Aniwords – What is Moe and Should You Be Afraid of It?

Hey, guys!

My latest Aniwords column is live on Crunchyroll and it’s a real important one this time.

It’s about moe.


Here’s the link!

Bonus Content:

I was thinking about doing moe character rankings for this one, but honestly I thought that would get a little bit out of hand. Instead, I decided to champion a few of my favorite moe shows in an attempt to provide some fresh cuteness to those who already love it and attempt to convert those who don’t.

1. Non Non Biyori – You may have heard me talking about this show as the currently airing sequel season approached, but let me tell you—Non Non Biyori is potentially the best moe show ever created. Not because it’s super cute (which it is), but because it is phenomenally, almost impossibly relaxed. I like to use the word “vibe” a lot to describe shows, but NNB‘s vibe is something else entirely. It is the feeling of an idyllic countryside incarnated in an anime series. And it’s amazing.

2. Love Lab – A Dogakobo 4-koma sort-of rom-com adaptation, Love Lab is in turns cute and hilarious…and constantly in brilliant animated motion. Love Lab was one of the first anime comedies where I laughed my head off most of the way through every episode, so even if moe isn’t your thing, you should check it out for the laughs—which are plentiful.

3. Yama no Susume – On of the better shorts I’ve ever watched, Yama no Susume doesn’t quite manage to achieve Non Non Biyori levels of sheet atmospheric brilliance, but it comes pretty close! This is the kind of show that would be a real drag to get through in full-length episodes, but the shorter runtime really benefits the show. Plus, you’ve got Kana Asumi as the irrepressible Hinata—something that’s enough all on its own.

Favorite moe shows, guys?

16 thoughts on “Aniwords – What is Moe and Should You Be Afraid of It?

  1. Aria. The rest tend to be redundant after you’ve watch something that’s a moe show and also an iyashikei, and has more to it than just cuteness and “healing” themes. But I do agree that your picks are good chasers while we wait for more Aria 🙂


  2. I, too, love Non Non Biyori. I’ve called it the Renge show, on occasion; to me, she really stands out – just the right flavour of excentricity for my taste. But, yeah, the real star of the show is the countryside. Great use of music, and also a great sense of timing

    Last episode, for example had in sequence: a swallow feeding their young, and a scenic shot of some pretty place. Both lasted – I think; I didn’t time it – for about the same amount of time, but because the former scene contained movement and the latter didn’t, the former seemed shorter in comparison. The effect is that sense of mono-no-aware, the transcience of the moment. I really do think the show excels at timing their shots. (Note that this extends to moe moments, such as the minute long face close-up of Renge starting to cry, because her new friend surpringly left – season one.)

    Anywa, a couple of my favourite moe shows, without any pretense of ranking:

    Ichigo Marshmellow: The girls in this one are slightly younger than usual; eleven and twelve. The show is quite good at portraying the age difference: the eleven year olds are less concerned with growing up than the twelve year olds (where one does her best to be mature, while the other is being insufferable, which she sees as some sort of comedy routine and I see as some sort of Peter Pan syndrome). They have a caretaker – the laidback, chain-smoking, motorbike-riding sister of one of the girls.

    Yuyushiki: Three girls create the data processing club – which involves looking up useless facts on the internet and summarising them in a haiku(?). This is exactly as random as it sounds. I don’t think any anime show has ever portrayed friends goofing off together better, and there are those rare blink-and-you-miss-it moments, where a simple sideways glance shows you, for example, that a character feels left out. Great group dynamics. The humour is bizarre and banal at the same time, which is quite an achievement. During the show’s run they introduce a second trio of girls, and the groups slowly start to mingle. This peaks in the excellent “pan-ningen” skit, where for the first time all six of them interact – situational comedy at its finest.

    A-Channel: I’m not quite sure why I like this show so much, but part of this is clearly mood. If I had a blog, I’d probably have a post about the opening sequence of episode 10, and it would have been about how you use setting and style for characterisation. The scene assumes that you know the character in question (it contains only one character), and the entire scene works almost without words. While I’m at it, I’ll also say that this is probably the most unapologetic and open case of synergetic marketing I’ve encountered in a moe show: the opening has panels from the manga, as well as the CD-cover of the opening song; and every single episode includes an insert song.

    Morita-san wa Mukuchi A show about a girl who doesn’t talk much; 5 minutes per episode. It’s entirely unexceptional, but I found it quite charming, and not many people mention it. It doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.

    Tamayura: A healing anime, if there ever was one. After the death of the father (a photographer), a family moves back in with the father’s mother, and the daughter re-connects with her father by taking photographs with his old Rollei Camera. It’s really sweet and safe. I recommend small doses, or the sweetness will overpower you. The show is really good at providing snapshots: some of the photos really contain movement. There’s an OVA, two TV seasons, and a series of movies, only one of which is out yet, I think (maybe two?).

    Anyway, that would be my picks.


    • Oh, yeah, Renge is the top level of engagement that sucks you into Non Non Biyori, and then the rest of the show takes over from there. And yeah, there’s actually an incredibly high level of craft that goes into that show, which is really neat.

      I’ve heard many good things about Yuyushiki and am looking forward to watching it! Tamayura is another one that sounds familiar to me, although I haven’t heard as much about it as I have Yuyushiki.


  3. How I learned to stop worrying and love the moe….

    Kamichu’s very good. I’ve enjoyed Azumanga long before I even know moe is a thing (I think it’s the kick-starter of the whole trend?). Nichijou’s got a very absurdist that I often found inexplicably hilarious.

    (also, whew, girl on the screencap has super wicked eyes)


    • Yup, Nichijou‘s another good one, although the comedy element of it is so strong that I almost don’t even think of it as being a moe show.

      (That’s Lelei from Gate. No joke, the anticipation of seeing her eyes in action was almost the sole factor keeping me watching through the first two episodes.)


  4. Unfortunately the link doesn’t work for me – but I’ve always had problems accessing Crunchyroll, perhaps because of my location.

    Azumanga has probably got to be my favourite moe show, but I’m not sure if that would still be the case had I watched it later on, after I became more aware of the term and its associations. Non Non Biyori is an excellent contender too, however. It makes me feel incredibly nostalgic for the Japanese countryside, and I still actually live here, so god only knows how the show’s going to affect me when I no longer do. Oh, and if Kamichu counts as a moe show (I’m on the fence about that and could probably be convinced either way), then that’s also a very good and very sweet series that rivals Non Non Biyori in terms of setting detail and accuracy.


  5. Moe ( meaning strong affection ) can be used too broadly sometimes IMO. It can crossover to being Kawaii ( cuteness ). Moe has evovled into the too easy labeling of anime like genres. I am as guilty as anybody else! I try to limit the use of moe mech as I can. Also I consider the term be used to younger characters and Kawaii for others . Moe is easy to spell!!

    However some of my favorite Moe characters which I think you would agree !

    Naru / Barakamon

    Renge / Non-Non Biyori

    Mashiro / Engaged to the Unidentified

    Chiaki Minami / Minami-ke A very good anime BTW

    This not an inclusive list but just for example!


    • I haven’t seen Minami-ke, but I’m in agreement for the other three!

      Interesting point about moe being used to broadly. As an aesthetic, its influence is basically ubiquitous at this point—but how many shows actually are moe and how many are just using the artstyle?


  6. I like to think of moe as an innocent, child-like kind of cuteness that engenders a feeling of protectiveness: a desire preserve the innocence.
    In fact, although he doesn’t look like your average moe girl, I can think of one character whose child-like passion, imagination, and pure dorkiness makes you just want to hug him, give him a plate of fried chicken, and tell him never to give up on his dreams.
    Yes, I believe that SHIROBAKO’s director proves to the nonbelievers that indeed, GROWN MEN CAN BE MOE!! =P


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