The Moe Manifesto

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    For those who don’t like to waste time with words:

Patrick W. Galbraith’s The Moe Manifesto is worth the effort of reading. Plus it has cute pictures. Buy it.

    For those who like a little more meat on their book reviews:

One of the most frustrating issues in Anglophone writing on anime and manga since the 1980s has been the lack of any serious interrogation of source and background material by most writers. In recent years, the situation has begun to change. The Moe Manifesto is one of two books that foreground this change. (I’ll blog the other one next week.)

Moe is a polarising genre: art is obviously central to manga, but manga art which exists solely for the attractiveness of the character, with little story or context beyond the most banal, provokes the question of how and why this is worth any more attention than a cute sticker or LOLcat image. Further, in the context of the current debate in Britain about sexualising children moe offers both intellectual and moral challenges for the reader.

Patrick W. Galbraith doesn’t pretend to resolve any of the questions and contradictions around moe. What he does, and does very well, is to provide context and content for the debate by interviewing Japanese scholars, industry figures and fans, giving non-Japanese speakers a wealth of material to work with. The history and sociology of moe, the zines, the creators, the spinoffs: it’s all here.  Then publishers Tuttle wrap’n’zap his text in a glorious image-rich package that further contributes to the debate.

Between them, author and publisher have made that great rarity: a serious book that wears its scholarship as lightly as a bunch of balloons and makes its content accessible, enjoyable and instructive all at once. You will learn from The Moe Manifesto, but you’ll do it through being thoroughly entertained.

I love what they’ve made so much, I can even forgive them for treating the word moe as if it were French. I assume this is to help readers who have never encountered the term before: the glossary makes it clear that the e is stressed. However, the same applies to anime, which lacks any stress mark throughout the book. That stray accent is my one quibble – and Amazon’s, apparently, since they omit it from their text even though it’s part of the title. But it’s one little flaw in an excellent  book.

I can give no higher praise than to end with a quote from The Man, the guru of all Western manga writers, Frederik L. Schodt:

Moe is a hall of mirrors in a cultural fun palace; a twist in the psyche; an etymological thicket; and a sometimes controversial social phenomenon. I can’t image a better guide to the moe world than scholar Patrick W. Galbraith, with his lavishly illustrated, interview-based book.”

 

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