In a recent discussion with the Metanorn boss lady over on Twitter, she echoed my own spoken opinion on moe; I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting it as being that of “meh”. I started wondering why then I’m enjoying Hyouka so much because it seems to be the latest in a long line of shows that to stick to a common formula. This would mean it’s subject to the “meh” attitude I have towards moe, which incidentally gets in the way of my enjoyment of commercialised TV anime sometimes.
Futhermore, I normally can’t get excited about the prospect of watching one “high school romcom in which nothing much happens” story after another, so was initially worried that Hyouka would also rely too heavily on that ‘after school club’ format. Neither of these aspects are proving to be problematic though, so I’m finding it to be really quite charming.
Reliance on moe smacks of of lazy writing to me and after thinking the issue over at length, that is ultimately what my problem is with it. When a character has just a catchphrase or physical quirk that forms her only defining feature, it’s difficult to be impressed or get sentimentally attached to her…or even care at all. The idea that certain moe attributes constitute attractiveness goes is lost on me too, since it’s a portrayal of femininity that doesn’t appeal to me.
Eru Chitanda doesn’t have one of the over-used traits or plot devices that define her as a character; the backstory she’s given is meaningful so she comes across as a personality built up using methods that extend beyond a checklist pinned on an anime studio office’s wall. I don’t have a problem with ‘cute’ characters drawn in the conventional contemporary style; I simply have a problem with characters who are dull, stupid or irritating.
Eru does I admit have childlike moments and of course a particular catchphrase, but why does her “I’m curious!” not push my Bloody Annoyed button? I think it’s because she’s showing a slight departure from the Airheaded Anime Girl archetype: she’s is making a conscious effort to learn about things rather than babble about nothing, which I find appealing and a refreshing change. If that is just a gimmick, it’s an admirable and also useful one that drives the plot forward.
Eru’s a really likeable individual who gently encourages those around her to get out of their seats and do interesting things, instead than trying to capture the viewer’s heart by being infantile and idiotic. Rather than Houtarou being the protector of a vulnerable and helpless character, he’s instead talked into showing an interest in the world around him by a surprisingly ladylike young woman with a thirst for knowledge. It’s a very honest approach really, and the rare moments where his inner monologue displays curiosity in her are quite touching.
Whether or not it’s coincidence that the Classics Club has a similar format to the Light Music Club and the SOS-dan, I don’t know; I do think though that there’s a lot of mileage in the setup in that the character chemistry has room to develop and the dialogue hasn’t yet showed signs of boring me. The talk of the Seven Deadly Sins for instance showed more thoughtful writing than I expected, and it had the beginnings of some neat character dynamics in there. The main issue would probably be in being able to recreate the cleverness and genuine sense of mystery that carried the show for the first five episodes, because the topics have quickly reverted to being fairly trivial.
When the Classics Club agonise over why a teacher got the running order of a lesson mixed up, or uncovering the explanation for a hot springs hotel ghost, there’s a part of me wishing they’d be given a more gripping mystery to solve. From a presentation point of view, it’s absolutely lovely and between that pretty-shininess and Eru’s easygoing charm I’m really enjoying it…and I’m enjoying the fact that I’m enjoying it.
Despite the fact that Hyouka is as harmless and tame as they come, it’s still easier on the eyes – and brain – than similar shows I’ve tried to like and given up on. If it really is just another calculated attempt on KyoAni’s part to recycle old ideas and character tropes…as a hardcore Type Moon fan, I’m probably in no credible position to claim that character trope recycling is a reason to dismiss it.
TV is, at the end of the day, escapism. That’s ‘at the end of the day’ in a very literal sense because one of the main reasons why iyashikei anime, and the related tropes such as those used in Hyouka, exists is for the sake of people who just want something warm, fuzzy and gentle to soothe the emotional aches and pains of cold, cynical normality. To put it another way: when Real Life is getting you down, you just want to sit down with a smile on your face for a few minutes before hitting the sack and going through the same old stuff again tomorrow.
So, I might as well admit that I’m now a fan of a moe character. And, speaking as a rational, educated adult, I’m not alone in feeling resigned to it.