Sailors Saturn and Mercury in Sailor Moon are prototype cases - in fact, there's a theory that the term Moe was originally derived from Saturn's civilian name, Tomoe Hotaru (written as 土萌; even the relevant kanji is the same.) Researchers such as Patrick W. Galbraith and Tamaki Saitō have found that "moe" was first used in 2channel in the 1990s, discussing female characters who were "hybrids of the lolicon (Lolita Complex) and bishoujo (beautiful girl) genres". As this describes exactly Hotaru Tomoe, and coincides with Hotaru Tomoe's height of popularity in 2channel, there is likeliness in the theory that Sailor Moon is the Trope namer.
To take away from Hotaru's cuteness is the fact that she has the same last name as an 11th century female war hero who could probably kick Miyamoto Musashi's ass if she wanted to.
Moe Sagisawa of the little-known (to westerners) anime Kyoryu Wakusei is another possibility for the trope namer. As in the case of Hotaru Tomoe her name and year of the anime's debut coincide perfectly with the earliest uses of the term.
Amelia from The Slayers seems to be another somewhat-prototype for the trope (having been around since before the tropewas really identified at large). Although much (much) more go-getting, positive, and active than most modern characters who fall under the banner, she is the youngest of the four cast members, is very naive, possesses a rather impressive chest for her supposed age (14 in the first season!), comes from a fairly chaste background and religious city-state, and is often used as a punching bag by the villains to show how evil they are, which seems intended to produce an extremely sympathetic and protective feeling from the audience. It doesn't seem a coincidence that a larger number of shows like this began airing in the years following Slayers going off the air.
There's also episode 15 of Slayers TRY, where Lina is transported to an Alice in Wonderland-esque bizarro-world, complete with costume. She's absolutely adorable.
The final, iron-clad ur-example for what is identified as the modern trope is Sakura Kinomoto from Cardcaptor Sakura. While it's quite arguable that the entire show can be classified as moe, Miss Kinomoto takes the cake, between her clumsiness, her age-based cuteness, her verbal tics, and her city-crushing omni-powers. What makes CCS and Sakura so notable is that the show's run marks the point when the industry noticed what kind of Periphery Demographic Sakura (alongside Rei and Amelia) had, and how much they were willing to spend on her; this was noticed, the money was counted... and the producers began to create works to match. Modern moe shows sprang to life not very long after CCS ended its television run. Sakura was the winner of the 2002 Saimoe Tournament (the first one ever held).
Shinobu from Love Hina. Her regular luminescent blushes, and embarrassed stutterings (and that adorable squeal) are enough to melt the coldest of hearts.
7 year old Son Goten of Dragon Ball Z, despite being a male character in a Shonen series, displays some traits of this trope. He is the happy, sweet, innocent, considerate, well-mannered, kind-hearted, cute, constipated, and huggable little brother that we all wish we had, who is simply too good to ever be true outside a 1950's sitcom.
In Dragonball GT, he becomes a playboy who is nevertheless still chaste and warm hearted.
One of the major themes parodied in Ouran High School Host Club, where the Host Club members each cultivate an exaggerated trait/fetish for their female guests, and their self-elected consultant Renge frequently monologues her opinion of what is moe to girls. More satirically, Club President Tamaki views his feelings towards Haruhi as moe (protective and fatherly) even though his classmates realize it's his thick-headed way of dealing with actually being attracted to her despite her not being impressed by him.
Haruhi as a whole could be seen as Moe. Despite her general snarky, and apathetic nature she has moe traits. Tamaki, Hikaru, and Kaoru never fail to point out how 'plain' and 'dull' she is treating it as more of an endearing quality rather than an insult. The boys also love to dress her up in all sorts of outfits (granted, most are unisex or male—and Haruhi's not enthusiastic about it). She has few weaknesses with the exception of a Fear of Thunder and is painfully Oblivious to Love. Read chapters 57 and 58 for an unusually Moe Haruhi (she goes back to her normal self a chapter or so later).
Mikuru could arguably be a deconstruction, since she is so obviously traumatized by being forced into the Moe-blob role that you feel like a total bastard to get turned on by it. Either that or she's just faking the whole thing to cynically manipulate everyone on orders from her future self
That doesn't even get started with her role in the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, where she has a I Just Want to Be Normal moment, thus making her at least as moe as Mikuru, if not even more. (and The Woobie as well)
The armies of Yuki Nagato fanboys demand her moeness. The doujinshi provide.
And in this one. "If a rabbit is lonely, it will die".
One episode of Keroro Gunsou features a one-shot character rife with disjointed moe characteristics: a cute, pale, spacey, soft-spoken, transfer student prone to bad luck who's interested in the occult. When Fuyuki takes a shine to her, his secret admirerMomoka outright describes her as a "retarded moe character."
In Lucky Star, when Miyuki talks about how absentminded and clumsy she is, Konata tells her that "these are not faults, but elements of moe". And then deconstructs the dojikko elements by dismissing them as something cute in anime, but annoying in real life.
Tsukasa also certainly qualifies as an Adorkable example of this. It also doesn't hurt that she is arguably the show's biggest Woobie. She also made it to the quarterfinals during the 2007 Saimoe Tournament and was also the runner-up of the 2008 Saimoe Tournament.
To set the record straight, both Miyuki and Yutaka were outright called "walking moe points" by Konata. And, what's more, the manga called themselves moe-yonkoma— the genre of yonkoma that started with Azumanga Daioh, and hence maybe should be listed below with Hidamari Sketch etc...
Kagami was the winner of the 2008 Saimoe Tournament.
The cast, really. It's arguably what the series is best known for.
Mahou Sensei Negima!'s Setsuna is an interesting case, as her friendship with Konoka was essentially a mechanism to show off her moe traits, until it was emphasized into a romantic feeling.
The novel version is WORSE. Visualizing it is impossible, however, as the traits contradict!
Specifically, she is a childhood friend who is a Meido robot, Ill Girl, an apparition, alien, and a Kitsune.
The protagonist Satou would qualify as moe if he wasn't a creepy nerd in his twenties.
And Misaki qualifies as fairly moe, too, once her past is revealed.
Hiyori Nishiyama is a positively TINY high school student (at 140 cm), shy, adorable and often described as reminiscent of a chick (as in baby bird). She probably rivals Mikuru Asahina. Unlike Chiyo Mihama, she's as old as her fellow class-mates. She also cries a lot and likes to hide in lockers when stressed, upset or cornered.
In Seto no Hanayome, a horrific episode of men crossdressing as schoolgirls and catgirls and trying to play off moe stereotypes culminates in San suddenly wearing cat ears — something everyone agrees is incredibly moe (before being sent flying).
Much of the show Girls Bravo revolves around this, especially with the main character Miharu, who is completely oblivious to her own attractiveness.
Yukinari counts, especially in the episode where he dressed as a girl.
Nanoha herself became even cuter by having a cute partner, one major reason for the strong Nano/Fate fandom despite its occasional vagueness. When Nanoha is older, the addition of Vivio lets her show off her big sister/motherly traits.
Nanoha was the 2005 Anime Saimoe Tournament winner, and Fate was the runner-up of the 2006 tournament, only to lose to Suiseiseki.
And don't get me started on Nanoha and Fate's adorable adopted daughter, Vivio, who exists primarily to tug at the heartstrings.
To say nothing of Hayate when she was a little girl...
Caro is an adorable 10 year old girl with a sad past, a cute relationship with her partner, and after 4 years she still doesn't grow more than a few centimeters at the most. Her first action in Striker(s) is to trip and fall on an escalator for god's sake.
Despite anyone watching the show probably not having a problem with an older lead female, Mizuho's age in Please Teacher! is discretely never mentioned. Adding to the problem is that the plot treats her position as Kei's teacher as being the illicit detail, and not apparently an age gap. She seems to inhabit a magical twenties-something spot that is also somehow young enough to give her a little sister and a first kiss during the show's run. Mizuho's mother is no help, as she REALLY has no problem with Kei being younger...
Mizuho is listed as 23 years old on several sites, making her five or eight years older than Kei, depending on whether you use Kei's mental or physical age.
Nyu, the innocent split personality of Ax-Crazy Lucy from Elfen Lied. Also, Kisaragi with the bonus of being a Dojikko, despite which she doesn't last very long.
Nana and Mayu could've codified the trope if EL had been written early enough, and Kouta is a decent male example.
Actually Nami was this during the Arlong arc which served as an important part of her Character Development same with Robin during the Water 7 arc and this is both as adults in the present and children in the flashbacks. Obviously afterwards this takes a backseat to the action.
And during the Punk Hazard Arc, we have Mocha, quite possibly the sweetest, most adorable little... er, big girl in the series thus far. After finding out how dangerous the "candies" Caesar Clown were feeding her and the other children, she overdosed on the remaining batch to prevent her friends from eating them when they were going through withdrawal. This caused the poor girl to reel over in pain and cough up blood! It's a hard scene to watch. Thankfully, Mocha survives, but seeing a kid this young having to make such a lethal decision will definitely invoke this trope on nearly anyone and she was already very Moe to begin with.
The first two seasons of Da Capo feature a character actually named Moe. Given her large breasts, easygoing personality and way of speaking, she is indeed what many would consider moe.
Every teenaged female character from Hayate the Combat Butler. Hayate himself falls into this during his crossdressing moment(s); so much so that Maria and Nagi feel uncomfortable, and Klaus, unaware it is Hayate, is instantly smitten.
As is Tama the pet tiger.
And it's not just the teenagers either. Isumi's mom is just as moe as her daughter, and Nagi's late mother looked remarkably like Hayate.
Hayate even states (in a side story) that Izumi leads in this function.
Subverted in The Daughter of Twenty Faces; main character Chiko first appears to be weak, defenseless, naive and spoiled, but by the end of the first episode we've already learned how clever and perceptive she is and by the sixth episode she can easily hold her own physically against The Dragon of the first narrative arc - and in all her flipping around still manages to avoid any trace of a Zettai Ryouiki. Chiko is the embodiment of what happens when an Action Girl decides to go "the hell with moe".
Maylene from Black Butler is clumsy, bespectacled, and blushes easily. She's also a maid. And we love her for it. She's also a crack sniper, but that's just a bonus!
Ciel fits this quite nicely as well. In fact in certain flashback scenes, he's so moe, it's almost obscene.
Finni could be classed as moe as well in this trooper's opinion. What, with having the big green eyes, blond hair that he holds back with clips and an undeniably innocent expression, this trooper fangirl's everytime she sees him!
Snake is described near-perfectly by this page. Shy? Check. Quirky? Check. Socially awkward? Check, check, check.
The Maiden in Love's effect only activated when she was attacked] Presumably, had Judai attacked with Burstinatrix rather than playing Burst Return and Polymerization, she'd have fallen for the Moe, too.
She also fits the mold when she returns in season 3, particularly once hospitalized.
I chalk it up to the scene where he was beat up by Adiane. Not only was he bandaged in a similar style like Rei Ayanami, but he looked very young and vulnerable there.
The Guren Gakuenhen manga parodies the concept when Kamina gets a little confused as to what "Moe" is supposed to convey.
Probably a pun on "moeru" which could either refer to 萌える ("blooming," and the word that "moe" comes from) or 燃える ("burning").
Prior to the timeskip, Simon is also pretty damn moe.
Simon can manage moe after the timeskip at times, too.
The robe-clad Yoko is ridiculously adorable.
Kittan of all people tends to be portrayed as moe in fan works (though that's usually only under certaincircumstances).
Parallel Works: Kiyal's Magical Time, it is neigh impossible to not go crazy from the sheer amount of moe within those four minutes.
Played straight, but taken to goofy extremes, in Penguin Musume Heart, where Sakura goes into fangirl rage over one of her classmates who manages to hit every moe category short of having animal ears.
Tessa in Full Metal Panic!, highlighted in the OVA after The Second Raid. She also happens to be an extremely intelligent Captain of an extremely powerful submarine and Special Forces Badasses. Her orders are often phrased as suggestions.
"If someone has flaws or defects, but that is exactly what draws you to them, people call it moe. It's different from 'like,' where you're drawn to their good points, their strengths. 'Like' doesn't care for defects or flaws. Moe is the opposite of 'like' or 'dislike'....."
Ayumu "Osaka" Kasuga from Azumanga Daioh is considered by many to be incredibly moe and cute, though this dips into subjective territory since her main appeal ranges from this to horrific. However, she did make it into the 2002 Saimoe finals.
Arguably Sakaki. While her appearance lends itself more to the Huge Schoolgirl look, her attitude is pure Moe, especially in the way that her love for cute things being dashed constantly results in people feeling sorry for her.
Hazumu of Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl is a strong example, being prone to bouts of tears. Almost a male example, as we see flashbacks of his childhood, before he became a she. (Gender-swapped by aliens. No, seriously.)
Kaiji often gets called moe or even a moeblob, as part of Memetic Mutation. He is both male and not really moe, but the sheer amount of woobieness makes him look moe in the eyes of fans.
In fact due to the complete lack of female characters and most of the male characters are more on the manly side. The show is about as un-moe as you can get.
Really, any Kaishaku work is guaranteed to be drowning in moe.
Zettai Karen Children: Kaoru loves to see how much moe she can squeeze out of the other girls (she's the one who insisted on pleated skirts for their uniforms), especially when she sees that one of her school friends is not only moe, but dojikko as well. Two other characters love moe anime too, but these Otaku are looked upon as weirdos.
However, the series' crown prince of moe is none other than The Children's handler, Minamoto. It's the glasses...and making the girls eat their vegetables.
Sakura's mom in Code:Breaker is a true Moe Blob: she's the size of a small child and loooooves playing dress up since she's Sakura's adopted mom, who knows how old she is. There's also Sakura's classmate Nenene, who is also very tiny (yet two years older then Sakura), has glasses, and loves groping Sakura's breasts (she even names them).
Most, if not all, of the various Gundam series all contain a moeblob (or several). Tiffa Adill of After War Gundam X takes the cake for eliciting "I-wanna-protect-her!" feelings from the audience, thereby being very moe without even trying that hard.
Yin of Darker Than Black is like Yuki above another Emotionless Girl character who seems to fall into this both because of mannerisms and woobie characteristics. Amber from the same series is probably a subversion. She looks and behaves most of the time like a very cute and cheerful young girl. However, this is due to the Merlin Sickness caused by her renumeration, and more importantly, her plan involves killing the population of Japan (although she has a somewhat justifiable reason).
Allen Walker from D Grayman is a male personification of this, along with being a Adorably Precocious Child. He tends to exude a feeling of innocent cuteness, especially with his wide eyes. A common term used to describe him is "adorable" and "extremely huggable." It also helps that he's the series' woobie.
Also, Ai and Ayumi. And Ran when she's crying for Shinichi/Jimmy to come home.
Train Heartnet from Black Cat, during the time when he got shot with a Lucifer bullet and reverted back to being a kid. Just the whole transformation exudes "Moe Moe" vibes. It's complete with his original clothes falling off of him because they're suddenly too big for him, he blinks innocently several times, and says "eh?" in a very cute, high voice. Later, he's even shown to be forced to wear Eve's dress temporarily, since no one else had clothes that were his size. The epitome of Moe Moe for a young boy◊.
Used with utmost hilarity and blatancy in Ultimate Girls, where the trope itself figures in the plot and is the source of the heroines' power needed to destroy the Monster Of The Day. It works so well with the cute and shy protagonist Silk, so much that she absolutely positively does not want the job!
Rihoko in Witchblade anime is so adorable in the scene where she hugs the table stand when a fat barmaid tries to kick her out.
Pino in Ergo Proxy after being infected with the Cogito virus can be the cutest thing.
Ui's Christmas flashback is a prime example of moe. Along with her sister, they can turn this trope Up to Eleven on occasions.
And there's Azusa winning Saimoe 2010.
For every character in K-on! essentially; they are so full of Moe their eyes are an adorable shade of pink. There isn't even any male recurring characters for crying out loud. The entire show is based on its Moe value.
Ichigo of the Nico Nico Douga ONA series On-tama! never fails to have certain characters become extremely infatuated with her because of this.
Suiseiseki from Rozen Maiden was the 2006 Saimoe winner, and by virtue of being her twin, Souseiseki qualifies as well, albeit in a different way.
Sousei was the finalist of the 2005 tournament, only to be beaten by Nanoha.
Most of the male cast in Ookiku Furikabutte. Despite being a sports manga, it's more or less the female-targeted equivalent of a moe show in that there are tons of quirky malecharacters and has a large femalefanbase who...aren't there for the baseball.
Young Gilbert in Pandora Heartsis moe (he's the little weenie clutching his head there), but the (cheerfully sadistic) people around him like to create situations that make him even more moe. This is taken to extremes◊ in the first DVD omake.
Strike Witches: Little girls with magical abilities that fly around in magic-powered boots to fight extradimensional evil. They grow animal ears and a tail when they use magic. The girls from Fuso (Japan) wear one-piece school bathing suits all the time, some others wear just a jacket and lowleg pantsu.
Azmaria seems to fit the bill in Chrono Crusade—in fact, the anime stripped down enough of her importance that moe seemed to be the only reason she was in it. (Disturbingly, she's also one of the characters that's easiest to find hentai of.) For the girls, woobies Chrono and Joshua seem to fit the bill.
All of the Misakas in general.note Mikoto even won the 2011 International Saimoe Tournament!
Index herself is quite moe. :3-face, eats a lot, and speaks in such a way that tugs at your heart.
Kazari Uiharu from the To Aru Kagaku no Railgun side is probably her series' moe character. Bit clumsy and frequently gets played upon by her friend Ruiko, she has a fair amount of charm that can enamor the audience to her.
Chihiro Shindou, from ef: a tale of memories is both incredibly moe and very much woobie due to her condition. If one thinks that a girl with brain damage causing severe memory problems and missing one eye couldn't be moe, you'd be very wrong. Contrast this with her twin sister Kei, who is incredibly Tsundere (emphasis on tsun) and doesn't really fit the moe archetype.
Kirika from Noir is very moe. She may be a cold-blooded killer, but you still want to hug her.
Ai Kora has a few straight examples (all the girls in Maeda's harem have their moe moments), but also parodies this in chapter 15, when Maeda's friend and fellow parts-lover Shibusawa becomes obsessed with moe after a trip to a Maid Cafe.
Aiko from I"s has shades of Moe. She's cute, adorable, a little helpless, sometimes goofy and more than once forgetful.
Quite possibly all of the female characters in Kanon are arguably Moe. They all seem to have one quirk or another that just makes them adorable in their own way.
The same is true of CLANNAD. Some of them (Like Kotomi) still manage to stand out.
Kyou actually lampshades Kotomi's moe-ness in the visual novel:
Kyou: That girl... how do I say this... she has this aura that seems like a little child, right? Like you can't just leave her alone, or like it kinda tickles your maternal instincts...
While we're on the topic of KEY, almost every girl in Air qualifies as this, especially Misuzu.
Sena of Eyeshield 21 is extremely moe, though whether it's intentional or not is up to interpretation. Nonetheless, in a series composed of manly men with nerves of steel, the main character's small, frail body, big dinner plate eyes, and timid yet strong willed personality make him extremely endearing to the audience.
According to the coach of the Ojo White Knights (a stern man in his 60s), men in meido costumes is quite moe. Cue the younger cast demanding Brain Bleach.
Various characters in Fairy Tail will qualify here and there, but the grand moe prize goes to Aries.
EspeciallyTenshi.◊ So moe, she joint-dominated the International Saimoe League in 2011 with Misaka Mikoto, went through the entire regular season without losing once, came very close to winning the whole competition altogether, and is, if anything, even more powerful in 2012.
Yui definately qualifies, as well as Yusa, Irie and Sekine.
Almost all of the main female characters in Rosario+Vampire have shades of this from time to time, and believe it or not, InnerMoka is probably at the top of the moe totem pole, at least in recent chapters. Still, the rest of the cast all have their moments.
The Red Dragon named "Rose" from Dragon Crisis! is so incredibly moe. One simply cannot help but want to give her a huge hug every time she says something.
Despite being fully grown and decidedly masculine looking men, one of whom is actually in his 30's and has a daughter, Kotetsu T. Kaburagi and Keith Goodman from Tiger & Bunny are considered very moe — mostly because they are complete dorks.
Yune of Ikoku Meiro no Croisée is built to pull the heartstrings, and boy does she. She's tiny, always wears fancy kimonos, is occasionally clumsy, is adorably stubborn about being useful, and is emotionally scarred from intense guilt. Despite her overall maturity, her girlishness breaks through sometimes; she just can't see a cat without wanting to pet it!
Sawako Kuronuma from Kimi ni Todoke is definitely this from the audience's perspective. She's incredibly shy and innocent, and a bit of a ditz.
Ika, the squid girl protagonist of Ika Musume. She's trying to invade the human world, but isn't taken seriously because she's just too darn cute (childlike, frequently ditzy, clumsy when tentacle-less, etc.) to really be an evil invader...right? Even when she actively attacks people, they usually just think she's goofing around.
Ichigo Mashimaro embodies this with all the subtlety of a thrown brick. It has four "younger sisters", all cutesy, strangely dressed, inexplicably endearing oddballs, although this is slightly subverted, as according to elder sister Nobue, Chika's only distinguishing trait is a lack of a distinguishing trait.
The author's deadpan delivery does keep the moe aspect within manageable bounds though, although the series certainly has its amounts of Squee! — Miu and Nobue's intimate moment after Miu's open display of jealousy comes to mind.
Kamichu! is an excellent example of the two different kinds of moe. Most of the show is based purely on the "protective feeling" school of moe, as the show is not "sexed up" in any way, and bears nary a hint of Fanservice. And then from left field comes the obligatory Beach EpisodeLovers of the Sun. Gainaxing, Fanservice, and stretched-tight swimsuits suddenly leave the target audience at a loss. (Mumbles to self, "...was as disturbing as that Hello Kitty bondage doll ...")
The anime is mild compared to the manga that came after, which is at times quite fanservice-heavy. This often focuses on Matsuri, who is also depicted as much more well-endowed than in her anime-incarnation. The other girls get their fair share as well though, especially Yurie.
Azumanga Daioh could be a prototype; it came before moe, but it follows the structure of many modern slice-of-life moe series with its almost entirely female cast of quirky characters and emphasis on their interactions and day-to-day lives. Though unlike most moe series the focus is more on humor than cuteness and the girl's personalities are Played for Laughs instead of Squees. Special mention goes to Chiyo, Sakaki, and Kaorin.
Lithuania comes damn close to being the most moe, if simply through having hellish luck. First, he's lackey to Poland, who has a good heart but is very selfish, then he winds up with Russia, and, just to top it all off, his crush, Belarus, breaks all his fingers in less than five minutes. Face it, this guy's entire life is made up of Yank the Dog's Chain moments.
Lucky Starlampshades moe characters regularly. The series as a whole is more of a parody of moe series, but can still be classified as moe due to it following high school girls who don't look a day older than 12 and are often portrayed as adorable. Its popularity also helped launch a moe subgenre that's best described as "four female moe-blobs hang out and do nothing in particular."
K-On!!. The series description can be summed up thusly: Four moe-blobs form a rock band.
K-On! is the show most people think of when "moe" is mentioned and it is probably the Trope Codifier.
The 4th episode may have hit a new peak in moe with MaidMio.