For many people among fans of Japanese pop-culture, moe is strongly associated with cute, adorable girl characters. However, through a deeper study, we can find that moe could be interpreted differently from that popular association in different contexts. A study conducted by fandom researcher Patrick Galbraith revealed that the use of the term moe is also a part of communication among fujoshi, or women who enjoy consuming yaoi, or fictions about imagined homosexual relationships between male characters.
In his study, Gailbrath observed and conversed with groups of fujoshi in Japan who like to discuss yaoi when they gather. The fujoshi whom he interviewed used the words moebanashi or moegatari, which roughly means “moe talk”, to refer to their discussions about yaoi. Although the fujoshi say it is difficult to give an exact definition of moe because the word can be taken to mean different things, they claim that for them, moe is felt when they read into yaoi relationship patterns; in placing characters into seme (“giver”) and uke (“receiver”) positions, along with other characteristics such as hetare (lame), kichiku (brutal), etc.
In having the moe talk, the fujoshi who gather tell and discuss their imaginings of yaoi pairings based on the suitable moe characteristics. There are many kinds of things that they can reinterpret into scenarios of yaoi pairings. For example, they can use comics, cartoons, video games, dōjinshi, topics they find in the internet, or even observations from daily lives. They could debate which characters in a video game they would ship and which one is more fitting to be the seme or uke. Or they could search for images in the internet and act out a yaoi dialogue together based on the images they found..
To give a clearer example, here is an excerpt of a conversation that Galbraith observed from a group of fujoshi after they visited a dōjin market event.
Hachi: “Is this road moe? 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: “The road is a hetare uke in love with one particular car, who is a kichiku seme. In order to win his love, the road agreed to be his sex slave and is now being broken in by the the car’s clients, the other cars, on a daily basis.”
Hachi, Megumi and Tomo: ” (laughs) Moe, moe, moe.”
Galbraith proposes that this moe talk is an important aspect in the fujoshi interaction, arguing that by sharing the moe of yaoi fantasies through such conversations, the fujoshi feel a sense of fellowship and togetherness as if being a part of a larger whole (ittaikan); part of a group that feel the same passion towards that exact fantasies. Moe is here used to express and comunicate their desire towards yaoi relationships between the characters. By knowing each others personal desires, this creates some kind of a strong emotional bonds among them.
Further, Gailbraith’s informants posit that moe is what distinguishes fujoshi from normal people (ippanjin/riajuu). According to them, normal women that don’t have moe have shallow dreams, because they can be satisfied simply with what is in real life as they are. On the other hand, “fujoshi could never feel satisfied because moe is fantasy,” said one of the informants. There is a kind of dissatisfaction that pushes fujoshi to creatively imagine everything into yaoi relationships that can be read as moe, which can even includes roads and cars.
Are fujoshi in Indonesia also define moe in the same way as Japanese fujoshi? In observing fans of Japanese pop culture in a city in West Java, my findings is still limited and mixed. While fujoshi who moe used can be found, other fujoshi still associate moe mainly with cute and adorable girl characters. Are there any influence from the media accessed by Indonesian fans that tend to identify moe with girl characters, or are there any other factors? Do the fujoshi still share their yaoi fantasies with each other even if they do not refer to such activities with moe? These are some things that can be studied further.
KAORI Newsline | By Halimun Muhammad | The writer is an alumnus of the Faculty of Social and Political Science of the University of Indonesia with interest in exploring academic studies on anime culture and its fandom | translated by Daniel Ageng Satrio
Patrick Galbraith, “Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan”, in Signs, Vol. 37, No. 1 (2011), pg. 211-232. Sources of pictures: Genshiken Nidaime, author’s personal photo colection.