Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper situates the characters animating the public transit infrastructures of the recent Kyoto Moe Moe Project (KMMP), an ad campaign launched recently to generate increased ridership for the Kyoto subway, within broader semiotic logics or genres of animation, what Silvio calls “modes of animation”. First, there is what Steinberg calls the anytime, anywhere ubiquity of characters within a media mix which parallels the ubiquity of brands. Secondly, brands express identification, an aspirational self, where characters instead express a cute relationality where the character is a relational other, similar to pets or transitional objects (Allison). Thirdly, I interrogate the semiotic heterogeneity of processes of animation peculiar to the KMMP. Unlike the zoomorphic yuru characters more usual for public spaces (Occhi), the KMMP uses anime-style anthropomorphic moe characters which express a different relational cuteness (called moe). KMMP creates “2-dimensional” “superflat” cute characters out of “3-dimensional” material assemblages of transit infrastructures, similarly to how subcultural moe narratives tease narratives of desire (moe) out of the virtual potential latent in ordinary situations, including nonhumans, like, for example, treating the relation of car and a road as a narrative of forbidden sexual desire. The KMMP characters are as heterogeneous as the infrastructural assemblages of the city they animate, a kind of “superflat” 2D ontology of 3D infrastructure that mingles together public and private enterprises; customers, rolling stock, destinations; yuru and moe characters. “Real-world” (3D) nonhuman relationships between infrastructures and destinations are transformed into 2D character relationships of kinship/friendship, animating the city and increasing ridership.