There’s practically an entire anime genre featuring cute anime girls carrying big guns and going to battle. Off the top of my head, Girls und Panzer, Sora no Woto, The Third Aerial Girls Squad (the series the SHIROBAKO crew creates during the second cour of that series), and Violet Evergarden come to mind. Add to that franchises like Kantai Collection, which, if you’re not familiar, features characters that Wikipedia describes as “moe anthropomorphisms of World War II naval warships,” and the category is firmly entrenched.
Over on our Tumblr account, I post lots of fan art illustrations. Recently, I’ve been posting artwork showing characters from the Girls’ Frontline mobile game. I’ve also come across some illustrations of anime-style girls in the world of Battlefield 1, the setting of which is very appropriate, since that game takes place during WWI and in a few days, we’ll celebrate both Veterans Day / Armistice Day and the 100th anniversary of the armistice between Germany and the Allies on the western front during WWI.
Its an exciting time for me—I’m a WWI nut and in my professional work as a historian, I’ve been particularly involved in the 100-year commemoration of the Great War during these last several years. I was talking to a colleague yesterday about how wonderful the National WWI Museum in Kansas City is and how I spent hours browsing books in their gift shop when I last visited. I enjoy reading about the war, maybe especially so because we don’t hear a lot about it in the U.S., as opposed to in Europe where the devastation was felt everywhere, where it still impacts the continent.
And considering all the brutality and tragedy of the war, and the artwork I’ve been reblogging, I’m left to wonder: is it okay to moe-ify war?
Certainly in one sense, that answer is a resounding YES. Yes, it’s okay. Yes, we have the freedom to do so. But more than “okay,” one could argue for the goodness of doing it, of developing our own expression no matter the content, and that it helps us develop more fully our capacity as creative beings.
But on the other hand, I think of perhaps the furthest end of such a question. Survivors of WWI are ceasing to exist, but if we take something more recent, like the on-going conflict in Palestine, or more horrendous, like the Holocaust, and wonder whether it would be okay to moe-ify that, most of us would at least pause before answering, and many, like myself, would find it hurtful and in very poor taste to do so. It’s one thing to write historical fiction that decries the horror of genocide and quite another to develop an anime featuring cute anime girls fighting the Battle of the Somme. Or does it even matter, especially since WWI is so distant from us, because the impact has dulled.
I want to turn the question to you, our readers. What do you think about making cuteness out of WWI? Of moe-fying some tragic event in history? Of the greater questions of art and war?
Let us know in the comment section below!
Featured illustration by NEKO (reprinted w/permission)