12 Days of Moe – Day 6: Character-driven humor

I mentioned character-driven humor in the last post, but what exactly is “character-driven humor”? This post aims to study the humor behind moe anime.


Character-driven anime are where the show is mostly carried by the characters themselves, and what’s important here is that the characters’ actions don’t really bring any dynamic changes to the plot, hence the difference between this and plot-driven anime where the focus are more on external conflicts, twists, action and development on a situation. Not just moe, but quite a lot of slice of life anime are character-driven. Stories like these may focus on a character’s backstory, developments and so on, while plot-driven elements are minimal to none.

Applying that theory, character-driven humor makes use of it’s own characters as a basis for their jokes — a prime example being Wagnaria (Yamada breaking plates, Takanashi liking small things, Satou’s unrequited love, etc…). This is character-driven humor in a nutshell-using their own characters as a basis for humor.

Yamada breaking plates is a constant running gag for Wagnaria.

Yamada breaking plates is a constant running gag for Wagnaria.

I notice the Japanese seems to be more keen with character-driven humor than American humor where the joke can be understood at first glance with the use of sarcasm, wordplay, slapsticks and outright physical comedy. This is a big difference here, considering Japanese humor really requires you to invest and understand the characters’ personalities and their relationships with each other to get the humor.


To illustrate some examples, Mio’s timidness in K-ON isn’t funny if we aren’t introduced to her character first and foremost, additionally, we also aren’t introduced to how that timid personality clash with the other main characters. K-ON is funny because of the dynamics and chemistry between all the main characters-but this is something you won’t get without watching from the first episode. It’s also hard to find humor in one of GochiUsa’s running gag — Cocoa’s overly protective tendencies for Chino and overall obsession with being a big sister, without understanding their subtleties, backstories and relationship. GochiUsa is fun just like every other moe shows because of the dynamics between the main characters, which again, is something you won’t get if you jump straight in without first being properly introduced to said dynamics.


Character-driven humor seeks excitement and amusement in routine, everyday lives. Maybe this is why I like them, because they are funny, in a different kind of “funny” Gintama or any American comedy are. Character-driven humor is a more down-to-earth comedy, it helps you understand the characters and invest in them as they participate in their daily activities. At the end of the day, it’s as if you made some new friends whom you mess around with over the simplest matters.

This is the magic of moe anime — their settings are often extremely sanitized but they give that sense of relaxation and inviting atmosphere like no other purely just from character dynamics.

This entry was posted by Kai.

4 thoughts on “12 Days of Moe – Day 6: Character-driven humor

  1. Some of my favorite anime of all time are character driven ones. It’s always a good thing to not have be lost in the scenery or story of the anime. If you ever have the time, check out the series Honey x Clover.

  2. I love when characters have unique and awkward quirks, that surface in subtle ways.
    Though I noticed that it is sometimes a thin line to get annoyed by too repetitive quirks.
    Cocoa is my girl 😋 but in the last season I got so annoyed by her “big sister” blabla XD
    In the second half it became more bearable 😄

    • I don’t really get annoyed by them. As a weekly episodic thing I never get tired of the jokes :p

      Cocoa is interesting because S1 introduced her quirk while S2 delved a little bit more into her “big sister” dynamic. I’m not saying anything as serious as “Cocoa has a lot more depth” or anything since it’s obviously not anything serious. But definitely enjoyed the extra depth that went into her “big sister” character dynamic.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: