Puella Magi Madoka Magica took the anime community by storm when it aired in the beginning on 2011. It was being compared to Evangelion, and, to a certain extent, the comparisons were valid. The two shows are quite different, but the one major similarity they share is that both were popular in both Japan and the Western market. Indeed, Madoka may be the first show since Eva to really hit it big and gain widespread acclaim in the anime fandoms on both sides of the Pacific.
Madoka’s success has raised an interesting question within the Western fanbase, however, and it ties into a common issue among the Anti-Moé Brigade.
So, we have this anime that a lot of people with many varying tastes enjoy and, for some reason, the question on many people’s mind is “Is Madoka Magica a ‘moé anime’?” Putting aside my own disdain for the term “moé anime,” the dispute seems to be mostly coming from people who normally don’t like moé, trying to deny that Madoka Magica is moé.
I’ve seen this happen before with other shows, even with shows like Squid Girl and Lucky Star. I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument as to why these shows aren’t “moé anime,” and when it comes right down to it, it really seems like it all boil down to “It’s not moé because I like it.”
The Anti-Moé Brigade likes to talk about how ill-defined the concept of “moé” is and how there will likely never be a definition for the term, despite the fact that most moé fans can tell moé when they see it. Due to this little detail, any possible deniability that a show is a “moé anime” comes to light when an anti-moé fan likes an anime that would normally be considered moé.
The issue is that these people live by a narrative that says “Moé is always bad, moé can never be good.” They desperately cling to this narrative, and were it to be proven wrong, their worldview would be shattered. Thus, they engage in mental gymnastics that result in denying the moé at work in shows like Lucky Star.
Rather than have an honest discussion, these members of the Anti-Moé Brigade cling desperately to the narrative they’ve chosen, and not only remain willfully ignorant to what the rest of us already see, but actively argue that shows that obviously make heavy use of moé don’t actually make heavy use of moé.
For most people, one look at the art style used by Madoka Magica would be followed by the assumption that it’s a “moé anime,” (Which is to say, an anime that makes heavy use of moé) which is true in this case. That isn’t to say that every show with cute girls in it makes use of moe, or that all shows without that cuteness make no use of moé, but generally-speaking, the assumption is that an anime with a “cute” aesthetic and that focuses primarily on cute female characters is a “moé anime.”
Now, this isn’t to say there’s no value in questioning and investigating the criteria that make a “moé anime,” but that’s not what people are doing here. They’re not looking for a discussion. They’re just looking to dissociate a work they enjoy from similar works that they don’t enjoy, and from a fandom that they hate.
Why? Who knows?