Moe (萌え?, pronounced [mo.e], literally "budding", as with a plant or adorable), occasionally spelled Moé, is a Japanese slang word originally referring to a strong interest in a particular type or style of character in video games, anime or manga. For example, 眼鏡っ娘萌え, meganekko-moe, "glasses-girl moe", describes a person who is attracted to fictional characters with eyeglasses. "Moe!" is also used within anime fandom as an interjection referring to a character the speaker considers to be a moekko (a blossoming or "budding" girl).
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The term's origin and etymology is unknown. Anime columnist John Oppliger has outlined several popular theories describing how the term would have stemmed from the name of anime heroines (such as Hotaru Tomoe from Sailor Moon or Moe Sagisawa from the 1993 anime Kyoryu Wakusei). Psychologist Tamaki Saitō identifies it as coming from the Japanese word for "budding". Ken Kitabayashi of the Nomura Research Institute has defined moe as "being strongly attracted to one's ideals", and identifies a pun with "sprouting" and the words moyasu or moeru, which mean "burning" (in the sense of one's heart burning, or burning with passion). Galbraith states that the term came from 2channel in the 1990s, discussing female characters who were "hybrids of the Lolikon (Lolita Complex) and bishoujo (beautiful girl) genres".
According to Hiroki Azuma, as Rei Ayanami became a more prominent character among fans, she "changed the rules" governing what people regarded as moe-inspiring. The industry has since created many characters which share her traits of pale skin, blue hair and a "quiet personality".
With moe anthropomorphism, moe characteristics are applied to give human elements to non-human objects. The Gradius video game series features a spaceship in the name of Vic Viper. For a spin-off game, moe is applied to Vic Viper to create Otomedius. Moe characters have expanded within the Japanese media market. In 2004, the market for moe media such as printed media, video, and games was worth 88 billion yen. This is roughly one-third of the estimated 290 billion yen otaku market in Japan.
One such contest is the Anime Saimoe Tournament, which has been organized by members of 2channel every year since 2002. Moe characters entering within the fiscal year starting July 1 and ending June 30 the following year are eligible. Each tournament has at least 280 moe characters. They must have any of the following qualifications:
- Anime newly broadcasted in Japan on TV or internet over 5 stories or a half of the full stories in that period
- OVAs (Original Video Animations) newly released in Japan in that period
- Anime films newly screened in Japan in that period
Spin-offs of the Saimoe Tournament include RPG Saimoe, which exclusively features video game characters, and SaiGAR, a competition between the manliest men of anime; despite the participation of Takamachi Nanoha in SaiGAR 2007. In 2006 and 2007, the Saimoe Tournament became an increasingly international event; 2channel users obliged foreign otaku by putting up an English version of their rules page.
There are various interpretations of what moe is today. Joseph L. Dela Pena argues that moe is a pure, protective feeling towards a female character, without the sexualization of lolicon. Jason Thompson of Otaku USA regards moe when applied to young female characters or people as being an offshoot of the lolicon phenomenon and the role of cuteness in Japanese culture. Scott Von Schilling sees moe in this sense as being indicative of men in their thirties "longing for fatherhood".
In response to the growing otaku fetishization of cute female characters in anime and manga, Japanese animator and self-avowed feminist Hayao Miyazaki has stated:
|“||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.||”|
Enomoto Nariko, a yaoi author and manga critic says that "male fans cannot experience moe until they have fixed their own position". Tamaki Saitō explains that a male fan's "position" is his position as a subject, which the male fan must establish before he can desire an object. In this view, moe characters are agents of the male fan's desire. Enomoto Nariko compares male fans to fujoshi, who she says are primarily attracted to phases of a relationship, for example the point at which a friendly relationship becomes romantic.
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- AnimeNation Anime News Blog » Blog Archive » Ask John: What is Moe?
- Saitou Tamaki (2007) "Otaku Sexuality" in Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi ed., page 230 Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams University of Minnesota Press ISBN 978-0-8166-4974-7
- Kitabayashi, Ken (2004) The Otaku Group from a Business Perspective: Revaluation of Enthusiastic Customers Nomura Research Institute
- Galbraith, Patrick W. (2009). "Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan". Electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies.
- Galbraith, Patrick W. (2009). The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insider's Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan. Kodansha International. p. 46. ISBN 978-4770031013.
- Azuma, Hiroki. (2009) Otaku: Japan's Database Animals. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press pp. 48-52
- "Konami: Boobs + Gradius = Otomedius". Michael McWhertor. Kotaku. 2007-02-16. Archived from the original on 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2007-11-06.
- "Moe Market Worth 88 Billion Yen". Anime News Network. 2005-04-25. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
- "萌王ランキング". Dengeki Moeoh (10) (MediaWorks). 2007. p. 143.
- "最萌トーナメント". Japanese Wikipedia. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
- "Saimoe 2007 English". 2ch. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
- http://saigar.darkmirage.com/ retrieved in 11/7/2007[dead link]
- Joseph L. Dela Pena (2006) Otaku: Images and Identity in Flux CUREJ pp.8-9
- Thompson, Jason (July 9, 2009). "Moe: The Cult of the Child". Comixology. Retrieved 2009-10-29.
- Von Schilling, Scott (April 26, 2005). "The Deal with Moé". The Anime Almanac. Retrieved 2009-11-18.
- "Miyazaki interview".
- Saitō Tamaki (2007) "Otaku Sexuality" in Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi ed., page 231 Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams University of Minnesota Press ISBN 978-0-8166-4974-7
- Towards a Cartography of Japanese Anime: Anno Hideaki's >>Evangelion<< - Through an interview with Hiroki Azuma dealing with Evangelion the article sheds light on the origins of the Moe phenomenon
- Superflat Cultural Critic Hiroki Azuma Describes Otaku Aesthetics
- Mondo Japan 2004: New language from OTAKU world "MOE"
- New York Times article on Moe phenomenon