Anime Today: The Thought That Counts

As much as I might hate to admit it, I have often found myself thoroughly enjoying the moeblob. Every season, without fail, there is at least some airing anime that serves absolutely no purpose but to present cute girls doing cute things (I’m looking at you K-On!). And despite a severe lack of depth and mindless pandering, I still watch them. Even more than that, though… I actively enjoy them.

Chino Kafu GochiUsa
Art by Syroh (Pixiv ID 43635800)

This season’s token moeblob is easily Is the Order a Rabbit. With enlarged heads, feminine uniforms, appearances of each female anime archetype, and even a smidgen of shoujo-ai (to some’s chagrin), it absolutely fits the bill. Now while a good discussion from here would be to investigate whether or not a moeblob is edifying for Christian consumption, that is an article for another time (though if you would like something more along those lines, check out this article that raises a similar question in regard to the sister genre of yuri). Instead, today, I would like to look into a theme that struck me in episode five of Is the Order a Rabbit.

Is it true that it is the thought that counts?

In my experience, this concept is one of the most popular themes to be found in family friendly media. Sometimes entire movies or episodes are devoted to it, but even more telling is that it is often brought up so casually as to be assumed as truth (real proof of something that is culturally engrained). With that said, I have often heard many a sermon or discussion by self-proclaimed believers, denying this “worldly truth” as nothing more than a “feel-good” proverb. “Faith without works is dead” they say*. However, is that really true? Is this denial really even worth making?

Before diving too deep into this, it is worth mentioning that something that genuinely surprised me about episode five of Is The Order a Rabbit was the center of its plot: Father’s Day. As a medium that often either ignores or removes the existence of parents, or downplays their importance to some degree, seeing an entire episode devoted to the appreciation of fathers was a bit of a shock. Even in western culture, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day have always felt to me like forgotten holidays, ones that people scramble to prepare for the week prior when they happen to glance at the calendar (Father’s Day especially, since it seems that mothers receive the majority of the attention). Combining these two factors put me in a position of deeper thought than any moeblob anime should (they are, by definition, the epitome of mindless adoration).

In this particular episode, each character attempted to determine a suitable present for her father (or father figure), to varying success. And it is through this situation that the theme of “It is the thought that counts” became most pronounced. Just as I implied by the phrase “varying success”, some characters managed better than others (most fairing on the poorer end of the spectrum). However, despite this, they all put in effort in the amount of 110%. Whether it was working part-time to replace an expensive bottle of wine or staying up late and wasting numerous pieces of fabric in order to sew a tie, the characters may have failed to put together the “ideal” gift (at least on paper), but they put their hearts and souls into its acquisition or creation.

Having established a better context, let me revisit the Christian application. “Faith Without Works is Dead.” Surely, this is correct. Although we are saved by faith in Christ alone, if our faith is not strong enough to compel us to do the accompanying works, then, surely, we have no faith at all.


Sometimes people make the erroneous assumption from this that our output is what defines our works. This is what separates faith in Christ and consequent salvation from something like the workings of a business. What separates a loving father that is concerned with the well-being of his child from a distant father that treats his child like a cog in the machine that serves no purpose but to succeed him.

Since God is often portrayed as our Heavenly Father, it seems appropriate to draw a connection to Chino’s father. Although the statement was made that, after Cocoa spent countless hours and failed attempts to make Chino’s father a necktie (with Chino’s help, of course) he always wore a bow tie. Despite this, however, the final moments of the episode show him happily wearing his new necktie (in spite of usually wearing a bot tie). His appreciation was not for the tie itself, but for the love and effort that went into crafting it. It is for this same reason that, when I made my mother sukiyaki for lunch for Mother’s Day, she was pleased. She was not pleased that she was able to have sukiyaki for lunch (I cannot imagine it was that great, considering I made it), but she was pleased that I put it all together just for her.

In the same way, it is completely impossible to live up to God’s expectations. Whether looking at this from a historical point of view with the history of the Jews and the Law, and their incapability of performing the Law to perfection (thus the arrival of Jesus on the scene), or from a personal point of view, in which we constantly fail in our pursuit for a relationship with Jesus (heck, I know I mess up on a daily basis), the fact is that it is not our final product that matters. Rather, it is the heart with which we approach our actions. Someone who fails, knowing full well what he or she is doing, without ever fully feeling sorry and repenting for it, has a heart in much poorer condition than one who fails every single day, but truly repents every single time.**

God love all of his creations, and like any loving father, he appreciates the heart and effort they put in for Him, not what they finally give Him. Indeed, faith without works is dead, but the most important part of works is working for them.


*James 2:17
**There is a difference between saying “I’m sorry” and meaning “I’m sorry”.


Just as special inclusion for those of you who decided to read through the article in its entirety (or skipped down to the bottom :P), I decided to paste a running thread that several of the writers and I have had regarding this article:

Japes: “My latest Anime Today (going up this Wednesday) proves that MOEBLOBS CAN HAVE REDEEMABLE QUALITIES TOO!!”
TWWK: “I think it would take a moeracle.”

Kaze: “They always have redeemoeble qualities.”
TWWK: “I have a feeling that this article is going to be moervelous.”
Japes: “Oh, you guys…”
TWWK: “I always like your articles, JP. They leave me wanting moe.”
Japes: “I was really hoping for more puns, but maybe it just wasn’t moeant to be…”
Kaze: “Sorry, I’m no good at moeking puns in the moening.”
TWWK: “We should stop. We’re acting like stooges – Curly, Larry, and Moe.”



27 thoughts on “Anime Today: The Thought That Counts

  1. Very interesting!

    I think, that per se, moé isn’t bad. Light-hearted and family friendly moé series can be wholesome fun.

    Maybe, a inordinate fixation on the aesthetics of moé could be problematic.

    When moé turn dangerous, is when is badly use. For example, when mixed with ecchi, yuri, and yuri subtext. In the later two, could lead to both a normalization and fetishization of homosexuality. The acceptances of these issues is helped by the cutesy look of the characters, that also contributes to an increasing appeal. For example, I’ve seen the increase of yuri fanboys and fangirls in tumblr, blogs, forums and art sites, some of them, like female artists, are somewhat obsessed with certain aesthetics. Is troubling also, that the slice of life moé series of recent seasons, have various series among the available selection that play with yuri subtext (maybe related to the increasing of fetish pandering shows in other genres or styles).

    That series looked interesting, but sadly, I’ve read in other sites too about the shoujo ai elements, so, I’m not watching it.

    Now, speaking of the rest of the article, certainly is interesting that they show a focus on parents. Not many series devote time to the parents of characters. These tend to be absent, or when appear, is to show that they are there.

    1. I’m definitely not equipped at the moment to provide any sort of argument in support for or against moe, so I’m not going to (I’d rather save it for an article in and of itself some time down the road, maybe).

      That said, though, I’ve always applied my relativistic “stumbling block” method. Regardless of its effect on the anime community as a whole, I’ve found that, often, the difference between “shoujo-ai” and “yuri” is that the former can usually be simply seen as close, awkward friendship (which is how I’ve seen much of it before picking up on the shoujo-ai) and that the latter is usually more overt (like Sakura Trick).

      If it’s something you can watch without falling to temptation in some fashion, then go for it.

      But again, this is a much deeper issue than a short comment like this can do justice.

      Back on the topic of the actual article, while parents don’t play much of a role in the series to be sure, I was definitely impressed by the continued presence of Chino’s father. It’s definitely refreshing!

      Thanks for your insightful comments!

      1. Ehhh “shoujo ai” gets kinda thrown out a lot to mean a really wide range of things – from being synonymous to yuri to, apparently, girls being extra friendly with each other. It doesn’t help that Westerners decided to drastically change the definition from Japanese context either, but anyway, shoujo ai is supposed to be a subset of yuri in which the focus is on the emotional relationship between the girls rather than any sexual content. Nowadays, I guess people misuse it the point the definition changed which only garners confusion on whether something is shoujo ai and how sensitive viewers should interpret it – or maybe sensitive people are the ones abusing the term, I don’t know. Add in the weakening term “elements” and “shoujo ai elements” can practically mean “females are interacting with each other.” Meh.

        Also, Chino’s grandfather gets a lot of screen time too, technically, I think.

        1. That is a good point. In many series, close friendships are interpreted by fans as something more. They are so accustomed to their yuri series that began to see (or want to see) romantic things were there are none.

          An example are some comments I saw some days ago in another blog, an episodic article about Isshuukan Friends. The chapter introduced a new female character and was more or less about the interactions between two girls. One person asked in the comment sections (said person didn’t knew about the series, and stumbled into the article), that if it was a yuri friendly series. Other person saw a hint of yuri in the friendly smiles.

          1. K-On! fans are guilty of this, too. In particular, the people who insist that there is more between Ritsu and Mio than simple friendship because of how close they are and how they interact. The two have known each other since kindergarten! Of course they’re going to be close and friendly. Now Mugi, on the other hand, clearly had some issues, which the other characters clearly saw as weird. If Ritsu and Mio were into each other like that, then why would they find the idea of a girl fascinated with the thought of two girls being together weird? Thankfully that element of Mugi was limited to an occasional comedic scene as opposed to being a primary part of her character.

            If you can’t tell, I like K-On!.

            1. From what I read, the show acknowledges the concept, and has the character of Mugi to represent that. The wiki of the series mentions the explanation presented in the manga, about why Mugi has that fascination. A friend (and maid-like figure), brought her yuri manga because Mugi wanted to know how the life of other girls was (she had a sheltered childhood), and she became enthralled with these. Maybe she is an example of a non-ideologized yuri fangirl.

              I’m not sure if the series has similar instances of the stuff these type of fans want.

              1. I can’t really say. I mean, I guess I just like K-On! because it’s cute and about music, and I like music. Outside of Mugi (and despite the background, she’s fairly tame, and I wouldn’t even call it a defining characteristic but rather a quirk), it’s a fairly clean series. If anything, I guess we could say Mugi’s situation can serve as a warning to not get into anything without understanding how it compares to real life. Obviously, yuri manga is not a fair representation of what average females are like, much like anime is not a good indication of what Japan is like (and I think I’ve been guilty of judging the country as such in the past).

      2. You’re welcome!

        The stumbling block method is good (is a called avoiding occasions of sin, too), but not for every situations. Some things, like yuri, require avoiding by matters of principle, I think.

        For some instances of fanservice, is useful, Example. Tame beach episodes; maybe some people is tempted by the sight of characters wearing bikinis, but others don’t. In that case, the line is drawn when the episode ventures into ecchi territory, that’s something that is better to avoid entirely.

        But with yuri, is different.

        About what you call shoujo-ai, I get what are you referring to. Many times are just close or intense friendships, and fans like to see more than what is shown. But, in some cases, the yuri subtext is there. And said subtext usually is presented in two ways. Easily seen romantic elements, or, symbolic ones. A typical is example is Madoka.

        I haven’t seen the entire series (only 4 episodes, I think), but since 2011 I have read a lot about it. Is a frequent topic not only on common anime forums and blogs, but in religious ones too. This blog is an example of that. The symbolic elements are present in little details like the red ribbons, the visual references to iconic yuri series, and some subtext in the relationships between the girls. Also, there is an interview to Gen Urobuchi, and, the illustrations and drawings of Ume Aoki, who depicts romantic relationships between the girls. Other thing, is quasi divinization of the relationship between Madoka and Homura… that could be understood, as a quasi divinization of yuri.

        Is not a secret that some fans of the genre see it as a purer or innocent form of love, and couple that with moé aesthetics… a dangerous recipe. Speaking of yuri idealization, etc, it reminds me of this quote from a book by Albert Frank-Duquesne:

        “What horrifies the Sodomites, like later the Manicheans and Albigensians* … is marriage, the perpetuation of the flesh, “the work of the Demiurge” everything that the flesh contributes to the divine plan for man, flesh of which Christ was born…””

        *He is speaking about certain gnostic sects and movements.

        Are we seeing a resurgence of gnostic ideas? yes. Some writers, philosophers and theologians see various gnostic elements in modernity.

        Back to friendships between girls, a useful method could be examining what is being presented to us, and when it crosses the line. Sadly, after the success of the cute girls doing cute things formula series, there have been many shows that inject yuri elements… it could be said, what is wrong with only friendships? why they “need” to include romantic elements? and, why the fans consume it?

        I think one can connect that with the topic of parents. More inclusion of family themes could counter these aforementioned elements? exploring the often neglected family relationships could present many interesting situations, and also, could improve the fandom too.

        I think many people are trying to fill a void, and a need, and these are being filled with distorting elements.

        1. Regarding your last few paragraphs – I would say it’s the opposite. I don’t think very many are injecting yuri or related things into moe but that they are injecting moe into whatever they already are doing. Nowadays, an easy way to make sales is to add cute girls doing cute things, and KyoAni is the most successful perpetrator of this, changing all their source material to make things extra moe because it works. And when it comes to yuri, you already have cute girls – why not make them do cute things too to boost sales?

          As for your theoretical questions, I think they are questions which can be easily answered by changing your viewpoint from a religious one to a Japanese otaku culture one. The otaku industry has evolved to cater heavily toward fans. “More than friendships” or the “need to include x” is because that’s what fans want and as a business, it’s a financially correct decision. But again, what they are adding is moe, not yuri, because moe is what sells best. Why do fans consume it? Because it’s what they enjoy, and they don’t have any kind of moral or compelling reason not to.

          Change won’t happen by simply giving better stories – at best, it just widens their interest. Clannad is probably the most popular family-orientated story, but while Japanese fans loved it, their love for yuri/etc. hardly changed at all because from their viewpoint, why should it? To them, why can’t they love both? You also have anime like Sazae-san and Space Brothers which are absurdly popular in Japan, but there is still no “counter” occurring. Another example would be Ever17, which revolutionized the way people viewed visual novels. Yet, 12 years later, even though the stories being written are much more varied, it’s still primarily a medium for R-18 material. They’re filled with distorting elements because they need sales, and that’s how the culture has evolved over the last 2 decades.

          1. Yes, the Japanese viewpoint… I was thinking on the reactions by the western fan, but, we aren’t the target group of the majority of their products, so you have a point about having wholesome proucts don’t influencing them that much… could be a numbers game? more different products? but the process for such a change would take a lot of time, they have already certain expectations and tastes, and it seems that these are deeply ingrained (?). Do you think that they are adding moé to their yuri series, instead of adding yuri to slice of life or moé series? I think it could be both.

            1. Sure, it can be both. But I think it also goes back to how people define “yuri,” as I can think of very few moe/sol anime that actually incorporate yuri undertones, whereas the reverse is easier. “Elements” can become so vague with misuse so I don’t consider most examples to be legitimate. Note that I can think of a number of non-moe/sol shows that add yuri, however.

              1. I think there are various categories:

                Yuri subtext type a: Symbolic elements, references to yuri series, -things that not everyone can pick-. Maybe are there because the author likes the referenced works, want to include subtle things, or is trowing bits and pieces for fans.

                Yuri subtext type b: Romantic friendships, some romantic hints that don’t go anywhere, easily seen.

                Yuri elements: More obvious things, clearly romantic or sexual displays of affection.

                Intense or deep friendships are excluded.

                Yes, in other genres these are present too (like the yaoi pandering in sports anime). I pointed SoL and moé, because some examples in the last two or three years.

              2. I see that you are living in Japan, your insight on the Japanese fan and the industry is greatly appreciated.

  2. As the foremost proclaimer of the goodness of moe shows, I am glad to see more attention given to them. Soon, the whole world shall know of the greatness that is moe! 😛

    My own tastes aside, this was a great article. Though I’m reminded of a scene in a video game where a character wants to slap another character out of his doldrums, but doesn’t realize that you slap someone with an open palm and punches him in the face… But hey, it’s the thought that counts, she says, right? (At least no bones were broken; I’m sure no amount of “thoughts” can account for that…)

    Oh, and thanks for the link to my article. I ought to do a follow-up to that now that Sakura Trick is over and done with…

    1. Yeah, it’s situations like that (fictional or not) that often lead to a negative view of “the thought that counts”. I think it truly does come down to whether your heart is in the right place, though. Some terribly evil people in history could have some support that their intentions were good, if not their methods, but I am of the belief that any atrocities, even if for the right reasons, will fall through if investigated fully (often from some sort of ignorance stemmed from actually NOT caring enough to learn).

      Thanks for your compliment and thanks for reading! I’d love to read a follow-up article if you get around to it!

  3. Wonderful post! You took a debated, occasionally heated topic and made it simple. And yet it’s not oversimplified. I like the analogies you used. I haven’t seen “Is the Order a Rabbit,” but I was able to latch onto the Father’s Day (and Mother’s Day) connections. I was able to imagine the characters… although, unlike with many posts on here, this didn’t come close to convincing me to watch. I’m not a fan of “moeblob”—when I tried K-On! a few years ago, it almost put me to sleep.

    The add-on made me laugh… I usually make a point not to let puns get to me, but by the time I got to TWWK’s “Curly, Larry, and Moe,” you had me. ^.^

  4. Wonderful post^^ I admit it didn’t even occur to me to add this into my backlog of current anime season. I’m wondering about the “shoujo-ai” element you mentioned, but I assume it’s on the same comedic level of Mugi’s “yuri goggles” from K-ON or Yuru Yuri in general, and nothing like Sakura Trick, which is more of a bona fide yuri.

    Anyway onto the topic, it’s actually pretty refreshing, and heart-warming too, I might add, to see an episode in a moeblob focusing on the familial side, which like you said, is a part of the show usually not focused on. Although slice of life usually goes hand-in-hand with moeblob, I think it had more to do with the creator’s intended narrative rather than the medium or the genre. One slice of life, specifically, Tamayura, has an ongoing familial theme throughout the show, while still keeping everything generally slow-paced. I think it’s something moeblobs are also capable of, if they want to, that is.

    1. Thank you!

      If you’re not typically a fan of any moeblobs, then I cannot recommend Is the Order a Rabbit. Despite my liking it, it is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. Also, while the shoujo-ai “elements” can be interpreted however you wish (see Kaze’s above comments), they are more overt than I remember K-On! being. With that said, if that’s something that bothers you, then that is another reason to not recommend it.

      Yes, while the family elements were not of extreme focus, I have been pleasantly surprised to at least see a little bit of attention paid. It’s definitely something that makes an otherwise average anime like Clannad much more notable.

      Thanks for reading!

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