Images included in this article may be explicit in nature.
In the discussion on moé and sex, certain characters tend to stand out as good case-studies on where moé and sexuality intersect and how they interact with each other. These characters range from those with slightly perverse tendencies to those with seductive streaks, all the way to full-on nymphomaniacs, and each one of these characters offers a chance to examine how moé and sex play together, as well as a chance to discuss appeal itself and the differences between various types of appeal.
Rin Kokonoe from Kodomo no Jikan is a third grade (Later fourth grade) student, notable for her precociousness, provocative manner of dress, and constant sexual harassment of and attempts to seduce her teacher, Daisuke Aoki. Through the events of her backstory, she is exposed to the harshness of the world at a very young age, which affected her in a major way for a long time. She eventually grows into a rebellious, assertive child with intelligence greater than her age suggests. She uses this intelligence to outsmart adults who underestimate her because she’s a child. In addition, she goes after Daisuke in a very serious manner.
Throughout Kodomo no Jikan, it’s very clear that Rin knows exactly what she’s saying and doing, especially toward Daisuke. She constantly sexually harasses him and, though they both soften toward each other over the course of the series, it can actually go either way whether Rin’s constant dirty teasing of Daisuke was meant to be played for laughs or whether it was meant to make the viewer uncomfortable.
Innocence is often presented as one of the basic elements of moé and in large part that holds true. Part of the “protective” aspect of moe is that the moé character gives the viewer a desire to protect him/her from the harsher, darker aspects of the world. Rin Kokonoe, however, challenges this notion. By the time we are acquainted with Rin, she has already seen the harsh realities of the world. Her character is notable for her lack of innocence. This raises the question: Is Rin Kokonoe still moé?
One thing that’s very important to mention for this particular discussion is that “moé” is not a value judgment. A character with moé appeal is no better or worse than a character with a different kind of appeal, and this is important to emphasize because, for fans and non-fans of moé, it can be easy to see moé appeal as being, by itself, better or worse than other kinds of appeal, and acting on those preconceived values can harm the discussion.
An argument could be made that, because Rin’s appeal is introduced as primarily sexual, and because her character is introduced as a girl who has lost much of her innocence due to great tragedy having befallen her and her family at a very young age, Rin is too far-gone to be a moé character. From the “innocence moé” standpoint, this works. Rin is not a character many would consider “innocent,” and her behaviour and experiences reinforce that. She may still have a small amount of innocence left, as she is still a child, but the focus is put on her lack of innocence.
What if we bend “innocence moé” a bit, though? Rather than focusing on the innocence she lacks, there are still shreds of innocence left about her that come to the surface every once in a while, and it could be said that those little bits of innocence are enough to trigger the protective aspects of moé for Rin. To a certain extent, it is possible that the audience may feel the desire to protect and nurture what’s left of her innocence, even though most of it has already been lost, and even though she might not need or outwardly want that kind of protection, given her life experiences.
Some additional concepts to think about are how big a role innocence and the protective impulse play in moé, as well as how sexuality plays into all this with respect, of course, to Rin’s age.
So, what do you think? How moé is Rin Kokonoe? Is her appeal primarily moé? Is her appeal primarily sexual? How much of her innocence is gone? How much is still there? Does she fit the bill for moé by virtue of her innocence, however much is left? Does her lack of innocence trigger a protective instinct?
(Special thanks to TsukuyomiMagi99 for the discussion that gave me the idea for this article.)