This is an old post I originally wrote for the now-defunct Moé Coalition site. The site has since been taken down by the owner, but I’ve managed to salvage some of my posts. This is one of them.
Time Enforcer Anubis here, continuing the moe talk!
Not long ago (Author’s note: Quite long ago, at this point), ANNCast did a round-table discussion about moe, and a certain idea was brought up during the discussion. The idea was that moe is “dangerous” to anime in that it “enables bad storytelling.” It’s one of the big points of contention in the Great Moe Debate, with the Anti-Moe brigade clamoring for “deeper” anime, and pushing anything moe to the side, often judging it as bad anime, or worse anime than anime with no moe elements.
The fact is that much of the “moe anime” that the Anti-Moe brigade pushes off to the side is actually quite good, both story-wise and in other aspects, and the moe elements in them only serve to deepen the show, instead of “enable bad storytelling.” In this post, I’ll be looking at Clannad, K-ON!, and the Strike Witches franchise, and how they use moe as an enhancer instead of an excuse to be lazy.
Clannad, a moe drama, characterized by the tragedy that befalls their characters and their overcoming of said tragedy, tells the story of Tomoya Okazaki and other characters, who’s experiences change them and who must overcome tragic experiences. The characters are designed to be endearing. They’re cute. They have personality. They have their past experiences. They’re downright moe. You want to see them succeed. You cry when they’re sad and you cry tears of joy when they finally overcome their tragedies. They’re meticulously designed to make the viewer care about them. Clannad would not work without moe. It’s a central part of the franchise’s formula and it’s one of the things that makes it great.
Let’s pretend for a second that moe does “enable bad storytelling.” Even if that were the case, who said good anime had to have a story anyway? K-ON! has very little actual story and no real plot structure, but those aren’t value judgements, those are straight-up facts. K-ON! just has no story. It’s the quintessential slice-of-life series. It’s literally about a group of girls just hanging out, and that’s a-okay. The focus in on the characters and their interactions. Any “story” just takes a back seat to character interaction. It’s a character interaction anime. No story doesn’t have to mean a bad anime. Sometimes, it just means a different anime.
Last, but certainly not least, the Strike Witches franchise combines moe slice-of-life character interaction, Macross-style acrobatic aerial combat action, and, at its core, a war story set in an elaborate, intricate, and living world. I’d go so far as to say it’s the Gundam of moe shows. Not many non-moe shows manage to match this kind of living background and make it work like SW does. You can watch the anime and just watch the anime, and still get a full experience. However, if you crave more Strike Witches, there’s a myriad of light novels, manga, and official doujins that can sate your appetite, all while enriching the Strike Witches world. Its moe is just a portion of what makes Strike Witches great, but it wouldn’t quite work the same way without it.
The truth about moe and good anime is that “enabling bad storytelling” is not what moe is about, and there’s really nothing about moe as a set of tropes that stops it from spawning great shows. A lot of the greatest shows in the history of anime have moe in them in some capacity.
After all, tsundere owes its existence to Evangelion. What does that say about moe and good anime?