The Diabolical Genius of Moe Anime

(WataMote, a series about a socially awkward “otaku” girl)

These days, any avid anime viewer will probably be aware of the prominence of what has essentially become a “moe” genre in the industry. Generally, one can bet that with each anime “season” during that year, there’s gonna be at least a few of those slice-of-life type shows about “cute girls doing cute things.”

You know the ones, those often dime a dozen shows that revolve around a bunch of high school girls doing, I dunno, forming some sort of club, or just chillin after classes. This “new” sub genre of slice of life is often given flak for “not having any plot.” I feel that this criticism is undeserved, as most of these shows are directly based on yonkoma, a 4-panel style of Japanese comic strip that you can read more about here (forgive me for the Wikipedia link..) These comics, just like something in the west like Garfield or Peanuts, tend to be episodic (in other words, self-contained), so they aren’t exactly designed for a big overarching plot.

(Lucky Star, a popular yonkoma-turned-anime from the early-mid 2000’s)

Now, love or hate “moeshit,” nobody denies that these types of shows exist because they tend to rake in decent money due to their tried and true formula. But why this genre in particular? It all comes back to the idea of “moe”.

As a quick review to the subject, moe is the concept of infatuation with a two-dimensional character, who could be from a video game, anime, manga, etc. I feel that this single meme of all things is a great example of how someone may react to a character they feel “moe” towards:

Because of the strong feelings a person can potentially emit for a fictional character, anime based around characters with a lot of “moe appeal” is genius. A handful of shows every anime season chock full of likable characters based on already popular archetypes? Pretty good idea for making money, no?

Of course, high viewership alone can certainly help an anime studio make some decent coin, but the “moe” subgenre takes this even further by licensing tons and tons of merchandise. Watch a show and become really attached to a given character? No problem, you can burn through all of your disposable income on posters, t-shirts, action figures, and even body pillows of your new “waifu!”

To put it in short:

-Make a slice of life comedy about schoolgirls or something

-Use common archetypes and vary them across your characters

-Sell lots of merch

-???

-Profit!

(Mina Heiki, a character from Densha Otoko’s in-universe anime.)

One could definitely argue that such a marketing method is a bit cruel for profiting off of lonely otaku emotions, but seeing some of the media in this class has made me think a bit more from the opposite side of the coin. Yes, one can think it’s dumb all they want for an adult to show so much affection for a fictional character, but at the same time, seeing the character in Densha Otoko and his love for the rabbit girl Mina does make one wonder: if a person is very socially inept and has trouble making friends (let alone having a relationship), is there really much harm in letting them have a 2d character that they have a burning attachment to? A “waifu” is absolutely not a replacement for a real person, but again, if a person has trouble making friends and spends their days feeling lonely and unloved, these fictional characters have the potential to give very isolated people something to live for.

One thought on “The Diabolical Genius of Moe Anime

  1. Hi Evan,

    I enjoyed your creative and humorous post, though I would be curious to hear some more analysis of the “slice of life” shows/yonkama and how they relate to the second part of your post–“moe.” You define both but don’t quite get into defining the moe appeal of slice of life shows/yonkama. Is there something in particular about the daily experiences of these characters that relate to moe/foster a feeling of moe in the viewer?

    Cheers,
    Amanda

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