If you’re a fan of anime and manga, then you’ve probably come across this mysterious word–maybe you’ve read it in description for a pretty female character, seen it used as a description for an anime’s art style, or heard an anime character mutter “moeee~” in response to something unbearably adorable. But what does it mean, exactly? Let’s get to the bottom of this “moe” mystery!
From the anime ‘Milky Holmes’.
Before we look at the actual translation of the word “moe” (which, for the uninitiated, is pronounced “mo-eh“), let’s observe the characteristics of a moe anime character. The characters in question are usually young girls–from toddlers to highschool students–with big eyes and unique hairstyle. They’re designed to be innocent and endearing, with traits and quirks that make the viewer want to be protect them (for example, being a crybaby, or being clumsy, etc.) Basically, a “moe” character is a character that is undeniably cute, both in looks and personality, that you can’t help but fall in love with, and want to hug and protect…!
Despite most moe characters being young, the series ‘Azumanga Daioh’ shows that adult
characters (such as the teachers in this high school setting) can have moe characteristics as well~
Translating the word “moe” is a little difficult, as it’s a slang phrase coming from multiple words in the Japanese language. Some say it comes from the word “moeru” which means “budding“, while others say it’s a pun between the word “moyasu” (“to sprout“) and it’s homophone which means “to burn“. (source.) So, using this knowledge, you can imagine that a “moe” character is a small person who is still “growing” and discovering who they are as a person, who ignite a burning passion within your heart…!
Series like ‘Lucky Star’ (top) and ‘K-On!’ (bottom) are often cited as series that popularized the “moe” genre.
Being cute, small, and awkward aren’t the only traits a character can have to be considered “moe”, however! There are many more tropes that can play into a charater having moe qualities–they could play into a “-dere” stereotype (such as being “tsundere“–a trope I hope to explain in a future post!), or have an element of “gap moe“ (have some sort of personality trait or interest that completely goes against their assumed appearance or personality). Because everyone has different tastes, there are many different flavors of “moe”! I personally believe that an imperfect character–a character that has the ability to show some sort of growth throughout the plot of their story–is the most “moe”. There is beauty–and cuteness!–in their imperfection.
Inori Aizawa, the anime mascot for Internet Explorer.
Nowadays, “moe” is big business! Companies have learned that the power of moe can massively increase sales. By putting cute characters on all sorts of products, otaku fans will be more likely to buy. For example, take a look at the character above–Inori Aizawa, otherwise known as ‘Internet Explorer-tan‘, is the adorable mascot for Internet Explorer. Because Internet Explorer was an unpopular program, an adorable mascot was made in order to increase interest…and there was even a super cool magical-girl-style animation of her made! Having an cute anthropomorphized for a company or product is a great way to boost sales!
From the anime ‘Is the Order a Rabbit?’
That’s the general idea behind the magic of “moe”–was your heart charmed by a cute character like the ones we described above? Tell me about your favorite moe”character a comment!
And if you’re in the mood for more moe, we love this educational video by the ‘Anime Historian’~! Check it out!
Thank you for reading~ And please stay tuned for my next installment of ‘Anime Tropes Explained’! Until next time~~