This article is part 5 of a 5-part series on moé as it appears in anime community discourse.
At its broadest, moé represents a type of appeal. Whether through an aesthetic choice, a character’s personality traits and the tropes surrounding him/her, a bond created between the character and the viewer, or a combination of the three, moé is, at its most basic level, a type of appeal.
It might sound simple, but it all stems from “appeal.” To say a character is “moé” is to, at the very least, say that he or she is appealing. Within this come types of appeal based in particular facets of moé, such as aesthetic or archetype, but at the core, the concept of moé can be defined as a type of appeal.
If you’ve ever wondered how moé fans can talk about moé with each other and understand each other, despite finding different aesthetics or character traits “moé,” this is why. Moé is something that is personal, but sharable. It’s something that one can explain to another, without that other person sharing the same preferences, and still be completely understood because, while preferences are as diverse as individuals, the basis is common, and that basis is appeal. This is one reason for the dispute over the definition of moé. The basic concept is so broad that some people question the necessity for the term “moé.”
The broad basis of appeal works both ways. As the consumer benefits from the broad concept of moé as a type of appeal, creating a wealth of different characters to fall in love with, content creators are also able to benefit. The breadth of the concept allows creators to cast a wide net, drawing in fans with diverse preference sets with their characters. The mutually-beneficial nature of moé appeal has helped moé take off and ingrain itself as a staple of anime.
Moé appeal is not restricted based on genre. Moé characters can occur in any type of anime, as moé traits aren’t bound to specific narrative types, nor are they bound to each other. This is how we end up with characters such as C.C. from Code Geass or Saber from Fate/Stay Night. Even Asuka and Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion, an anime famous for its serious, dark plot, are famous for pioneering the tsundere and quiet emotionless girl archetypes, respectively. Even though Eva’s themes are very heavy and dark, Asuka and Rei figures still inhabit the shelves of otaku, alongside figures from shows like K-ON!, Strike Witches, and countless visual novel-based anime.
The other elements of moé feed into moé appeal in a big way. The aesthetic is often what first attracts a viewer to a character. In fact, feeling moé for an artist’s original character you saw in an image on Gelbooru would almost entirely be based on aesthetics. The broad palette of character traits that are considered “moé” give creators a lot to work with when trying to create a character to appeal to moé fans. The moé emotion appeals to the viewer by establishing a deep connection between the viewer and the character. The three will often intersect to create even deeper levels of appeal.
Part of the confusion surrounding moé is concerned with the tendency of moé fans to discuss moé without first having agreed upon a definition of moé to go by. Because “moé” is such a broad concept, it can appear confusing from the outside looking in, especially knowing that we’ve yet to determine what moé means, and especially considering that the uninitiated have a tendency to want to see moé as a singular phenomenon with a singular definition. Moé appeal is what gives moé fans a common ground to speak on. Even though I’m into Yamato Nadeshiko characters, glasses-girls, and fujoshi, I can still engage with, understand, and relate to someone who likes childhood friend characters, tomboys, and clumsy girls. The first step to understanding moé is to understand that it is a multifaceted concept and that all of those facets are based in appeal.
An understanding of moé appeal is one thing that will need to be involved in the moé discussion. A discussion cannot happen without a baseline, and I believe that the notion that moé’s foundation is in appeal can be an agreeable baseline for both the side of the debate supporting moé and the side against it.
How sharable is moé appeal? To what extent can one person relate to another’s moé preferences?
Is moé appeal good for the industry? Bad? Neutral?
Do you feel that creators use moé responsibly?