Some months later, I came across Erina’s life’s work on my Facebook feed — in maid-outfit-wearing style. The place is Viet Moe, roughly translatable as ‘Vietnam CYUTE!!!’ On walking in the door — two floors above a frosted glass door massage centre — all four maids on duty clustered around my entrance, hands pressed together into hearts. The rest of the daytime crowd, mostly teens from the neighbouring school, stared diligently into their laptops.
The café itself is fairly bare bones, a couple of booths hemmed in by an L-shaped bar, a few anime posters on the walls, but the frenetic energy of the place is ever-present. Just order some takoyaki and two ladies will deliver it, contorting their hands into hearts, swirling them around in what can only be described as a “cute blessing”. Rice omelets get pictures painted on them in ketchup. The maids strike random poses behind the bar.
And where does all this energy come from? I’m about to find out.
The Amazing, Irrepressible Fish Girl
As Erina walks in, she says something to one of the girls. Turning to me, she says, “They were playing no music. We need anime music!”
She’s wearing a schoolgirl costume — one she designed herself, along with half of the maid outfits present, having learned the craft on the mean streets of Harajuku — and passing me random manga books as I ask her about Viet Moe’s concept. There is a girl on the cover of one, pouring the contents of her canteen down her army-issue shirt.
When I ask if she has some games, Erina clicks away on her pink high-tops, yellow laces flashing, and gets a pirate-in-a-barrel game. We take turns stabbing the spring-loaded pirate until she triggers his jump, and lets me draw a picture on her hand as reward.
After that, she tilts her head side-to-side and waves peace signs, sings a cute song. She’s full of random cute gestures like this, a chaos of moe impulse. I make a heart with my hands, and all is right with the world. — Ed Weinberg
Viet Moe is at 203 Nguyen Van Thu, 2nd Floor, Q1. The café is operational from 10am to 7pm daily, at which time it turns into a Japanese businessman-entertaining hostess bar with slightly more risqué costume, staying open till midnight.