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Moe - Meaning - 萌え

Saturday, November 11, 2017
One of the best things about anime is moe 萌え. You could go as far as saying that some people only watch anime because of moe. That some people like the most moe anime the best. But... what is moe? What does the word moe mean in Japanese? Does moe in the west mean the same thing as it does in Japan? What is moe really about?

Western Definition

In the west, the word moe means "cute, young girls" in manga and anime. This isn't the word's original meaning, it's just what most people think of when they hear the word moe.

In Japanese, manga and anime which is called moe normally features cute, young girls. Because of this, people in the west ended up associating the word moe directly with said cute, young girls.

What Moe Looks Like

Before delving into what moe really is, let's take a look on what it looks like.


What people consider moe varies. Some people consider certain things more moe or less moe than others. It's a matter of opinion, personal taste.

However, generally speaking, moe as a style features large eyes, tiny mouths, and dots for noses. These features are sometimes associated with anime as a whole, but not all anime feature such style. Anime that's considered moe often features it, and anime that's not considered moe often doesn't feature it. There are exceptions, but that's the norm.


Some anime are entirely moe, having a full cast of moe characters. Some anime have only girl characters, no guys, others are more mixed. Some have only one guy, the main character, and his "harem" of moe girl (there's sometimes an extra guy, the main character's friend).

There's also anime that's partially moe, having only a few exceptionally cute characters amidst a cast that's not cute at all.

Japanese Definition

The Japanese definition of moe is not "cute, young girls" like in the west. It's not that type of word.

The word moe actually comes from a verb, moeru, which is a neologism, a made-up word, a slang created by the anime otaku オタク used to talk about nothing more, nothing less than cute 2D girls.
  • moe 萌え
    A feeling of euphoria towards cuteness.
  • moeru 萌える
    moemasu 萌えます
    To feel moe. (this a verb)
    To moe.
  • X ni moeru Xに萌える
    To moe for X.
  • moeta 萌えた
    moemashita 萌えました
    Felt moe. (verb above in the past)
    To have moe'd.
  • moenai 萌えない
    moemasen 萌えません
    To not feel moe. (negative)
    To not moe.

As we can see above, there's a fundamental difference between how the word moe is used in English and how the word moe is used in Japanese.

In English, we say a character is moe. In Japanese, we say we feel moe because of a character. We feel moe for a character. Essentially, moe is something that makes your heart go:

This means that moe is not about the art style, but about your reaction, your emotional response to art. It's usually about the visuals, but it can also be about a story with no drawings in it.


When the word moe comes up in manga and anime, the official translators, the fansubbers, etc. have to translate it somehow. But they wouldn't just put a TL note saying moe is a feeling (okay, fine, some probably would). Instead, what most of them do is translate a literal "[I] moe'd" into "she's too adorbs!" or something.

But if that's what moe really is, then what's the well-known moe style we talked about above? Well, it's merely a style which's been battled-tested and is known to have a higher probability of eliciting the feeling of moe. If an artist wants to elicit moe, they choose the "moe style," because everybody know it works. Could a different (uglier) style be moe? Sure. But it'd be more difficult that way.

The Moe Feeling

This moe feeling can be something that grows in you after a number of episodes as you become more attached to a given character, like falling in love, or it can be something momentous due to how a character is depicted at a given time, like feeling surprised. It's not something you control or decide when it happens.


It can be associated with a pure adoration of cuteness, or an endearing sentiment that makes you feel like you need to protect a character, or even something more indecent like sexual lust and perverted fantasies. The core idea is that moe makes you feel attached, attracted to a character in a way or another, be it a pure way or an impure way.

The moe feeling can be elicited by the cuteness of certain physical attributes, outfits, mannerisms, etc. It's a matter of taste. Different people consider different things moe. It can even be elicited by a situation a character's part of, or the relationship characters have between each other. What people feel moe about varies.
  • moe e 萌え絵
    A moe drawing. A drawing that makes you feel moe.
  • moe kyara 萌えキャラ
    A moe character. A character that makes you feel moe.
  • moe goe 萌え声
    A moe voice. A voice that makes you feel moe.
  • moe shichueeshon 萌えシチュエーション
    A moe situation. A situation that makes you feel moe.

To feel moe isn't the same thing as liking a character. You can feel moe for characters you don't like, and just because you like a character doesn't mean you moe for them.

(the usage of the word moe and related words in Japanese start being discussed in The Kanji of Moe way too far below. You might want to skip ahead if you don't care about other moe things)

Saimoe: The Most Moe Characters

Some characters are the "worst," saiaku 最悪, some are the "greatest," saikou 最高, and are the "moe-est," saimoe 最萌.

The Anime Saimoe Tournament was a poll held on the Japanesed board 2channel where users of the forum voted on the "most moe" character of all times (each year). Until 2014, when they stopped doing that.

Luckily, the International SaiMoe League, a.k.a. ISML, born from the exclusive Japanese Saimoe, is still going on. So everybody can vote on their waifus for best girl/husbandos for best guy every single year.

Japanese Saimoe Champions

For reference, a list of the Japanese saimoe champions 2002-2014. This is a good example of the consensus on what characters are moe in Japan for a good decade.

2002: Kinomoto Sakura 木之本 さくら (Cardcaptor Sakura)
2003: Harada Riku 原田 梨紅 (D.N.Angel)
2004: Rosemary Applefield (Ashita no Nadja)
2005: Takamachi Nanoha 高町なのは (Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha)
2006: Suiseiseki 翠星石 (Rozen Maiden)
2007: Furude Rika 古手 梨花 (Higurashi no Naku Koro ni)
2008: Hiiragi Kagami 柊かがみ (Lucky Star)
2009: Aisaka Taiga 逢坂 大河 (Toradora!)
2010: Nakano Azusa 中野 梓 (K-On!)
2011: Tomoe Mami 巴 マミ (Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica)
2012: Onjouji Toki 園城寺 怜 (Saki Achiga-hen: Episode of Side-A)
2013: Kaname Madoka 鹿目 まどか (Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica)
2014: (there was a draw, two winners, both from the same anime)
2014: Miyanaga Saki 宮永 咲 (Saki)
2014: Haramura Nodoka 原村 和 (Saki)

Moe vs. Sexy

Sexy isn't the same thing as moe. The idea of moe is about being cute, not sexy. The attraction which moe creates isn't necessarily a sexual attraction. The most moe characters aren't necessarily fictional sex symbols.

In real life, you can think someone is cute without thinking they're sexy. And just because you think someone is cute doesn't mean you want to have sex with them. The same thing applies to moe.

There are, yes, people who think a character is cute, moe, and end up developing a type of sexual attraction towards them. Some of these people end up drawing hentai doujinshi of the characters, selling them, or buying them, sexualizing the poor, innocent characters. But that's not everybody.

It isn't inherent of moe to be sexual. People make it sexual if they want to.

Moe vs. Lolicon

Sometimes moe is mistakenly associated with "lolicon," rorikon ロリコン, which is a fetish toward underage characters, children, whom are referred to as "lolis." The word is also used toward those with such fetish.

This happens because, in order to make characters cuter, moe often makes them look younger than normal. It's not unusual in moe for high-school students to be drawn as middle-school students or elementary-school students. College students also fall victim of this. In extreme cases, even adults are drawn as little children. In more extreme cases, even elders are drawn as children. In further beyond extreme PLUS ULTRA!!! cases children which look like elders are drawn like children!!!


However, moe is not lolicon.

First, because moe characters may be of adult age, and may look like actual adults instead of children or teenagers. It just so happens that they're usually underage because most anime takes place in high-school and high-school students are underage.

Second, lolicon means "anime pedophile" in the west and "actual pedophile" in Japan, that word has strong sexual connotations. The idea of moe isn't necessarily sexual. Some people would rather think underage moe characters are precious and should be protected, not sexualized.


So, although there is an overlap between moe and lolicon, they are not the same thing. A moe character isn't necessarily a loli, a loli character isn't necessarily moe.

Moe vs. Bishoujo

The term bishoujo 美少女, meaning "beautiful girl," refers to character who are, well, beautiful girls.

A lot characters considered moe are are indeed beautiful girls, bishoujo, but not all of them are. The same way, there are bishoujo characters that are not considered moe.

First, because moe is more about cuteness than beauty, and second, because it really depends on your tastes and your feelings, so just because a character is a bishoujo doesn't mean you'll consider them moe.

Generally speaking, the term bishoujo is applied to characters that are teenagers and young adults and look pretty. Characters that are young children can be considered cute, thus moe, but are hardly considered bishoujo.

Male Moe

The term moe is normally associated with female characters, however, the term isn't actually exclusive to girls. Male characters can be considered moe too.

When it comes to male moe, it's important to understand there are two types, as defined by their respective audiences: the male audience and the female audience.

Male Moe For Males

For men, in general, effeminate characters are moe. Traps, crossdressers, etc. Anime targeted at the adult male audience, featuring an ample cast of moe girls, and then one token trap character, is clearly saying that trap characters are considered moe by the adult male audience. Otherwise such characters wouldn't be as common as they are.

Some men argue that finding traps moe is not gay, others say that such thing is actually fucking gay beyond discussion. As far as I know, men who ship gay couples of male characters, fudanshi 腐男子, are not necessarily gay, so just finding traps moe is probably irrelevant to your sexual orientation.

Male Moe For Females

For women, the standards of moe are completely different than those for men. Obviously. If the standards of beauty are different between sexes, standards of cuteness must be different too, and that naturally goes for characters too.

Generally speaking, male moe is associated with bishounen 美少年, "pretty boys," and ikemen イケメン, "hot guys," characters. Similar to female moe, the traits of the characters are countless. Male moe is also not necessarily sexual.

One thing worth noting is that the average look of a male moe character is older than that of a female moe character. They are still young in absolute age, but they look relatively older.

You could say that, if a man were to insert himself into a moe anime, he would, on average, choose to be slightly older than the girls. Conversely, if a woman were to self insert into a moe anime, she would choose to be slightly younger than her fantasy interests.

Another mirrored axis is that female moe characters are often built in a way that they depend on male characters (and the audience), while male moe characters are built so they look dependable for female characters (and the audience).

Male Moe, For Other Moe Males, For Females

The above is all, of course, assuming we're talking about an audience composed of female otaku that views characters from a female viewpoint. But that's not always the case.

When it comes to fujoshi 腐女子, girls who fantasize about gay couples of characters, avid BL/Yaoi consumers, male moe is no longer about guy characters for girls, but about guy character for other guy characters. So fujoshi moe is about forming seme-uke pairings.

There wouldn't be that much of a difference in the appearance of moe, however, there's a difference in scenarios. Some scenarios with a guy and a girl may not be moe for a fujoshi despite being moe for the general female audience. Conversely, scenarios with two guys may be moe for a fujoshi despite not being moe for the general female audience.

Moe Fantasy

The unlimited potential of the 2D world is part of the appeal of moe.

Men can't expect every real girl they come across to be pure, adorable, devoted and subservient. That's an unrealistic fantasy. But they can expect that in the 2D world, and that's moe.

Women can't expect every real guy to be a caring lover that could be scouted by a model agency, but with moe, they can.

And fujoshi can't expect every real guy to be gay and madly in love with the nearest guy, but with moe, they can.

Anything that's totally not realistic, but cute, in anime, is brought to you by moe. If the audience rolled their eyes when these ridiculous things happened instead of accepting them, authors wouldn't put them in anime. It's because the audience recognizes anime can be a just a fantasy that moe is allowed to thrive.

Since it's a fantasy, it doesn't need to be normal. Cuteness in anime isn't the mediocre cuteness you can find in real life. It's a cuteness of unlimited potential and diversity. People can imagine anything as cute, even if these things are improbable or impossible, and then just draw or write them. That's how you get so many different types of moe.

Types of Moe

Virtually anything can be moe, thus the list of things that are moe got too big and I had to put it in its own article.

Please see the article Types of Moe for reference. It describes the four main types of moe:

Moe Industry

An important aspect of moe is the industry that's been created around it. Sure, the manga industry, the anime industry, and the video-game industry already existed, so moe isn't really an industry of its own, it's more like an overlapping thing.

The artists, who can draw moe characters, supply them, and the consumers who demand moe are the basis of this so-called industry. It's an industry based on selling cute character for those that like them, regardless of the media used.

Make no mistake: we're obviously using moe to make money here. To attract clients, consumers, audience. Because of this, moe is sometimes said to be pandering to the otaku audience.

Who Buys Moe?

An interesting thing about moe is who buys it and who is it sold to. Obviously, moe is marketed toward the otaku, the more hardcore fans. Further, when we talk about female moe, it's targeted at male adults. Not young boys, not young girls, not adult women. Adult men.

When an anime is full of female characters, whether the anime is moe or not often depends on whether the anime is shoujo or seinen. A shoujo anime is targeted at young girls. A seinen anime is targeted at adult men. So if the anime is seinen, it's probably moe, but if it's not seinen, it's probably not moe.

Making Moe Money

An effect of this shows in how an anime makes money.

A shoujo anime is targeted at young girls, at children. So it makes money selling toys that parents can afford. Meanwhile, a seinen aimed is aimed at adult men fanatic for anime. It makes money selling expensive blu-rays that eat a large part of their paychecks, plus assorted merchandising that ends up being really costly.

For example, the mahoujo shoujo 魔法少女 anime "Pretty Cure," futari wa purikyua ふたりはプリキュア (PreCure), is a shoujo anime that sell magical girl dolls, etc. On the other hand, K-On! is a seinen anime that's made to sell otaku stuff.

Note that seinen anime deliberately try to make the girls moe while shoujo anime does not. This isn't to say a shoujo anime can't be moe. They are often not moe because they aren't trying to be.

Sometimes, a shoujo anime can be moe without trying. For example, Sakura Card Captor, whose main character has won the title of "most moe" (saimoe) in 2002 based on the results of a poll on the popular otaku board 2chan.

Moe Gaming

Dating sims, dating simulators, games where you, well, simulate dating with fictional girls, are a strong source of moe characters. This is only natural. If a game about dating girls doesn't feature the cutest girls there would be something very wrong with it.

Games that are not about dating, just games in general, have turned strongly to moe. In particular, Japanese mobile games, which instead of cutesy drawings have moe characters. This might be because games are much more abstract and let authors add more fantasy to it, so characters can be cute in ways that wouldn't be possible in other media such as manga and anime.

Needless to say, male moe also exists in games. Games with moe characters for the female audience exist, of course. The dating sims for women are sometimes called otome 乙女 games. There are also mobile games popular with the female audience for the moe characters.

Moe Fanservice

When you hear the word fanservice you normally think of those ecchi situations with panty shoots, wardrobe malfunctions and girls taking baths or something. However, there's also another, less known, type of fanservice: moe fanservice.

As the name says, fanservice is a service (shot, scene) to the fans. So moe fanservice is a moe (shot, scene) that's jarringly shoved up in the middle of nowhere just to pander fans of moe.

Any scene that makes characters cuter than normal, that's meant to make the audience attached to the characters, and so on, that just serves no other purpose, really, is moe fanservice.

Common examples of moe fanservice include:
  • A girl character gets a new cute trait or quirk, that's completely irrelevant for the rest of the series.
  • A girl character dresses in a french maid outfit or some other cute outfit for an episode for some weird reason.
  • A male character ends up crossdressing for some weird reason.

If you have ever wondered why the stuff above keeps happening despite it making zero sense, now you know: it's because of moe.

Just like ecchi fanservice doesn't exist in a purely ecchi anime, moe fanservice doesn't exist in a purely moe anime. The idea is that it's inserted into an anime that's not really moe, for fans who're missing some moe in the anime. Such fanservice might be unwelcome by fans that were not missing the moe.

Moe Anime 萌えアニメ

A moe anime, also called moe anime 萌えアニメ in Japanese, is an anime which has moe as its main selling point.

I'm bringing this up because I want to note that: most anime are not moe anime.

It's true that most modern anime tend to go for a moe-esque style, yes, but they're kind of forced to. It's the official bandwagon of the industry, the trend. Every new anime looks kind of moe. It would be weirder if an anime didn't go for that same style. However, just because the characters look cute, or because a girl or two is moe, that doesn't make the anime a moe anime.

A moe anime usually features a cast full of girls, diverse, each with a different set of attributes that can be considered moe. It focuses on developing the characters and displaying many sides of them in order to give them enough chances to resonate with the audience.

A moe anime rarely cares about the plot. Sometimes the plot is inconsequential, sometimes it's dramatic, but the focus is kept on the characters instead of goal points.

The reason why moe anime get to have their own genre despite the fact you can have deliberate moe in any anime, is so that you won't alienate your audience. There's a divide between anime viewers that's been dubbed like this by some:
  • Type A viewers
    Watch anime for the story.
  • Type B viewers
    Watch anime for the (moe) characters.

(honestly, I have never seen the above terms being used, only presented the same way I'm presenting them, but I'm reusing them here for convenience.)

The general idea is that type A viewers see a bunch of cute girls participating in a certain championship, and they want to see them win the championship. Meanwhile, type B viewers want to see said girls spending their sweet time reminiscing of their pasts, one after the other, so they get to know more about each girl, their relationships, feelings and quirks.

In the scenario above, the type A viewer gets angry about all this useless moe fanservice. They couldn't care less about each adversary backstory since elementary school. They just want them to get with the program and win the damn thing already. But if they did that, the type B viewer would get sad for such interesting characters not getting the proper screen time they deserve.

When an anime tries to do this stuff, it alienates both sides. This is why anime with less moe sticks to the plot, while pure moe anime screams that it doesn't have a plot worth caring about so these type A viewers won't get their hopes up and maybe won't even pick the anime and waste their time.

Hate For Moe

Despite the general success of moe in anime, some people hate it. A lot.

This is because moe feels forced for some, the same way fanservice feels forced. Having every female character in anime turned into a cuteness object to pander the male audience can really gross some people out. And this isn't only pro-feminism women disgusted by sexism in the media, the average male fan of anime may also find it disturbing.

Of course, since moe varies from person to person, one can like one type of moe and hate another. It's usually the most blatant, most pandering in-your-face moe that gets hated.

Useless Characters

Often, moe characters are useless characters. They are cute. Period.

They are incapable of independent thought or action, and rarely advance the plot. They are there just as eye-candy and nothing more, which makes fans who don't buy into moe crap to ask "what the fuck is this girl even doing there?"

Victim Characters

Another complaint about moe is how characters are too victimized. Not in the same sense as real life, no, more in a "stop making the character a victim" sense.

This happens because tragedy scenarios are common in moe. While some fans of moe think that a girl being a broken victim of a horrible tragedy, or a victim of a terrible illness, enhances their endearment toward the character, haters of moe cringe over the thought somebody deliberate fucked up a character's life just so a bunch of deranged individuals could drool all over her backstory.

Also, as an extension of useless characters, girls that fall victims of kidnapping, poisoning, cursing, etc. and end up relying on a male main character to solve all their problems are also target of disgust. This is specially true for girl characters that were sold as super-strong just moments ago but now they've been kidnapped and became completely powerless! Like... seriously?

Lack of Good Plot

Too much moe makes the story lean toward selling characters instead of plots. This means the characters become too detailed, diverse and unique, while the plot is garbage that's not thought well enough or perhaps completely irrelevant.

Besides the random moe fanservice inserted in the middle of any anime, a fear people who hate moe have is that fewer anime have deep, thought-provoking stories because the shallow ones with cute characters are more popular and make more money.

While a valid concern and some people are legitimately worried about the lack of good stories in anime, it's important to note that some of the people who claim this are, in fact, hypocrites.

They'll say anything without moe has a good plot, even when it doesn't. Then they'll try to justify the fact that that anime isn't popular because it's not moe and the average fan can't appreciate a good story. In reality the anime is garbage, the story is bad. It's just not cute garbage, it's ugly garbage. What motivates these people isn't the love for good stories, it's the hate for moe.

Fake Cuteness

There is also the complaint on how adorable the characters act. Yes, really.

This is because it feels fake. Why is this girl acting so cute all the time? What does she gain from this? Does she want people to think she's cute? Is she trying to look good to others? Could it be this fake cuteness is a mask over how much of an evil, mean bitch she actually is inside? Could it???



This paranoia isn't unwarranted. People aren't that cute in real life, and moe makes girls cuter than normal on purpose. Some anime even make use of this idea: there are characters that are indeed popular girls acting cute on the outside but being actually bitches in the inside.

Sexualization of Underage Characters

Once again, moe is not lolicon, but there is an overlap. So people who criticize lolicon may end up criticizing moe too because of the same reasons.

Disturbing Appearance

Another reason to be grossed out by moe is the realization of how the distortions and deformations in the characters' appearances supposedly used to make them look cuter can be easily associated with a number of birth, physical, and mental defects.

A typical moe character often features:
  • Disturbingly enormous eyes.
  • A head with a growth problem.
  • Broken noses without nostrils.
  • Necks so thin they'd make a civil engineer flinch.
  • Minuscule mouth that might have muscle damage.
  • No teeth or lacking lower teeth.
  • Impractically small hands.
  • Opposite bowed legs: knees together, feet apart.
  • Annoying, high-pitched voices.
  • Mentally retarded mannerisms.

If a real person had the head of a moe character they'd be in the hospital. It's no understatement to say many moe characters look like babies with tall bodies. It must be some sort medical condition. It's like dwarfism or down syndrome.

If a real person had a moe voice I'd be sure they had some sort of voice-related disease due to how high-pitched they can get. And if they talked like girls do in anime, I'd assume they are screwing with me.

The legs thing actually has a name: "knock-knee," or "Genu valgum." A person with a hand so small it couldn't cover half of their face would face a lot of difficulties in life. Not to mention the eyes, dear kamisama, the fish-eyes!


When you think like this, moe feels like it's one of those circus attractions that used to make fun of people that were different for some reason. Bearded women, etc. It's just that, instead, the attraction are bi-dimensional girls with countless defects.

Moeblob

The term moeblob is a western slang for a moe character that is cute and that's basically it. The character has no other qualities. No other features. No personality. Ideals. Tastes. Hobbies. Philosophies. Goals. Opinions. Thoughts. They are just a blank slate with a cute face. They exist only for the sake of being moe.

It's like a self-insert harem MC that isn't self-insert and isn't male. An absolute disgrace of a character.

If any information is given about these type of characters it's in the form of Miss Universe trivia. My dream: world peace. Favorite food: strawberry cake. Favorite color: pink. Favorite animal: cats. What I dislike most: rude people. Etc.

For some people, this is the perfect type of 2D girl. For others, this is the worst type of 2D girl.

Moe Anthropomorphism

An even more extreme aspect of moe is the practice of moe anthropomorphism, or in Japanese moe gijinka 萌え擬人化, literally "moe anthropomorphication."

You might have heard of anthropomorphism or just "anthro" before as a term related to furries. In this case it has (almost) nothing to do with furries. Anthro means "human," morph means "to change into." Anthropomorphism means "to change into a human." And moe anthropomorphism would mean "to change into a moe human."

This term refers to the practice of turning things, any things, into humans who are moe, more specifically, into cute girls. Cute boys also apply. This practice includes turning animals into cute girls, which would be "furry," but it also includes turning mystical creatures, objects, vehicles, websites, yes, websites, organizations, and literally every fucking thing in the whole universe into a cute girl

Examples

Some victims of moe anthropomorphism and the anime which targeted them include:
  • An entire zoo of animals.
    Kemono Friends けものフレンズ
  • Mythological dragons.
    Kobayashi-san Chi no Meido Doragon 小林さんちのメイドラゴン
  • Battleships.
    Kantai Korekushon (Kancolle) 艦隊これくしょん -艦これ-
  • Giant robots.
    Robot Girls Z ロボットガールズZ
  • Giant monsters.
    Kaiju Girls 怪獣娘
  • Guns.
    Upotte!! うぽって!!
  • Swords.
    Touken Ranbu 刀剣乱舞
  • Train stations (no, not trains, train stations, The buildings. Yes, really)
    Miracle Train: Ooedo-sen e Youkoso~ ミラクル☆トレイン〜大江戸線へようこそ〜


And this is just considering the moe anthropomorphism in anime, ignoring mascot characters, etc.

-Chan & -Tan Mascots

A trend surrounded by moe anthropomorphism is the creation of moe mascots to represent brands. This is often done without the acknowledgement of said brand. People on the internet just take a logo of the brand or something and use as basis to design a whole cute girl from it.

In other words: it's a meme.

These made-up mascots usually receive the name BRAND-tan or BRAND-chan. The -tan suffix is used mostly by otakus toward cute characters and idols. It's like the -chan ~ちゃん honorific, but a bit weirder.

Some notable examples of moe anthropomorphized mascot characters include:
  • Windows 10-tan
  • Mac OS X Leopard-tan
  • Linux-tan
  • Wikipedia-tan

And, everybody's favorite:
  • ISIS-chan.

Moe Cosplay

Cosplay can be moe.

When real people, not characters, real people, deliberately wear cute, colorful costumes, fantasies, in order to just be cute in a way that's not normally acceptable, because society would look at you weird for wearing such outfits, that's moe at work.

Of course, just like anime characters, not all cosplay is moe, but some sorts of cosplay can be moe.

And, also, if a character, who is already moe, cosplays, in a moe outfit, they get twice as moe.

Moe Idols

Similar in countless ways to moe is the idol culture of Japan. Although there's not much to say about it, since idols are 3D and anime is superior 2D.

In Japan, cute girls, voice actors, singers, get to become idols idolized by countless fans, who are also called otaku. These girls, too, have their cuteness become a product of capitalism. The fans pay too much cash to watch them, it's no wonder they've been turned into products.

The arms race to weaponize cuteness and create cuter, more popular idols is exactly the same as the one to design cuter, more popular anime characters. The spirit of adoring, protecting or fantasizing about idols is the same as moe. (and your chances of getting laid with an idol are pretty much the same as with your waifu)

2D Idols > 3D Idols

If 2D girls are moe and idols are moe, what if we combined both?! - So thought a man of culture once.

Who was the first otaku to think this, nobody knows. What people do know is that franchises such as Idolmaster which is about 2D characters who are also idols. Like, in the story, they are idols, who sing, and have fans. Like real idols would.

But the rabbit hole goes even deeper than this.

3D 2D Idols > 2D Idols > 3D Idols

Vocaloid is a voice synthesis software. It lets you type the lyrics and then an artificial voice sings it. To make it more popular: moe! They slapped moe characters on the brand, and associated each character with a voice. So the virtual voices were to be considered the voices of the characters, just because they said so.

And it worked. People actually associated the made-up sounds result of algorithms were actually the voice of characters. They imagined it was the characters singing for them whatever they asked them to sing.

It worked so well that, in a what's to be one of the greatest "are you fucking kidding me?" of all times, these 2D characters associated with the synthetic voices have real, actual live concerts, with real people in the audience, there to hear they sing and see dance in holograms, as if they were idols.

Because they are idols. They aren't real people, but they're singing in a live concert to a bunch of otaku. They are idols. The power of moe is so great it made 2D characters into real singing idols!

Moe Maid Café

You might have noticed already how popular maid cafés are in Japan, and how popular maids are within the otaku culture. This popularity is due to moe.

A maid café, in Japanese meido cafe メイドカフェ or meido kissa メイド喫茶, is a café like any other, expect for the fact the waitresses cosplay as french maids, and they act like your servants part of your household, not like employees of the establishment.

Where an employee would call you okyakusama お客様, "guest," "costumer," such maid would call you goshujinsama ご主人様, which means "master [of a household]" in this case, but in normal, real-life non-anime cases it'd mean "husband." (because the husband in a family is, historically, the master of the household)

Besides the direct moe appeal of maid cosplaying, the french maid outfit is considered cute, there's also the moe appeal of this isolated fantasy inside the café. A physical part of the world set apart from reality.

In anime, lords own mansions, are made of money, and have these maids willing to look cute for them, serve them and devote themselves. An average guy would be crazy to think he could have the life of such anime character, but the maid cafés allow them, real people, to experience the 2D fantasy even if for a brief moment.

Understanding Moe

With everything that's been said about moe, it might be difficult to figure out moe is really about. To summarize, everything there is to know about moe can be summed up in the maxim:
  • kawaii wa seigi! かわいいは正義!
    Cute is justice!

But I feel like this doesn't do enough justice to it, so here's a longer, more detailed analysis by me.

(this section is long, lacks images, and may be meaningless, skip to Kanji of Moe if you don't really care about my findings and opinions)

(for a proper-sourced, cited, nice and tidy study instead, please read: Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan by Patrick W. Galbraith, University of Tokyo)

The Essence of Moe

Basically, moe is about creating cute characters, attractive characters, visually pleasant characters. Characters the audience can become endeared to or enamored with.

The hardcore fans of 2D, the otaku オタク, are people who read a lot of manga and light novels, watch anime, play video-games, and so on. They hop around from fantasy to fantasy, fiction to fiction. Every story is different, but every story has characters. Since fictional characters are a normal part of an otaku's life, it's no wonder they've become an important part of their lives too.

Thus the moe culture is born: a culture built upon the adoration of fictional characters.

That's not to say all people who are fans of moe have some sort of disturbing, mentally-ill attraction to moe. It's a much more subtle thing. Fans of moe have come to the realization cute characters, depictions of cuteness, elicit a pleasant feeling (the moe feeling). In order to make their lives more pleasant, they surround themselves by cuter characters.

They are now everywhere.

Gendered Moe

Normally, authors only try to make characters of the gender opposite to the audience moe.

This means that, for a male audience, female characters are made moe, while male characters are stylized similarly but not given the same treatment. This is because men would rather see cute girls, not cute guys.

Conversely, when it's a female audience, it's cute guys that matter, not cute girls, so male characters are made moe. (note: see section male moe for differences between male and female moe)

Sexual vs. Asexual Moe

The concept of moe is neither sexual nor asexual. It simply refers to a attraction, attachment toward characters.

There are people who innocently become attached to characters. They think of the characters as friends, family, idols, heroes, inspirations, etc. They're pleased by the characters, emotionally attached to them. This is moe.

There are people who become sexually attracted to characters. They think of characters as love interests, partners, lovers, spouses, etc. Or even simply as targets of lust. This is also moe.

Your Moe May Differ

What's moe and what's not moe depends on personal preferences, rather than on dictionary definitions. Be it the mere idea that moe means "cute, young girls," or the more convoluted concept of the "moe feeling" towards characters' cuteness, what is cute and what is not cute ends up being just a matter of taste.

There are people who find certain attributes cuter than others. Larger breasts, flat chests, short characters, tall characters, younger characters, older characters, outfits, hair colors, eye colors, mannerisms, even situations and relationships can be considered cute and lead to moe. It all depends.

Given this myriad of possibilities, it might sound like it's hard to pin down what type of character is deliberately trying to please the audience and what type isn't. What anime is trying to be moe, and which is just moe by accident. But it's actually very easy to tell.

Flat-chested characters often make a point in pointing out how flat-chested they are. Large-breasted characters bounce. In general, an inordinate amount of effort goes into shining light on attributes deliberately chosen because of that attribute's audience.

Generic Moe

Standards of beauty exist. Standards of cuteness exist. Therefore, standards of moe exist. What moe is associated to is clearly the most standard, generic moe possible. The most common moe, the popular moe, etc. The consensus on what is cute is what made moe look like what it looks like today.

So, for most, moe is:
  • A cute, young high-school girl
  • Adorable, sympathetic, docile, sweet
  • Caring, devoted, hard-working, in love
  • Innocent, clumsy, childish
  • Fragile, defenseless, in need of protection

So that's the consensus. The perfect fictional girl is as fictive as it gets. They're created in a way that's one hundred percent cuteness, zero percent anything else. It's a girl that would never disagree with you and lives for your purpose. A girl that somehow needs your protection.

Basically, the ideal moe is about a character written to make people fantasize about being a white-knight that saves a girl who then becomes their devoted lover forever, living only to make your life happier. Someone that's naturally cute and will act cute to please you. (you know, literally exactly like in Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon.)

Reality, Fantasy & Moe

Many people who watch anime for the first time will find themselves unknowingly disgusted by moe. They won't know it is moe they're disgusted about, but they'll be disgusted about it.

This is because anime is realistic. Fine, sure, not really realistic, but try to see it from the point of someone who has never watched anime.

They see the anime. It takes place in a high-school, a very real place, students talking to each other, there's even a teacher. The location, it looks real. There's a great deal of effort done in recreating real life locations for backgrounds in anime. The proportions, they look real. Not exactly realistic, but they're pretty close to real life proportions, it's not a cartoon. The characters, they aren't wearing capes and fighting crime, most of the time. They're just hanging around. Bantering. It looks real.

So, given all this information, the uninitiated are mislead to expect that anime is trying to mimic reality. And they will be very weirded out because of this expectation.

That's because, when you have these moe characters, young, girl characters, constructed to please a male audience, to look like defenseless children, sometimes written as victims of tragedies, made act in such an... unrealistic, fake way. Just to pander men. It would be immoral not to be repulsed.

Because they assume this is a message. They think, if anime mimics reality, and this is in anime, it must mean that this is what anime considers reality. In other words, their repulsion is by what anime expects a girl to be like. Not a person, an object of cuteness designed to be appreciated.

Fortunately, they are wrong.

The idea of moe is not about demeaning women. It'd be ridiculous to think that after understanding what moe is really about. This is because a moe girl is not portraying a real life girl. The fictional society inside an anime that allows moe girls to act cute all the time without nobody calling her out for how silly she looks is not the same society that exists in real world.

Yes, it's true: moe girls are technically toys. Dolls. Literally entertainment. That's their point. But that's not saying real women are toys.

A man wishing they had a wife who was always cute, devoted for him, and which he wish he could protect, sounds demeaning to you? Maybe. You may argue you can't expect a woman to waste her time degrading herself trying to look cute for men, or devote herself to men. You may argue this dream of protecting says he thinks women can't take care of themselves and he has to be there.

But in the end, that's what the guy wishes happened. That's not saying he will impose women to his dreams of patriarchy or anything. He might find a woman who's okay with it, he might not, but he can't demand, and in modern times he can barely expect. So, instead, why not just create a fantasy where that does happen?

So moe is not a disrespect toward real women, to the contrary, it's because men respect real women that they believe their impossible fantasies will never come true in real life, so they make it sorta come true in 2D life.

It's not just about women, either. When it comes to male characters being moe, and the way women fantasize with male characters, you could say it demeans men. With things like BL and yuri, you could say moe demeans gays and lesbians. It does not. It doesn't demean anyone, because moe is not a social commentary, it's not real, it's escapism, it's fantasy.

When an otaku watches anime, he expects it to be in a completely isolated reality where people see a girl with pink hair and they don't even make a remark. (thanks Saiki!) It's a fantasy world where nobody minds cuteness and moe cancels the laws of physics, that lets the creative mind of authors to go at its full potential and create types of cuteness that wouldn't even possible in a world ruled by atoms instead of pixels. It's not real, it's surreal.

Past, Modern, Future & Moe

Like all things, moe changes with time.

What was considered moe in the past was much different from the moe we have now. It was far less blatant. It was subtle. Elegant, even.

The moe we have now is the outcome of moe acceptance. Every day, some new way of making characters cuter is tried, pushing moe farther and father from reality, and deeper into its own secluded cultural fantasy.

The tested-and-true moe remain. What doesn't work is forgotten. Then people get sick and tired of the tested-and-true moe, after seeing it repeated dozens and dozens of times. And so the demand for a new type of moe arises. And of course, this cycle will continue in the future too.

Neoteny, Children & Moe

The term neoteny refers to "child-like features in adult bodies." It is not exclusive to art, when it is employed in art it equates to making adult characters look like children.

Animals are hard-wired to think the children of their species are cute. When you think something is cute, you feel endeared to it, and you want to protect that which you're endeared to. This mechanism allows animals to instinctively protect their children.

The process above is used in art, specially in moe, in order artificially make characters cuter by making them look younger. You see a character that looks more like a child than like an adult, you instinctively become endeared to them. You think they're cute.

The most obvious way this is done is by using the head-to-body ratios of a child in an older character. An adult's body total length is 7 to 8 times the length of their heads. If you're 180cm tall, your head is about 24cm. What manga, anime, moe, does is making that measure 6 heads tall or less by increasing the size of the head while keeping the height of the body constant. So a 180cm tall character would have a head with 30cm of diameter or more, a 25% increase of the size of the head.

Because the head becomes so much larger, the necks of the characters usually look thin by comparison.

Eyes and foreheads larger than normal are also normally employed. This, in turn, makes the mouth, nose, and chin become smaller than normal, and much smaller by comparison. The space the eyes occupy grew, so there's less space for the mouth, which must become smaller to fit.

Hands are sometimes made smaller, too. While a normal hand could span across more than half of your face, moe hands, in extreme cases, can't even cover one third of their faces.

The behavior of the characters are also made deliberately childish for their ages. Such mannerisms which would be considered socially unacceptable are common in moe. They're employed as they made it easier to associate an older character with the notion child, easing endearment. This aspect is usually ignored when it comes to discussion about moe and neoteny, because the physical, visual neoteny takes all the attention.

Tragedy, White-Knights & Moe

Characters are sometimes made moe not by their appearance but by their story. This often happens when the character falls victim of a tragedy, becoming fragile physically or emotionally and in need of protection.

The infamous "hospital bed scene" is normally associated with this type of moe.

This happens when a character either had their family brutally murdered in front of their eyes by some mysterious criminal organization, or lost their memories, or were part of a horrifying laboratory experiment, or maybe a child trained to be a cold-blooded assassin, or maybe they just feel ill with cancer or something that would ultimately lead to their demise.

Anyway. The point of such sad character is that there must be somoene to give her aid when she's in so much need. And that someone is, obviously, not the audience, but the audience wish it were them.

Because how could a human being not want to protect a cold-blooded assassin, who is a child. Or more normally, some poor sick girl on her deathbed who is too weak and falls unconscious if she walks around too much. Who wouldn't want to take them away from this life of sadness and give them happiness?

Whether it's pity or empathy, it creates a kind of endearment from the audience toward the character, and that's part of what moe is about.

Notably: some anime which employ this moe tactic happen to look not as generically cute as you'd expect. For example: Gunslinger Girl. It doesn't look moe by modern standards, but the plot is based on this tragedy device.

Plot, Characters & Moe

When people talk about character development, what do they mean?

Do they mean a character developed themselves, changing from what they were into something new? Or do they mean a story spent time developing a character, showing what they are, without changing what them?

Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe either.

The point is, in moe, it's the latter.

There are a number of works where characters do something amazing. Like saving the world. Saving humanity. Saving the universe. And so on. And maybe in order to achieve such amazing feat, they had to change from what they were at the start of the story, from their mediocre selves, and rise above, to become heroes.

But that doesn't mean we get to know a lot about them. In fact, what we knew about them changed. For many characters, you have just a vague idea of who they are supposed to be, because stories won't waste time showing their normal selves doing things you can relate with, they'll show their frustrated selves trying to overcome obstacles beyond what the average person can imagine. All the time.

And that is not moe.

Because with this, you can't feel attached to a character. You know their feat. You know their fight. You know their story. But you don't know them. It's harder to feel attached to a vague concept of hero with so little identity.

So what does moe do?

It chooses a different route. Instead of focusing on the plot, it focuses on the characters.

It's a common case in moe to have utterly boringly, mundane scenes where literally, absolutely nothing interesting happens. I mean, seriously, it can be about working, yes, working, actually working, a job, can you believe it? Or even farming, like pulling weeds and planting seeds. Does that sound like fun to you? WHY WOULD ANYONE EVER WATCH THIS BORING GARBAGEEEEE!!?!?!?

Because moe.

By having mundane, down-to-earth scenes instead of constant drama and action, the story allows the audience to grow closer, more intimate to the character. Because the audience feels like they live with the character, that they're part of the character's life. Even if it's less like a friend and more like a fly on the wall. Or a plant.

Furthermore, by having these mundane scenes, the story allows characters to show a side of them that would never appear in battle. A moe side that can only be seen in normal life.

More Girls = More Moe

So, one moe girl is good, but why stop at one?

Generally, it's a good idea to have 50% male characters and 50% female characters. A healthy, balanced gender ratio. But why stop at that?

Seeking to weaponize moe further, the manga and anime industry bet their chips on what has come to be greatest anime monster of all times: the "harem" genre.

In this disgusting genre filled with works rated from "godawful" to "ugh, I can't believe I liked this," there is ONE, just ONE, okay, maybe two, male characters and the rest are girls. And moe girls, too, obviously.

Now, you don't need to be a youtuber that keep reviewing the same anime to know that one guy, the main character, plus his trusty token male friend, a girl that likes to boss him around, a girl that is made out of pure cuteness, a girl that is usually quiet, a girl that's his little sister, and a girl that's out to kill him, is a combination of few guys and too many girls. And that's not even a really harem example, it's just sort-of harem.

In this genre, the female characters all have incredibly distinct banquet one-for-everybody types of personality, attributes, etc. None of the girls are normal. Ever. They are all designed to pander one type of moe or another. The most normal it gets is "too cute to be real but not weird at least." They all get a lot of screen time. A lot of development. A lot of sides. A lot of a lot.

Meanwhile, the male characters' character sheet was left partially in blank. They filled the names, put the luck stat on max (or zero), and that was it. The infamous blank slate self-insert harem MC. No opinions, feelings, nothing. He's just there because a male main character was needed. Nobody cares about him anyway.

If a male character gets any development, it's not the MC, it's (one of) his token male friends, who. Must. Be. A trap. If the character isn't a trap (not effeminate), he is not made to please the male audience, therefore nobody gives a shit about him, and he gets no screen time, because why would a harem anime waste time with a non-trap male character when there's like 6 girls waiting to say a line?

With this ingenious strategy, harem anime manages to have a dozen of moe characters for diverse moe audiences and thus harvest all that popularity granted to them by the fans. And then they hold these popularity contests which hints what kind of moe is more popular, so that type can be copied to death in the next 20 harem anime.

But it didn't stop here.

Because these popularity polls revealed something truly terrifying.

The popularity of diverse types of moe fluctuated, tastes varied, times changed, but, alas, one thing remained constant. One type of character was always the least popular character. The main character.

HE IS A GUY WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!?!?

Cornered, authors devised the following bold strategies to remediate the problem:
  1. Make the guy look like a girl. (trap MC)
  2. Make the guy become a girl. (gender bender MC)
  3. Make the guy a girl. (female MC)

In the first case, although it's not an anime for men, but for women, so the moe gender is reversed, we have Ouran High School Host Club, where the main character is a reverse-trap (a girl that looks like a guy) and everyone else with a name is a guy.

In the second case, we have Ranma 1/2.

In the third case, clearly the most daring option that nobody ever hoped would work (/s), we have countless examples. Turns out the guy wasn't necessary after all.

The famous cute girls doing cute things anime. The getaway anime genre to harder genres like shoujo-ai 少女愛 and yuri 百合.

Without a male character perving on the girls, or being hit on while being as clueless as a blank sheet of sudoku, truly mundane moe may be had. Since there's no guys in the anime, it's not about (heterosexual) love, romance, and sexual harassment, it's about girls hanging around together, doing things together, and being together.

You might think this is unfortunate, after all, since there are no guys left to remove, we have reached maximum girl ratio (100%). So we literally can't add more girls... or can we? Turns out we can!

That's right, moe exceeds expectations once more and breaks into new ground. Seven, eight characters? Pfft! That's for anime made for normies! I know at least two 12-episode anime with about fifty different characters, all moe girls, all with unique designs! They really doubled-down on the "a moe for everyone" strategy!

Moe in Kanji

The word moe written with kanji is 萌え, and the 萌 kanji means "sprout," as in, a plant, sprouting.
  • moeru 萌える
    To sprout.
  • moe 萌え
    Sprouting.
  • moyashi 萌やし
    Bean sprouts.

You may notice this doesn't make much sense, moe has nothing to do with sprouting, so why does it mean that?

There's a bit of story to this, but basically: moe is a slang. It has nothing to do with sprouting, that's just a coincidence. I repeat: it has nothing to do with sprouting. You may have heard somewhere that moe is about a "sprouting feeling in your heart" or something, but that's bullshit. It has nothing to do with sprouting!!!

It's like how we say "to ship" in English when we wish for a certain couple of characters to be made. Why to ship? Is it something to do with nautical ships? Shipments of packages? No. It's relationships.

The slang "to ship" had nothing to do with ships crossing the Atlantic, but now we like to associate imagery of embarkations to symbolize "ships" of characters even though the slang being the same as the other word was a mere coincidence. The same thing happens with moe. It has nothing to do with sprouting, that's a mere coincidence.

The Antonym of Moe: Moe 燃え

Are you ready for more Japanese vocabulary clusterfuckery? Good! Coz here it comes!

The verb moeru 萌える, "to sprout," is homonym (same sound) as another word: moeru 燃える, "to burn."
  • moeru 燃える
    To burn.
  • moe 燃え
    Burning.

So there are three moe's: the sprouting, the burning, and the cuteness feeling one.

It's important to note that moe, the anime cuteness/feeling thing, is always written with the kanji for "sprouting," moe 萌え That is, moe 燃え never refers to cute girls, only moe 萌え does.

Confusing, isn't it? But wait! There's more!!!

New Challenger

Because now we have one moe that's a real word and a slang, and one moe that is a real word but not a slang. That sounds a bit unbalanced, so why not make another slang to even things out?! Genius idea, Japan. 10/10. (seriously, wtf were they thinking?!)

So, moe 燃え, not moe 萌え, moe 燃え, is a feeling like moe 萌え, that's usually used in contrast to moe 萌え, toward situations were characters are not mellow and cute, but burning with fire showing how cool and badass they are. Characters you become attracted to because of their vicious play of sports, firing of guns, etc.

Basically: moe 萌え is about cute, feminine, weak characters that need support, while moe 燃え is about cool, strong, powerful characters that are independent. While the first moe warms your heart, the second excites it with fire.

This is also related to the non-slang words:
  • moeagaru 燃え上がる
    To get fired up. To get excited.
  • moeagari 燃え上がり
    Excitement. Enthusiasm (of someone to do something).

Note, however, that this distinction between moe 萌え and moe 燃え only happens when the kanji are juxtaposed.

That is: both moe 萌え and moe 燃え are considered moe. So moe 燃え is moe 萌え in a sense (the sense of emotional response to a character) despite being its antonym in another sense (it's closer to manliness than femininity). The word moe 燃え is only written with that kanji when it refers to a very different kind of moe from the usual cute moe 萌え.

Summary

So, to recap this mess:
  • moeru 萌える
    To sprout.
  • moe 萌え
    Euphoria because of cuteness of a character.
    Warms your heart.
  • moeru 燃える
    To burn.
  • moe 燃え
    Euphoria because of the fervor of a character.
    Gets you fired up and ready for battle.

Moe Wordplay With Fire

To make matters worse, there's sometimes a wordplay with moe 萌え and the verb "to burn," moeru 燃える. No, this isn't the same as the other moe 燃え slang. This is literally adding flames around a moe character or around a character who is feeling moe.

Notably, in the manga and anime D-Frag, characters were introduced as RPG-esque attribute elements earth, water, thunder, and fire. There was a joke where the fire character was the fire character not because of actual fire, but because she was cute, hence moe 燃え, burning.

The light novel and manga versions of the anime Outbreak Company have a subtitle besides the title: Outbreak Company: Moeru Shinryakusha 萌える侵略者, meaning "burning/moe'ing invaders."

Moenai Gomi

The phrase moenai gomi 萌えないゴミ was born from this kind of wordplay. It means, literally, "trash that doesn't make you moe," and comes from the phrase moenai gomi 燃えないゴミ, "non-combustible trash," or "trash that doesn't burn." In Japan, trash is normally separated into combustible and non-combustible.

The phrase moenai gomi, as used towards moe, refers to illustrations and characters which are impossible to moe to. This can be because the artist's skill is lacking and it just looks ugly despite trying to go for the moe style, or because the personality of the character is so trash it's impossible to feel endeared to no matter how good it looks, or for any other reason, really.

Note that, since moe is subjective, this phrase is used in the general sense: normally, someone wouldn't moe for this.

Moe Origin

The origin of the term moe is uncertain. It was a word made up around 1980, in the Japanese internet, and nobody is really sure why it exists. There are many theories. Below I'll explain what I think are the two most important ones.

Note that, the concept of moe, as a feeling, existed before there was a word to describe it. People already had this mysterious indescribable emotion toward fictional characters, they just didn't have a word to refer to it. They started using moe for this purpose because it sounded good enough, and its spread cemented its status as the proper word.

Moe Typo

The first theory is that the word moe 萌え actually comes from moe 燃え, "burning." This is because it probably referred to a burning sentiment. Your heart, burning, because of cuteness. Sparkling fires of love. Etc.

When you type text in Japanese, first you type how the word is pronounced, in this case moe もえ, then you press a key, normally the space-bar, so the computer converts between the Japanese alphabets, turning the kana into kanji when it recognizes a word. So both moe 萌え and moe 燃え can be typed this way. Someone tried to type one, typed the other by accident.

If this is true then it means this goddamn mess just got a whole lot more goddamn messy! We have actually come a full circle. From people who think moe is related to sprouting, despite it being a mere typo, to the creation of an opposite moe using the kanji for burning. There's some JoJo levels of fate going on here.

Tomoe Hotaru

A second theory is that the word comes from a character of the popular Sailor Moon series: Tomoe Hotaru 土萠 ほたる.

The kanji of Tomoe's name, 土萠, isn't exactly the same as the one found in the word moe 萌え, but not only is it similar, it also holds the same meaning. You can write "to sprout" with it: moeru 萠える, it's just that it's not normal. So you could say 萠 and 萌 are sort of synonymous kanji.

So the slang moe could have come from a wordplay mixing the verb to sprout, moeru 萌える, with Tomoe's name. Or maybe it was actually a wordplay with "burning" moeru 燃える. Or maybe it came from just shouting her name: Tomoeeeeeee!!! In either case, the point is that the Tomoe character from Sailor Moon could have inspired the someone to create the word.

Besides Tomoe, there are a number of other characters, and even voice actors, whose name have the word moe in them. They may have contributed to the spread of the term moe simply because of this. People saw a cute character or voice, saw moe in the name, and that helped associated one thing to the other.

Moemoe 萌え萌え

The word moemoe 萌え萌え is, obviously, the word moe twice, meaning it's more moe than normal.

That is, moemoe means exaggeratedly moe, or ridiculously moe.

Moemoe 萌え燃え

The word moemoe 萌え燃え, with the opposite moe kanji in a single word, means something is both moe 萌え and moe 燃え at the same time. That is, a character that's extremely adorbs and full of badassery as they obliterate bad guys with the power of unnecessary violence is moemoe 萌え燃え.

Moemoe 燃え燃え

You can probably guess what moemoe 燃え燃え means, but in case you can't: when it's a lot of action, and being fired up, and not much cute, it's moemoe 燃え燃え.

Note that this word can also means "burn burn" as in literally burning with fire.

Kyun キュン

The onomatopoeia kyun キュン, sometimes a more dragged out kyuun キューン, is often associated with moe. It sounds like a beam being shot in a spaceship video-game.

This is the sound effect of a heart palpitation. Due to cuteness, the muscles of the heart contract as a reaction, pushing all blood out, and the heart suddenly gets smaller. People imagine kyun is the sound that sudden movement would make.

Moe Moe Kyun 萌え萌えキュン

The phrase moe moe kyuun 萌え萌えキューン is a phrase from the moe anime K-On!, episode 4. During a training camp, on a beach, to sharper their music skills, the band discusses what they're going to do for the school's festival. Ritsu says they'll running a maid café, and Mio will dress in maid clothes and say something like cute like moe moe kyuun. As this was said, the imagination of Mio transforming into a maid and making a heart-shape with her hands was shown.



The phrase has basically no meaning besides sounding cute. The word moemoe is just moe twice, a lot of moe. And kyun is the sound of a palpitating heart. If you did a lot of mental gymnastics you could interpret it as "feel moe and make your heart beat!", but there's no point in doing that.

The reason I'm including this single phrase in this post is because it kind of turned into a meme. The phrase moe moe kyun, plus making the shape of a heart with your hands. A number of anime parodied this, artists have drawn the most ridiculous illustrations of this, even real people have used it on TV.

Moe Buta 萌え豚

The term moe buta 萌え豚, literally "moe pig," is a derogatory Japanese slang used to refer to an otaku who likes moe.

Never forget: moe is a product of capitalism! The anime industry is taking these fat otakus as livestock. Feeding them moe anime and harvesting their money in return.

The term is also used to describe how they sequal like pigs for moe. This is often accompanied by verb buhiru ブヒる, "to oink," the sound a pig makes, "oink," is buhi ブヒ.

Moe Towards Real People

In the west, the word moe isn't used towards real people. In Japan, it sorta is.

The word moe was once exclusively used by the otaku to refer to fantasy cute. First, towards fictional characters, and their feelings towards fictional characters. Second, towards idols and cosplayers, who are real people.

But then, with the spread of the word moe, it became mainstream. So not only otaku, but also normies other people started using it. And since they are not otaku, they wouldn't use it toward otaku stuff like fictional characters, cosplayers and idols. They used the word moe toward other real people.

Today, Japanese magazines, blogs, etc. will tell women what men feel moe for in a girl. What mannerisms are considered moe, and so on. It's like saying "what do men find cute in a girl?" Of course, the same stuff is also written for men sometimes, "what do women find moe in a guy?"

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