Operation 21ST Phase Four: Moé As a Feeling

This article is part 4 of a 5-part series on moé as it appears in anime community discourse.

Have you ever encountered a character that just hit all the right spots? A character you felt a connection with on a personal level? A character whose smile made you smile? A character whose sadness made you sad? Have you ever encountered a character you fell in love with?

Under the proper conditions, moé can be a powerful force. It can serve to attach the audience to a character in a way other elements can’t (at least not as easily), and from there, that character’s interaction with other characters and his or her environment will be more compelling to the viewer. Utilizing moé as a feeling isn’t something that’s always accomplished well, however, and this difficulty has a few factors behind it.

Part of School Days’ effect hinges on Kotonoha’s appeal to the viewer.

Much of the difficulty involved with moé as a feeling involves the fact that so much of it depends on not just the show, but on the relationship between the show and its viewer. There are a number of things a show can do to try and coax this feeling out of a viewer (Use of a moé aesthetic and moé tropes, for example). Not everything will resonate with every viewer, however. Everyone has different tastes, and it’s impossible for one show to appeal to everyone at the same time.

The effectiveness of a show like Clannad depends on the viewer’s receptiveness to the attachment between viewer and character that it attempts to bring about.

Because this type of moé is a feeling, the viewer has the final say on whether it occurs or not. Not only does a show have to appeal to a viewer and strike him or her emotionally, the viewer has to be receptive to the type of feeling the show is trying to give out in the first place. This is often overlooked, but the attitude one has when watching a show that’s trying to strike him or her emotionally through moé matters a lot. “Tragic moé” shows like Clannad are often criticized as being “manipulative” by people who weren’t taken by the characters. Enjoyment and engagement with shows like Clannad hinges on first being receptive enough to care about the characters it’s trying to put out. If the characters fail to appeal on account of not hitting the right spots, then it was never meant to be anyway. Going into the series with an expectant, “impress me” attitude, however, will only serve to disrupt the dynamic between the show and its viewer.

The moé feeling may very well be the primary fuel behind otaku consumerism and the character goods industry.

Moé as a feeling can take on many forms, but it’s all based on the appeal of a character to a viewer through a moé aesthetic and/or moé tropes. It’s a good feeling. It’s the feeling fans get when they see their favorite character do something they find cute. It’s the feeling that compels fans to buy figures and hug pillows at conventions, and the feeling they get whenever said figure or pillow catches their eye in their room.

Visual novel games rely heavily on the character/audience connection. The game must present appealing characters, but the player must also be receptive in order to make the dynamic work.

The moé feeling is grounded in the fact that, to a certain extent, we do see characters in fiction as people. Otherwise, fiction wouldn’t work at all and would never have any relevance to us whatsoever. From that, we can begin to draw parallels to better explain the moé feeling. The moé feeling can (Again, to an extent) be equated to the feeling felt when seeing and interacting with someone whose looks, personality, mannerisms, interests, etc. are appealing. Character creators deliberately create characters that appeal in this way to viewers, in order to create an attachment. The moé feeling facilitates this attachment. Put simply, it’s the glue that holds the moé character and the viewer attached, though they cannot possibly truly interact with each other. I believe the moé feeling and the enjoyment it brings can, with certainty, be called one of the primary forces keeping the spice of moé consumerism flowing.


Next, we’ll look at moé as the culmination of aesthetic, tropes, and feeling.

Next phase: Moé as a type of appeal






Let’s discuss:

Is the moé feeling different a different feelingfor each person, or is it something more or less universal?

Does the anime industry (As it is currently) “exploit” the moé feeling in its consumers?

Is the moé feeling healthy?

2 thoughts on “Operation 21ST Phase Four: Moé As a Feeling”

  1. I think all us moe fans can understand that personal connection to a moe character. What happened in the 11th episode of the second season for Yuru Yuri really got to me.

    1. Likewise with what happened in the episode of Clannad the screenshot in the article is from. It’s that kind of emotional investment that really makes a show hit home for me. If I can -really- get into the characters, chances are I’ll enjoy the show. That’s key for me, and I’d imagine it’s key for a lot of other moe fans as well.

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