November 16, 2015

MANGA MONDAYS | Attack of the Moeblob

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A few days ago I watched a few episodes of a show called Anime de Training! Ex. And I’m going to be frank: it kind of irritated me. Before I get into this, I encourage you to check it out – the episodes are only about four minutes each, so it’s worth your time to watch it before reading the rest of this. After all, there’s a good chance I’m horrendously biased (or just overreacting) here for some reason, so it’s best if everyone is able to take what I say with a grain of salt.

Photo Courtesy of Earth Star Entertainment

Photo Courtesy of Earth Star Entertainment

Now, if you’ve watched that episode, you’ll know that Anime de Training is some kind of strange attempt to get Hikikomori to exercise with the power of moe. On many levels that seems pretty respectable to me. Like, move over Richard Simmons, there are some new kawaii fitness teachers in town. You know the whole carrot or the stick debate? This is very clearly the carrot.

I’m a fan of the whole idea of using anime to try to affect some kind of social change, or even just help a few people get off the couch and do something. What I’m not a fan of is the approach this show takes. While I can appreciate that if you want to get a lazy otaku (like myself, I’m not gonna lie here) off the couch, you’re going to need to appeal to the things they like. So the imouto-tsundere thing in the first few seconds makes enough sense. But why do we get a shot of the main character in a swimsuit, a few camera angles straight out of an ecchi like Highschool DxD, and the quote “It’s great for getting your bra size up,” before we even get to the push ups? Moreover, why is it my friend thought that a scene of someone doing push ups was a sex scene until he looked at my computer screen?

Initially I figured this was a show about attracting people with cuteness to encourage a little exercise. Honestly, I think it’s more so trying to attract people with the prospect of getting healthy but then keep them around by creating a tangled mess of stereotypical otaku fetishes. I’m not going to say that this is some kind of cultural problem with the anime community or anything like that, because in the end it’s just a single, short anime series in a sea of, frankly, a lot of really good stuff. And besides, in the end, if it gets even a few people a little more active, awesome.

Nevertheless, I think it’s a good reminder to beware of things like shallow pandering to make a quick buck, and to consider what we like about our favorite characters. Are we just falling for the kawaii moeblob at the expense of all else, or are we really looking for interesting and well-developed characters? Note: I’m not asking this in the context of Anime de Training. I don’t expect much character development out of a show with such short episodes. That said, if you just watch anime to look at cute, chibi characters, that’s fine. I too have been known to watch shows with absolutely no story, but a cute factor that’s through the roof. However, we shouldn’t let our enjoyment of that detract from some of the truly amazing things that anime has to offer.

Side note: I just realized that one studio that worked on Anime de Training was partially responsible for Pupa (which was also notorious for people mistakenly assuming certain parts for sex scenes) and another one’s only other listed production is some blatant lolicon bait. Everything makes sense now.

Michael Mauer is a sophomore in the college of Arts and Sciences majoring in Computer Science. His favorite anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion and he never leaves home without his Homura Akemi necklace. He can be reached at [email protected]. Alternatively, just hunt him down on Facebook or Google+.