The True Meaning of ‘Moe’

‘Moe’. Some hate it, some love it. But what exactly is it? Why is Yui a ‘moeblob’? What does that even mean? Most of the time, people fling the word around without really knowing what it means.

Is it:

– A cutesy artstyle?
– A type of character behavior?
– The desire to protect?
– The sexual depiction of little girls?
– Slice-of-life shows with no ‘plot’?


I’ve heard ‘Moe’ being defined as all of the above on podcasts to forums to blogs to even articles written by ‘professional’ reviewers. The meanings of the word have become so varied and diverse that it’s ‘true’ meaning can be hard to pin down.

I take issue with this as many people use ‘Moe’ as an excuse to hate and discriminate a show which it might or might not be deserving of. Some people take ‘Moe’ as a ‘loli pedo’ artstyle and associate it with shows with ‘no plot’ and hate on any show with such elements, while disregarding everything else. Case in point, the (in)famous K-On! or this season’s Madoka, despite the fact that K-On! is completely chaste (the bath scenes remained censored even in the BD/DVD release) and that Madoka’s plot twists can blow your brains out through your ears. Most of the time, these people write these shows off and don’t even give them a chance which I think is biased and unfair. Worse still, there are Anime fans who hate ‘Moe’ without even knowing what it means or why they even hate it. Another contributing factor to this blatant hatred is the tendency of people on the internet to not substantiate their claims with reasons.

I’ve been planning to write something about ‘Moe’ for quite awhile, but could never seem to put one together well for one reason or another. That’s when I came across this exceedingly brilliant piece on ‘Moe’ by VillainousHanacha which I think is one of the best and unbaised writeups on ‘Moe’ that I have read. With his permission, here it is:

Moe of course coming from the verb “Moeru” which means “to bud” or “budding”. However that used to only mean in the context of plants, like a rose bud (although it is still used in that context as well). However the “Moe” were talking about also has connections with another “Moeru”, this particular one meaning “to burn”. But this “to burn” implies more along the lines of a “burning passion” or an intense like or drive. Watch any Shounen fighting or sports Anime and one of the characters are bound to say “Moeru zo!” or “Moeru ze!” at some point in time.

So knowing these 2 things, we can ascertain that the true and correct meaning of “Moe” in the sense of Anime and Manga are concerned, is a growing, intense, passion or like of something or someone. Nothing more, nothing less. Often “Moe” manifests itself as an “urge to protect”. This being that the “intense passion or interest ” is coming from the interest in the character’s safety and well being. Moe allows you to be able to worry for a character, hence the “passion or interest” and hence the feelings of “Moe”. Cuteness can also create a similar feeling, because it’s something you want to have, hence the “passion or interest”, etc, etc…

However there are very important things to note. Since “Moe” depends on PERSONAL passion and interest, there is no one guaranteed method of inducing a person’s “Moe”. True, business savvy studios have over time created characters “More likely to induce Moe” (Others just incorrectly call such types “Moe Characters”), but not everyone’s interests and tastes are the same. To western Otaku, Azumanga Daioh is often not seen as being very “Moe” at all, and if they did, they would most likely find “Moe” from Sakaki. However to Japanese Otaku, Azumanga is seen as being quite “Moe”, with Osaka garnering the most “Moe” (you don’t win the 2002 Saimoe awards for nothing). Also Japanese Otaku find Saeko of HOTD “Moe”, while most Western Otaku find her sexy, but not particularly Moe. Point is, there is no definite way to make your audience “Moe” for your characters, therefore terms like “the Moe genre” are incorrect because that would imply everyone had the exact same interests.

Not to mention the term “Moe genre” is incorrect for other reasons as well. Feelings of “Moe” are mostly generated from characterization and art style. With this in mind, it is idiotic and silly to name a genre after a character trait. The “Anti-Hero genre”? The “Magnificent Bastard genre”? Those characters can appear in any genre. For Magnificent Bastards, Lelouch appears in a drama, political intrigue action Mecha, and Souma appears in a slice of life comedy known as Working!! “Moe-trait Characters” can also be in any genre as well. Puella Magi Madoka Magica proves that quite well. Rei Ayanami, possibly the original “Moe Character”, also proves quite well “Moe” can be in any genre. It can play in Index, Railgun and Bakemonogatari just as well as it can in Lucky Star, K-ON and Working!! The Idea of a “Moe Character” is dubious by itself (as that would imply everyone found the same thing “Moe”, when the reality is that it’s characters “more likely to induce Moe), but the term “Moe genre” is just as incorrect a term as the “Animation genre” in the west.

The true problem here is the incorrect usage of the term. the term “Moe” has become bogged down with unnecessary baggage and untrue meanings. “Moe” is just a feeling of happiness, deriving from the intense “passion or interest”. Even for those who claim to hate “Moe”, you have felt it before, I know you have. It is a natural extension of human passion, and our ability to love something. “Moe” is not something to be shunned, it is a beautiful thing that should be celebrated, as it can be found anywhere, from any genre and from anybody, which then brings us a brief moment of happiness in our too short lives. You have felt it before, you just haven’t accepted it yet.

Hopefully, as an Anime fan, you have been a little bit more enlightened on this whole ‘Moe’ debacle. That being said, what is your definition of ‘Moe’? How did you arrive at that conclusion? Do you hate it or love it? If so, why?

Some people hate on ‘Moe’ because of what it supposedly does to the Anime industry and culture. There are also some older Anime fans who grew up watching shows form the 80s and 90s where all Anime was about Giant Robots, Hyper Violence, Sci-Fi and Avant Garde Works of Art and can’t stomach the more high-school, comedy orientated Anime that is so prevalent nowadays.

Older Anime fans have to understand that times have changed. From what I understand, in the 80s, producers were willing to experiment and they had tons of money to spare. They were able to let Animators do whatever they pleased. Shows like Robot Carnival and a lesser known Bobby’s Girl are all a result of the culture during that time.

In this day and age, where money is scarce and a single flop can easily bankrupt a company, producers are more likely to go with a sure-hit ‘Moe’ show (or a popular adaptation of a Light Novel, Manga, Eroge, etc…) than venture into unknown territory with a completely original production. Not to mention, comparing DVD sales figures of the past years ‘good’ shows just don’t sell as well as ‘Moe’ ones as only the ‘Moe’ loving Otaku crowd really spend the money to buy DVDs and merchandise.

In short, the culture has changed, the industry has changed and most importantly, the fans have changed. But, I believe that innovation is still present today and there is something for everyone to enjoy in every new season of Anime.

I am fully aware the each of us have our own unique tastes and preferences. But if you don’t like something, you can just not watch it. The problem arises when fans begin to think that their opinion is the truth, hate on shows and ruin other fan’s enjoyment. If you do hate something and must voice your opinion, do remember to explain why and offer constructive criticism if possible.

14 Responses to The True Meaning of ‘Moe’

  1. villainhana says:

    Wow, it feels kinda weird to see something I wrote on this blog. I feel honored that you would find it good enough to use.

    I thank you for using it, Actar.

    *To any other readers of this blog, I am the same guy as the VillainousHanacha who wrote that “Moe Essay”, and Actar himself can back up this claim*

  2. Alexeon says:

    Very well written post. I agree pretty much with everything.

    One thing I want to add is that “moe” isnt a bad thing but it can be overdone. Shows with all “moe” (by which I mean shows about, as someone somewhere put it, cute girls doing cute things) have a lot less substance than shows where “moe” is included but is not the driving force. Madoka definitely has some “moe”-ness for sure but, as they say, dat plot, man!

  3. Actar says:

    @ villianhana: Indeed you are. (^.^) I could link your name to your MAL profile or something if you wanted.

  4. villainhana says:

    @Actar

    yes, please help me in my selfless and shameless pimping myself out!

    If you could put a link to my MAL, it would be apreciated (I feel like such a whore…)

  5. afkeroge says:

    I don’t really get why some people only watch anime for “plot”. Some anime are enjoyable even without a really elaborate storyline. I mean, since when did TV shows only make shows to “blow our minds away” with excellent writing? There are a lot of TV shows all over the world that, while having a relatively thin plot, don’t receive even a fraction of the hate that “moe” anime take. I guess it stems from “peer” pressure from peers haters don’t even see, or trying to cover up a guilty pleasure.

  6. Alexeon says:

    Well, there are comedies that dont really need a plot but I cant think of any real actors TV shows that are slice of life.

    I like slice of life, dont get me wrong, though. Genshiken is one of my favorite anime of all time.

  7. Matteas says:

    Very nice article. The usage of the word “moe” is quite a difficult problem. My opinion coincides with the opinion of VillaniousHanacha. Moe doesn’t describe and cannot be used to describe any genre as it is a term that describes a certain feeling. And since people’s feelings differ, some people may call moe what others wouldn’t. Still, it is moe for them. If a huge tentacled monster incites the specific moe feelings in you, the huge monster is moe for you, regardless of what others might say about it. Another question is whether moe can reach into the 3D realm too. I say: “It can!” because the feelings originate in our minds and hearts so they are not bound to any type of visual form. I often find myself calling seiyuu such as Toyosaki Aki, Hanazawa Kana, and Taketatsu Ayana moe, because they trigger that feeling (the urge to hug that sweet being) inside of me.
    However, I think it’s not wrong to use the term “moe anime” to describe a certain, often character-driven anime that relies heavily to get their audiences by inciting the moe feelings in people, e.g. K-ON, Ichigo Mashimaro, Strike Witches, maybe Tamayura. In that context, it doesn’t describe a genre, but a style I guess.

  8. villainhana says:

    @Matteas

    I think that the term “Moe Anime” is a perfectly fine term. The terms I was speaking out against are “Moe Characters” (because people find different things Moe) and more importantly “Moe Genre” (because that would imply “Moe” characters can only appear in one kind of work, and would be akin to naming a genre after a character trait).

    But I think “Moe Anime” is fine. We need some kind of short form of “Anime more likely to induce Moe”, now don’t we?

  9. ziroc says:

    @villainhana Great article. It was very informative.

    @Actar never understood why some people hated a show just because it had been labeled a “Moe Show” without even watching them. I just have this to say to them.

    “You should always try something twice, because you never know what your going to like.” – Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods

    I almost didn’t watch Azumanga Daioh because the first episode was just so random, but got hooked with the second episode.

  10. Lolanda says:

    I wish someone would make a moe show about little kids growing up in the city a Japanese hey Arnold if you will.

  11. niggamastodon says:

    moe is what your inner pedophile enjoys watching, moe is girls looking like babies and screaming hystericaly over a popsicle, moe is dumb, moe sucks. you’re all faggots who shoul be in jail.

  12. […] and felt it was wrong to like moe. It actually wasn’t until I read this post linked here: https://actar.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/the-true-meaning-of-moe/, and your Taskforce M.O.E. posts that I felt that maybe liking moe isn’t such a bad thing at […]

  13. […] and felt it was wrong to like moe. It actually wasn’t until I read this post linked here: https://actar.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/the-true-meaning-of-moe/, and your Taskforce M.O.E. posts that I felt that maybe liking moe isn’t such a bad thing at […]

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