The Man in the Moe

“If the emphasis in moe anime is on the female characters, where does that leave the male characters?”

I asked myself that question, and after some deliberation it turned into, “What do you look for in male characters in moe anime?” I want to turn the question to you the reader as well, provided you’re someone who has enjoyed moe anime in the past, even if you’re not necessarily a fan. Keep in mind that I don’t mean that the male characters themselves have to be “moe,” but just that they exist within those types of anime. If you want to extend the question to yuri shows as well, that is also okay.

For me, the first thing that popped into my head was Maria-sama ga Miteru, namely the all-male student council that exists outside of the all-girl school where Marimite primarily takes place. Marimite has a heavy emphasis on female characters, so when one of those male council members, Takada Megane, talks about how he loves to work out and eat meat all while flexing at the girls, it really stands out. It’s as if Takada and his muscles are inadvertently shattering the yuri-heavy atmosphere of Marimite, and the first time I saw him I thought, “Yes, you are the best male character in this show.” Applying that back to my own question, it makes me think that while I definitely enjoy Marimite for what it is (and own almost all of it on DVD), I like the idea that there exists something a little beyond the world of the girls, even if it’s not that far removed, and male characters who act kind of contrary to that setting actually serve to emphasize the feel of Marimite.

One concern I have is a possible philosophy that the male characters in such series don’t matter, as I feel that even if they’re out of the spotlight they can have a huge impact on the work itself.

So what do you think?

21 thoughts on “The Man in the Moe

  1. I obviously don’t watch much moé anime (I’m vocally against the style), but as far as I’ve seen, Azumanga Daioh is the most visible counterexample to your claim that the male characters necessarily affect the stories in moé series. It’s clear that in quite a few shows they are used in ways that enhance the plot, but Azumanga’s 95% female cast posits that male characters are not actually necessary for the functioning of a moé anime, even if the setting is that of a co-ed school.

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    • I don’t think that male characters necessarily affect the stories of moe anime either. However, I feel like as “unimportant” as they might be, a show’s treatment of its male characters can say a lot about the show, possibly more than their treatment of the female characters, especially if it’s by not acknowledging their existence at all. Case in point with Azumanga Daioh: I think Kimura is made that much funnier when you know what the MALE students think about him (they feel a camaraderie with him based on his honesty, creepy as he might be).

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  2. It’s a bit hard to matter when YOU DON’T EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE. (Kidding, of course. There are plenty of guys in moe series. They’re just in the moe series targeted towards girls.)

    Still, the de-emphasis of male characters in moe anime is getting to the point that some titles are shifting away from the traditional “the male character in the moe anime is the stand-in for the reader” model to a “if they’re there, they’re about as vital a character as a girl in a Fukumoto manga.”

    To take a page from blue collar multimillionaire Jeff Foxworthy, if you gotta stop and think for a bit to come up with TWO prominent male characters in the series… it MIGHT be a moe anime.

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  3. The only reason to have a male character in a moe show is for the audience to have someone to relate to. Why else would there be so many harem shows that feature a bland loser main character?

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    • I was thinking about the facelessness of visual novel characters, when my thoughts turned to Key games and the realization that the male protagonists in all 3 main Key games have something to them that doesn’t make them a complete player surrogate.

      In Kanon, the guy has that amnesia caused by trauma, in Air the guy is part of the cycle of reincarnation, and in Clannad the guy has a wrecked home life. To an extent that’s just the Key crying game tragedy style, but it’s interesting that THE visual novel maker sees it fit to give their main heroes significant backstory that may potentially be hard to relate to.

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    • You know, I never really thought of it that way. It makes the male characters’ usual blandness kinda make sense.

      However, I’d still like to have a strong personality on the lead male end of the spectrum instead of dealing with the wimpy-ass “I don’t know if she likes me” crap. It just gets annoying after awhile.

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  4. I like it when there’s no guys in a show, but don’t necessarily dislike guys being there either. My favorite guys in moe shows are the ones who, go figure, actually do enough badass shit to make me care about them as much as (or at least, as much as before the natural gap of my ability to care about female characters over male characters) the female characters.

    The examples that always spring to mind immediately are Keiichi Maebara from Higurashi and Hakuoro-sama from Utawarerumono.

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    • harem doesn’t count

      I don’t really notice the lack of male characters when watching a female driven show but it always bugs me after that unless said show is about yuri.
      Some people call the kind of Aria a great healing show but I call it bullshit, it’s maybe a matter of preference but I never have respect for a creator who couldn’t make proper male characters in their “healing shows”.

      Still, a moe anime is better than a harem anime, period.

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  5. I liked the guy in He Is My Master.

    If it’s a harem situation, it’s probably better if the guy isn’t a milquetoast and is actively a pervert taking advantage of the situation, even if it results in getting punched into the air, or whatever.

    Sadly, it seems that rarely ever happens!

    Sometimes the guy is a milquetoast and takes advantage of the situation, and things turn into School Days.

    Is Bakemonogatari a moe show? I liked Araragi. He was a cool guy. Got things done. Was kind of a milquetoast, but was enough of a cool guy to balance it out. He’s like one of my favorite characters in the show, actually. What a cool dude.

    Key protagonists are usually okay, Maeda writes good male characters.

    Basically I’d like a guy who is effectual in some way.

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  6. Hmm… well, we already know that male characters aren’t a necessity in these shows and that sometimes they work better without them. Still, I don’t think they should be left entirely out of the equation. I suppose in the lighthearted comedy/slice of-life series’ that rely more on fluff than anything else, the male characters don’t have much of an impact, but guys like Tomoya Okazaki from Clannad make a huge difference to me. If there’s any romance or plot to go alongside the moe, it helps considerably to have a genuinely relateable or sympathetic male lead rather than a blank self-insert. Similarly, forcing blank male characters into a show with little plot (such as most harem series) actually decreases the enjoyment for me, to the point that I’d enjoy shows like To Love-Ru more if the protag simply weren’t there. Of course the story would be nonexistent then, but you get the idea.

    tl;dr, I’d say that male characters aren’t exactly necessary in shows like K-on but they can make a world of difference in anything that actively tries to involve the viewer in its world, either through romance or flat-out fanservice… and in both cases, a stereotypical faceless male lead can ruin the experience.

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  7. Men in some cases facilitate moe. For example, the cameraman’s assistant who asks out Noe (the glasses girl) in Taisho Yakyuu Musume, and she gets all shy and quiet. So super cute!– But the man definitely had to be there to make that happen.

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  8. I think one of the main roles of the man in moe show is to be the avatar of awe, the one who notes out how moe the characters are. Seeing as moe is a demographic composed mostly of male characters, most of the shows use this fact in order to be able to concretely state the moe of whoever is in question. Though this kind of mindset is mostly seen in harem anime, I think it mostly applies to other genres, like reverse-harem (girl amidst lots of guys), or traps/reverse-traps (moe over crossdressing girls and boys).

    If there is someone who’ll obviously state the moe in a certain situation, it has to be the male character, be it the protagonist or a side/minor character.

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  9. Unfortunately my experience with moe anime is rather limited, but I can tell you that in Key adaptations, the male character(s) is/are pretty vital to the show. On the other hand, those are set up to be romantic stories in the first place, which does kind of necessitate the male characters. On the other hand, if you consider shows like K-On!, male characters really don’t exist. But that’s pretty much because they really don’t matter, nor do they affect the series at all. Shows like K-On are rather rare though… I think.

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  10. (I thought the sensibilities of Marimite were more shoujo than moe.)

    Well, not common to all moe anime but very frequently seen in moe harems, I look for a male protagonist whose tsundere opposite has crossed the line, from simple coldness or feigned disinterest, into actual abuse or otherwise making his life hell, to have some self-respect and shut her out of his life. Never seems to happen though…

    I don’t think being a moe show really affects what I look for most of the time. Because I see most shows with this label as merely being in a conventional genre, (and this includes, for instance, anything which KyoAni have ever done), with the cuteness of its females as an extra. So the male characters should do whatever is good in that genre generally. They should have amusing traits in comedies, feel vaguely real in slice-of-life, be strong and well-developed in drama etc.

    But I think it can be very different in a show which is dedicated to moe. I’ve only ever discovered one show like this, which was Tsukuyomi, but that’s the only show in which I felt the ‘blank slate’ male lead actually worked. (It can probably work in games, since a game player has a very different relationship with the protagonist, but always looks lacking when transferred into an anime adaption.) But in this case… I don’t think it’s self-insertion as such, more like framing; the primary purpose of the show is to present Hazuki, and Kouhei provides the normal/default perspective on her. Something which the rest of the show can use as a base.

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  11. I say just throw Ataru Moroboshi and Shutaro Mendou into these kinds of shows and see how well the cast deals with their distinct pervasive strategies.

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  12. I think male characters are not necessary at all. K-on! is a standard moe anime, which has no male characters. Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight! and Kanamemo are just like K-on!. And moe anime, harem anime and yuri anime are obviously different. Moe anime makes you cry out “kawaii” , the audience can be male or female. Harem anime is for male, and the most important I think is immersion. Someone can be contented by imaging himself the hero of the anime. I don’t watch much yuri anime. Perhaps it’s just like gay anime for 腐女子

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