It’s very, very hard to get a good picture of Rika.
It all began while I was rewatching Honey and Clover. It’s a beautiful show, really, and I can guarantee that I’ll post on it at some point, but the painfully real relationships of the cast aren’t the focus of this post. Instead, I’m going to talk about a thought that crossed my mind with relation to one of the characters: Rika Harada.
What does this have to do with moe, you ask? You’ve probably already started drawing conclusions in your head, but I’ll spell it out for you – just as long as you click on that enticingly blue read more link below.
Rika Harada is not moe. She can’t be, really, because H&C is a josei series aimed at older women. Hagu is a loli, technically, but I doubt the show would attract any sort of lolicon following because of it, just as I wouldn’t expect Yoshino from Clannad to attract fangirls. The target audience is one of the most important aspects of escapism, because if you don’t know who you’re targeting, then how are you supposed to help them escape from reality?
That’s why, as common sense dictates, the frail, wounded girl named Rika, whose eyes have grown cold from her pain and whose sorrow has overcome her longing for her deceased partner, cannot be moe.
…But wait. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Well, you probably weren’t, and my bias is quite obvious, but listen for a moment. Shiori Misaka is an emotionally wounded girl who is forced to face a bleak future that no human being should ever be forced to face, let alone someone of her age. She tries to act strong, and she doesn’t want the people around her to worry about her, but the reality of the matter is that she’s suffering. And, given the circumstances, who can save her?
You, the reader, are meant to project yourself into Yuuichi and protect this innocent girl from her fate. Even if you’re just a human, even if there’s nothing you can do, you still have to try – because she needs you, and at the end of it all, you’ll discover that you need her. Your feelings will be enough to shatter the chains of her cruel fate, and when a miracle happens and her life is saved, you’ll be by her side.
It’s perfect, right? A girl that relies on you, a girl that needs you – and at the same time, a girl that can be her own person and make you smile. My attraction toward Shiori is obviously personal, but I think we can agree on one basic principle: that the characters of moe anime are written to appeal to the viewers.
And following that logic, one would assume that Shiori Misaka in real life would be my idea of a perfect girl, right?
I’m not sure if this train of thought is common or not, but when I witnessed Rika’s weakness for the second time, when I saw her damaged body and even more damaged mind, when I saw how she didn’t want Mayama to get hurt and how she couldn’t forget the pain of her loss…when I witnessed the spectacle that is her character, I realized something.
I realized that, in every sense of the word, she should be moe. She should be the girl that the viewer want to protect, that he wants to be with.
But she isn’t. Because the cruelty of her situation is far too severe to be made a mockery of using cute catchphrases and excessive snow.
When it comes down to it, my point – and the lesson that I learned – is very simple. Moe is not as impossible as people believe it to be. It wouldn’t be strange for a girl to be dying, or for a guy to meet and befriend her by chance. People get divorced and remarried, so the concept of a half-sister isn’t at all impossible either. The likes of the Ah! My Goddess and Shuffle! cast might not be possible in the real world, but by and large, the scenarios and personalities that otaku around the world praise as moe are not at all impossible.
It’s simply that they’re not appealing in the real world.
In Kanon, Nayuki is your sleepy, clumsy younger cousin that doubles as your childhood friend; Ayu is the playful, innocent girl that will never leave your side; Makoto is the same, bar the innocence. Mai’s appeal lies in her silence, because of the mystery and depth of her character, and Shiori’s situation in itself beckons the reader to protect her. It’s a perfect world, isn’t it? A perfect world in which the reader, you, get to live the life on your dreams, developing a relationship with one of the five girls while learning of the tragedies in her past.
But what does reality have to say about this? Makoto would be annoying, Mai would be boring, Nayuki would be illegal, Shiori would be hospitalized, and Ayu would make you look like a pedophile. Not so fun now, is it?
At first I was afraid of the fact that I was attracted to Rika, but it didn’t take long for this very obvious truth to sink in. Of course, I’m in no way against moe: I’m quite the visual novel fan, and I’ve seen my fair share of VN anime as well, so I’m definitely not criticizing. However, as someone who has grown attached to the various characters in said visual novels, and often times longed for such scenarios to develop in the real world, I can understand better than many that moe is both more real and less possible than people generally believe.
Because really, wouldn’t it be possible for one of you to be living with your non-blood-related little sister? But if you are, and if you grew up together, then you probably don’t see one another as anything more than friends. If, by chance, she did develop feelings for you, you’d probably be afraid to step forward and ruin your relationship as family; if you developed feelings for her, she might not even return them. And if by some miracle you like each other, then I suppose you’ll be happy, so long as you ignore the criticism from your classmates – but that hardly matters, because by that point, the fact that she’s your non-blood-related little sister won’t matter, and it’ll be just like any relationship.
The bottom line is that moé, of the emotional variety at least, is not about childhood friends. It isn’t about tsundere, either, or loli or dojikko or mukuchi. It’s about the fantasy elements, about the purity and innocence of love, without the hindrances of words like “relationship” and “marriage” – it’s about the feelings that the viewer wants to feel, not about the characters portrayed on screen.
Because when it comes down to it, it wouldn’t be all that impossible for a glasses-wearing transfer student with a ribbon in her hair and a weakness in her heart to show up at school one day, but unless the guy has harem lead powers, that seemingly perfect scenario isn’t going to develop like a dating sim – it’s going to develop like real life, where scenario =/= result.