Moe

aka: Moe Moe

"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:

    open/close all folders 

Moe characters

    Advertising 
  • 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.

    Comics 
  • 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.
  • Gastoon from the comic book of the same name is this. Just look at this album cover.

    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.
  • Eggs is an orphaned boy in The Boxtrolls who has been taken in by boxtrolls. He also invokes an I'm Taking Him Home With Me trope from the audience.

    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.

    Music 
  • 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.
  • LIGHTS
  • 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.

    Theatre 
  • 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 

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


uguu~

Alternative Title(s):

Moe Moe, Moe Blob