To Japanese women just about everything can be described as cute. That boy, those clothes, that drain, those leaves on the floor, that lunch box, anything. This leads to a bit of a rejection to this word and all it stands for, as far as I am concerned.
Moe (pronounced mo-é) is Japanese term for super cute things, it is mired in geeky subculture. Especially stuff such as maid cafés, cat girls and anime. According to wikipedia anime moe character designs have:
Large eyes (1/5 size of face)
Body 5.7 heads tall
Fringe over eyes
And I don’t like it one bit.
When I see an anime or manga with intense moe styling I am usually rather put off and refuse to even give it a chance. This all changed though when I first heard about an anime series called Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
My relationship with this show did not get off to the best of starts, at first I was put off by the silly name and then I saw that it was a Magical Girl anime, the genre that brought us Sailor Moon. Finally I saw the character designs and they were as moe as can be. As a result I completely wrote off the show as something sickly sweet for little girls.
The show just wouldn’t go away though and I found various essays about it invading my internet browser. Most of these said that this show was something special and different. Suddenly things about it’s production started to jump out at me. While the frilly, frilly character designs were off-putting, some of the background designs I was noticing looked like the contents of a deranged fever dream and were very intriguing indeed. I also read that a former hentai director was one of the main creative minds behind it and that showed it may just be trying to do something different, so I decided to give it a go.
Things did not start too well, it seemed like it would be a very by the numbers TV show albeit with some funky dream scape sections. Just about as I was going to give up on it something unexpected happened that caused me to let out a gasp and the show revealed it’s true colours.
It is just so DARK….
From here on in it begins to deconstruct what it is to be a magical girl and that maybe it is not all dainty outfits and lolly pops after all. Once you get into the mindset of the show you can certainly see where all the plot threads are going as they are introduced but it is fun to see just how far they push it.
Once the dust settles you realise that this is a landmark show. Much like Evangelion before it, it takes what has been done before and puts a new spin on things. Like Evangelion there will be hundreds of copycat shows appearing that don’t quite understand why this show was so successful in the first place. Unlike Evangelion however, it does not seem to have broken into mainstream consciousness and may remain something that only anime fans are really aware of.
It not a perfect show however, I do like that this series took my preconceptions of moe designed shows and threw them in the bin (and then stamped on it a bit) but it is perhaps a little too dark for it’s own good. Once you realise that nothing good will ever happen to any of the characters it all becomes a bit too depressing for it’s own good. It’s hard to tell if it even ended on a high note or not.
Madoka Magica has shown me that I should be a bit more open to media which has aspects that would put me off normally. God knows I get frustrated when people ignore the things that I recommend because of some silly reason, I had better stop doing it myself.
I really should give the K-Ons (more moe designs), Babylon 5s (can’t take another Star Trek style scifi), Battlestar Galaticas (same) and Bright Eyeses (I blame Jo Whiley) of this world a try because I just might end up liking them.
I really should have remembered the melon bread.