In Praise of Moe

The anime industry is not in a good place right now. Animators are still underpaid, studios haven’t scored an international hit in years, and Japan’s anime market is shrinking its focus to either children or over-devoted, undiscerning, fetish-addled nerds. Blame for this is often placed on moe, the art of presenting frequently underage anime girls to be fawned over by those lonesome and desperate for the innocence of youth. Moe is cute turned creepy. Moe is veiled pedophilia. Moe is blushing, gooey-eyed anime girls who look like The Family Circus run through a grotesque anime filter. In a strange way, moe is a blessing.

Consider the situation that faced casual viewers of anime as recently as five years ago, when there was no simple way to pick out the rare decent title at a glance. A lot of anime used stylistically similar character design; sometimes the eyes were bigger or the noses sharper, but there were plenty of perfectly boring and terrible series that unfairly resembled Cowboy Bebop or FLCL. For example, it wasn't easy to find the single worthwhile offering from a lineup of Cybuster, Mirage of Blaze, Z-Mind, Takegami, Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, The Dark Myth, Biohunter, Getbackers, King of Bandit Jing, Shadow Skill, Darkside Blues, Space Pirate Mito, A.D. Police: The New Files, Ninja Cadets, Eden’s Bowy, Real Bout High School, Shinesman, Tokyo Project, Vandread, Aura Battler Dunbine, Zenki, Licensed by Royalty, Blue Seed, Nazca, Dai-Guard, Nightwalker, Rune Soldier, Assemble Insert, Infinite Ryvius, Sorcerer Hunters, Saber Marionette J, Harlock Saga, Neo-Ranga, Yamamoto Yohko, Those Who Hunt Elves, Power Dolls, Doomed Megalopolis, Zaion, Bounty Dog, Hades Project Zeorymer, Geobreeders, Kurogane Communication, Queen Emeraldas, Demon Fighter Kocho, Betterman, Nuku Nuku Dash, Gunparade March, Dangaizer 3, My Dear Marie, Sonic Soldier Borgman, Space Travelers, Photon, Sailor Victory, eX-Driver, Brain Powered, Chance Pop Session, Miami Guns, Gate Keepers 21, Steam Detectives, Burn Up! Scramble, GranDoll, and Princess Rouge: Legend of the Last Labyrinth. You could make educated guesses, but most anime of that era wasn’t conclusively revealed as crap until you watched a little bit of it.

Today, moe dispels that mystery. If a new series abounds in garish, big-eyed girls gazing shyly at the would-be viewer, it’s all but guaranteed to be garbage intended for no one but devoted moe fans. There are exceptions (Gunbuster 2 and not much else), but most of the people making moe shows nowadays are the same sorts that produced vapid, boring direct-to-video chaff and cheap, ugly TV series in the 1980s and 1990s. Just as a moth’s wings bear eye-like patterns to frighten predators, the empty stares and heavy blushing of moe warn off any sensible viewers. Their message is simple: you don’t have to concern yourself with this.

Some lament the faded standards of bygone anime eras, when directors worked largely in pulp violence or silly excess. Yet for every delightfully stupid bloodbath or beautifully animated trinket, there were dozens of failures that only lured in the unsuspecting and wasted their time. Today’s anime may indeed be worse than it was in decades past, but at least it’s better about warning us.


  1. Not to rain on your parade here, but you can't seriously be putting Captain Harlock in with all that crap. The Emeraldas spin-off, I can totally accept, however, but geez.

  2. No, actually, he's right; Harlock Saga was kind of lame. The single worthwhile offering is, of course, Aura Battler Dunbine.

  3. Anonymous4:57 PM

    Aw, Biohunter wasn't *that* bad. Sure it wasn't that great either, but it was Yuzo Sato's directorial debut. Maybe I'm just looking at it optimistically because I love the guy, but I'd rewatch it :\.

    I think it's funny how you put 3 KyoAni shows together with Zero no Tsukaima. That just makes me laugh, because it shows how insanely broad and undefined "moe" is. If a series has multiple prominent female cast members (Or simply lacks male cast members), then the show is "moe". Hands down, regardless of any other factor.

    Another thing I'd like to point out is that mediocre "deep serious/ none moe" titles still come out amongst all the "moe". Looking at ANN's Fall preview guide (reliable, yeah?), both MM! (a slapstick ecchi title about a masochist and a big female cast or sumping) and Samurai Girls (I've been told it's like Qwaser meets Queens Blade. I mean, just look at the trailer, the show resembles Strike Witches) have gotten a higher average rating between reviewers than the deep dark serious detective drama, Psychic Detective Yakumo.

    I do however like the point of your post here. It certainly is easier to sport the potential interests when everything else is a sea of jewel-eyed pink haired females. Still though, as your post proves, "moe" is definitely not the start or cause of the decline in interesting and genuinely entertaining titles. A large portion of it has sucked since the beginning.

  4. The answer most certainly is Shinesman. The sole reason being the dub.

    Also my verification word is "InGen." How cool is that?!

  5. Anonymous5:27 PM

    "In praise of moe":Moe is cute turned creepy. Moe is veiled pedophilia.

    Imbecile. You fucking xenophobic, are you done with insulting the Japanese? Racist trash.

  6. Anonymous7:31 AM

    What's the crap anime on the top right?

  7. Gamescook12:19 PM

    "Imbecile. You fucking xenophobic, are you done with insulting the Japanese? Racist trash."

    I'd be more concerned about your equating the entirety of Japanese people, the nation itself, to moeblob shows. An attack on one is not an attack on the other, and I personally think it's silly of you to suggest as much.