“Bishojo” is a Japanese term literally meaning “beautiful girl,” and usually refers to genres of anime and video games that are centered on them. What is considered to be bishojo is subjective to its artists and audiences; such characters can have but are not limited to:
- Large, endearing eyes to convey her emotions — a characteristic of the anime-art style
- An ideal female body shape — the hourglass figure
- An emphasis of the breasts by making them large, giving her sex appeal
- A wide array of hairstyles, even those that seem impossible in real life
- Have a wardrobe that includes skirts, blouses, and dresses
- Moe characteristics
“Moe,” pronounced “mo-eh,” literally referring to a budding plant, is an informal Japanese term meaning a type of feeling towards anime female characters. The moe character exudes an aura of innocence, through her appearance and quirky personality; we might be attracted to her so much that we desire to be with her — to protect her, to be her boyfriend, to be her father, because in our minds she represents the ideal female.
Take the anime series, “K-On!” for example — it can be considered bishojo and moe anime. Mio Akiyama, among fans of the series, is a popular character because she displays moe characteristics. Though she is shown to be serious, we also see her embarrassed and frightened; she generates her audience’s desire to console her as well as protect her from her friend Ritsu Tainaka, who happens to tease her frequently. Mio can also be bishojo due to her hime (hii-may) cut hairstyle; though, all of the female characters of K-On! can be bishojo because the school uniforms they wear make them look cuter (subjective).
Visual novels (VNs) are a popular genre of game in Japan, and are another major source of bishojo and moe characters aside from anime series. The majority of VNs involve romance between a male protagonist and several female romantic prospects. Usually the male protagonist is depicted as a young Japanese or Asian, as it’s assumed that whoever plays such VNs is a male of Asian descent, giving him someone to identify with. A player sees the world in his view, and eyes a girl whom he deems bishojo and moe. He desires to be with her maybe because of her beautiful long black hair and clumsy personality, or he identifies her with a girl he has known in real life — he thus plays the game to vicariously have a relationship with her. In the end, he can have sex with her (in adult-oriented VNs), and/or marry and have children with her.
One might argue that bishojo and moe characters are objectifying the female sex mostly because of the nature of the anime art style. However, others argue it’s not — she offers herself for him to protect, offers herself for him to be with her, and most importantly offers her eternal love and support, not as an object but as if she were a real human female. She can represent a girl a guy has loved, and offer him a second chance with her, giving him a fantasy he cannot otherwise achieve in real life.
The world is an imperfect place and is filled with many broken hearts and loneliness. Bishojo and moe characters offer a perfect fantasy for male, as well as female, audiences to escape the harshness of the real world. It’s a potent concoction that can elicit feelings of longing and nostalgia.