Demo-tan: Moe?

This is something of a filler post before moving on to event reports and such, but I wanted to address an issue that came up in comments on the Demo-tan introduction post before moving on:
Is Demo-tan moe?
At this point the consensus seems to be that she is not, and I’d agree. I think she has the potential to be, but she’s not quite there yet… why not, though? She doesn’t seem to be in direct violation of any moetic preconditions, as established – on the other hand, she doesn’t fit neatly into any of the four categories. I was aiming for Denpa-kei, and tried to convey this to the artists, but obviously failed somewhere along the way… thankfully a comment from Annonymous sheds light on where we may have gone astray, reprinted here in its entirety:

I must say that she is well illustrated(cute) and is appropriate, but I am not finding the moe element in it so strong. Thus, the question why is that the case? Well I think it is to do with the Japanese/”Western” tinge that slightly eliminates the otakuistic element of moe.
For a while now, I’ve been interested in that “tinge” you speak of, that can make western anime style art exude a “non-japanese-ness” at first glance. Although it is often elements in the drawing style, I have come to believe it has a lot to do with poses and facial expressions. Someone above mentioned the bared teeth. Also note the finger thrust upward and away from the body, the straight legs spread apart, the slightly closed eyes and larger proportion of white to iris in the eyes.
The image as a whole exudes a self-confidence that seems to say “look at me! ain’t I cool? i know i am”. Actually, it’s more as if when I see the image, I picure the artists sitting at his table drawing it, thinking to himself how cool it is. That feeling from the creator makes its way into the character. It makes a kind of self-consciousness or self-awareness in the character that pushes against the fourth wall.
Compare it to the thumbnails on the left side of the page, or images in the linked Megami 77 review. The general feeling I get from those is something like “hello. this is who i am”. Even when they’re looking directly at the camera, it’s more as if they’re looking at another character in their world than addressing the real person ogling them.

I hope Annonymous will come forward and lay claim to the brilliance of his or her observation, because as I read it this paves the way for a new fundamental moetic axiom:

    When the level of male presence in a moe image surpasses that of a voyeur, the viewer is engaged by the moe character as if he were part of her narrative.

In other words, a fictionalization of the viewer is demanded by the moe image.
I haven’t fully come to grips with the importance of this, but if I’m reading it right it’s a huge step forward in the conceptual understanding of moe. Regardless of whether or not it applies directly to Demo-tan, I want to devote some brain cells to hashing this concept out more fully in the coming weeks… in the meantime, the quest continues for a moe-er Demo. We shall overcome!


0 Responses to Demo-tan: Moe?

  1. Randall Fitzgerald October 6, 2006 at 8:06 am #

    i hate to be contrary (not really… bwahaha!) but I wonder if the reason it’s not “moe” isn’t as much to do with how we engage the character, but more the aesthetic qualities themselves that we come to expect. It’s not so much that she engages us as part of her narritive, I mean, Demo-tan both lacks an overarching universe of her own to draw us into, the same as most mascots, and when I look at her I get a sort of tsuntsun “desho?” kind of feeling. I hope that makes sense. So, I can certainly identify her with that branch of moe, if you like, without a whole lot of trouble. The trouble comes when I run her aesthetic up against that of other “proper” Japanese and Japanese-style bodies of work. While I feel Annonyomous is rather spot on with the characteristics described, he seems to pull them into a more psychological tangent without much of a bridge. Or maybe that was Shingo. Whichever.
    That being said, I’d like to point out that this is one of the few non-Japanese works that registers on the “fetish” scale (if you will) at all. I mean, bravo. SRRSLY.

  2. Shingo October 6, 2006 at 8:56 am #

    >>Randall Fitzgerald
    I don’t disagree with you; Demo-tan as currently rendered falls short in some of the clinically aesthetic “moe specs” that both you and Anonymous identify. However, were it the case that one could merely follow a list of technical guidelines to produce moe characters I think we’d see a lot more of them from Western artists.
    On the other hand, a lot of the characters currently gracing moe-themed Japanese magazines are very much from a cookie-cutter, color-by-number mold. If I were to hazard a guess I’d say Clockwork Machina was trying to deliberately escape that mold and create something original and fresh, but by doing so strayed from the path of mainstream moe.
    Regardless of whether moe lies only in the lines on the page or in some element of the artist’s intent, I believe the final product does follow the rule Anonymous hints at – the moe character doesn’t look at you, she looks at a fictional abstraction of you that is consonant with her narrative. And for whatever reason (probably because I asked them to), Clockwork’s current rendition doesn’t do that. Not that I think it necessarily has to to be an effective mascot, mind you.

  3. Simon jones October 6, 2006 at 9:01 am #

    Hmm… I can’t add anything to the intellectual discussion at hand. I just think a hairstyle that shows more of her forehead would suit her better… =)

  4. Tsubaki October 6, 2006 at 1:17 pm #

    I know why she isn’t moe enough. She’s missing an Ahoge. TEH IMPORTANT WIN FOR MOE-ISM.

  5. kantan October 6, 2006 at 2:52 pm #

    The ahoge would be nice. she definatley does give off a “hey, im american” feeling. Not to say all american artists are bad, look at Fred (megatokyo) for instance. His characters have their own style to them that shows its definately not japanese but each and every character has some element of moe to them.
    In my opinion, she needs more shading, less teeth, thinner drawn lines, smaller or no ears showing, and as anonymous stated, the pose needs to be less confident. Also the eyes need to be done differently.
    As of now she reminds me of Kagali from Gundam Seed.

  6. Anonymous October 9, 2006 at 2:53 pm #

    Hi, I’m the anonymous whose post you quoted. FYI, the first paragraph of the quote is actually a quote from a previous post that I was responding to.
    I wasn’t really trying to make a comment on the image’s moeness, but on what makes it stand out as being, if you’ll forgive the terms, wapanese or weeaboo.
    As for the lack of moe qualities, the pose does need to be less… – confident isn’t the right word – less confrontational? More general happiness, genkiness, if you will. Less “attitude” circa mid-90s platform game mascots. The shinyness of her skin is something you see more often in porn images or bath scenes than basic portraits.
    Comment >>1 mentioned that she doesn’t have an overarching universe to draw in the viewer. I think it’s not necessary to have that, an image of a cute character can and should be able to stand on its own, creating that moe feeling regardless of whether any backstory has been written about it. Many well-known and loved mascot characters started as little more than one-note ideas. Windows ME, a buggy OS turns into a clumsy maid. The Fastech 360 bullet train turns into a catgirl because of its cat ear shaped air brakes. The Nijiura maids, born out of cheap puns.
    My point wasn’t that the viewer should become part of the narrative, but that he(or perhaps the creator?) should not intrude on the narrative.

  7. SDS October 9, 2006 at 9:44 pm #

    Cagalli, however, IS moe, and to say “she looks too much like Cagalli” is implying that therein lies part of the “problem.”
    I think the idea of the character looking past the viewer rather than at the viewer is an intriguing one, and I think that’s the point at which you should start. Confidence is not automatically unmoetic, nor are angry eyes, snaggleteeth, ears, or pointed fingers.
    Have Demo-tan looking not at the viewer, but at the prospective feature of spreading moetic democracy to the world, give her big dreams that she wants to fulfill, and I think there you will find moe.

  8. K October 10, 2006 at 2:02 am #

    Let’s say that Demo-tan is moe anthropomorphism for democracy. Democracy originates from ancient Greece and thus her wearing a toga and a garland makes perfect sense. Her sandals are Japanese type which doesn’t fit the democracy theme. This is just a minor detail that doesn’t really matter.
    Her blonde hair and blue eyes don’t catch the feeling of ancient Greece either, instead they give her sort of angelic presence which is ruined by her overconfident attidute. Mayby it’s just me but overconfident angel just doesn’t sound right to me. So if she didn’t have such an attidute and she had wings or a halo, she’d look much more like angel than moe anthropomorphism for democracy.
    However I think that Demo-tan can be seen as a moe. Confident, arrogant and tomboyish characters can be considered moe characters by some. There is no absolute definition of moe, just a big bunch of moe characteristics. Though Demo-tan doesn’t feature any typical moe characteristics and is quite far from stereotype moe characters, she can be considered moe by some people. For example I like girls with short hair but since I don’t really like overconfident and pushy girls, I don’t really know what to think about Demo-tan.

  9. Richard "Pocky" Kim October 10, 2006 at 3:11 am #

    “Moe is as moe does.”
    I’ve always been of the opinion that moe is a personal thing, that just happens to match the tastes of other people on a broader level.
    I.E. I love meganekko. I have my own reasons for loving them. I know there are tons of other meganekko fans out there, who love them for their own reasons, which often don’t match mine.
    This is what makes moe, in my opinion, hard to lock down as a set of genres; each person experiences it differently enough to make it difficult to make a 100% blanket statement about any them.
    I like Demo-tan. Her hair’s short for my tastes, and she lacks megane (>.>), but she’s very cute and spunky, which I think reflects this site very well. ^_^

  10. Insectice October 10, 2006 at 1:00 pm #

    If you want her to be an anthropomorphism of democracy (be it Ancient Greek or just in general), I reckon she should be a bit bossy, telling other people what to do (as democratic countries believe themselves to be the righteous good), all the while being indecisive in her own decisions (like a properly run democracy with differing opinions should be).
    All in all, it should be in line with *your* vision, because you know what you want best. The first stop to good art is the artisan being pleased with what he sees.

  11. Anonymous October 11, 2006 at 12:20 pm #

    That sounds oddly like tsundere.

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