Otaku USA Magazine
MOE! What does it mean? What hath it wrought?

Way back in the April 2009 issue of Otaku USA Magazine, we ran this multi-part feature presenting a variety of opinions on moe from our international contributors. The issue has been out of print and out of stock for years, so we thought it was worth posting online. After all, moe is still just as alive and kicking today as it was in 2009…

Appreciating Moe

by “Wildarmsheero,” Mistakes of Youth webcomic

Considering the types of anime shows that have come out of Japan in recent years, it was really only a matter of time before Americans took notice of a change in their Japanese cartoons. Sure, studios tried to pull the wool over our eyes with the Ergo Proxys and Black Lagoons out there, but the truth is anime is all about moe now, and it’s successfully penetrated the American market. This tidal wave of cuteness and love has left a lot of casual fans dazed and confused, just wondering, what the hell is this moe stuff anyway?

Moe varies from person to person, but in a very general sense, moe is a feeling of love, warmth, and comfort that wells up in all otaku when they see a character that hits their soft spots. It’s gotten to the point where characters can be split up into different archetypes depending on what kind of soft spot they cater to. I personally like ditzy girls or childhood friends with dark pasts myself.

Many US fans not familiar with moe have a lot misconceptions about it, and either think it’s the cancer killing their hobby, or are just plain ignorant. Some people think it’s creepy, others pathetic. While there are examples of “moe anime” and associated merchandise that certainly are creepy and/or pathetic, that’s really not the whole uncut, unedited, and totally adorable story. Like any other subset of entertainment, moe anime has its cash-in titles, but it also has works of true artistic merit. Fans of the original Gundam movies would probably be offended if you wrote off their genre of choice as just a ploy to sell toys, and it’s the same with moe.

So, what does this feeling of moe offer us when thrown into a particularly well-made show? Well, for starters you get some very strong characters. Not necessarily strong personality-wise (though there is an audience for that), but you’ll get some very deep characters that you just can’t help but get involved with. Their personal struggles strike your heart, stir your emotions, and drive you to tears. You come out of their shows proud of what they accomplished or how they changed. Conversely, you’ll also get characters that lift your spirits and make you bust your gut laughing. In short, a good moe show has a lot of care put into the characters. Some may be bursting with personality, but others may take a more subtle approach. A number of these characters may not be entirely realistic, but then again how many Captain Harlocks do you see walking around in real life? Not many

Another thing that moe offers up is a variety of distinct visual styles—there are numerous artists out there, professional and amateur, who have done great things with the moe aesthetic. Just take a look at the works of Noizi Itou, Aoi Nishimata, or Kenjirou Hata. They all have very expressive and original styles that set them apart and bring life to their work. Looking past
character designs, the look and feel of shows themselves vary. Director Akiyuki Shinbo’s works
all have their own visual quirks, tricks, and eccentricities. Moon Phase boasts a unique color palette, PaniPoni Dash! fits gags into every corner of the screen, and Hidamari Sketch makes creative use of photos and symbols. Let’s not even touch Shinbo’s Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei … that’s a whole different kind of moe.

Honestly, I think the main problem with the people making a fuss about moe is a lack of proper exposure. There’s lots of great stuff out there, but many people just choose to ignore it and label it all as crap due to one or two bad apples. What I’m asking you to do is open your mind a bit and appreciate what these shows are trying to tell you. You may just end up with a figure or two yourself.

Why I Must Destroy Moe

by Daryl Surat, Anime World Order Pod Cast

To understand moe, you have to be an otaku. You’ve got to be in your late teens to 20s and up, socially and emotionally handicapped, and your romantic experience with the opposite sex is so nonexistent that even The 40-Year-Old Virgin was more experienced than you had growing up. The time you were SUPPOSED to spend learning how to bond with people was devoted to otaku pursuits instead.

Though fully grown, mentally you’re a kid. And yet, every few seconds your DNA cries out that you desperately need a hug, a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to, be with. It’s mostly not a sex thing, really. But rationally speaking, you know you’ll never get any of these things. After all, just holding a job stretches the limit of your social abilities.

The human mind isn’t built to accept this solitary existence. Sooner or later, you have to make a choice best summed up by Leonard Shelby: “Do I lie to myself to be happy?”

Lie to yourself just this once, and you won’t be alone anymore. You’ll be surrounded by girls who all love you just the way you are, unconditionally; always smiling and happy unless you don’t want them to be, forever beautiful and grateful you’re there for them. They may not be real, but so what? They’re BETTER than real girls. You can never be normal anyway. You may as well go all out!

Such is the true heart of moe. It’s the blue pill that keeps you plugged into The Matrix, and nearly all male otaku these days are content to choose this until the day the delusion wears off and they commit suicide. Girls can never truly “know” of the appeal of moe just as guys can never truly “know” the appeal of yaoi, even when it’s explained.

But moe is a sham, a heroin substitute to the narcotic they call “love.” Otaku no Video warned us: they’re just silent, cold-skinned dolls. And given the choice between a fake world of comfort and the harshest reality of all, I side with Satoshi Kon (director of Paprika and Perfect Blue). I have to live in the real world, and as Jedi must destroy Sith, so too must I suffer not the existence of the moe enthusiasts.

For moe is truly the Dark Side of the Otaku Force. I have seen its power and allure firsthand. That is why I must destroy it.

Don’t miss the second installment! Continue reading here in part 2

Related Stories:

The Moe Manifesto: Patrick Galbraith Interview (Part One)
Tentacle Hentai Inventor Says Moe is for Perverts
You Can Register A .moe Domain Name
Notes from Nippon: Method to Moe
Ikebukuro’s Anime History