↩ [LWC 53]
Arguably, Holden has a siscon – no, he isn’t a siscon, he has a siscon, a sister complex, シスコｎ, if you will (please, do will). There were times when I would think “Holden, you’re saying too much here” (italics!). Did I want to be exposed to a teenage boy’s mental machinations on his kid sister’s legs? Her red hair? Her overall appearance? It’s fiction, so I don’t really care in that aspect, but if Salinger tried to write a novel on the “average teenager”, I would be frightened to discover that incestual tendencies are (were?) rampant among America’s young adults (I’m an only child, I swear). Well, to be honest, I’ve had this topic in my head for a while (Mike can attest), although it may seem like I’m pirating one of Daniel’s question: “is Phoebe moe(もえ)?” [or モエ if it's in Katakana since I'm assuming incorrectly that it doesn't have a Kanji.]
This brings up an larger connection. It’s significant (well, sorta) to set semantics down on the term. Daniel posits that the site of moe is in the subject, not the object (i.e. I think of her as moe). The notion that moe is largely kinetic, that is to say it is “a subjective event in the viewer’s mind, stimulated by the presence in a ‘moe’ character of certain qualities,” is crucial because what I really want to get into isn’t exactly “what” moe is (though this discussion would be its cousin in semantics) rather than “how is the attribute and feeling of moe conveyed, interpreted and narrated?” And what better way to dissect this question than to compare it between mediums.
Trying to apply a recent Japanese phenomenon to an aged (sorta?) American novel is a fickle thing. It’s a cultural thing, perhaps an reverse-anachronistic thing (animanachronistic?). But, just as moe is open to interpretation and subject to historical change, there may have been a 1951 American equivalent to our 2008 transnational sense of moe. The historical and cultural barrier of personal characteristics (such as moe) is one thing, but going back to the narrative difference, well, that is the other. This initiates yet another difference – is situationality of moe. Moe being situational, however, is nearly contingent upon its narrator. Thus there are three event locations (sites) of the production of moe: (1) the “attributee”, (2) the narrator, and (3) the viewer. There is a necessity for the narrative proxy because there is no such thing as direct information transfer between the “thing itself” (atributee – the possessor of qualities that insinuate a feeling of moe within the viewer) and the viewer through a medium – hence the very necessity of the medium itself.
We saw what you did there
As you’ve probably guessed (I would certainly hope), the first medium is print, the book. The second is anime. With the easy part done, as you saw which anime I’m going to be connecting it to, the very nature of the ‘prompt’ at hand (“is Phoebe moe?”) itself is indirectly poking at the difference in narration. For the case of True (non-fictional) Tears (lacrimalation?), internal dialogue was mostly (fuzzy memories are the product of not bothering to re-watch for the occasion) via Shinichiro. This differs from Catcher since the misanthropic sororiphile, Holden, was the novel’s true narrator while Isurugi Jun was perhaps True Tears‘ own articulation of the misanthropic sororiphile and most definitely a supporting, non-narrative character.
Before I can attempt to answer whether or not Phoebe is moe, I’d have to tackle whether or not Noe is moe (this continuing rhyme will prove too disastrously cute to pass up). However, and once again, moe being situational, is the moe of Noe dependent upon the people that interact with and see her? Perhaps, so is that to say there are several types or flavors of moe? The quasi-taboo sister complex moe? The rival girlfriend moe? The helpless, eccentric moe? True Tears offers this kind of heterogeneous approach to moe because, whereas with shows like Manabi Straight! whose cast is much more homogeneously moe (by design and personality), the three main interpreters of Noe-moe (Hiromi, Jun, Shinichiro) are all distinctly different for their own personal reasons.
Noe has in all three categories of narration some degree of moe, probably. There are different qualities of moe, so perhaps cat-fighting moe is within the boundaries of what’s conceivable as moe, although I think I’ve an incorrect orientation towards viewing the typical loli as moe by default – loli is always moe (maybe so?) but moe need not limit itself within the territorial circumference of the loli. By the limits of the single narrator of Catcher, Phoebe is inherently limited to one interpretation of moe via Holden. Being in fourth grade, by American standards in K-12 education, she must have been ten to eleven years old. I’d say that easily counts as loli, being in elementary (primary or what have you) school. The dissonant part, however, is how intelligent Phoebe is (or can be), and such childish wit isn’t usually visible in the stereotypical loli. The funny thing is that when children are depicted as the clever things they are (they are smart, you know), they’re not coextensively lumped into the loli section (much to the chagrin of everyone who isn’t in the same camp as the casual Kure-nai hater).
We also saw what you did there
So I’ve run into yet another wall: is Phoebe loli? Or rather, a loli? To return to theoretic definitions, is loli a condition, interpretation, attribute or feeling? The deeper etymology behind lolidom may perform the saving grace: maybe the idea of “little girl” is, however ambiguous in itself, somewhat universally accepted on lines akin to “I know it when I see it.” Thus the loli is “less discursive” (more biologically based) than moe (constructed). Yet this still doesn’t break necessarily the gravitational causality so established between loli and moe. Without digressing any further, I would, on a whim, say that Phoebe is not loli. For my own personal opinion, Phoebe is moe because Holden as an interpretive proxy does “sistercomplexify” Phoebe, especially the part where he tell her that he’s running away and they walk on opposite sides of the road until they get to the merry-go-round and so forth and so on.
The misanthropic segment of the sororiphiliac similarity between Jun and Holden resonate because they both reposition their sisters into the center of their worlds, into the eye of their storms where the outer walls of the hurricane scream either “phony” or simply don’t matter enough to be considered. Jun has the luxury of being a bishie, while Holden, ample in his hypocritical pessimism, has the audacity (albeit unbeknownst to himself) to self-righteously glorify Phoebe as a pretty bright kid etc., while Jun will just go to somewhat extreme measures of procuring himself a date partner in hopes of satisfying Noe (or whatever the world he intended on accomplishing through Hiromi).
And in the end, I still prefer Hiromi over Noe.
(1) This is a guest writing by lelangir (as if you hadn’t figured that out already?) on Hoshi’s [et. al] blog – I give appreciation where it’s due.
(2) I feel guilty. Having originally agreed to write about Catcher, I then proceeded to procrastinate perpetually. Perhaps two other people may laugh at the lesser-litterateur that I am (oh wait, I meant three now four, five, six
(3) Contrary to what Ecchi Attack! was saying two years ago, I don’t think borrowed words (no matter how xenophilic their usages are) are a “bad” thing. As has been stated around the aniblogosphere in several places and on several occasions, the best way to change the meaning of a word is just to use it a lot. In this case, the most effective way to change the way words are used is just to do it a lot and troll the opposition via semi-subtle pretension until the masses move. So I’ll have my sugoi kawaii loli and, uh, “eat” it, too.