It’s been a while since I’ve talked about anime, but this is something that really annoys me about anime’s popular female characters. Some vocabulary before we start:
Moeblob, via urbandictionary: “A character who is moe to the point of lacking almost any other definable traits, physically or character-wise. Cuteness taken to an unappealing level.”
Strong Female Characters, (as opposed to strong female characters), also via urbandictionary: “A hostile, violent, and shallow female character based around what a cynical male writer thinks is “female empowerment”. Such characters usually dress in some kind of fetish outfit…” These are best illustrated by Kate Beaton, from whom I’ve also lifted the capital letter-wielding nomenclature.
Okay, so now that we’re all up to speed, here’s the thing that grinds my gears about popular female characters in anime: they’re almost guaranteed to be a moeblob or a SFC. And while both of these types have some positive aspects, neither of them constitutes a realistic portrayal of a female character, and both perpetuate irritating mindsets and stereotypes.
First, let’s look at the Moeblob character: she usually shows up in moe anime (shocker), which are known for their minimal conflicts, large focus on female friendship, and archetypal characters (the adorably clumsy one, the adorably tsundere one, the adorably dandere one, the adorably yandere one, and the adorably tomboyish one). Anime like K-On have popularized the genre, and nowadays it’s nigh on impossible to escape the brain-meltingly adorable moe-ization of literally everything (there is an anime about personified moe assault weapons, I shit you not).Why am I hating on a genre that is all about female friendships? Well, where a show like My Little Pony or Super Best Friends Forever shows complicated and realistic relationships between developed female characters, moe anime doesn’t do that. Instead it reduces the female characters to childish, infantilized caricatures of girls, instead of complete characters in their own right. These girls (who are usually of high school age) are so childlike that they’d probably need babysitters if they were real people.
These aren’t any better for female portrayal in anime than the ubiquitous Strong Female Characters are. Strong Female Characters argue that strong women are hypersexualized and hypersexual, and this turns them into sex objects for male viewers.
Neither of these are doing any favors to female characters. The pendulum swung too far away from the SFC, and we got the Moeblob. The former perpetuates the concept of women as sex objects, and the latter emphasizes the idea that women are best when they’re childlike and innocent and pure and so cute it’s cavity-inducing.
Can we just take a step back from both of them and introduce some shocking variety in the form of a popular female character with a real character? When the Moeblob and the Strong Female Character square off, no one wins.