Over the years the term has become so generalized that it's used by fans to describe any character or character trait that they find endearing even when the usage makes little conventional sense. At the same time, it has spurred debate between those in support of Moe and those in opposition to it, which in turn mirrors the general split of opinion on Kawaisa in Japan. Hayao Miyazaki is an example of someone who, while initially sympathetic to Moe, changed his stance later on. He once stated that Moe is the natural result of attempts to simply create a female character whom you can sympathize with and nothing more. He has stated that making them "lovely" is merely the same as making a hero brave or strong. He has also stated that while not inherently controversial, the nature of what Moe has become and it's subsequent handling in the growing years has, according to him, reached the stage where there are too many people who shamelessly depict Moe characters as pets or objects of fetishism/misogyny/power fantasy rather than as wholesome characters, and things are escalating more and more (especially due to Japan's gender conflicts and men retreating in secluded lives). It might be interesting for you to consider some quotes from anime producers and otaku researchers on the moe craze and what they think it means, such as this following academic roundtable from 2004. Most of them trace "moe" to an Evangelion scene with Rei in an alternate universe running to school with a piece of bread in her mouth.◊ Most interesting is how they identify the Aum Shinrikyo subway attacks as a major cause behind the rise of moe, as well as distinguish earlier types of otaku.
- —Takashi Murakami: I have to confess, I don't fully understand the moe sensibility.Toshio Okada: The moe generation is mostly made up of otaku thirty-five or younger. I myself belong to the previous otaku generation, so frankly I don't understand moe.—Toshio Okada: Otaku are bashful. They are intelligent but so bashful that they're more comfortable with children's anime than regular movies. They can shed their reserve if a serious idea is filtered through a "Made for Children" label ... At any rate, I have never seen an orientation towards the unacceptable among otaku. ... Well, then, do you mean from the mid- to late 1970s, things got progressively more unacceptable from Yamato to Gundam, and then Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind? I don't think so. An inclination for dame appears to exist because otaku have shifted to bishojo these past few years. Within this limited context, you may have a point, but veteran otaku have to disagree.Kaichiro Morikawa: Generally speaking, I see a downward spiral. Aum Shinrikyo was influenced by Genma Wars. In the 1980s, otaku dreamt of Armageddon; they fantasized about employing supernatural powers to create a new world after the end of the world. But Aum's subway attack in 1995 thoroughly shattered the post-apocalyptic otaku dream of creating a new world in which they would become heroes. After their apocalyptic fantasies collapsed, they steadily shifted to moe. Before their Armageddon obsession, there was science fiction, which provided otaku with an alternative to the actual future. In the broadest terms, moe has replaced 'future.'—Kaichiro Morikawa: As I said before, the 1980s-era fascination with the apocalyptic was shattered by Aum. I think moe emerged as an alternative, to fill the void.Toshio Okada: I see. To me, Eva was all about "Since I can't do anything about changing the world, I will do something about myself." Don't you think "robot anime" is all about "trying to change the world"? Morikawa-san, you talked about the apocalyptic. One step before that is "social reform" (yo-naoshi). One of the key concepts for understanding otaku is "a child's sense of justice." The reason grown-ups are enthusiastic about Kamen Rider and the "warrior team" genre (sentai mono) is because that basic sense of justice, which we abandoned in society a long time ago, is still meaningful in the world of these TV shows. Of course, there's also the terrific monster designs and pan-chira [the fleeting display of girls' panties], but that's not enough to keep the boys interested. That basic sense of justice worked until Eva. But with Eva, it became clear that no one could save the world. And Eva complicated the whole thing, raising issues such as "Maybe I should at least save myself" and "What's wrong with me, thinking only about saving myself?" Eva marked a turning point. Whatever we discuss today, we cannot avoid Eva.—Hiroki Azuma: Not surprisingly, Neon Genesis Evangelion, which appeared in 1995, proves important. As with Aum Shinrikyō, this work also had dual implications, straddling the Era of Fiction and the Era of Animals. This anime is a work that initially aspired to grand narrative in a very straightforward way. As the title suggests, it is an evangelical narrative of human salvation. In any event, this grand narrative broke down spectacularly in the last episode of the TV series. Moreover, what appeared at the moment of its breakdown was the world of secondary or fan production. Specifically, what appeared in the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth episodes of the TV series Evangelion was the world of secondary production as already in circulation through the Comiket (comic market) and personal computer communications. In other words, its creators made a parody of the parody in advance. And, in their rather wonderful way, they pieced together an autocritique of their impasse.In other words, in his effort to see this grand narrative through to the end, its director Anno Hideaki ultimately could not help but criticize the character industry, in order to preserve his status as author, as a matter of self-defense. Anno flirted with the impossible task of constructing a grand narrative in the 1990s, but in the end it proved impossible, and all that remained was Ayanami Rei as a moe kyara, that is, as an affective figure. In this respect, I think that the scene in the twenty-sixth episode of Evangelion in which Ayanami Rei appears running with bread in her mouth marks a turning point in otaku culture, the moment when the Era of Fictions became the Era of Animals, when the Era of Fictional Histories gave way to the Era of Affective Response to Characters (kyara moe). This is why Evangelion remains such an important work.—
- I think it's more likely that Moe is the result of Eva traumatizing a generation of viewers who completely failed to understand the implications of the series' message and thus retreated even deeper into otakudom. The plot so completely broke their minds with a truth they weren't willing to accept that all they could say in response is "what the world really needs are endless derivative variations of Asuka and Rei doing cute things without all that emotional trauma making viewers uncomfortable."