japan forbids sibling marriage even if it doesn’t criminalize such relationships (Kokkola, 2016). Despite these problems, anime will continue to explore these relationships for as long as audiences remain interested. Sibling relationship stories will remain a part of world literature because of its built-in conflict and tension between disgust and appeal.

References

Bixler, Ray. (1982) Sibling Incest in the Royal Families of Egypt, Peru, and Hawaii. The Journal of Sex Research. 18 (3) 264-281.

Bryce, Mio (2008) Another half and/or another individual: representation of twins in manga. The International Journal of the Humanities. 5. 143-153.

Kokkola, Lyida & Valovirta, Elina (2016) The Disgust that Fascinates: Sibling Incest as a Bad Romance. Sexuality & Culture. doi: 10.1007/s12119-016-9386-6.

Reed, Mandi (2012) The melancholy of sibling incest in British Romanticism. LOGOS: A Journal of Undergraduate Research. Fall 2012. 111-120.

Richardson, Alan (1985) The Dangers of Sympathy: Sibling Incest in English Romantic Poetry. Studies in English Literature. 1500-1900. 25 (4) 737-754.

Tidefors, Inga, Arvidsson, Hans, et al (2010) Sibling incest: A literature review and a clinical study. Journal of Social Aggression. 16 (3) 347-360.

Yates, Peter (2016) Sibling sexual abuse: why don’t we talk about it? Journal of Clinical Nursing. 26, 2482-2494.

What Does Kun Mean? What Does Chan Mean?

Japanese honorifics confuse us Westerners. The closest matches we have are Mr., Miss., and other addresses. Unlike English’s polite addresses, Japanese honorifics denote social standing and relationship between the speaker and the listener. They don’t remain constant. I am always Mr. Kincaid in formal Western affairs for example. But in Japan I could be Kincaid-kun, Kincaid-san, or Kincaid-sensei depending on social context. Like Western salutations, Japanese honorifics can be used sarcastically or arrogantly. Ore-sama, for example, roughly translates to “my magnificent self”.

Dropping an honorific is a sign of a close relationship and seen as insulting if you don’t have permission. You see anime characters make a fuss about this and the use of their first name whenever this happens without their consent. The rule of thumb: when in doubt about honorifics, ask.

In anime you see –kun and –chan tossed around as much as the honorific –senpai. The other common honorific –san is used when just being polite. In most translations I’ve read, this honorific is dropped. Calling someone by their surname is considered a sign of respect or fondness here in the West (but then it can also be used sarcastically), so keeping with the Japanese practice of last-name first automatically confers polite respect in Western translations. Calling Hideki Tanashi by his last name Tanashi means we don’t need to attach the san to it. In fact, using honorifics too much in English translations can be off-putting for people.

-kun is reserved for young men. You’ll see female anime characters use it to refer to guys as a signal of endearment or familiarity. Guys will refer to men of lower rank with this honorific. In this regard, –kun replaces the old -kohei honorific of the senpei-kohei, superior and under-class, relationship. In many cases of anime, the childhood female friend will use -kun to refer to her male friend in public or use his last name without an honorific while in public. You’ll see her refer to him on a first-name basis whenever there is a love interest developing. When she slips in public, it usually makes for an embarrassing scene.

You can notice the levels of closeness between female classmates (who use -kun those most) and the male classmates by paying attention to who uses the honorific and who uses -san. Those who use the more formal -san may not like the male in question, or could be trying to cover up her feelings through polite coolness. Anime, particularly romances, focuses on social subtext. The childhood-friend character type may use -san to show her anger through her polite exterior. Of course, body language and manga/anime’s tendency to over-explain helps make the subtext clear. Remember, Japanese society emphasizes harmony, and this creates subtle ways to express feelings through the use of honorifics.

Now –chan stands as the female version of -kun but with cuter connotations. It is also a sign of closeness and used to refer to girls, pets, and small children. When attached to a nickname, such as Crane-chan, it works closer to saying “Little Crane.” -chan ties to youthfulness, smallness, cuteness, and innocence. As with -kun it shows the social relationship between characters. When a character uses it to refer to pets or objects, the honorific shows she has an innocent personality. It’s something little children do. However, -chan can be used derisively. For example, calling a prostitute by -chan can emphasize her lack of cuteness, youthfulness, and innocence.

Anime girls often refer to each other, particularly if they are friends, by -chan. Guys too may use it to refer to girls they view as cute. A guy using a girl’s first name is reserved in anime as a sign of an intimate relationship, which is why you’ll see characters titter and gasp when a slip happens in public.

chan refers to children of both genders. Considering it roughly means little, this makes sense. With animals, neko-chan can refer to a cute cat or a kitten. Finally, -chin comes from -chan and is used exclusively by close female friends to refer to each other.

As a story progresses, you can use honorifics as a way to gauge relationship and emotional level. If a character moves from using -chan or -kun to –san , to refer to another character, you know that character is upset over something. First-name basis usually gets attention from other characters, particularly if it is out of the blue. The level of intimacy it denotes, especially in public, can be seen as a declaration of love. It acts as a verbal kiss. Sometimes, a rebellious character, usually a guy, will use a first name in order to break with polite convention and express his rebelliousness.  You’ll see characters react with shock to his break with politeness as he verbally gooses them. In many anime, he eventually becomes the protagonist’s significant other.

Characters who are referred to with the -senpai honorific may sometimes reduce to a -chan or -kun when entering a relationship with an under-classmate. This doesn’t happen often, but a shift in honorifics in this way shows the development of such a relationship when the under-classmate starts to use the more familiar -kun and –chan.

For being small words, honorifics carry a lot of meaning. They reveal a character’s affection, or lack thereof, for another character. Shifts in their use helps anime viewers determine how the character’s feelings are shifting while subtext like body language help determine whether or not the honorific is used sarcastically or as a Freudian slip.

Otaku culture likes to use these honorifics. Although not as used as -senpai, many otaku use -kun and -chan. The most common error involves the use of the first name instead of the last name as is proper for Japanese honorifics. But in some cases it works just fine too. “Little Rose” and other diminutives keep the spirit of the honorific–that of affectionate familiarity. However, the use of these honorifics in otaku culture stresses their status as a subculture. In this case, honorifics denote membership more than familiarity between speaker and listener because no other subculture in the West uses Japanese honorifics on a regular basis. So even if they are not used properly in the context of Japanese culture, otaku use of honorifics still marks them as members of the community.

Anime and Manga Facial Expressions

Anime and manga uses its own visual language to show a character’s inner thoughts and feelings. The visual language isn’t always easy to understand for those new to the medium. Some expressions, such as happiness, are easy enough, but how do you show a character has an upset stomach from anxiety? What about dismay?

Anime and manga uses a minimalistic style to build character expressions. The style, thought to be influenced by Walt Disney, pulls from Japan’s own art history. Namely, it pulls from ukiyo-e, or woodblock prints. These woodblock prints used Japan’s minimalistic portraiture it inherited from China and made the images widely accessible to the public. The simplicity of the style (which is by no means easy to achieve) allows manga artists to quickly suggest emotion, but the simplicity has limitations not found in more detailed styles. In response, a visual language developed to overcome these limits–sweat drops, beady eyes, popping veins, and other stylizations. The problem is how this language, like any language, has to be learned. Luckily, visual language plays on how the mind understands images.

More than the Face

Facial expressions aren’t limited to the face. We know body language influences how we understand a person’s intentions, but anime takes it further and uses hair and backgrounds to show expressions. Cowlicks and hair accessories are common additions to expressions. Background patterns flavor an expression.

For example, the base expression above is a happy laugh. Her eyes are closed and the upward sweep of her eyelids lend to the feeling of happiness. Downward sweeps tend to look sad. The upward sweep suggests how human eyes crinkle and close when we laugh or smile. But how do we express even more happiness? We could exaggerate the smile more, but after a certain point it moves from happy to unnerving as we pass beyond the bounds of natural expression. So manga artists added backgrounds. The middle image uses stylized flowers and butterflies to increase the happiness level. She’s feeling light as a butterfly and as happy as a spring flower opened to the sun. The movement of the icons behind her makes it feel as if she is shaking her shoulders as she laughs (and all without the typical motion lines). The third image replaces the butterflies and flowers with hearts; she is feeling happy and loved. Backgrounds flavor expressions to the point where I consider them as much a part of the expression as the mouth and eyes.

Cowlicks work similar to backgrounds. Most of the time they clarify and strengthen what the character is feeling. Let’s look at a few examples.

Cowlicks work similar to a dog’s tail or cat’s tail. Surprised or shocked expressions appear even more, well, surprised or shocked when a cowlick sticks up like an antenna. If this was a video, the cowlick would quiver. Of course, this only works after a neutral cowlick pose has been established. Antenna hair won’t look like shock if the hair is always standing on end. Cowlicks can animate independent of the character’s facial expressions, betraying the true feelings of the character. This allows the author to show when the character is hiding their true feelings from other characters. There isn’t a set standard for how cowlicks show expressions, but generally they droop when a character feels sad. They will twitch much like a divining rod when a character is curious and spin when the character is confused. Of course, antennas are common. At times, antennas are combined with spinning to show alert curiosity or confused shock, depending on the situation. Context matters with all expressions.

Standard Expressions

Anime and manga fans will see these expressions as self explanatory, but for some people, the simplicity of the face still requires a little deciphering. Think of these expressions as building blocks. Anime character design has interchangeable parts that can be combined to create complex emotions. Eyes and mouths are the most important aspects. Because the style uses few lines, even a slight change in a part of a mouth line can create a different expression.

The style also likes to exaggerate these standard expressions to the point they become stylized, even for an already stylized visual language. First, let’s look at standard expressions.

Neutral expressions serve as the baseline for a character. Some characters always wear a smile, for example. They don’t always show natural temperament. Some characters use a certain expression as a way to hide their inner feelings.

Introverted characters tend to have what some would call sadder default expressions or, ehem, a “resting bitch face.” Both of which are demeaning and come from a bias toward a bubbly extrovert exterior.

Happiness

Happiness has, perhaps, the most variation of all expressions. There are various degrees of happiness, from a slight grin to over-the-top manic joy. Happiness can also develop a creepiness to it when a smile extends far outside of normal boundaries. This can mean the character is plotting something devious. Smiles can hide emotions. In fact, this is a common theme throughout slice-of-life and romantic anime. A slight tear in the corner of the the eye can suggest how much the character hurts behind the smile. Now add in background as we’ve discussed, and you can see how sometimes an anime smile isn’t as straightforward as it appears. The character’s neutral expression also factors into the smile. A default smile means the character has to use larger smiles to show their happiness (or hide their pain). Whereas a smaller smile on a “sadder” neutral expression can mean just as much as a large smile on a bubbly neutral face. And the larger smile may well hide larger pain in the “sadder” neutral character.

Context matters, and anime comes from a culture that focuses on subtext. The Tale of Genji and Snow Country are good examples of how subtext tells the story within Japanese literature. In both stories, there doesn’t appear to be much of a plot. However, the plot happens in what is not said or done. Everything is implied or indirect. Characters rarely say what they mean or truly feel. Anime uses this tradition as well within its dialogue and its expressions.

Sadness

Anime sadness depends on the eyebrows. When a person is sad, the eyebrows will arch at forehead, and the eyes will close to various degrees. The more closed they become, the more tears will flow. Of course, in some scenes, the eyes will remain open, but more naturalistic anime will have the eyes close when the character cries. The angle of the eyebrows, mouth, and eyes are what denote sadness. Happy tears will keep the upward arch of the eyes and a smiling mouth. The eyebrows also won’t meet in the middle of the forehead as we see above. The mouth and the amount of tears determines the degree of sadness. I drew these examples with the girl biting her lip, but full on crying often involves a “laughing” mouth with its corners tapering downward rather than upward. Its a matter of what you want the character to portray. Fighting the tears, as the above examples do, shows more inner turmoil than full-on, open-mouthed crying. She is trying to resist an overwhelming emotion. It depend on what your story needs. But because anime and manga uses few lines, each one counts; you need to think carefully about how each line contributes to your goal.

Anger

Anger is closely related to sadness–eyebrows matter. The eyes and mouth can be similar, but the eyebrows angle down, forming a V at the forehead. The eyes will also scrunch. If you compare the eyes of my examples, you will see they are similar to eyes in the smiling examples, but the eyebrows shift the expression of the eyes. Like sadness, the mouth determines the degree of the expression. Lips pressed tight, represented by a horizontal line, can show inner tension. The character is getting close to exploding or suppressing their feelings. In the other example, she is dressing down another character. Her mouth is open and teeth are exposed, suggesting threat. Notice how the corners of the mouth angle down. Sometimes upward corners can send mix messages to the viewer, like the character is amused while angry. It depends on what you want to portray. Teeth can lend threat to the expression, which is why sometimes you will see fangs as part of more stylized expressions of anger. Teeth suggest the character wants do bodily harm–the more pointed, the more harm.

Anger can be combined with tears in the corners of the eyes for more subtext. Tears can mean the character is hurt or she is the type of person who cries when angry.  Guys too can cry when angry. Blind rage requires a more stylized depiction.

Stylized Expressions

Anime and manga has a habit of breaking from naturalistic expressions in order communicate what the character feels as clearly as it can. For those who aren’t used to the visual language, the abrupt deformations can be jarring and confusing. It can include characters suddenly growing larger than other characters, growing enormous heads, or becoming big-headed dwarfs–known as chibi. Most of the time, it involves exaggerating the standard expressions we’ve examined.

Manga and anime also uses visual accent marks to shift the stylization or standard expression. The popping vein and sweat drop number among these marks. They work similar to how accent marks above a letter shifts how its pronounced. That’s why anime’s images are called a visual language. They speak to us in the same way words do. In any case, let’s look at some examples of stylized expressions and how visual accent marks can shift the character’s emotions.

Most stylized expression deal with the eyes. Anime eyes are already far from being natural looking. Large eyes are used throughout modern anime because of their expressiveness. They feel innocent and offer a wide range of emotion as they open and close and stylize as in the above examples. Empty circles show a character is overwhelmed by events or another character’s stupidity. It suggests the character’s mind has shut down. Dead eyes appear when a character is completely and utterly overwhelmed by events. Beady eyes show shock. The human pupil enlarges when a person is stressed or afraid. Anime eyes typically have large pupils, so beady eyes simulate this response by drawing only the pupil. They also look as if the character’s mind has shut down, just like the overwhelmed and dead expressions. The last expression hearkens back to Warner Bros Looney Tunes. The character is feeling dizzy, as if the world is spinning. A floating spiral near the head, as shown in the example, sometimes appears to emphasize the sensation.

Most of the time, a popping vein supplements an anger expression, but blind rage is a common way of showing anger as well. Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist often has this expression. The character is literally blind because of the lack of pupils. Sometimes the mouth become stylized as a box-shape and fangs will sometimes appear too. The popping vein, or cruciform, is one of anime’s most common accent marks. It represents the vein that pops out in some people’s temples as their blood pressure rises. Of course, anime will place the veins over the hair, on the hands, and other spots. Popping veins are a step between standard anger and blind rage. They will sometimes appear in a neutral expression to show increasing irritation or anger. Usually the character explodes after two or three popping veins appear.

Sickness, or anxiety, is an obscure accent image. Vertical lines descend from the forehead to show how a character’s mind feels heavy or how they are feeling ill. Sometimes blue or purple coloring joins the lines. Sometimes this accent is used to show depression. It depends on context and the normal behavior of the character.  I added a few squiggled lines to clarify the sick feeling a little more. Most of the time, the forehead lines will stand alone. They can appear over the character’s hair.

The sweat drop shows distress. It appears across all expressions, including happy expressions and angry. In our case, our it accents our shocked expression. Our girl had seen something she wishes she could unsee. The length and size of the sweat drop suggests the level of distress. It will grow as the feeling increases. Sometimes, you will see a series of small sweat drops that increase as the distress increases. You’ll see the sweat drop when a character witnesses another character acting annoying, perverse, and generally out of sorts.

The Nosebleed

Many people new to anime get confused about the seemingly random nosebleeds characters experience.  Nosebleeds are visual shorthand for perverted thoughts. Female characters have them, but male characters are best known  for having them. It’s not unusual for a guy’s nose explode into a fountain of blood when he sees a scantily clad lady. The sudden explosions are suggestive of–well, to put it academically–seminal discharge. The association of sexual arousal with a bleeding nose allowed artists to show the feeling on the face (and avoid censorship of male arousal and the inability to obviously show female arousal). Because anime focuses strongly on facial expression over body language, the nosebleed makes sense. The nosebleed uses a part of the face that has few expressions associated with it. After all, with the eyes and mouth already working overtime, they couldn’t clearly show sexual arousal without causing confusion with other expressions.

Embarrassment

Embarrassment is the only common expression that uses the cheeks. Well, to be fair, we could consider this expression related to the eyes. Embarrassment usually appears close to the eyes, but we will count it as a cheek expression. Embarrassment involves a series of lines or a splash of red on the cheeks. It has various exaggerations despite being stylized already. The red tone can spread across the entire face, or the character’s skin from the neckline up can turn red to show their extreme embarrassment. This is a common expression in romance or action stories with romantic elements. Embarrassment can combine with other expressions, both standard and stylized, to create embarrassed anger, embarrassed sadness, and other combinations. Sweat drops and popping veins can also combine with it to add distress or irritation. As you can see, manga allows characters to express complex emotions through visual sentences across the character’s face. But this only works for readers who are familiar with the language. It can become a confused muddle otherwise.

Feeling Catty

Fanged, cat-like mouths appear most often on female characters. These types of fangs don’t associate with anger, which can be confusing. Rather, the character is feeling catty–mischievous. The difference is how the mouth takes on a cat-like appearance, but this doesn’t always happen. Feeling catty also associates with a female feeling sexually aroused or having perverse thoughts and enjoying how her target squirms under her attention. You won’t see embarrassment mix with cat fangs. The character is feeling too confident for that.

This expression shows why the nosebleed became associated with sexual arousal. The mouth is overloaded with expression, so cat-fangs can be confused with anger or some other emotion if the reader isn’t familiar with the character’s personality. Sometimes you will see guys feeling catty, but most of the time such men become chibis to show their perverse antics.

Tear Fountains

The last common exaggerated expression is the tear fountain. This is a reference to Looney Tunes and other American animation styles that feature this exaggeration.

Fountains or streams of tears erupt from the eyes, but it is used for comedy effect rather than express serious sadness. Tear fountains  disappear as fast as they appear in most cases. The fountains go from the spurts as the example shows to the more common streams down the cheeks. This exaggeration doesn’t intensify the emotion. Naturalistic tears are sadder than this, whereas most other exaggerations increase the feeling. Instead, this expression allows authors to show funny sadness or fake tears, allowing naturalistic tears to retain their meaning.

Other Expressions

Anime and manga have other expressions that involve body language that aren’t readily understood by new viewers. They combine with the facial expressions we’ve examined. Sometimes you will see series specific expressions, such as in the Tales video game series, that build on anime’s common expressions. Authors often have their own visual languages, such as in the long-running One Piece series, but those special vocabularies are beyond the scope of this article.

Akanbe

Children and immature characters use akanbe. It involves pulling down one lower eyelid and sticking out the tongue. Its a childish gesture similar to thumbing the nose and waggling your remaining fingers. Akanbe is a corruption of akai me, or red eye–referring to the red of the shown lower eye lid.

orz

The word orz represents the pose rather than naming it. The pose is that of complete defeat. The person collapses to their hands and knees under the weight of an event. The posture sometimes involves a sick expression.

Deformation

This odd expression involves the character abruptly transforming into a pencil sketch or some other primitive cut out shape. This expression is used for extreme surprise, shock, or feeling dumbfounded. This typically shows up as a comedy relief and in reaction to something another character says or does. Usually only the audience is aware of the shift, but sometimes even the other characters notice the shift in look for more comedic effect. It is, perhaps, the most stylized of all anime expressions. It resembled modern abstract art.

Anime’s Visual Language

Visual language seeks to tell a story using images that create a type of standard alphabet. For the most part, anime has its own standard alphabet of expressions as we’ve examined. Large eyes, simplified noses, simplified ears, simplified mouths, and other features all serve as visual words that can take a little practice to read. Many of them are easy to understand, but some, like the nosebleed, aren’t readily understood. Anime’s style lends itself to flexibility and variety despite appearing familiar. That’s why it’s a language. Familiar words combine in unique ways, or they may combine in well-known, even cliched, ways. But the words themselves remain the same, just as anime’s few nose designs remain the same. If you are drawing your own characters, experiment with the language. Combine the visual words or exaggerate them. The visual words I discuss here aren’t the only ones available to you. You can also make up your own language like many mangaka and video game series have done.

Drawing in the style is akin to writing by hand. Some people have better calligraphy than others, but as long as the words are legible, the message can be understood. So too with visual languages like anime and manga’s language. A poor-quality anime drawing can still communicate the feelings of a character as long as the visual words are present and in the correct positions. The point of language is to communicate an idea or an experience to another, whether the language is vocal or visual.

Anime’s visual language includes words beyond the facial expressions we’ve examined. Akanbe and orz are just a few of those words. Poses of various types, scenes of electric power lines, and other common conventions of anime expand the language. Many of these visual words have changed over the course of anime. After all, languages change, but the end goal remains: to tell a story. And storytelling is what unites us across cultures and languages.

Why Study Anime?

So why do I study anime? I’ve had many people ask me why, considering all the other topics I’ve dabbled in. My first response is why not? But the question is valid. Why study something like anime or movies when there are other, more important topics. Anime, like movies and literature, is an extension of our current point in history. People design commercial products to reflect the interests, tastes, sexualities, aesthetics, and concerns of an audience. Anime acts as a time capsule for the otaku community. Movies and books act on a wider segment of the population than anime, but both contain what people find interesting as escapist entertainment or ideas that resonate. However, anime focuses on the age group I’ve focused upon as a librarian: teens and young adults. At least, it does in the United States. As anime fans grow up, we may see a demand for adult stories instead of the usual teenage fare. I know of many older fans in their 60s and 70s that enjoy Studio Ghibli films and anime like Cowboy Bebop more than most current anime, but they still find a few stories they gush to me about each season.

If you compare anime from the 1980s to now, you will see differences in animation style, dialogue, and stories. This reflects the differing expectations and interests of the audience and the change in technique by studios. On the other side, we also see more fan-service today, which reflects the shift in the community’s outlook. I would argue some of that is the shift we’ve seen in relationships in general. With today’s hookup culture, divorce rates, and alternative relationships like waifuism, fan-service caters to a different form of escapism. Granted, I’m speaking only about anime available in the United States.Of course, anime is an international medium that starts in Japan, so it will reflect Japanese audience sensibilities. However, we live in an interconnected world with overlapping ideas. Those overlaps appear in anime. They act as a small window to view a community’s psychology.

Authors tap into cultural language, and anime has its own language. Anime reminds me of the jargon in computer science and library science. Only those well-versed in it can completely understand all the acronyms and strange words. We have an international overlap and a willingness of the anime community to adapt to Japanese customs and language. Anime from the 1980s and 1990s, in many ways, lack the Japaneseness we see in current anime. We see cultural references like Shinto festivals, shrines, mannerisms, and jokes more often now. This shows an expanded awareness among Western anime watchers. Otherwise, these stories wouldn’t sell. In my article about 4Kids Entertainment, I pointed out how Pokemon was localized–rice balls were called donuts and similar things–but today you don’t see that same level of localization. In fact, outside of dubbing and subbing and a few jokes you see little at all. That shows quite a difference in cultural awareness.

That’s quite a bit to tease out of anime, isn’t it?

The complexity of anime’s interplay with the audience and international culture makes it tough to write about. I can’t, in a single article, cover every nuance. That’s why I write in a way that builds upon previous articles. This can get me into trouble sometimes, however. For example, my article “Anime Undermines American Masculinity” has received some fire for overgeneralizing and ignoring how anime encourages misogyny and more typical masculine behavior in addition to being an elitist East vs. West argument. However, I intended the article to sit in the greater context of JP. I’ve covered all of those issues in previous articles (misogyny here and here), so I intended “Anime Undermines American Masculinity” to cover a topic I hadn’t yet touched in my framework. Of course, we don’t consume the Internet in that way. We consume it piecemeal, so people will see my click-baity title, skim just that article, and draw conclusions without knowing the greater context the article fits within. No single blog article can cover all the nuances of a topic like anime or literature or even video games. But blog articles fit into a website’s greater context, and within that context, my over-generalization problem falls away. I even state in the article that not all anime supports an alternative masculinity, but as these things go, people didn’t see those sentences. I had already covered the criticisms around the topic if people read beyond a single post. However, even a negative conversation is still a conversation that gets people thinking.

I say this not really to gripe (okay, a little), but rather point out the problem of studying anything complex and writing about it online. Academic journals begin their arguments with pages of how their study fits within context, but I can’t really do that here. Regular readers would get bored and passersby would skip over it anyway (just as I sometimes skip over those sections in academic journals). The nature of the Internet also comes into play. People often don’t fully read articles–I don’t either. People mostly comment and discuss with what they disagree or dislike. It’s human nature to focus on the negative. It takes work to notice the positive–I see this in myself as I study. I tend to focus on anime’s problems instead of what anime does well.

So why study anime? I study and read about all kinds of topics in addition to anime: Japanese history, the Roman Empire, 1st Century Christianity, Zen, Science (I love astronomy), art, writing, classic films, psychology, economics, Japanese folklore, gardening, and just about anything else that catches my interest. But, you see, all of these things are interconnected. Often in my research for JP, I will find ideas that trace back to the Roman Empire (because Roman culture still underpins our Western thought processes), and these ideas interact with Japanese ideas found in anime. If you study one topic, you will touch on all.

Most of all, studying anime is fun. I get to pull from my animation background and use my librarian research muscles. So why do you write about anime? What do you get from it or enjoy?