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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Moe Manifesto Interview with Author Patrick W. Galbraith

Patrick W. Galbraith with Minky Momo
"A rarefied pseudo-love for certain fictional characters (in anime, manga, and the like) and their related embodiments, " that's what you'll find under the term Moe on Wikipedia. Wikipedia quotes Patrick W. Galbraith, the author of the book The Moe Manifesto. Patrick is that well connected to Moe he is part of the definition in modern society.

The Moe Manifesto: An Insider's Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime, and Gaming
Out Now
$12.43 on Amazon as of writing this

Following in the interview we find out that his new book could have started with connecting bronies and their love akin to Moe love, that women don't have to be real to be loved and people can be relatively nice and still hate you politely in Japan.Over a Skype call from LA to Japan we chatted over why he made this book and who he interviewed.

Moe what is it? Patrick started with, "So, it's a contested word. One thing we look at in the book is that I interviewed various different people about their own perceptions of it, where it comes from. Most of them tie it back to the 70's, it's sort of a historical narrative as well. But there's a lot of different people talking about it in a lot of different ways that will say it's a marketing thing, people say it's a personal sort of affection. After talking with all these people and doing the research I think a functional definition would be: Moe is a response to a fictional character or representations of it."

I then told Patrick he was the Wiki's definition of Moe or rather he is directly quoted in Wikipedia's definition of the word. He laughed, he had no idea he was part of it. In Wikipedia his definition is worded a little differently, "a rarefied pseudo-love for certain fictional characters (in anime, manga, and the like) and their related embodiments." Still laughing over it I told him he already defines the word.

"It's true Moe became a word in the 1990's, but the response to these characters was much longer standing." He was going over how Moe may not be well represented in literature and understanding out of Japan, but in Japan it's already been discussed.

Reflecting on his earlier work I should have known he would have wanted to do more interviews. This entire book being interviews still surprised me when I first opened it. I bluntly asked him, "Why just interviews?"

He explained how the voice of the Japanese is taken for less than it's worth and propagated by our own media. For example he said, "... he's cited in the New York Times talking about Moe and he says , 'It's easier to do in your mind or it's more affective to do it in your mind then it is to do it with a real women, 'and then the newspaper prints it and goes, 'oh, those weird Japanese, those silly Japanese."

Patrick had two goals from the interviews in the book:
1. To interview those really part of the Moe culture.
2. Having a space for those involved with Moe without any shortcuts and bits to get wanted they wanted to say in full out.

"If you're looking for a sustained discussion from the Japanese of the concept of Moe, then this is your book, " Patrick said ending his points on why it's all interviews.

We chatted shortly over Otaku Spaces, Patrick's previous title from another publisher about the homes of Otaku. Then a short chat about the Otaku Encyclopedia, covering all things Otaku and the different projects Patrick has been attached to. Strangely, the new book is almost the same size as the Encyclopedia from 2009.

2008, even before the Encyclopedia, Patrick was working on the book. It was only in 2012 he wrapped up the book, with years of interviews and research he went looking for a publisher. Production and design of the book was part of the process having it wait to come out in 2014.

"Were the interviews in person?, " I asked. "Always in person, I'm kind of old fashioned in that way. I really like to sit down with a person and ask them question and see them respond, " Patrick replied.

He brought up Maeda June, a scenario writer. Patrick recalled him looking distraught when he first saw him. Maeda opened up during their discussion to a point where Patrick learned how serious he took the topic of Moe. A list of questions of e-mail would never have gotten the same effect without Patrick meeting him in person.

We laughed about dry interviews that come from those questions and Patrick said the discouraging ones were left out.

"What was the strangest interview you had?, " I asked. Not making it into the book, this name, Ucichiyama Aki, with the title of "The King of Lolicon".

He lived out in the countryside. Patrick recalled driving up to his station. After grabbing some drinks he went into his abode with images all over the floor. In a very personal manner the too connected. Patrick put it as an "intimate" time together discussing the history of Moe while watching old round tables about the subject coming from the 80's.

Otsuka Agiji was brought up next. An editor from the past, Patrick told of how he got flustered, "Towards the end of the interview he got angry, he got really angry." Otsuka said things like, "Moe doesn't exist." This was right after he just told Patrick he played a major role with Moe. Otsuka then told him to stop writing about it and that it was just a fantasy among foreigners, a ninja geisha fantasy. Later they would meet up on more friendly terms and understand that Patrick wasn't trying to be like so many American news networks, he was trying to get real answers.

He continued on saying of an excerpt where Agiji told him that one of his magazine character was actually named Moe and then towards the end how it shifted and became something along the lines of, "By the way f*ck you sir."

"His wife, his fictional girlfriend," Patrick was telling me of another person he interviewed. I told him to stop. I was still absorbing the idea.

Kawana Misaki, is not a real women, but Honda Toru still loves her. Honda Toru talked so much to Patrick he literally lost his voice during their conversation. He's in the book and his chapter deals with his feelings and ideas that needing to be married and other ideals he claims to be masculine are no longer needed.

Soon I laughed out loud after learning the beginning of the book was to be about bronies. Bronies are fans of my little Pony whose numbers have swelled since the cartoon was revitalized. He found many of the people he was talking to were Otaku reading shoujo manga, considered to be girls comics, and creating their own characters based on what they saw. He made the idea of bronies and the lovers of Moe similar. "It occurred to me that they were called Otaku, these guys, and you look at something like the bronies and it's very similar right, older men who are appropriating a show for girls and they're sort of living in it. They're doing fanzines, costuming, events. They have their own title." He pointed out someone got married to Fluttershy in the US. This bronie romance was put down by the editors as they feared bronies connected to unwholesome acts. Which Patrick fought and explained was a poor assumption.

We changed topic to life in Japan and Patrick just visited a pirate bar and a ninja bar in Japan as he continues his studies in to Otaku culture. We gleamed over how he use to dress up like Goku of DBZ to lead tours, which can't be done as much anymore or you'll be considered a street performer and get in trouble with the law.

Love Live! is his current on-air favorite anime, with Neko Sanpei as his favorite idol. This is part of the complex idol group style story with this tale revolving around trying to revive their high school. Patrick W. Galbraith though married to a lovely women, who remains in America apart from him, still has his Moe heart and Otaku taste for anime girls in Japan. His book grabs what Moe is from the people best suited to give an answer about the Japanese who created it and live it.


The book is a series of interviews with other veterans of anime and manga based in Japan. Through their words we learn what the definition of Moe is to them.

It's a little maddening that the mere preface covers his view of the term, the rest of this book is a series of interviews of what Moe is to a large group of people, many with connections to it, others to me less so. What was expected, from a long time fan of his work myself, was his own report and findings on Moe in a more comprehensive guide then a series of interviews.

What follows is a series of interviews with some strange and some intriguing people and their ideas of what Moe is. Each having different careers, with some heavily tied to the field of anime and manga, including a voice actress and Shimada Humikane, whose art work inspired Strike Witches, an anime with animal eared girls with propeller legs fly around. Morinaga Tokuro's section stood out as he's an economist going over Moe and trying to get Otaku accepted more.

The format has the interviews looks like their at the end of a Shojou magazine Q and A section. Pictures and illustrations gloss over every page like an nice fashion magazine. I'd like it if more books on topics took the time to add an aesthetic when on a subject. Cute or Moe girls fill up almost every page in a variety of styles.

The Moe Manifesto is one of the only books out there from a Western stand point that looks into the culture of Otaku and defining what Moe is from a series of interviews. A great piece to look into the minds of another culture that differs much from our own here in the US. There's a history of Moe to unlock made from asking questions about it and getting to know some of these people and their ideas. It may make you see cute girls and what they represent through Moe from their point of view.