So all fans of anime have at one time or another heard the word “moe” with mixed interpretations; sometimes they cheer, sometimes they rant, and sometimes the just ask WTF?! But who the hell actually knows what moe is?
Moe is such a wide range of different characteristics tacked on rather unceremoniously to these darling anime characters. Moe is written in Japanese as 萌え, the Kanji translated represents bud or sprout and is read “mo” in its kun reading. The word is slang of he word moeru which is really just a pun referencing the “budding” of a girl. It has often been speculated that since the word moe (萌え) is a homonym of moe (燃え), “burning”, which could speculatively mean that the word could be a pun on the burning passion that fans of the genre have for these characters.
Anyhow, we’re not here to talk about budding or burning of who or what. We ARE here to talk about the slang term moe. According to Wikipedia, the slang definition of moe is “a rarefied pseudo-love for certain fictional characters [in anime, manga and the like] and their related embodiments”. Characters who fit this definition (which is hella large) are called moekko (萌えっ娘) the final Kanji of which represents a female child.
So now we have the technical definitions of moe. So WTF exactly is it!? Well first we’ll have to explore the history a bit more. As soon as we begin, a startling truth is revealed! No one really knows who invented the word moe. There are many urban legends about moe’s origin like the above mentioned references to budding and/or burning, but another more plausible theory is that its origins sprouted from Hotaru Tomoe of Sailor Moon. Tomoe’s name is written with the two kanji 土and 萌, (come on guys… you see it, don’t you?). Due to her physical traits and the kanji in her name, Tomoe is viewed as possibly being the origin of the word moe. Another theory is that it came from the online forums 2channel during the 1990s where posters used it to discuss “hybrids of lolicon and bishoujo genres”. The most commonly accepted theory is that it is a combination of the two. At that time on 2chan Tomoe was at the height of her popularity.
In the end, the origin is a complete shamble, we don’t know where moe came from or what the hell it is, so lets go and examine some famous moe characters. One of those is Lum Invader from Urusei Yatsura. Lum is thought to be the source of moe and also one of, if not the first tsundere. Talk about win. Lum is viewed to be the first moe due to her generally unpleasant demeanor and appearance. Lum has a fiery temper, but is very naïve as she is from another planet. She is also clumsy and doesn’t always understand what is going on around her as a result of said naivety (a somewhat common characteristic that touches many otaku hearts). She is also bad at cooking, gets drunk incredibly easy and really detests garlic in the cutest of all possible ways. Another famous moe character is Rei Ayanami who “helped” to alter the definition of moe (and further confused fans) by adding popularity to the mix. Her pale skin, blue hair, and calm/quiet/cold/freaky personality which has diligently spread its way into many different anime, manga and the gaming industry. That being said, we all know who the epitomy of moe characters for all time are simply because they were designed to be just that; (if you argue with me I will have to speak with you privately!) the cast ofLucky Star. Period. No other comments needed.
Ok, so here is what we have unearthed. Moe characters meet some fetish of the fans, most often something to do with lowliness, childlike helplessness, innocence, and cuteness. This is all enhanced by different characteristics such as glasses, butlers/maids, tsunderes and sisters. However, as we now see, there is no single or clear definition. Now that we understand the the language definitions, we can also see how it would relate to the previously referenced character traits.
Unfortunately this effort by companies to make characters as cute as possible so that fans will buy their product has (in many eyes) gone too far. A great example of this trend is moe anthropomorphism, a fancy way to put the making of non-human things (animals, plants, appliances, your face) moe in an effort to basically kill the watcher via insulin overload from its sugary cuteness. As a result, fans often go the other way; choosing instead to dump the show and write it off as just another “moe” collage. Amazingly enough, there is still an unquestionable demand for moe.
“It’s difficult. They immediately become the subjects of lolicon fetishism. In a sense, if we want to depict someone who is affirmative to us, we have no choice but to make them as lovely as possible. But now, there are too many people who shamelessly depict [such heroines] as if they just want [such girls] as pets, and things are escalating more and more.”
So some people love moe; some people hate it. Pretty standard for anime fans right? So if you’ve been thinking WTF is this moe in my anime; like anything else truly important to you, decide for yourself!