Never Live It Down

On TVTropes, the page Never Live It Down is about an audience reaction, when fans are so obsessed with one particular scene with a character, that they will ignore everything else that the character ever did, and start thinking of them as a one-gag character instead. It’s kind of like a meme, except that often there is no specific quotable content that gets spread, just a general attitude. And it isn’t treated like a meme either, since people aren’t intentionally spreading it just to make an easy joke at the character’s expense, but actually seem to believe in it. For example, when Ouma Shu is seriously described as “a whiny kid like Ikari Shinji”, it’s likely that those people are honestly only remembering the last few episodes of Evangelion, when after lots of fighting, and many good reasons for an emotional breakdown, Shinji finally broke down, and filling in the blanks that thy can’t remember to, with those few scenes.

In the past days, there were two different news, that’s discussions in the fandom made me think of that as an analogy: First, the last week was the prime time for posting Spring Season previews in the blogosphere, and the Key Visual Arts VN Little Busters was announced to be getting an anime. The former discussion included Hyouka, an upcoming novel adaptation by KyoAni,  and the latter warranted speculations that it might also  be made by KyoAni. Here is one particularly noticeable theme that went through both discussions. (paraphrased):

“KyoAni? K-on! Moe Moe! K-on??!! Moeblob!!!! Moemoe… K-on!  Is KyoAni the Moe of all K-on?  Moe meets K-on! Moeblob k-on moe.”

Oh, and there was also some discussion of the concern that these shows might end up being too moe, and resembling K-on, but you get the idea.

Just like how in the above trope, a fandom can turn a character into it’s own caricature, sometimes I have a feeling, that KyoAni is being turned  into the caricature as some sort of Grand Masters of Moe, with K-on being seen as either the only show that they ever made, or at least the Magnum opus that defines them, and everything else that they did can only be interpreted as a step in the pathway towards that goal.

Which is strange, because the only special thing that K-on did, was being wildly successful. No, I don’t mean it in a negative sense, as in “It was a worthless pile of moe that did nothing”. You might consider it an especially well-made show if you want to, but my point is, that it didn’t really do anything tangibly unique, in a way that we could all point at another show doing the same special  thing, and say “It is like K-on”. No matter how I look at it, there is no single thing that it did, that should stand out from it.

It wasn’t the first slice of life with a girl-group setting. It used the same genre as Azumanga Daioh, Manabi Straight, Aria, or Lucky Star, and even some of the specific jokes and situations. So, if it wasn’t the setting, was it the art style? Did it codify some sort of new “moeblob art” trend?

Apparently, not. All of the shows following in it’s footsteps, look as different from each other as the ones before it. If these are all in the “K-on-style moeblob art style”, then apparently that art style encompasses almost every 2000’s anime. And if these are not, then the “K-on-style moeblob art style” should be so strictly defined, with specific face, eye, hair, skin,  nose  shapes and colors, that pretty much every show ever would have their own equally unique “art style”, so like everything else K-on has it’s own.

This might be one of those cases, when the phenomenal success itself created a desire to explain the content’s origins as special. Like when My Little Pony became popular, and suddenly everyone explained it with the CREATIVE GENIUS of Lauren Faust, who was retroactively proclaimed the CREATIVE GENIUS behind every cartoon ever that’s creation she assisted in. Or when Madoka became popular, and suddenly everyone seemed to remember being trolled by the MASTERFUL TROLL Urobuchi Gen in episode 3. Even if most people didn’t hear his name before,  and the ones who did, knew perfectly well to expect a rather dark show anyways.

It’s similar here, but instead of genius, or trolling, it’s about the myth that KyoAni discovered the key to some entirely new level of moe that they are using on us. Because that would be easier to undersand than the alternative, that it doesn’t really take a creative genius, or trolling, or secret ingredients, but some random nicely polished shows with talented teams behind them might unpredictably reach huge success.

And such a big success also creates big expectations. It was probably inevitable, that if KyoAni is to continue it’s anime production career with anything involving young girls,  not to mention school clubs, and any contemporary fashionable art style, everyone would discuss the end result’s relation to K-on, even if from any other studio, it would be just another relatively nice-looking, promising series with typical anime characters.

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2 responses to “Never Live It Down

  1. While blatant moe anime isn’t the only thing KyoAni can do, it is a staple of their character designs for one (even shows that aren’t total moe like Haruhi and the Key series still have that kind of design and feel). Throw in the wild success of K-ON, and people can’t help but equate any show they make to moe. KyoAni could just as easily not make something moe, but they’ve done very well with such style of shows, much like Shaft does well using artsy animation techniques. It’s what they’re good at and their fans love it, so that’s what they do. But people shouldn’t just assume every show of theirs is going to follow the same storyline as K-ON even if the look is similar.

    And you’re right that K-ON isn’t particularly unique but I would guess that its success over other moe shows is its music, and KyoAni’s above average animation (plus they have a charming way with creating atmosphere and character-driven humor).

    • Just as I’m expecting that Hyouka is going to be discussed from a biased starting point though the lens of K-on, I also think that Haruhi, Clannad, etc, are also retroactively misinterpreted.

      Of course, their “staple character design” was indeed moe, but not more so than two thirds of all modern anime. The characters have large eyes, small noses, an overall rounded face, and their attitude is often on the immature side, but that’s it. Beyond that, there are also some special touches of KyoAni’s own unique style, but that isn’t visibly MORE moe than others. Just like K-on’s style isn’t more unique than the six others that I pictured above, it’s just one more variation, neither is Haruhi standing out as different from the collective of, say, Shana, Toradora, PapKiki, Kimi ni Todoke, and Bakemonogatari.

      They all have their different details, (from unique hairstyles, to chibi art shifts, to shiny bodies), and KyoAni also has it’s own trademark… thing, that I can’t properly describe with words, that makes the characters so bloblike, but probably if it wouldn’t be for the meme-like pervasiveness of the idea that K-on was the goal of some great special direction, then these older KyoAni shows wouldn’t have been reinterpreted as being so moe that it needs to be specially pointed out, either.

      Maybe it’s just a grammatical thing, that the word “moeblob” is stuck between describing moe in general, and also this KyoAni art style, leading to the impression that the two are the same. Maybe if only we would have separate words for the two… Or if we would have equivalents for all other studios and art styles…

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