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Moe Check! ยป Without A Sound – The Silent Moe

Rei-clone? Hardly.

The whole great big (ongoing) debate on what, exactly, is considered moe has already been bandied about back and forth by people far more qualified to comment on it than myself. I suppose part of the reason for the inability to state a dictionary definition is that, like porn or the colour blue, one only really knows it if one sees it, and while the broad strokes are recognizable, it's in the tiny little details that get people riled up.

And so I can only really give my own personal takes on the matter, in the hopes that it won't be too far off. Then again, even if it is, it's not really that important anyway, since it's unlikely someone will complain (much).

Actually, I'm probably not going to talk about moe in general as much as aspects of moe in specific. There's just far too much to cover, from tsundere to yandere to meganekko to ponytails or whatever, so it would probably be a better idea to just touch on each of these one at a time, and see how far I get before I lose all motivation to ramble about this anymore.

As the title of the post would suggest, this time the topic of choice is the Silent Moe archetype. I'd say that this is, if not the top moe archetype on my list, then at least somewhere up there, along with the meganekko variety. And yes, this means that Yuki Nagato from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya gets extra points, at least until she loses the glasses. (Damn you Kyon.)

Ruri Hoshino from Nadesico.

The Silent Moe archetype is probably most famously represented by Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion, to the point where any pale, fragile-looking girl with a deadpan expression and a quiet personality are almost immediately called "Rei-clones". This tends to persist, even after they distinguish themselves in other ways from being an actual character clone of Rei. I suppose Evangelion had such a huge impact on anime fandom, whether positive or negative (or both), that it's hard to think of any other comparisons.

The Silent Moe isn't really a single discrete type of character, though. I'd say that it's more of a sort of range, where a character set here would be Silent Moe through and through, and a character set there might, with some convincing, be considered a Deadpan Snarker, or perhaps a tsundere who just doesn't talk much. (See: Ruri Hoshino from Nadesico.) And then there are characters like Kisaragi Ninomai from Happy Lesson, who appear to be more satire of the Silent Moe concept, considering she fits with the Weird Girl (well, woman) archetype who speaks softly with odd pauses and looks like a Rei-clone, but probably isn't really one.

The Silent Moe character, first and foremost, and most obviously, does not talk much. This, one might say, is the very definition of the character, although why she doesn't talk much varies a great deal, and is generally part of the in-series fiction. Perhaps she has a reason for not talking much, or maybe it's just the way she is.

Something I've noticed in Real Life is that when I'm surrounded by people who like to talk a lot, and loudly at that, I tend to just fade into the background. I imagine that this is also the case for the Silent Moe character: there is generally another character, usually far more significant in the storyline, who is loud or brash or simply more talkative. Perhaps a bit of the "protectiveness" portion of the moe concept is stimulated by the desire to protect the character from being overwhelmed by all these people yelling around her, and to keep her in a fragile, constant state of peaceful, neverending silence.

The appeal of the Silent Moe character is somewhat difficult to pin down and put into words, as is the appeal of moe in general. It is entirely possible that one person interprets the Silent Moe character in one way, and another person likes it for another, perhaps even contradictory, aspect. Occasionally there really is no way around it other than to just go "I like it because I like it", rather than being able to justify it and convince others of why.

From asking around, though, I've managed to note down several aspects that may or may not attract fans of the Silent Moe archetype. Now, I am by no means claiming that this is the be-all and end-all list, and in fact I suspect that I'm barely scratching the surface of it all. Still, one has to start somewhere, and this seems to be as good a place as any.

Yuki Nagato from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

The first reasoning I heard about the appeal of the Silent Moe came from someone who was actually rather dismissive of it (I forget who). Basically, the theory is that those who like Silent Moe do so because the character invariably fails to have a discernable personality, or more precisely no personality that can be determined from their speech, since they do not have much speech in the first place. Therefore, the viewer is free to superimpose his own fantasy about the character's personality, a bit like scribbling on a blank slate.

Personally, I am not especially convinced of this argument, at least not in its pure form. It is definitely possible to qualify and elaborate on it to any degree, but it invariably ends up turning into a sort of sliding scale, except in a great many dimensions and axes. How do we know whether a personality we attribute to a character is based on canon, or merely what we interpret canon to be? When does objectivity turn into observation?

But that's a bit beyond the scope of the ramble. So I'll just leave it at that.

The second possible reason, and the one which I personally ascribe to, for the appeal of the Silent Moe character is as akin to the appeal of the Tsundere character. Now, the tsundere character type is the sort who acts all "pointy" (tsun-tsun) and bitchy and generally unpleasant to be around, but when they act "lovey" (dere-dere) and suddenly embarrassed and blushing, that, presumably, is when the appeal of the character is truly brought out. The idea is that it is worth going through the tsun-tsun periods of time in order to catch the glimpse of the rare dere-dere modes. It's the moe version of deprivation causing satisfaction to be all the better, I believe; hunger makes the best sauce and all that.

Now, apply this to the Silent Moe character. Usually, you have no idea what she's thinking, because she never says what's on her mind, and her expression seldom changes. But when she suddenly reveals her loving side, just once in a very small while, that somehow makes it all worth it. If you don't mind some spoilers about the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya novels, imagine how many people became fans of Yuki Nagato after reading volume 4.

This might even apply to the Snarky Deadpan variety of the Silent Moe characters, such as Nadesico's Ruri Hoshino. Such characters tend more towards the tsundere trait of hiding their true emotions while exhibiting a cold, uncaring exterior anyway, so the subverted tsundere appeal works even better for them.

Taken another way, it could also apply to the Sunao-Cool spectrum of Silent Moe. For those unfamiliar with the term, Sunao-Cool (or Su-Cool for short) would refer to the sort of girl who states what is on her mind plainly and matter-of-factly. Her love confession would be stated with about as much drama or emotion as, say, a request to pass the soy sauce. (Usually such characters are cast as robots or some such non-human; it is apparently easier to come up with a reason for this unnatural lack of emotions that way.) The rare showing of emotions would be seen as a crack in the shell, as the viewer (or the male protagonist, more likely) learns to read all the little cues and hints that makes this cold, logical person seem just that bit more human. That despite their apparent self-sufficiency and robotic efficiency, they still need someone to hug them, protect them, love them.

That, I would think, is moe.

Ichigo Morino from Please Teacher.

Other aspects of the Silent Moe archetype would probably not count as being the primary aspects of their appeal, but might well enhance the traits of moe already brought out.

One of them is the aura of mystery that most of them carry, borne simply from the lack of communication. If they tell you nothing, and you can read nothing from their expressions, then there will be very little you will know about them, if anything. Maybe she has a tragic past. Maybe she's actually an expert at fighting games. Maybe she's a time-traveller or ESPer or alien. She's not going to tell you everything immediately, and some people would enjoy the "challenge" of chipping away at the stony silences to learn what they can.

Another aspect is the impression, however accurate or otherwise, that they would likely not protest loudly if things do not go their way. Unlike the more selfish variety of character archetypes who would complain long and loud about some minor fault in the male protagonist, the Silent Moe character would just… not say anything. As per usual. Perhaps they would not even care. Of course, being that the Silent Treatment is one of the things guys have trouble with when dealing with angry girls, this is obviously a tricky case.

And of course, quite obviously, the Silent Moe character is, well, mostly silent. This appeals greatly to the sort of person who'd rather a character just shut up and not keep talking, especially if there's another character present who's far more loquacious. After a long, hectic day, it might seem incredibly tempting to just sit quietly in a room with the character in question, just basking in each others' presence, without a single word needing to be said.

Smiling Rei.

7 Responses to “Without A Sound – The Silent Moe”
  1. Kalium says:

    Silent girls in snow?

  2. TheBigN says:

    "How do we know whether a personality we attribute to a character is based on canon, or merely what we interpret canon to be?"

    I think to some people, it doesn't really matter what canon truly is, as long as people enjoy what occurs. :/

    A nice article. Are you planning on tackling the basics of what makes other forms of "moe" moe as well? I'm that would make for an interesting series of reads. :3

  3. darksumomo says:

    I have two entries that relate to this one to rec to you. The first is on LJ:

    The moe of Haruhi Suzumiya

    The second is on wordpress:

    Tsundere: Haruhi Suzumiya


  4. kevn57 says:

    Sorry it didn't work please delete my last comment


    Captured from Japanese TV