Critics are calling the modern anime aesthetics “inappropriate,” but publisher says they’re missing the point.

Close your eyes (after reading the end of this sentence, of course) and think of Snow White, Cinderella, or the Little Mermaid. Odds are the characters you’re picturing in your head look like the ones you’ve seen in the Disney animated adaptations of those stories.

Disney didn’t create those centuries-old fairy tales, though, and so other publishers and artists are free to put out their own picture books based on the same original source material. Of course, they can’t use Disney’s artwork, so they have to commission original illustrations, which is what Japanese publisher Kawade Shobo Shinsha does for its fairy tale series.

But some parents in Japan don’t like the covers for the company’s books, and for the same reason some older anime fans don’t like modern Japanese animation: the art style is too moe for them.

▼ Top row (left to right): Kawade Shobo Shinsha’s Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Snow White
Bottom row: Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and Princess Kaguya

Some Japanese parents have even written complaints to Kawade Shobo Shinsha, saying the art style is “inappropriate” for classical children’s literature, or “a bad influence” on kids. It’s gotten to the point where the publisher itself has gotten tired of responding to individual complaints, and has posted an all-purpose reply through its Twitter account in defense of the pretty-in-pink Little Mermaid, pointy-chined Sleeping Beauty, and white-wolf Beast with his dreamy flowing mane.

“People have been making a lot of noise about this ‘moe picture book controversy,’ but we have never told our creators ‘Please use moe artwork.’ What we have told them to do, though, is ‘Create illustrations that kids themselves will latch on to.’

In other words, any moe aspects are simply the natural product of the illustrator trying to incorporate aesthetics that modern kids will fell drawn to. And really, it’s hard to second-guess the instincts of the series illustrator, Futago Kamikita, the twin-sister pair that illustrates the PreCure manga adaptation of Japan’s currently most popular kid-oriented magical girl anime series.

Kawade Shobo Shinsha isn’t trying to push any sort of moe oagenda. “People ask us ‘Why did you decide to use moe pictures,’ and no matter how many times we explain that that’s not our objective, they just don’t get it.”

As frustrated as the publisher may be, though, it’s worth pointing out Kawade Shobo Shinsha doesn’t deny that the pictures its books end up with are moe. It just asserts that they’re the result of an organic process, not any direct directives. And even if they are moe, that’s fine with Kawade Shobo Shinsha too. “We feel that the illustrator has done an excellent job creating pictures that make children happy,” the company goes on to say. “The goal for this book series is to use artwork that modern kids love to encourage them to read these classic stories, and in the process start to love books.”

It’s kind of ironic that complaining parents are sort of being told “Don’t judge our books by their covers” at the same as the message to kids is “Hey, check out these cool covers!” But if a contemporary art style can get kids excited about reading time-tested classics, and help spark a broader interest in literature, language, and communication, there’s a lot to like about Kawade Shobo Shinsha’s strategy.

Source, featured image: Twitter/@Kawade_shobo
[ Read in Japanese ]

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he now really wants a series of classic fairy tale picture books drawn in a mid-’90s OVA aesthetic.

[ Read in Japanese ]