Ask John: What’s the Best Introductory Moé Anime?
What moé anime would introduce to those who aren’t into it?
Allow me to begin with an illustrative anecdote. Last weekend I attended a local fantasy & sci-fi convention. During the convention’s peak mid-day Saturday hours, the video room screened the first four episodes of Angel Beats! I was stunned and somewhat appalled by that programming decision. A fantasy & sci-fi convention is an optimum opportunity to introduce novice viewers to anime. Angel Beats! is not an introductory anime. While experience otaku may find it easily comprehensible, novice viewers may not. Experienced anime viewers recognize otaku-oriented storytelling tropes, settings, and character types instinctively and don’t consciously realize that familiarity that seems second nature to them isn’t shared by novice viewers. As if to confirm my suspicion, a close friend that also attended the convention, a friend who hasn’t watched anime regularly since the early 1990s, tried watching some of Angel Beats! and found it totally alien and confusing. The point of this story is simple. Don’t try to introduce viewers to the most advanced and hardcore examples of anime. Especially otaku-oriented anime, like moé, is something which viewers must themselves gravitate toward.
The underlying concept of moé is a feeling of protective custody. Otaku are attracted to little girl characters because otaku want to coddle, tease, and be respected by adorable little sister type girls. The compulsive parental attraction to fictional little girls is an affectation that can’t be taught or implanted. Certain otaku, as a result of their lifestyle and personality, naturally feel an affection for cute anime characters while other viewers do not. As the old adage goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” moé is a variety of anime which viewers predisposed to appreciate must discover and gravitate toward on their own. For the purpose of demonstration – illustrating what typical moé anime is – any example is adequate. However, there’s no singular moé anime that universally serves as a gateway drug. There’s no single moé anime that will immediately get non-fans hooked on moé anime. For example, someone not predisposed to enjoy or appreciate moé will not watch a few episodes of K-On or Rozen Maiden or Hanamaru Yochien or Moetan and suddenly want to watch more moé anime. The examples I’ve used specifically demonstrate the wide variety of nuance present within moé. K-On depicts whimsical teen school girls while Hanamaru Yochien depicts capricious elementary school girls. Rozen Maiden includes a heavily gothic fantasy element and features tsundere girls. Moetan includes parody and overt sexuality not found in many moé anime. Such diversity appeals to fans with subtely different but significant variances in taste. Someone predisposed to liking moé may not enjoy K-On very much but may find Rozen Maiden compulsively fascinating.
In summation, I don’t believe that affection for moé is something which can be taught or even effectively introduced. An anime fan must personally be interested in moé and must grativate toward the specific type of moé that he or she finds most interesting. Broad genres of anime, like shounen adventure, horror, giant robots, and art films do have select titles that serve as ideal introductory examples. Select anime, like Studio Ghibli films and Akira, do serve as excellent introductions to the Japanese animation art form. But moé is not an introductory teir of anime. moé isn’t designed for or targeted at novice viewers, nor is it a variety of anime that a viewer can be effectively introduced to by a fellow fan. There isn’t any moé anime that will convert a viewer that isn’t already inclined to like moé. And there’s so much subtle difference in moé anime that no single example can be relied upon to consistently appeal to every potential moé fan. moé is a genre which a viewer has to discover and explore personally, based on his or her own unique inclinations and interests.