"Somehow, when I look at her, I feel like I can't leave her alone. I feel like I have to protect her!"
Chiri Kitsu, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei

Coined in Japan in the late '90s, "Moe" (萌え, pronounced as "Mo-Eh", derived from a Japanese word that means "budding, to sprout/bloom")note  is an ill-defined otaku term that means, amongst other things, "cute", "huggable", or "endearing". While it's sometimes used to describe a series or the phenomenon called Perverse Sexual Lust, it's more about a specific ideal or kind of character, similar to Kawaisa. When used as an interjection, figuratively, it's used to convey that "something blooms inside your heart".

A common definition is that Moe is the ability of a character to instill in the audience an irrational desire to adore them, hug them, protect them, comfort them, etc. To evoke a sort of Big Brother Instinct, in men and women.

Moe characters are, generally speaking, cute. Moe characters are implicitly youthful, congregating to high school age and below. Adult female characters who qualify are almost always in their low twenties. Any characters older than that have this fact unmentioned, or the character's appearance is altered as little as possible regardless of the actual time that has passed. Moe characters often take many characteristics, tropes and forms of appearance from the Bishoujo genre.

Their personality will reflect an "innocent" outlook on something vital, such as about romance. A related implication is that moe characters are virgins, though mostly in Japan, where virginity and purity still remains important to a girl's appeal.

The classical Moe character is highly associated with innocence, shyness, humility, submission, helplessness and woobie characteristics (e.g., Fragile Flower, Shrinking Violet, Extreme Doormat, Dojikko, The Ingenue, the Healing-type genre, etc., usually drawn with Tareme Eyes), although this does not need to be always the case. In many other, more modern variations, there is also a trend towards more upbeat and extroverted personalities that are far more unique, noticeable and recognizable (such as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the more benign variants of Tsundere) although these variants do have a risk of getting kinda annoying or tasting like diabetes. Other contributions to uniqueness can also come in the form of quirks, reliance on Costume Exaggeration, odd language, strange hobbies and the like. Occasionally, these quirks are completely unrelated and seem a bit disjointed.

If a character is plain, they are "loudly plain" in the way Hollywood Homely characters are "ugly"; sometimes they're just more moderate than the rest of the cast, and the writers implicitly suggest the audience is kind for liking the character for being plain.

More on these traits can be found here, although trying to define the exact nature of "what is Moe" is still up to debate.

Such characters are also prone to being used as mere Pandering to the Base. When a character has no visible personality traits aside from vaguely cute uselessness, he/she is termed the dreaded "Moe Blob". An interesting result of this is some moe characters are quasi-Animated Actors; the series they star in need not be related at all, being only devices to enable the viewer to enjoy the character. Many of them feature in Gag Series, and only the merchandise for the series shows off its intended and occasionally creepy roots.

Also, do note that the Moe aesthetic in itself is generally not considered to be a sexual thing. Saying otherwise will hit the Fandom Berserk Button. That is not to say, of course, that Moe characters can never be sexually attractive, and indeed some aesthetics may deliberately blur the line, with varying amounts of creepiness.

Male characters can also have moe traits, and they figure prominently in Shoujo and Josei. Like their female counterparts, moe boys are usually ridiculously cute. The Adorably Precocious Child is a good example. Bishōnen characters (particularly Troubled, but Cute characters) also tend to evoke feelings of Moe in a female audience and are frequently called Moe by both fans and authors.

For the non-anthropomorphic equivalent, see Ridiculously Cute Critter. See also Moe Anthropomorphism, Moe Couplet, Moe Stare; compare The Woobie where the focus is about sympathy. Yamato Nadeshiko has a similar appeal but for older characters. Also see When She Smiles for situations where applicable characters get massive Moe points for finally breaking out a smile. In darker series, very likely to suffer Break the Cutie. Weakness Turns Her On is a sort of Distaff Counterpart that concerns women's attraction to moe males. Contrast Rated M for Manly. What Do You Mean, It's Not For Little Girls? when someone mistakes a moe show that's meant for older males for a show that's meant for little girls.

No connection to a certain bowlcut-wearing would-be leader, surly bartender, six-year-old school bully, or clam. Or, for that matter, a town in Victoria, Australia.

Sub-pages and Examples:

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Moe characters

  • The Japanese Windows 7 mascot Nanami Madobe who's a bit ditzy and suffers from Cuteness Proximity.
    • Microsoft Moe strikes again: Claudia Madobe, whose figurines are bundled with Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. Priced at ~$2200, one must wonder whether the figurine or the software is the bonus content.

  • One male example who gets away with it because of his age is Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. Remember when the baby raccoon died? It was also a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
    • It's when he wants to be, and it never works on his parents. Not even "Bambi eyes" work.
      • "Bambi Eyes" tend to lose the intended effect when one is using them to ask for a flamethrower.
    • It also doesn't work on Rosalyn (the baby-sitter), or Miss Wormwood (the teacher), or... you know what? It just doesn't work in-universe.
  • The title character of Empowered is a rare example in an American Super Hero comic.
    ThugBoy: She's got this whole adorable, aching vulnerability thing going on... [...] I wanted to comfort her and tap that ass like it's never been tapped before.
  • Delirium in Death: At Death's Door
  • Molly Hayes and Klara Prast from Runaways
  • Ignacia from Wildguard
  • Squee from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac could be an example of this.
  • The original version of Marrina from Alpha Flight was absolutely made of this, at least as long as she was in control of herself. Unfortunately, outside forces kept pulling out her Super-Powered Evil Side, making her good half seem just that much more tragic and, well, moe.
  • Most of the kid characters from Le Petit Spirou easily qualify for this.

    Fan Works 

    Film - Animation 
  • Vanellope von Schweetz in Wreck-It Ralph is the most adorable character in the movie and also the most abused, whose living conditions were even worse than Ralph's. She is essentially a Dummied Out character in her home game, which is horrifyingly tragic if such a character were sentient. Some of the story team members even grew protective of her.
    • Felix is this for some of the fandom, although YMMV.
  • From the same year as Vanellope is Sophie from Rise of the Guardians, who is just the most adorable thing and tends to invoke I'm Taking Her Home with Me! in the audience.
  • Margo, Edith, and Agnes from Despicable Me.
  • Rapunzel from Tangled. Her mannerisms and personality make her the most adorable Disney Princess yet.
    • Anna from Frozen is what Rapunzel is Up to Eleven.
    • Not that there's any shortage of adorable Disney Princesses, like Ariel or Belle.
      • The original princess, Snow White was arguable the start of this in western animation.
  • Bonnie of Toy Story 3.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings. More so than the book, in which he seems slightly more composed and more mature than his younger Hobbit friends, film Frodo is every bit the doe-eyed, plucky little-train-that-could. Whenever action goes down, even the other Hobbits manage to get some licks in. But not our Frodo, who whimpers and faints and plays the IllBoy throughout. He's so in over his head it's absurd... which is what makes his pluck all the more moving. It's just a damn good job Sam went with him...
  • David Bowie's character from The Man Who Fell to Earth is a fragile, if stoic, alien who proves highly, tragically vulnerable to the pitfalls of the human world. In his human disguise, he's one of the older examples of this trope (his true form is that of a Rubber Forehead Alien). It's telling that Bowie fangirls usually refer to Thomas Jerome Newton via his in-story nickname of "Tommy".
  • The ultimate western example would be Audrey Hepburn's adorably innocent Princess Ann from Roman Holiday.
  • Chekov, from the 2009 Star Trek movie. He's developed quite the female following.
    • He's practically a live-action anime character with his enormous greenish-blue eyes; no wonder he's a Moe! That and his positively adorable accent (especially when the computer acts like a bitch to him).
      • "I can do zat! I can do zat!"
  • Little Nancy in Sin City the movie. She is a lot cuter when seen in full color light in the bonus DVD features than in the black and white of the movie.
  • Raven in Cecil B. Demented falls into this category in a weird way, but then, considering the actress...
  • Both used straight and subverted when Wednesday Addams turns on the charm at summer camp in Addams Family Values. In just a few moments she blossoms from her usual drawn and dour self into a charming doe eyed lovable little girl.
    • The other children are visibly shocked. One remarks "she's scaring me!"
  • Child!Hanuman/Maruti from The Return of Hanuman. Big girly eyes, cheeks, innocence, he's just so adorable.
  • Transformers Film Series
    • Bumblebee fills this, despite being a mechanical life form. Due to being the most humanoid of the robot cast, his movements moddelled after Marty Mcfly, the fact his horns are replaced with little bug antenas, he's given Prowl's door wings which act like dog ears, and his childlike enthusiasm at times. There's a reason many cried when he was injured in the first film and when it looks like he's about to be executed by Soundwave in the third. Possibly lampshading this, Laserbeak uses his aparent ability to change into anything to become a human child sized pink version of him to trick a small girl into letting him inside so he can kill her family.
    • Carly in the third film also acts as this, due to being more emotional than Megan Fox's character Mikeala in the first film and more playful.
  • Chucky from Child's Play. Yes, he is a psychotic mass murderer, but he just looks so adorable in his doll body.
  • Syrena from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Come on look at those big adorable eyes. Doesn't hurt that she's a sweet vulnerable non-murdering mermaid.
  • Barbra from Night of the Living Dead. After all of the horrible things that happen to her, she becomes a nervous wreck. And it's adorable!
  • Just about anyone played by Mr. Buster Keaton. Poor guy.
  • In Thor Loki gets one or two scenes (notably The Reveal scene) that make him this... until he turns all Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
  • Janie in Another Time, Another Place, especially when she gets the chance to smile.
  • X-Men: First Class managed to make Mystique seem Moe.
  • Pre-serum Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, especially in fanworks. He's feisty and determined (very) rather than innocent and vulnerable, but he is a short, kind of delicate-looking (with big blue Disney princess eyes), romantically inexperienced, Adorkable Ill Boy who gets beat up a lot. Post-serum, he's still cute, but in more of a Dork Knight-Iron Woobie way.
  • Aurora in Maleficent. Innocent, Friend to All Living Things, and spends many of her scenes full of nothing but joy. Being played by Elle Fanning definitely helps. She eventually forms a Moe Couplet with the title character.

  • Lala(left), the singer for J-Pop / digital noise shotgun wedding わたしのココ. You think it stops there? Wait 'till she opens her mouth.
  • Damon Albarn of blur most likely invokes this, particularly in the mid-90s. Just look at him. Awwwwww.
  • Gorillaz guitarist Noodle has always been one in her way, especially considering the visceral art style. Here she is aged ten, fourteen and twenty, complete with Cool Mask.
    • 2D also invokes this feeling a bit, particularly in Phase 3. He's definitely more Ugly Cute than anything, but his advanced Woobiehood and ditzy, laid-back demeanor make him... pretty damn lovable.
  • Carcass in their heyday were quite cute for people making Gorny Grind Core.
  • Ringo Starr guessed that his fanbase in the 60s consisted mainly of girls who wanted to mother him. He was absolutely right.
  • In-universe example. In the Bon Jovi song, "Superman Tonight," Jon sings about a girl he wants to rescue...THAT HE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW.
  • Sally Shapiro
  • Jazz vocalist and pianist Blossom Dearie had this as a big part of her appeal, often described as having a girlish appearance and an innocent "baby-doll" voice. Case in point: her famous cover of "Someone To Watch Over Me." (Is a more Moe name than "Blossom Dearie" even possible?)
  • Ben Howard has been known to have this effect on some.
  • Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy has always had this effect on people to the point where even Pete Wentz has joked about it.
    Pete: patrick doesnt do gross things. his body is made up of kittens, saturdays, 70 degree weather, first kisses and butterflies. trust me, i cut that bitch open once to check.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • AJ Lee is of the Genki Girl variety.
  • Randy Savage's valet Miss Elizabeth could also count.
  • It's Bayley! Genki Girl, check, Adorkable, check, weaponized glomper, check, one of the most "wholesome" Divas on WWE programming, check. Her opening even features a drawing of her as an anime character!

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Warhammer 40,000 fan-character Cultist-chan turned into this once she got de-aged. Yes, a cultist of Chaos.
  • Eberron's female religious leaders are adorable.
  • The GURPS advantage Pitiable basically facilitates moe.
    Something about you makes people pity you and want to take care of you. You get + 3 on all reaction rolls from those who consider you to be in a position of helplessness, weakness, or need (which never includes those with the Callous disadvantage). Taken in conjunction with above-average looks, Pitiable means you are "cute" instead of "sexy"; in combination with below-average looks, it means you are "appealingly homely," like a basset hound.
  • The Collectible Card Game Weiss Schwarz uses moe as its primary selling point, allowing moe stalwarts such as the Lucky Star and Clannad casts to wage bloody moe battle against each other.

  • In The Phantom of the Opera, Christine is an perfect example of a Moe done well.
    • Meg Giry could also qualify for this.

    Visual Novels 
  • Shiki from Tsukihime tends to have a love of moe traits among the girls in the games. The doujins take this to whole new levels, creating his infamous line "So moe...I'm gonna die~!"
    • The female cast of the game are all quite moe; some just more than others.
    • Akiha, Arcueid, Hisui, Satsuki, and Len; arguably the most moe characters out of the lot.
  • The girls of Katawa Shoujo, who are all Disabled Love Interests who each have some moe traits, but Shrinking Violet Hanako probably takes the cake. However, it's worth noting that despite fandom's treatment of Hanako as moe, her route in the game actually deconstructs the concept. Hanako becomes well aware that Hisao feels sorry for her and sees her as The Woobie, and she greatly resents it. In her Bad End, she calls Hisao out on this, yelling that she hates him for this behaviour. With the way she's facing the screen, however, it doesn't seem that she's yelling at Hisao so much as she's yelling at the player. In her H-scene, the reason she has sex with Hisao in the first place is so that he'll stop seeing her as someone to be pitied and protected.
  • Ema Skye in the extra case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and her cameo in Ace Attorney Investigations. Check out one of her animation cycles if you want proof.
    • Really, any of your female companions fall into this in some way. Maya with her childish naivete, Pearl's innocent ignorance of the world outside Kurain Village (and just being the one little girl in general), and Trucy Wright just all around. Even Kay Faraday, Genki Girl as she is, gets in on it sometimes with her charming ambition. It helps that all these characters have Woobie backgrounds.
    • Ron DeLite: Mask☆DeMoe.
  • Rika and Satoko from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. The show then goes on to royally mess them up, time and time again. By the time the second season rolls around Rika stops being moe, but Hanyuu more than makes up for it.
  • The elves of ElfQuest are deliberately Moe, particularly Suntop (later renamed Sunstream in-universe) who is practically the Ur Example. Around age 5 or 6, he had to endure being kidnapped by Winnowill, the only truly evil elf known and magically hurt in order to keep him from struggling. Then as a 7yo (guesstimated), he had to endure 2-3 days of sleeplessness because of constantly "hearing" telepathic screaming of other elves from some unknown place. If it weren't for sympathetic parents and an understanding mentor, he could have literally turned out an insanely evil being instead of godlike good.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Betty Boop may well have been the original progenitor of the animated Moe character. The target audience of her cartoons was adult men rather than children, and she made popular the large eyes and other child-like facial features that are common on a lot of modern Moes. Also, she was voiced by Mae Questel, who at the time was very popular due to her cutesy voice.
  • Adorably ditzy Magical Girl Hay Lin, from W.I.T.C.H., IS this trope. Aside from Rei, one struggles to find a character who fits it so perfectly. If she's not being suggestive and adorable, she's being even more adorable and frightened, she's a slender little thing with a nice chest when she transforms but Pettanko leanings when a normal person. All she needs is blue hair and some bandages and she could be Rei's (much more chipper) sister.
  • Jack Spicer of Xiaolin Showdown certainly qualifies as a rare western male example in his Butt Monkey moments. Only enhanced in fanon.
    • Omi is pretty moe himself.
  • Starfire from Teen Titans. Murakami likes his anime. Glorious, friends!
  • Ty Lee from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Peppy and childish with large eyes and an even larger chest!
    • Toph is also very Moe in appearance, although more of a Badass Adorable when you consider what she's capable of. As in, "Kick your ass to oblivion and then some with a bunch of rocks without even bothering to look at you" Badass Adorable. Doesn't deter a lot of fans from viewing her as Moe all the same, though.
    • Zuko sometimes has Moe traits too. Especially during the episode "The Western Air Temple" where he tries to join Team Avatar and it doesn't go so well at first, resulting in him yelling, "Why am I so bad at being good!" There's also the fact that his temper stems more from him being the Woobie than him being a jerkass for the most part, and he can be very socially awkward.
  • Opal from The Legend of Korra with her big eyes, sweet demeanor, and awkward first impression toward Team Avatar (especially Bolin) makes her absolutely adorable.
  • And then there's Baby Doll from Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Futurama. Come on...if you were Leela, you know you'd date Fry in a second. None of that pussyfooting around. It's all his heart, and the fact that he is so very, very, very lonely, being the oldest human in the world by a very long shot. Plus, he's nice to people who don't give a rat's ass about him, for no good reason at all. What's there not to like? Intelligence? Overrated!
  • Shego from Kim Possible turns Moe when she gets hit by an attitude ray, which changes her personality to the opposite of her current one. That lady on the Dark Action Girl page? That's her.Seriously.
    • Ron has his moments.
  • Toki of Metalocalypse is the closest thing to Moe you can get in that series. He's so childlike, endearing, and you just can't help but want to hug him because he's probably the most sentimental of the group. And then there's his little song "Underwater Friends." However, he's also a good example of Beware the Nice Ones...
  • Bubbles of The Powerpuff Girls, although Blossom and Buttercup also count.
  • Total Drama
  • June from KaBlam!.
    • And Loopy.
  • Oh God, Megan's cute little sister Molly from My Little Pony is the epithome of moe.
    • A mislead witch known as Draggle from My Little Pony also qualifies, in ways mostly unlike those of Molly's.
  • Klot from School For Vampires. Don't look at him - let alone talk to him - for long, or you'll find yourself offering him your blood voluntarily.
  • Rudy, Penny, and Snap from ChalkZone.
  • Jasmine from The Boondocks.
  • Shadowcat from X-Men: Evolution. Kurt too, and Rogue, and Toad, and Amara, and the girl with the giant hands in the Morlocks, and to some, X-23, hell, lets just say half the cast.
  • A number of characters from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Especially Mac.
  • Fluttershy from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. So very much.
    • Hugely subverted in "The Best Night Ever" when she goes completely Cute and Psycho when the animals in the garden of the palace run away from her. Although, she was under a lot of stress at the time however, given that all she wanted to do was be friends with the animals and they just kept running away from her.
    • Most characters from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The entire show might be the best example of the "moe" concept catching on in western fandom. Many of the Ponies can fall under different moe tropes, such as:
      • Rainbow Dash being a Boku-girl
      • Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle being little girls.
    • Sweetie Belle gets the added bonus of being a Cute Clumsy Girl with an amazing singing voice and adorable voice cracks.
      • Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy being animals.
    • Particularly invoked is the episode "Green Isn't Your Color," where Fluttershy becomes a supermodel entirely due to her Moe appeal, complete with Enforced Method Acting so she always looks scared in her pictures.
    • Coco Pommel is almost hurtfully moe. The fact that she works for a plagiarizing slave driver and is painfully good at making kicked puppy faces certainly helps.
    • Perhaps we should speed this up by saying that pretty much all of the mane cast is moe and calling it a day.
  • Numbuh 3/Kuki Sanban from Codename: Kids Next Door. Unflappably cheerful Genki Girl with an oversized sweater and a huge plushie obsession. D'aww. Even her Cute and Psycho side could be this to some.
    • Also her sister, Mushi. Too bad she turns evil later on...
    • Some fans think all of Sector V is moe. They all have somewhat cute traits.
  • Jenny from My Life as a Teenage Robot.
  • And on the subject of cute robot girls as listed above, there's also Penelope from Yakkity Yak.
  • Sari Sumdac.
    • Skywarp from Transformers Animated is a Dirty Coward cloned from Starscream. The fans think he's adorable (maybe it's the constant fear combined with the likelyhood that he's the one who gets picked on the most that contributes to the Woobieness).
    • Bumblebee in that show, the G1 series, the film series, and the Prime series also count to some.
    • Blades from Transformers Rescue Bots is almost like Fluttershy as a male robot.
  • The eponymous character of Spiderman The Animated Series.
  • Isabella from Phineas and Ferb.
    • Phineas can be pretty moe as well.
    • Candace can be this to the boys who love her crazy awesome Genki girl attitude.
  • Patti Mayonnaise from Doug can be pretty moe.
    • The title character, to an extent. He's so adorably sweet!
    • Connie has her moments
  • Cornchip Girl from Recess.
    • The main six when they were in kindergarten were just adorable as well
    • Miss Grotke is a rare over 18 example of the trope. Personality speaking, she's like a misplaced Disney Princess. Sadly, a lot of her moe-ness is taken out of most dubs, where her cute, high-pitched voice is usually replaced with a lower, more boring one.
    • T.J. can be pretty moe sometimes. Most of the Japanese fans consider him to be very moe.
    • Gus is one of the cutest members of the main six.
  • Heloise on Jimmy Two-Shoes. She is quite twisted, but even her Evil Laugh sounds cute. Jimmy himself too, he's just adorably sweet!
  • The The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes version of The Wasp counts, due to being the character with the most change from the comics. Her general appearence is adorable, her personality is hilarious, and her ability to Cherry Tap opponents into surrender adds to that. There's a reason she's the Ensemble Dark Horse of the group.
  • Butters from South Park. Loo-loo-loo, I've got some apples...
    • Tweek as well.
    • When Kenny becomes "Princess Kenny", he becomes a direct parody of anime characters of this type, specifically young girls.
  • Mabel Pines, from Gravity Falls. Her brother, Dipper, is just as much too.
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), Orko is this.
  • Moral Orel: Orel Puppington might be this in the main series but he is definitely this in Beforel Orel. Definitely an optimistic Cheerful Child AND Adorably Precocious Child.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Edd: the kind, Adorkable, (nearly) always misblamed guy.
    • Nazz, being a sweet, cute, blonde girl-next-door.
  • Flame Princess from Adventure Time, Finn's Tsundere love interest, is adorably moe when she's happy.
    • Princess Bubblegum, especially when she's 13.[1]
  • Aya from Green Lantern: The Animated Series is the onboard-AI of the main characters' ship in the show. Early in the series she constructs herself an adorable physical body, and her personality is largely defined by her child-like curiosity, innocence and vulnerability, and is a frequent source of social awkwardness humor. Later in the series she is also an example of Break the Cutie when she falls in love with Razer.
  • Wilykit and Wilykat from ThunderCats (2011). They have the cuteness of precocious little children plus that of kittens.
  • Part-time Disney artist Mary Blair (background designer for Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Cinderella'', as well as designer of It's a Small World) sure knew cuteness, and especially how colors fit into that.

Entire series called moe

    Notable Producers of Moe Series 

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • A set of eroge with actual plots and sympathetic characters is Key's works. Kanon and AIR have both been animated twice with all H-scenes removed and practically no fanservice, and didn't lose much; CLANNAD, which was also animated twice under the same contract, was completely clean in the first place.
  • There's actually a whole VN genre for so-called "moege". Da Capo and its spinoffs, SHUFFLE!, Snow Sakura and Canvas 2 are just some that this particular niche has to offer.
    • Speaking of Da Capo, remeber the character Moe above in the anime section? In the VN there's more to her than meets the eye, and it has to do with her unusual sleeping habits, if that alone is not Moe enough. She takes sleeping pills. Not because of insomnia, but due to a tragic incident in her childhood - there was a boy she liked, then one day he died. Overcome with grief, she made a wish to the magical Sakura Tree to see that boy in her dreams. Hence her need to sleep. Thus when the tree withers, she loses that wish, and just breaks down. Awwww

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

Moe in general


Alternative Title(s):

Moe Moe, Moe Blob