Christian Parental Concerns and Anime’s Fan-service

Christian parents and their anime fan-service concernsAnime’s fan-service makes many Christian parents hesitate for good reason. Many in the anime community share the reservation of parents I’ve spoke with. Fan-service is a blight on anime, and it’s a negative reflection on the anime community. It doesn’t help storytelling. Let’s look at how fan-service and Christian ideals clash and whether or not Christians can safely watch anime containing fan-service. Fan-service involves scenes and situations that shows off a character’s body. Typically, it focuses on female characters and showing their breasts, bottoms, legs, and other body parts. It can involve scenes of accidentally grabbing a breast or seeing up a skirt. Fan-service can reverse and focus on men in similar ways. Finally, fan-service involves long camera pans of technology like tanks, mechs, and other technology.

Fan-service titillates and panders to the audience’s desires. It’s used to make strong characters, usually female, appeal attainable. Upskirt views, swimsuit displays, cleavage shots, and other forms of objectification allows the audience to visually possess a character and build a fantasy around that character. Waifuism often uses fan-service as a part of its fantasy. Other types of fan-service exist, but the sexually-focused types, which are the most common, concern the parents I’ve spoken with so that is what I’ll focus upon here.

Christianity teaches against objectification and lust. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul states sexual immorality goes against God’s intention for the human body and urges Christians to flee sexual immorality. Jesus states lustful thoughts are the same as the act of adultery (Matthew, 5:27-28) and tells Christians to remove such from their lives. However, lust is different from momentary titillation.  Titillation is a fleeting response to something like fan-service. Lust, on the other hand, is a self-focused state of mind. It is a craving that consumes your thinking and drives you to attempt to sate it no matter the consequences (only to have it return). Many today, however, believe lust involves the momentary sexual desire we feel when something sexy appeals to our senses. Lust goes further. It is a habit, a state of mind, that goes beyond the moment. Lust comes from embracing momentary self-focused desires whenever they arise. This waters the seeds of lust. Fleeing from it–because we really can’t resist them–waters a different type of seed. Lust involves seeking these fleeting moments instead of fleeing.

The end result of a male character ogling

The end result of a male character ogling

Anime’s fan-service constitutes as lust when we seek it out and dwell on it. Momentary titillation is a normal part of the human body. It’s hard to look at a good-looking person, plate of food, and other physically appealing things and not feel desire. The body is wired to want such things, and the momentary wanting isn’t necessarily sinful. It’s automatic and makes us seek things like food that we need, but when it rules our every action, that’s where lust comes in. Selfishness sits at the heart of the problem. Now, anime fan-service seems harmless. After all, fan-service is just drawings of people that do not and cannot exist. However, it creates a habit of self-focused titillation that can morph into the habit of lust.

Of course, all of this depends too. I don’t feel titillation whenever I see fan-service in a story. I feel annoyance and even anger at mishandling a character. Christianity leaves room for individual differences, but it also cautions us to be careful not to delude ourselves about our strength. Fan-service may not affect me, but it may affect you. If so, Paul would urge you to flee. It takes self-awareness and a desire to pursue other, longer-lasting types of self fulfillment. However, there is pressure from sections of the otaku community to consume fan-service and to think in selfish ways.

I want to be clear. Not every aspect of the anime community encourage lustful views or other views contrary to Christianity. Much of the community is warm and positive. Likewise, waifuism doesn’t always have sexual components to it. For many, waifuism is a way to step out of self-focus. It allows people to learn how to step outside their views and into that of another. Of course, it can also foster self-projection. Everything can be used by God to pull people closer to Him, but sin can also distort those tools too. Waifuism can encourage compassion or encourage lust.

Christian parents have their own balancing act to perform. Teens compose anime’s main audience, hence the rather tired high-school setting. Forbidding anime wholesale will only encourage the teen to go behind the parent’s back. It also prevents the teen from accessing anime’s stories that can be uplifting or help the teen through a rough patch. Anime often addresses teen-identity problems and problems in friendships in helpful ways. Fan-service can also be used as satire to point out problems within anime and how we view clothing. Nudity can also be used as a character trait–showing innocence of a character–such as Holo in Spice and Wolf.

Our lives are formed by the stories we live within. For example, we live in a world that believes in the story of resource scarcity, and it impacts how we view life. Likewise, anime and its fan-service can impact our views of the world–for better or for worse. Fan-service is designed to appeal to our base instincts rather than cultivate a more God-focused perspective. But fan-service can allow for a teaching opportunity, such as this article. I’m not a parent. I can’t offer any true advice. However, a shared interest in anime can allow parents and their children to bond and discuss issues like fan-service and the nature of lust. The stories we consume shape our thoughts. Many people downplay anime as mere entertainment, but it contains messages that we consciously and unconsciously add to our characters. We do the same with movies, books, and the stories people tell us. Anime, like all stories, has positive and negative messages. It’s up to us to decide what messages to consume and which we need to flee.

Death Threats, Waifu Wars: the Anime Community’s Poisonous and Childish Behavior

Death threats, insults, and other problems pervade the anime communityI tend to keep to my little corner of the anime community, but time to time I hear about something that troubles me. I watch Joey, also known as the Anime Man, on Youtube every so often. He’s plugged into the community in a way that I’m not. Well, recently he posted a rant about the bad side of the anime community. Recently, fans of the anime Darling in the Franxx have sent death threats and other nonsense to the show’s creators because the relationships didn’t go as these fans wanted.

I’ve ran across this before across various communities. Crash Override written by Zoe Quinn discussed how rape and death threats from members of the video gaming community affected her life. As I study the anime community, I see how this dangerous and, frankly, infantile behavior poisons the hobby just as it does video gaming.

This is the Anime Man’s video where he discusses his thoughts and feelings concerning the rise of death threats and similar nonsense. While I dislike some of his language use (cursing is tired and the words are too meaningless now), I fully agree with his points.

Guys commonly threaten female members of communities when they “invade” a male hobby like video gaming. Anime works differently. Guys and girls have mingled for quite sometime in the anime world. Instead of threatening invaders, anime community members threaten creators and each other over the direction of relationships and storylines. You’ll see arguments over best-girls, that is the best female character in a given story, that slide into flame wars. These arguments are called waifu wars. These people get so vested in their waifu that they will defend them as a spouse would a real life significant other. While in real life, this can be seen as a virtue, online this can slid into ugliness and threats.Waifu wars can split into camps where people side with their favorite best-girl or best-guy and argue with their opposition.

Don’t misunderstand. Discussing why you like or dislike certain characters is fine. Problems arise when people fall into ad hominem attacks–written attacks on a person’s character. Verbal threats and slander are not protected speech under the US 1st Amendment, by the way. Obscenity isn’t protected either (Hayes, n.d.). It is possible, though not likely, that you could be prosecuted in court for online defamation. You aren’t as anonymous as you think. Every device as a unique MAC address known to your Internet Service Provider, which sees every packet of data you send and receive. Short of using various proxies and spikes, if someone really wanted to find your true identity, it is possible.

Waifu theme memes are funny.

The anime community makes great memes.

But really, this is about morality and character. It reflects poorly on your character that threatens their well-being. I’m pretty draconian. If I had my way, I would require all ISPs to ban the person threatening others from accessing the Internet for a certain period of time. The only way around the ban I had in mind is for the person to run out and buy a new device or network adapter. Death and rape threats are never okay, and they need to be addressed according to their seriousness. It’s not funny or cute.

Don’t confuse this with critiques or expressing opinion. You can do this without attacking others or wishing their family to die in some horrible way. Anime is fiction. It’s a hobby. It’s supposed to be fun, and communities provide a way to share this with others. Only this sharing sometimes becomes arguing.

I used to believe in the adage, “don’t feed the trolls.” However, ignoring them doesn’t do anything nowadays either. I’ve played many online games where I’ve encountered trolls messing with players. I’ve seen these players getting upset in the chat. Well, instead of ignoring it, I started stepping in and redirecting the trolls’ childishness toward me. I would then send my chat log to the admins who would ban those trolls from the game for sometimes several weeks at a time.

Of course, banning a troll and removing all of them threatening posts sometimes makes them feel vindicated. They will often create new accounts to continue the antics. A proper forum or social media system would allow banning at an IP level. But this doesn’t help for those who are determined or those who start to physically and digitally stalk their victim. As Zoe explains in her book, some problems escalate beyond a single website. Dedicated people will stalk across social media accounts, video games, forums, and into the physical world.

People can get involved with the relationships between fictional characters.

Characters can launch a thousand ships and burn them too.

Even if you would never stoop to threatening a creator over an anime relationship, you can forget a person sits on the other side of the words you are reading. When you read something, you filter it through your own emotions and understanding. Often, this leads to you misinterpreting the intent of the writer, especially when you are fired up over in a waifu war or a creator sinking your ship.

I have to mention this fact as a writer: you don’t fully own the characters. The story’s creator has more of a right to the characters and to the direction the stories goes than you do. After all, they are the creator’s babies. However, as soon as anything becomes public, the creator loses some control over the idea. It takes a life of its own, and the consumers of the story–anime fans–gain a little ownership through their co-creation with the author. Instead of making death threats, Darling of the Franxx fans would better spend their time writing their own alternatives to the creator’s vision, or even better, writing their own original stories.

In the end, the poisonous behavior of segments of the anime community hurts the rest of the community. The rest of us have the responsibility to speak out against this behavior. Ignoring the trolls, not feeding them, doesn’t really work, When ignored, they will seek out some other victim. As for the Darling in the Franxx death threat issue and other similar cases, many of these people will repeat their behavior when the next obsession grips them. As a community, we can only speak out against this childishness and remind everyone that people exist behind the pixels we see, people with emotions and concerns. Sadly, death threats and other similar issues won’t end anytime soon. We can only do what we can to minimize it.

References

Hayes, Christi (n.d.) Is Slander Protected by the First Amendment? The Law Dictionary. https://thelawdictionary.org/article/slander-protected-first-amendment/

Manga and Your Mind: Manga, Autism, and the Benefits of Reading

One Punch man helps those with autism.Manga is good for your brain. Yep. You’ve read that right. In fact, reading manga may give you an advantage over those, like me, who grew up reading only traditional books. Manga benefits those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) too.

The medium requires a different set of skills than reading traditional books. Not to say traditional books are bad for your mind. It’s just that manga challenges the brain in different ways. Even Western comics like Batman and Superman don’t benefit your mind as manga does. Manga relies on images more for story telling then Western comics do. They have more images and fewer words (Rozema, 2015). The media has several layers of reading: images, words, Japanese onomatopoeia, and its own visual language. This combination means “…even proficient readers of English—who are not experienced with this level of multi-modality and have been socialized into more traditional, nonhypertext, storylines—may find manga, as we do, to be a challenging read (Schwartz, 2006).”

I’ve covered Japanese visual language and Japanese onomatopoeia. They combine to create a unique interplay between Japanese and Western cultures. Manga also has different identities and contexts that result from Japanese culture. All of which the reader needs to decipher. The immediacy of images, and the secondary nature of words, means readers can’t rely on explanations as with traditional books. It’s easier for books to explain a cultural context than an image which just shows that context and leaves it to the readers to understand it. But that gap is what makes manga good for our minds.

Reading manga requires practice

This spread from One Piece shows the complexity of manga reading. You’ll see the Japanese sound effect is a part of the artwork of the ship panel. The art shows the chaos and the action of the ship being split in two. The left panel’s vertical reading balances the right side’s chaos and action, giving the gaze a bit of a respite. It also serves to highlight the characters. The author drew the ship’s crew far smaller than the more important characters on the left panel.This helps with the reading flow.

Because English lacks the same number of onomatopoeia as Japanese, many manga translations leave the original Japanese intact. Over time, readers learn to decipher these fonts and words and associate them with certain types of actions. This is multimodal thinking can work without needing to look up a translation or transliteration. Although this can help. Multimodal thinking happens without our awareness. It comes from an accumulation of experiences with manga. That is part of the reason why regular manga readers don’t struggle with reading the book “backward” and reading pages right to left, left to right, and horizontally across two pages. As readers get involved with the story, they learn to read the rhythm of the images and follow them along with the text without much thought behind it. Learning happens without awareness.

Manga’s nonlinear storytelling requires readers to remember dozens of subplots and characters. Many deal with different viewpoints, such as gender swapping stories, along with coming-of-age stories and genres like Boy’s Love. “Thus, it is possible that manga story lines not only afford readers a nonlinear, rich imaginative read of the world but also tap into an array of complexities in human experiences toward which young adults seem to feel great affinity (Schwartz, 2006).” Manga reading skills transfer to other multimodal media that require reading images and words together. It encourages multidimensional thinking.

Anime and Autism

The immediacy of emotions in manga images helps those with autism.

From the manga Kimi no Iru Machi. The immediacy of these images and few words convey the emotions of the story without us needing to read the story.

The multimodal nature of manga may be why it helps those with ASD. While there isn’t a single usual case of ASD, there are 2 board diagnostic criteria (Rozema, 2015):

  1. deficits in social communication
  2. restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities

Manga falls under the second criteria. Its focus on images and its visual language may appeal to teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and many autistic people are better at processing images than words (Rozema, 2015).

Manga’s visual language focuses on emotion. The manga face follows a general template–pointed chin, small nose, small mouth, large eyes–which is distinctly manga. The face is designed for emotional exaggeration, leaving hair, accessories, and details to separate one character from the next. Many with autism struggle with reading expressions, but manga faces exaggerate and simplify expressions, making them easier to read. The fact manga faces always look like manga faces allows teens with ASD to recognize them. Then the simple design feature that identifies each character helps those teens draw distinctions among those faces (Rozema, 2015). Think: Naruto’s cheek whiskers.

Manga also provides an ocean of information to dive into. There are hundreds of stories with a vast array of characters to learn. Dragonball has more than 500 chapters of characters, settings, and storylines to learn. Manga is meant to be disposable, printed on cheap paper as it is and rapidly produced. Yet, this creates depth through its sheer quantity. And most of it follows an established visual language, which allows readers to easily slip from world to world without having to relearn anything other than the rules for that story world. This helps those with ASD enjoy a wide array of stories. Many with ASD enjoy learning and memorizing a vast body of information surrounding their interest (Rozema, 2015).

Beyond the learning benefits, manga provides a shared interest that allows people to socialize easier. Because of this, manga provides a sanctuary for those who have high-functioning ASD. Manga attracts those who aren’t inclined toward verbal language so social awkwardness is fairly common and accepted.

Reading difficulty varies across manga, but all of them use cinematic storytelling methods.

From Shokugeki no Soma. This page is easier to read than One Piece’s spread, but it follows the same principles. Manga sits between reading a book and watching a film. You’ll notice in this page the cinematic techniques–establishing place shots, character close-up, a cut-shot, and a zoom-out–used in film. The designs and expressions tell the story while the text supports those visual elements.

Multimodal skills–the ability to decipher images and words and cultural contexts–help people succeed. Globalization with its cross-cultural interaction allows people with multimodal skills to thrive because they can better reason through language and cultural barriers. These skills also allow people to better navigate the glut of information that surrounds us. They can process image information faster and with more flexibility which is important with how the Internet pervades most aspects of work and life. Manga reading makes your mind more flexible because of how it encourages you to read right to left, left to right, images, Japanese onomatopoeia, Japanese cultural details, and more. This allows you to be more open to different cultures too.

Don’t sell manga reading short. Its reliance on images for narration benefits you as images and videos increasingly take over the written word’s dominance. Of course, there will always be a place for words and prose. Everyone should learn both skill sets.

References

Rozema, Robert (2015) Manga and the Autistic Mind. English Journal. 105 (1) 60-68.

Schwartz, Adam & Rubinstein-Avila, Eliane (2006) Understanding the Manga Hype: Uncovering the Multimodality of Comic-Book Literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 50 (1) 40-49.

 

I am a Christian. Can I Watch Anime?

I don’t normally discuss my religious views here. I usually write as a librarian and a researcher. However, by doing this, I can’t address some questions people ask me. My Christian background shapes the core of who I am and my approach to research and thinking. But I also practice Zen meditation. It compliments my beliefs. I come from a legalistic branch of Christianity–one that believes instrumental music in worship can condemn you to hell and one that is against dancing or anything that causes lustful thinking. Yes, anime would fall into this category. However, I no longer consider such hard-lined view as scriptural. That’s the issue with religious questions–everyone has a different background, and many believe that background to be the truth. Of course, that means all others are wrong.

I tell you this to lead into the question: can a Christian rightly watch anime? My religious perspective will shape my answer, so I wanted to briefly sketch where I am coming from. Behind the question lies a discomfort with different aspects of anime, namely anime’s sexuality. For various reasons, violence is more readily accepted in Christianity than sexuality. For most of Christianity’s history, sexuality has been a source of discomfort. Augustine of Hippo wrote extensively about it as did many others. The Catholic Church attempted to eliminate sexuality from its clergy by enforcing celibacy. Some Christian groups have gone as far as forbidding sex altogether from its members–even for having children. Of course, these groups mostly died out.

Aside from sexuality, the Shinto and Buddhist components behind anime prompts the question. Shinto and Buddhism weave deep in Japanese culture and into anime. For some Christian groups, this can be a problem. Associating with what are seen as pagan religions caused many issues in the early church and is found throughout Scripture (Exodus 20:1-26; Deuteronomy 18:9-12; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; and many others).

Final aspect of the question is otaku culture itself. Some Christians I’ve encountered worry about getting involved with a subculture like otaku culture. It can been seen as a substitute for the church family.

Because violence is mostly acceptable in media today (which deserves being addressed by itself at some point), I’ll focus on these three facets to our question. Let’s return to the sexual component of anime first.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:28

Scripture condemns illicit sexuality, which is why some Christians question their ability to watch anime. Lustful thoughts are equated with illicit action–that is, any sexual act outside of marriage (Hebrews 13:4). Anime often features scenes that could encourage lust. But does it matter if the character is fictional? Well, the problem lies in how such thinking shapes your view. Lust isn’t simple sexual arousal. Lust is a mindset, a habit. Lusting for a fictional character encourages a mindset that goes against what Christianity attempts to foster: a mind of compassion and love that’s other-centered. Lust is a selfish mindset, concerned without one’s own pleasure. Of course, as I’ve suggested in my article about waifuism, an attraction toward a fictional character can help you develop compassion and a love that’s other-centered. It can help you step outside yourself, but Christianity and even Zen argue this should still be done to benefit other people. A waifu cannot benefit.

So a Christian can’t watch anime? Well, if you watch stories that encourage a lustful mindset within you, you shouldn’t be watching. However, if you are like me and fan-service doesn’t titillate (it irritates me if it does anything at all) then yes, you can watch those stories with a caveat. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul speaks about a similar situation with early Christians, namely is it okay to eat meat offered to idols? Paul said yes as long as it doesn’t bother your conscience or challenge the faith of those around you. If watching a fan-service laden anime will confuse or encourage those who struggle with lust to watch, then you shouldn’t be watching those stories.

Anime can have excellent Christian-compatible messages.

The question of Shinto and Buddhist elements returns what Paul said of meat offered to idols. I don’t judge the matter. It is up to God to decide if Shinto and Buddhism is correct, not us. In Romans 2, Paul states how the law is written on people’s hearts, and only God can determine how a person stands.

Finally, we come to otaku culture itself. I view the culture as mostly harmless. At least, it’s no more harmless than, say, football culture. But as with anything, it can become an idol. No one can serve two masters (Matt 6:24). Otaku culture and anime is fine as a hobby, but when it becomes consuming–dominating your thoughts and the majority of your time, it becomes a god. Sports teams, work, video games, and just about anything can do this.

So as a Christian, is it okay to watch anime? It depends on you. Only you know your relationship with God and what triggers you have. You have to answer that question for yourself. Of course, I’m just focusing on anime and not hentai, which hentai certainly encourages lust. This post is different from what I usually do here on JP. I try to retain my librarian neutrality for the most part. Religion is a thorny topic. With my mix of Zen and a historical approach to Christianity, my view isn’t always mainstream. Would you like to see me periodically examine questions of anime from a more overt Christian perspective?

If you are a Christian and an anime fan, check out Beneath the Tangles, an anime blog that focuses on anime from a Christian perspective.

Good Stories. Not-so-Good People Behind Them: Morality and the Viewer’s Dilemma

MMO Junkie characters

A few months ago police charged the creator of Rurouni Kenshin, Nobuhiro Watsuki, with possessing child pornography. This past week, various anime news outlets pegged the director of Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Kazuyoshi Yaginuma, as an antisemite and Holocaust denier. His antisemitic views appear on his Twitter account. This creates a dilemma for viewers: how can we support a story that comes from not-so-good people?

The question lacks a clear-cut answer. On the surface, the answer seems to be a no. After all, every time you purchase a Rurouni Kenshin manga or purchase a DVD copy of MMO Junkie, some of your money goes to support Nobuhiro Watsuki and Kazuyoshi Yaginuma in royalties or wages. Watsuki had bought some of his child pornography on your dime. Your support also gives Yaginuma a larger platform for his ideas. Whenever a director sees success, their studio is that much more likely to book them for another project.  Because of this, it appears the best, moral course of action is to shun these works.

Tweet by Yaginuma

But it gets a bit more complicated.

Watsuki’s work supports the families of those that produce it: animators, editors, layout artists, marketers, etc. Likewise, MMO Junkie supports the livelihoods of the staff that created the work under Yaginuma’s direction, including the original author of the story. By cutting your support, you cut off the finances of these people who are innocent of the problems associated with Watsuki and Yaginuma. Of course, Rurouni Kenshin is an older work, but the funds produced from its continued sales rolls into the projects of the companies that hold its rights. In turn, these funds go toward new manga stories and anime. So when you avoid supporting either of these works, you reduce your support for future projects these companies may pursue.  Avoiding MMO Junkie (which is a great modern romance) hurts its original writer Rin Kokuyo, who is innocent of Yaginuma’s antisemitic tweets.

How separate can a work and its author (or director) be? It’s more of a direct question with Rurouni Kenshin than MMO Junkie. Authors can (but not necessarily will) work their proclivities into their works. I haven’t read or seen Rurouni Kenshin; I can’t comment on its content. But authors can’t help but subconsciously add parts of their views and personality to a story. However, that doesn’t mean a work written by a pedophile is full of pedophilia. Directors influence the work (that is, after all, their job), but they still have writers and the source material that limits that influence. MMO Junkie doesn’t have anything antisemitic about it. It would be different if Yaginuma used it as a platform for his views, but he didn’t. I enjoyed its relatable view of modern romance. Couples have met on the Internet and on MMORPGs. And modern culture makes it difficult and awkward to connect to people. Yaginuma uses all kinds of visualizations and scenes to develop this idea and show how the characters struggle with being social. His work and his team did a great job with the small budget they had. Despite Yaginuma’s tweets, I recommend you watch the anime if you like romantic stories.

Rurouni KenshinBut I still haven’t answered the question of separation. Honestly, I don’t have an answer. The problem appears in American media with all the sexual abuse that has appeared in the last year. The actor may be excellent, but what of his poor, exploitative behavior? Film and animations requires vast teams of people to create. Someone on the credit list has done something exploitative or has a view they shouldn’t hold. But when it comes to ethics it comes down to knowledge. Can you knowingly support a work with controversy behind it?

As I’ve mentioned in many other posts, stories matter. They shape who we are. Rurouni Kenshin resonates with many people.  At some point, fans take over a creative work, not just through fan-fiction writing and fan-art, but also through the personal meaning fans attach to it. Watsuki’s charge doesn’t change the fact that his story shaped the lives of many of its fans. The work lives beyond the author’s conception of it. Likewise, MMO Junkie lives beyond the direction Yaginuma took it. Sometimes stories stand on their own merits, despite the behavior of its creators.

The dilemma extends to literature. Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, photographed nude children. Yet, his story stands on its own long after his death. Patricia Highsmith, author of the novel Strangers on a Train among many others, was racist and leaned toward antisemitism. Yet Strangers on a Train became a heralded movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, attempted to rape a 15-year-old girl as a teen. As an adult, Golding used his students in psychological experiments that ultimately lead to Lord of the Flies ( Wainwright, 2009). J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, dated a 14-year-old girl when he was 30 (Konigsberg, 2013). H.P. Lovecraft was a well-known racist. T.S. Eliot wrote antisemitic poetry (Julius, 2003).

Despite the issues with the authors, people read and study and enjoy these works. Lord of the Flies and The Catcher in the Rye appear in high-school English classes. Watsuki and Yaginuma follow in a rather common tradition in storytelling. Of course, this doesn’t absolve them, but it does mean viewers and readers often consume and love stories created by people with views and behaviors that aren’t savory. Authors, directors, actors, and animators are, after all, human. From a Christian perspective, their actions don’t surprise (They can still disgust but not surprise.) because we live in a world distorted by sinfulness. Sinful people can create good works of art. If The Catcher in the Rye and Alice in Wonderland can stand on their own merits, Rurouni Kenshin and MMO Junkie can as well if you decide to enjoy those stories.

Recovery of an MMO JunkieThe dilemma comes down to you and how you feel. Of course, if you don’t like Rurouni Kenshin or Yaginuma’s various works, then you don’t have a dilemma. However, if you do, you will have to make a decision, knowing no matter what you decide you will sit in the gray. If you turn away from works with questionable creators, you also won’t be supporting the families of those on the creator’s team who are innocent of the creator’s views or behavior. If you support the works, a part of your funds will support views and behavior you find distasteful. If enough people decide one way or the other, either animation studios and their employees will feel a pinch, or the creator will benefit. Piracy doesn’t provide a third option. It only hurts the ability of studios to produce and their willingness to do so. If you decide to support the work, your decision falls in line with what fans of literature do. It comes down to your conscience.

Reviewers have it a little more difficult than a viewer with this dilemma. Anime reviewers must watch everything so they can have a framework to make their comparisons and understand anime’s storytelling, character, and animation trends. That means shows like Rurouni Kenshin that has influenced other creators need to be watched and understood (I plan to watch it eventually). Yet, here again, writing about such can go against the reviewers sensibilities. However, reviewers can hedge the issue by explaining the circumstances of the author, director, or other people involved in questionable behavior. While writing, reviewers can separate the work from the creator and explain how the work influenced other creators (as opposed to the original creator’s questionable behavior). While a reviewer may not want to advertise or recommend a work, they cannot deny the place the work has in the greater body of anime or literature. It takes some writing tact, but you can discuss a work without endorsing something you dislike. For example, a review of Mein Kampf may be able to explain how the writing style and content fits in its time period without endorsing its message.

These types of problems will continue to happen. In fact, they will appear more often with the popularity of YouTube. YouTube viewers well know the problems with enjoying content created by people of questionable behavior. It’s up to you to decide if your conscience can bear supporting creators in such situations or not. You decide what messages you want to support and consume.

References

Julius, Anthony (2003) The poetry of prejudice. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/jun/07/poetry.thomasstearnseliot

Konigsberg, Ruth (2013) A Portrait of the Artist as Predator. Time. http://ideas.time.com/2013/09/16/portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-predator/

Wainwright, Martin (2009) Author William Golding tried to rape teenager, private papers show. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/aug/16/william-golding-attempted-rape

What Does Moe Mean?

describing moe

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,

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

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

Rei Ayanami defines moe for many people.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