Alright, I told myself I was going to write about moefication during the KanColle game boom, but that idea suddenly disappeared. It came back to me while I was taking a stroll at the beach and saw a large ship on the horizon.
Alright, you guys do know about the “moefication” phenomenon right? Well, “moefication” is a term that refers to the act of anthropomorphizing non-human beings with moe qualities. It is also known as moe gijinka. Basically, you take a non-human thing, like a ship, and turn it into a human (preferably female) and add a little moe qualities (like make it a tsundere or something like that). Even Wikipedia has a fucking article about it and there’s a bunch of examples of moefication in it too.
Why am I suddenly bringing this up? Well, I find moefication of stuff quite interesting. It’s creative, and some of the end products are funny in their own right. But then we get to that weird part of moefication. Recently, I’ve seen moefications of Ebola (in the form of Ebola-chan) and even ISIS (ISIS-chan; which I partly support because she’s cute and satirical). It has occurred to me that perhaps there are some things that should be left un-moefied. Especially Ebola-chan. I don’t find her as cute or interesting or moe in any sense; I consider Ebola-chan to be a fucking sick joke.
Of course, I use the term “moefication” because there’s actually no clear boundaries between gijinka and anthropomorphization. Think of it as a blanket term.
Why and how did moefication start in the first place?
Anthropomorphizing objects has long been a part of otaku subculture, especially in the doujin area. Of course, it’s really hard to accurately pinpoint when exactly moefication began. However, according to Know Your Meme, the art of moefication perhaps started in the Pokemon fandom, when a Japanese artist uploaded a series of Pokemon gijinka featuring the original 150 Pokemon. It spread on 4chan and once something is popular on 4chan, it’s basically an internet phenomenon. And somewhere along the line, moefication started becoming a big thing in Japan. Almost anything can be moefied, from castles, swords, military hardware (Upotte, Strike Witches, and yours truly KanColle), to even countries (Hetalia). And, holy shit, there’s even a moefication of the Japanese Constitution?! That’ll definitely encourage people to study politics and law.
Why moefication though? I guess it’s the freedom of expression, the individuality and creativity that’s alluring. For freedom of expression, you, as an artist, are free to express yourself in your art. You might want to convey a message, either directly or indirectly. You might want to make a statement. You might just be doing it to get recognized. For individuality, for every artist, you feel the need to make your characters unique, to stand out from the crowd. But more importantly, it’s how to make your characters your own. For creativity, well, you’re making a non-object become a human. By moefying objects, you basically make your own version of something that already exists. It’s a creative process, it’s a statement of your individuality, and it’s also part of what you want to express.
For example, take ISIS-chan. I interpret ISIS-chan as a way to alleviate the grief caused by the capture (later, execution) of two Japanese nationals by the terror group ISIS. Rather than condemning ISIS, the artist chose to satirize ISIS by attaching contrasting moe qualities to an organization known for its brutality.
Good/Bad? You Decide
There is also a part of moefication that can be good or bad: perception. As an art, moefied characters can be perceived differently by different individuals. Of course, you could get praise or a shitstorm depending on what people think.
And here’s my stance: I believe that some moefications are good, and others… well, you might wanna keep the characters to yourself.
For example, as far as KanColle goes, I’ve enjoyed the various moefications of Japanese warships. Despite the fuss about possible glorification of Japan’s wartime past, I find KanColle quite entertaining. The ships’ personalities, to a certain extent, match their real-life counterparts. Take Tenryuu. The real Tenryuu is a veteran warship, and the KanColle Tenryuu also acts like a hardened battle veteran. Not so for the I-8 though.
And as for the moefication of the Japanese Constitution, I seriously consider it a fun way to get people attracted in studying the Constitution. I particularly like the moefication of Article 9, or Kyu-Jou-chan, as the character accurately represents the essence of Article 9. The same goes with the moefication of castles (I forgot what exactly the series was) and even Japanese historical figures. They play a large role in helping people appreciate culture and history.
As for ISIS-chan, I’m rather ambivalent. On one hand, I know that moefication tends to incite feelings of attachment towards the object. Like, that’s why military nerds watch Upotte or Strike Witches. I’m concerned that ISIS-chan could actually make people want to join ISIS. I’ve seen people purchase comics just because they have cute mascots (ahem, I’m looking at you, Re:ON). But perhaps that’s just my overactive imagination. On the other hand, I enjoy ISIS-chan as an attempt to satirize the fucked-up organization. As long as ISIS-chan is used solely as a joke, I’d be fine.
But then there’s Ebola-chan. I personally fucking hate Ebola-chan. It’s an insensitive, unhealthy, and sick fucking joke to a serious condition Africa is facing. It’s even more disturbing that Ebola-chan was used in an major internet troll against Nigerians, where the Ebola outbreak was happening. Seriously guys, not funny. Also, how the fuck can a deadly virus be moe? I just cannot see how it can be done. Bitches’ll be like “Ebola-chan is my waifu”. You’d seriously want a deadly virus as your waifu? You must be so fucking lonely.
In the end, it really does come back to the individual as to judge whether a certain moefication is good or bad. Some things are good when moefied, some things should just be left as… things.