REPOST: The Deal with Moé

Sorry, everyone. I was not able to get a new essay ready to post for this week. So in the meantime, please enjoy this repost of my first theoretical article ever on the Anime Almanac. I was reminded of this essay by this week’s Chicks on Anime column at the Anime News Network. It is much shorter than the length of my posts these days, but I think it still gets my point across. Originally posted on April 26, 2005, right at the start of the otaku boom / moé fad in Japan.

Source: ANN

Derived from the verb “a plant sprouting, ” moe is an expression of adoration for innocent girls who are “as fresh as a flower bud”; can also be used to describe excitement towards an object or character.

According to a survey by Hamagin Research Institute, Ltd the market for ‘Moe’ merchandise, including printed media, visual media and games based on moe anime and manga characters surpassed 88.8 billion yen (US$840.5 million) in sales in 2003.

Hamagin divides the “moe” market into printed media, images and games. Games, primarily love simulations, are estimated to be worth 46 billion yen (52% of 88.8 billion yen) , printed media (primarily manga) worth 27.3 billion yen (31%), visual media (primarily anime, but also including other art) is worth 15.5 billion yen (17%).

With the Japanese “otaku industry” worth an estimated 290 billion yen (US$2.74 billion) in 2003, Moe related products accounted for almost a third of the otaku market.

Unmarried males in their 30s account for the majority of the moe market.


This news really took me by surprise. Moé seems to be the newest vocabulary term used around these parts these day. In fact, I used it for the first time last night when I was reviewing He is My Master. I always find it hard to find the right words for my favorite style of anime. I throw around the words like “kawaii,” and “bishoujo,” because they all say the same thing: cute! I love cute things, especially those l’il anime girls with the big glossy eyes. But for some reason recently that love’s been a lot stronger for me then it was before. Why?

Well I guess my theory is that I’m at a stage in my life when getting married and starting a family seem to be just over the horizon. In a way, it’s very scary, but I’m also excited about the idea of parenthood. Since I grew up with just a brother, I never really interacted with any girls for most of my life. The idea of raising a sweet little girl of my sounds so appealing to me because it’s something I never had before.

There was a shoujo series that came out recently called Aishiteruze Baby that really hit a nerve with me. It was the story about a high school boy that is forced to take care of his little female cousin. But since her mother has abandoned the girl, she relies completely on the older boy to take care of her. This forms a father-daughter relationship between the boy and the girl, and the boy experiences so much love and happiness from her. It’s so sweet and innocent that it just made me tear up and wish I had that.

So then why the sudden attraction to Moé? Is it a sign of pedophilia?

Hell no, I say it’s the longing for fatherhood. That the last statistic in that article proves it. “Unmarried males in their 30s account for the majority of the moe market.” When you’re a Japanese salary man working for over decade in an exhausting job, what do you have to show for it? What’s the purpose in your life? Well, if you’re not married and don’t have a family… I don’t really think you have much going for you. So yeah, they’re seeing that window of fatherhood slowly closing on them, and it makes them long for it more. So that’s why they turn to Moé comics, anime, and games. And if you look at these things, there’s hardly any mention of anything sexual. All these men really want is an innocent little girl of their own to take care of.

Now I’m sure that many will look at this article and think that it’s a revolution of pedophilic perverts. But I say don’t be so quick to form that conclusion. To me, Moé is just another natural and healthy form of escapism.

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