Operation 21ST Phase One: “Moé As a Genre”

This article is part 1 of a 5-part series on moé as it appears in anime community discourse.

In discussions among members of the anime fandom, “moé” is a term that is used to describe several different aspects and elements of anime. At times, this can be confusing at best, and at worst, derail legitimate discussions, turning them into superficial semantic arguments. This is where Operation 21ST comes in.  The objective of this operation is: To examine and discuss the various ways the word “moé” is used throughout anime discussion.


“Moé anime” is a term thrown back and forth in moé discussions. I won’t speculate as to who originally started using the term or who perpetuates it today, but, for a number of reasons, the term “moé anime” is not an accurate representation of moé, and is, in fact, incredibly misleading as to the nature of moé.


The primary issue with the term “moé anime” is that it presents moé as a genre, much like “mecha anime” and “romance anime” are genres of anime. The reason this is a problem is because, due to the subjective, personal nature of moé, it’s not as easy to categorize into a genre as mecha or romance are.


Mecha anime can be easily typified by the presence of and focus on giant robots in a given mecha show. Moé does not occur in the same way mecha does. Not only is moé a multifaceted phenomenon, being an aesthetic, a feeling, and a type of appeal all at once, but it’s difficult to classify moé as a genre based on its presence and prominence within a given show.


Where does “moé anime” start and end? Is every show with moé characters in it a moé anime? That would obviously include a lot of anime, even those outside of what people would generally consider “moé anime”. We could narrow it down, saying that only shows that focus on moé characters are moé anime, but even that causes problems. Where would that leave a show like Code Geass? C.C. is a character considered moé by many, and she does feature heavily in the show, however, how many people would seriously call Code Geass a “moé anime?” Generally-speaking, the term “moé anime” is only used to refer to anime in the harem, slice-of-life, and ecchi genres, as well as individual outlier titles such as Clannad.


“Moé anime” does not actually exist. Shows that are considered “moe anime” reside in their own genres already. However, despite being fallacious, the term is still valuable in being a quick, yet understandable way to refer to the various “moé” harem, slice-of-live, ecchi, etc. anime that keeps everyone on the same page with each other. It should be noted, however, that “moé” is not a genre, and that the term “moé anime” should always be taken with a grain of salt, as it’s important to not misrepresent moé.



Next, we’ll look at one of the easiest ways to identify a “moé anime.”

Next phase: Moé as an aesthetic.






Let’s discuss:

Is moé a genre? In what ways is it similar or different to a genre?

Is “moé anime” an acceptable term to describe the collective of harem, ecchi, slice-of-life, etc. shows?

Are baseline terms like “moé anime” important to the moé discussion, despite being based off of flawed reasoning?