Last week, I asked for reader response regarding the “moe-ifying” of tragic events, with particular emphasis on WWI. JeskaiAngel, one of our regular guest contributors, couldn’t keep his thoughts to a single comment—he sent us this entire article!
Charles asked, “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?”
This is basically just a specific application of the much broader question of how we ought to depict all historical figures & events (whether in art, non-fiction, or whatever). I know it may seem like a stretch, but I’m not sure that moe anime girls representing WWII battleships are really different in kind from Shakespeare’s historical plays such as “Julius Caesar” or “Henry V,” or from a comic strip using stick figures (tangent: imagine how awesome it would be if XKCD were about history instead of science!).
First, let’s expand on the potential spiritual value in fictional stories of conflict and danger (whether the threats are historically inspired or entirely fictional). Since every conversation needs more G. K. Chesterton, I offer the following:
“Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.” (from Tremendous Trifles)
If we accept the profound significance that stories of battles and heroes may contain, I can devise no logical reason that we should not be free to draw inspiration from history as we create stories. Likewise, I can devise no logical reason to distinguish between different mediums for depicting history-in-fiction. It’s arbitrary to say that depicting historical events through a play written in Elizabethan English is fine, but doing so using moe anime girls is inherently unacceptable.
Okey-day, but why would we want to use history in our fiction? History can be employed for world building and increase a story’s verisimilitude. It can help the creator more powerfully depict something neither creator nor audience has ever experienced personally. Assuming the audience is familiar with the historical subject, it can provide the creator a shortcut for helping the audience understand what’s going on in the story. It even has the potential to be genuinely educational in some small measure! I’m sure there are other potential benefits, but those are a few possibilities.
In terms of what is acceptable for history-used-in-fiction, we still need to ask about the specifics of each particular story. What is the aim of an individual work of fiction? What is its tone, message, or lesson? Does it market itself as historically accurate or merely as being loosely inspired by history? Is the average consumer going to be seriously mislead about historical truth via this work, or will she fairly easily discern that the story is taking great liberties with its source material? Exactly how respectful / disrespectful, accurate / fictionalized, serious / comical is the historical figure or event portrayed? And what specific historical event or figure are we talking about? Are we slandering a saint? Are we justifying a villain? Also note that not focusing on something isn’t necessarily the same as actively denying or mischaracterizing it. There are many conditionally wrong ways to portray history (in nonfiction, fiction, visual art, etc.), but we need the nitty-gritty “what” and “how” questions to help us discern what is appropriate in the case of the specific portrayal of a specific topic.
How we answer many of the questions above is a matter of temporal distance. One of the greatest benefits of historical study (as opposed to contemporary, eyewitness or journalistic accounts) is distance in time. Physical distance changes our perspective toward an object. A mountain can fill my entire range of vision when I stand at its foot, but can be a speck on the horizon when I’m many miles away. Likewise, temporal distance gives us the chance to appreciate the people and events of the past in a way that was simply impossible for contemporary observers. Primary source accounts have incredible value, of course, and without them history would be impossible. Nonetheless, because historians are distant in time from the topics they study, they can perceive the past differently than those who experienced it, and can understand and comment upon it in a way that contemporary figures couldn’t or wouldn’t have.
All this is true not only of non-fiction historical works, but also of fiction-that-uses-history. As we grow more distant in time from events and people, we tend to view them more dispassionately – we feel less connected because we ARE less connected, and thus are not emotionally invested in those events / people to the degree that earlier generations were. This change in perspective enables us to use historical figures / stories in ways that wouldn’t have been socially, culturally, or emotionally acceptable in the past. Of course, the statute of limitations on history in fiction isn’t the same for every historical topic. No one has a problem using the Cold War as a setting for humor (“In America, you get joke. In Soviet Russia, joke get you!”), but the Holocaust, which happened before the Cold War, is still absolutely taboo when it comes jokes. People of my (our? depending on your age, dear reader) generation aren’t like to write lighthearted stories about 9/11. But a baby born this year may very well grow up to pen such stories—because 9/11 won’t have the same emotional weight for him or for his society that it does to me others old enough to remember 9/11 and how it changed life in America.
One big argument raised by people who don’t want to see historical tragedies—especially war—portrayed in anything but the grimmest of terms runs something like this (probably not best phrasing the argument, but hopefully it works): “The real events were so savage that any depiction emphasizing something else and not driving home the true horror is a dishonor to the people who suffered.” To depict war as anything but grave evil is equivalent to glorifying evil and callously disregarding human suffering.
The problem with this argument is that ignores all the parts of history outside suffering and evil. War is terrible, but that’s not all there is to the experience of war. The same men who wrote home describing battlefield horror during the American Civil War also wrote of nature’s beauty. They depicted acts of compassion they witnessed and expressed compassion themselves. They shared humorous anecdotes. They penned flirtatious letters to their wives. They mused thoughtfully about love and marriage and raising children and war and God and life and liberty and human nature. This complexity of both history and human nature is at least part of what enables us to depict historical events in different ways, e.g. “cute girls doing cute things…in the trenches at Verdun.”
Finally, to treat war as *nothing but* an immense evil is to do an injustice to the people who experienced it. It ignores the truth that those people in part triumphed over all that horror and evil and suffering by not letting those things wholly define their existence. The same is true in our own lives with the suffering we face. The proverbial cancer patient who cracks jokes about their condition isn’t being flippant or morbid – they’re showing that their illness doesn’t dominate their life and putting it in its place. And I suspect this is also true of how we deal with historical events. We are literally a century removed from the horrors of the First World War, but I would argue that there is yet an element of good overcoming evil to be found in our ability to take something so terrible and transform it with cuteness.
But this whole “making something good out of something bad” business isn’t something that started with us humans. It began with God himself, who throughout the Bible is constantly bringing good out of evil. “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good,” Joseph said of his brothers selling him into slavery. The story par excellence of God bringing good out of evil is the crucifixion. God took the worst, most evil deed that could ever be done – humans viciously murdering their perfectly innocent, good, loving Creator – and used it effect the greatest good ever: defeating sin and providing a way for us to be reconciled to him, and defeating death through the resurrection of Jesus. Using bad to achieve good doesn’t negate the suffering of the victims, nor does it negate the guilt of the evildoers, but it does say that wickedness and ugliness and pain don’t get the last word. Mixing war with moe anime girls isn’t remotely on the same level as the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, but I believe that whenever we manage to make something good out of evil, we are in some small way imitating our Creator. And that’s always a good thing.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Featured art by Nagu (artist allows reprints)
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10 thoughts on “Guest Post: Kawaii Trench Warfare”
lol when you just comment aw
What a great post! I wholeheartedly agree.
This is kind of an interesting subject, and this too is a very thoughtful and enlightening post! :} <3
One thing I think we need to be really clear about is the cultural and social context of "making light of" a particularly evil thing that happened. Distance isn't solely a function of time, for example. As an example, the enslavement of African-Americans now ended nearly two hundred years ago. But we are not at all distant from those events— not in the slightest. Modern generations are still grappling with and dealing with the implications of the world that we created, and are recreating with each generation: a world in which Black people are treated as inferior. And so, as a result, making a moe depiction of American slavery is not only absolutely off-limits, but possibly disgusting and creepy. And it's going to be a really, really long time before that changes.
We also need to consider *who* is doing the writing. A pretty classical example of this problem is the cultural appropriation of Native American culture. While I'd argue that it's perfectly alright for cultures to change, intermix, and relate to one another in new ways with each generation…White ladies wearing Native American headresses once reserved for old and wise people still comes off as super offensive to Native Americans. It's because instead of indigenous folks themselves deciding how their culture will interact with the dominant culture, people who know absolutely nothing about it are essentially running around wearing fake Purple Hearts or Presidential Medals of Freedom as if their culture was already dead and gone. And it very much isn't. There are a huge variety of indigenous cultures, with different traditions, language, religions, and beliefs. And we're cheapening them.
"There are many conditionally wrong ways to portray history (in nonfiction, fiction, visual art, etc.), but we need the nitty-gritty “what” and “how” questions to help us discern what is appropriate in the case of the specific portrayal of a specific topic."
So yeah, I strongly agree with your point here! It's context-dependent, and sometimes recontextualizing historical events and reusing them for new creative expression is wonderful, and helps people understand them. There's an argument about whether depicting women as these innocent, inhuman, saintlike, childlike beings in anime is actually a good idea (especially when it's used as an easy shortcut to get the audience to care about what is happening, or used to satisfy the presumed audience's not-so-secret desire for women who are actually like this)….but that's a completely different and more complicated issue too. :]
Like, somewhere in my head I have this whole weird soapbox rant about moe and about how the anime depictions of moe damage and limit the lives of their real-life young girl counterparts, idol singers. (Perfect Blue is itself basically a movie *about* this subject, and gets at it by showing the real human being behind the entertainer’s deliberate illusion.) There’s also a complicated line of thought there about humans having fantasies about humans that could never and never did exist, and how that impacts the real class of people being shown, and whether or not it’s morally “okay” to pursue a kind of escapism that, in essence, holds other people to an impossible standard and then resents them when they explain it’s impossible. Women and men and nonbinary folks alike do this in America (myself included), as if it were the most natural thing in the world, and I still wonder if the reason we do it is because we are trying to define and commune with God.
Thank you for the comments!
1. “cultural and social context…Distance isn’t solely a function of time”
Amen. When I writing, I also had in mind other types of metaphorical “distance,” such as cultural and geographical distance. In the final product I didn’t address them clearly, though.
2. “the enslavement of African-Americans now ended nearly two hundred years ago”
Erm, well, the Emancipation Proclamation only went into effect a month shy of 156 years ago, and the 13th Amendment was ratified a few days short of 153 years ago, so slavery isn’t even as long ago as you suggest. But in the case of slavery specifically, I think the core issue is not so much slavery as racism. American chattel slavery is inextricably bound up with the problem of bigotry, and that’s a problem we’re still wrestling with today, sadly. The ongoing nature of racism as a problem reduces our sense of distance. We’ve made great progress when it comes to racial discrimination as a legal or cultural institution, but the connections between today’s issues and the past keep slavery “closer” to the present than the number of years might lead us to expect.
3. I confess that I find the modern notion of cultural appropriation to be, at best, rather silly. To cite your example, I don’t really care if people go around wearing fake purple hearts, so I likewise don’t care if light-skinned women adopt feathery headgear – I’m not in favor of either, but I’m also not all that bothered. Now, it’s one thing to LIE, e.g. to falsely claim you earned a purple heart, or to falsely claim you’re an Indian. *cough*SenatorElizabethWarren*cough* 😉 Lying is wrong, whether I’m lying about what I ate for breakfast or about receiving some award. But if you think purple hearts look cool and make or buy one to pin ostentatiously on your t-shirts or your work attire, I’m not going to be hurt. I’ll think it’s dumb and tacky and I’ll draw negative conclusions about your judgment, but I won’t be upset. It’s very much the same thing in my mind as burning the American flag. It’s is absolutely legal for you or me to go out and burn a flag. I think flag-burning is stupid, but I have no desire to actively prevent anyone from doing it. I know some would argue that I’m being insensitive, or privileged, or some other such nonsense, but this is how I’ve come to see the issue.
There’s also the fact that people have ALWAYS borrowed from other cultures – food, language, clothing, art, music, architecture, holidays, etc. No group of people collectively owns the patent for the idea of a certain word / food / article of clothing /etc., just because that thing was devised by their ancestors. Did the Japanese need to ask permission from Europe or America before they adopted Christmas as a purely secular holiday complete with decorated trees, lights, Santa, Christmas music, etc.? Of course not. Did the world’s native English speakers collectively ask permission to use words like tortilla, spaghetti, or ramen, and to make the foods those words denote? No. Nor did they need to do so. If one person or group sees an idea or thing that another group has, and thinks “Oh, that’s really cool / useful / whatever! We should do the same thing!” good for them as far as I’m concerned. They were open minded enough see something valuable in a cultural that was no their own. There never has existed and never will exist some of sort of “Official Cultural Borrowing Permissions Process (TM).” 😀
Again, let me emphasize that we should respect others and avoid needlessly giving offense. Paul writes in his epistles quite a bit about how we should strive to be at peace with all people, insofar as depends on us, and he talks about although we may, strictly speaking, be at liberty to do something, there may be cases where we need to abstain because of how it affects someone else. But in the ways I’ve heard “cultural appropriation” discussed or seen it applied, I think it’s a foolish notion that goes well beyond the bounds of reason.
4. “whether depicting women as these innocent, inhuman, saintlike, childlike beings in anime is actually a good idea”
“Indeed, Daniel Jackson.” Really, this is just a subcategory of the bigger question of how women are depicted in fiction (which is, all too often, in demeaning, disrespectful, and/or objectifying ways). Moe *can* be just as problematic as an impossibly oversized bust, in terms of objectification. However, while I can’t imagine that depicting female characters with breasts the size of the Titantic ever serves any purpose besides objectification, I find moe a little more complicated. The style might just give you warm, fuzzy, aww-how-cute feelings without having the slightest impact on your conception of how women should look / behave. OR it might be something you fantasize about lustfully and/or apply to your expectations for real-life human females. As with historical events, it also depends on the specifics of the depiction. Some anime (whether they indulge in moe or not) rarely or never sexualize their characters. Other anime seem to have been made with the sole purpose of stringing together as many suggestive situations as possible to make softcore porn. So, I guess my conclusion again comes down to “It depends on the specifics, rather than on moe being inherently good or bad.”
Thanks for the discussion!
“Really, this is just a subcategory of the bigger question of how women are depicted in fiction … The style might just give you warm, fuzzy, aww-how-cute feelings without having the slightest impact on your conception of how women should look / behave. OR it might be something you fantasize about lustfully and/or apply to your expectations for real-life human females.”
I would say this is kind of focusing on a different problem with moe than the one I was driving at. The second clause in the “The style” sentence is close, but it’s missing something. Basically, *why* do we see moe characters as cute, and when we watch them, what exactly are we trying to view? And why are we getting entertainment out of it? The problem is that we can’t really argue that women of this age, in and of themselves, are cute. The vast majority of actual human teenagers of the same rough age (I was…admittedly sort of an exception), in Japan or otherwise, aren’t really viewed in this way. When they are, it’s because they themselves agreed explicitly to sell a fantasy version of themselves (see Japanese idol singers), rather than any aspect of them that actually exist. Instead, it’s a lie many cultures tell themselves about women that’s being seen as “cute,” because it’s an ideal of women who are untainted by serious, lustful sexual impulses and complicated emotions. Moe girls are essentially injenues. The problem isn’t whether we sexualize these characters or not, or even whether we see them as accurate depictions of real women. It’s in the desiring to watch them versus depictions closer to real teenage girls that the problem with the depiction lies.
Objectification isn’t as simple as merely viewing something as a *sexual* object or not. To get at what I mean, it’s probably best to compare the moe girls to their nearest analogous counterparts: bishounen. The essential purpose of these characters is to depict an “impossible,” idealized human man for a presumably female audience. The bishounen is often uncannily confident and authoritative way beyond however old he actually looks or even is. (And, let’s point it out, he almost always looks younger than 30). He is skilled at whatever it is he tries to do, to the point of vastly outclassing the actual main protagonist (who is either a young girl or a young boy). He often has a rank that is flat out impossible for him to have attained at his age and level of experience. He is handsome to the point of looking like a pop star or a model, who are the only class of people who could ever achieve his appearance. He often has an interest in the protagonist. If the protagonist is female, that interest is rather explicitly romantic, but usually without even mentioning or implying sex. Unlike a moe character, he usually appears calm, composed, and psychologically mature. But he is fundamentally the same sort of creature as a moe girl.
They are both idealized, impossible, I would say *angelic* (here not necessarily meaning “good” or “pure,” but as in the species) human characters that exist not to mimic humans but to provide humans with an expression of some deep-seated common desire for something that can never be attained. And what I’m wondering about is whether this common form of harmless fantasy actually is harmless. Or whether, even if it isn’t, it is inevitable.
Interesting…so I guess I didn’t fully understand the crux of your point the first time around. Hopefully now I do?
“The problem is that we can’t really argue that women of this age, in and of themselves, are cute. The vast majority of actual human teenagers of the same rough age (I was…admittedly sort of an exception), in Japan or otherwise, aren’t really viewed in this way.”
Wait, what? I was under the impression that teenage girls were widely and often associated with cuteness. Is that not the case? I don’t know if I would have felt that way when I was a teenager myself (though I didn’t actually know any girls my age, so it’s hard to say), but now at least I totally think teenagers (male and female alike) are capable of being quite cute. They look youthful, often have an innocent (in the sense of being inexperienced with life) earnestness and idealism about them, and still behave in childlike ways at times (because, well, they literally are still children, albeit ones making the transition to adulthood). I’m not talking idol singers, but IRL humans in the 13-19 age range. Maybe my perspective is…weird? Wouldn’t be the first time that happened. But at least speaking for myself, I would certainly take issue with the idea that teenagers aren’t cute. Teenagers are much more than just cute, but I can say they often possess a measure of cuteness without excluding their many other qualities.
“an ideal of women who are untainted by serious, lustful sexual impulses and complicated emotions”
…whoa. Okey-day, this might be my noob-anime-fan status coming through, but I associated with “moe” with a certain kind of visual depiction: cartoony, round faces, huge eyes, diminutive stature, etc. I have never associated that artistic style with a desire for women “untained” by sexuality and complex emotions. (Of course, my history of dealing with my own sexuality is kind of…messy…so maybe I was just so focused on wishing I wasn’t a sexual creature and/or messed up in terms of brain chemistry, that I just never had time to bother worrying about anyone else?) Is this attitude you describe – moe as wish fulfillment for the desire for a simpleminded, non-sexual, teenage girl – something considered common knowledge about anime fans generally, or maybe fans of moe in particular?
“The essential purpose of these characters is to depict an “impossible,” idealized human…”
“idealized, impossible, I would say *angelic*…human characters that exist not to mimic humans but to provide humans with an expression of some deep-seated common desire”
So, if this is a problem, then storytelling and art for all of human history has the same problem. Humans have been expressing exalted ideals and impossible longings through stories and the visual arts for as far back as we have any stories or artwork. Gilgamesh and Achilles were, at least in some respects, unrealistic ideals. Fast-forward to today and Captain America and Superman are, at least in certain respects, unrealistic ideals. While Jesus is not a fictional character and I believe his story as presented in the gospels is historically true, Jesus in all his sinlessness and love and perfection is also, in a way, the heroic embodiment of an ideal to which none of us will ever attain (at least not in this life). And yet, Christians are commanded to imitate Jesus; we fall short the aspiration, and will keep falling short of it our entire lives, but that doesn’t invalidate the aspiration itself. The reality is that we all have dreams and longings both to have & to be “more” and “better” than what we find in life under the sun. This kind of thing goes all the way back to the Epic of Gilgamesh and the king’s quest for immortality. Additionally, realistic and idealized depictions are not mutually exclusive (e.g., some anime skews heavily toward realism, and some toward moe, and both can coexist and be consumed by the same viewers). It’s also possible to have both unrealistic ideals and stark realism in the same depiction (e.g., an anime character might look more fabulous than we ever could, AND struggle with painfully realistic family problems that we easily identify with). Achilles’ invincibility in battle may be unrealistic, but his pride is super realistic.
I can’t see any inherent problem with using stories and the visual arts to express impossible ideals and deep-seated desires. That’s not to say there are absolutely no limits (e.g., pornography is wrong). But I can’t agree that being impossible idealizations necessarily makes moe (or bishounen) dangerous or problematic. They may still deserve criticism, but unless we want to throw out most of stories humans have ever told and most of the visual artwork humans have ever created, I don’t think that trying “to depict an “impossible,” idealized human” is a good basis for finding fault with moe/bishounen. We must always distinguish between the real and the ideal – unrealistic expectations are poison, no matter what they pertain to, and so we must discern between that which is, that which is not but is still possible, and expressions of desire for the truly impossible. This is true of all media we consume, not just moe anime.
Thanks! Your comments are always intellectually stimulating! 🙂
“Wait, what? I was under the impression that teenage girls were widely and often associated with cuteness. Is that not the case? I don’t know if I would have felt that way when I was a teenager myself (though I didn’t actually know any girls my age, so it’s hard to say), but now at least I totally think teenagers (male and female alike) are capable of being quite cute.”
Hehe! I suspect this may be a difference of perception. You see, I actually *was* myself a teenage girl at some point in my life. And, in America at least, the perception of them that we generally see is….petty, mindless, passive-aggressive and gossipy, too sexual for their age or even coquettish, cliquey, with generally superficial and completely meaningless interests. Basically, they’re seen as “young women,” with everything that implies. You still see teenage girls portrayed as ingenues on occasion (which is closer to how “moe” is used in Japan), but for the most part the “cute” depiction is less common than the “sexy and take-charge” depiction and the “aggressively cruel and superficial” depiction. Additionally I suppose you could add the “ideal young woman” depiction, which gets nearer to how teenage girls in America actually are, but these aren’t really portrayed as “cute” either. I suppose it might be though that in Japan, teenage girls do attempt to act as close to the “moe” ideal as possible and it ends up evening out (in the same way that teenage girls in America can project themselves into the “fiesty good girl” stereotypes). And that the error is more cultural on my part.
“Is this attitude you describe – moe as wish fulfillment for the desire for a simpleminded, non-sexual, teenage girl – something considered common knowledge about anime fans generally, or maybe fans of moe in particular?”
Yeah. Moe is about more than the visual style of these characters from my understanding. It also has to do with how they are acting. Like, shows like K-ON!, A Lull in the Sea, Sound Euphonium….the appeal isn’t solely the look of the art style. It also has to deal with the fact that watching these characters live their lives is somehow inherently more appealing than watching actual people of the same age live theirs. For instance, the demographic of people who watch anime is, I suspect, different from those who watch CW shows, so it can’t be that watching simulations of supposedly, actual people is the appeal here. Moe as a concept is often associated with a desire to *protect* the character from harm or hug them half to death, and I don’t think that’s solely due to the appearance of these characters.
“They may still deserve criticism, but unless we want to throw out most of stories humans have ever told and most of the visual artwork humans have ever created, I don’t think that trying “to depict an “impossible,” idealized human” is a good basis for finding fault with moe/bishounen.”
Well…criticism is different from rejection, I’d say. I’m not exempt from the category of people I hit with my own criticisms – not remotely. I too have a desire for a person that can never, ever be a real human being. Whether he is actually a real *person* is a rather different question and somewhat complicated (as I’d have to determine who or what exactly he is first, and the most logical inference is that he technically is real, but he acts exactly nothing like I think he does) but the way that I actually go about comprehending and understanding him is visually and personally human, and that *cannot* be the case. XD So…I’m criticizing myself, too, for having this standard that no human man can ever meet, and to which I’d throw away everything if it meant just being physically next to him.
“We must always distinguish between the real and the ideal – unrealistic expectations are poison, no matter what they pertain to, and so we must discern between that which is, that which is not but is still possible, and expressions of desire for the truly impossible.”
And I kinda agree with this, here, and am also, I suppose, questioning the basis of humankind’s impossible ideals. Idealizing Jesus and wanting to be like Him is sort of sweet, and I’d say….a pretty different phenomenon than wanting to *possess* Him, to control or own His attention and be in His heart. That is, objectifying Him. And that’s actually where my uncertainty around these kinds of desires arises. There are forms of these desires that are natural and indeed what God commanded us to do (wanting to be in God’s Heart, for example, is the goal of the human race!) but they are complicated desires. Are we truly meant to desire that empty-headed innocence, or that invincible confidence, or is it more that we sometimes wish getting at our more hedonistic desires in relationships was easier than it actually is? To desire to devour or be devoured by another, to lose yourself in Lust and Love, to *want* something that can stay forever on the pedestal where you placed it….Well, it’s…natural, as natural as breathing, and also deeply dangerous too when it seeps into how you interact with people.
But well, now I’m getting kinda philosophical. :p
Aha. Yeah, the desire to possess / control is deeply problematic.
FWIW, I used to watch CW shows (Arrow / Flash / Legends – are those shows even still around, I wonder?), and quit when they turned out to be soap-operas with super powers. I’d argue that the characters in many anime are far more “realistic” in behavior and emotion than the characters I saw in CW shows – being portrayed on screen by humans instead of being animated and merely voiced by humans did not mean they were realistic characters. That said, moe as a subcategory of anime may be a different case (as could other genres within anime). I had never heard of, let alone seen, any of the shows you mentioned (K-ON!, A Lull in the Sea, Sound Euphonium), so I’m not in a position to comment on the kind anime you had in mind.