Visual Novel Publisher MoeNovel On What "Moe" Really Means

By Ishaan . July 9, 2013 . 1:00pm

The term “moe” doesn’t exactly have the same connotation in the West that it does in Japan, even among those that consume Japanese media. That’s why we found it a little odd when the new visual novel publisher on the block, MoeNovel, chose to name themselves that way—especially when their goal is to turn visual novels into a more mainstream genre of games, not restrict it to the same niche of customers.


Siliconera caught up with MoeNovel producer Fujisan to ask why the company is named the way it is, when one could argue that not everyone in the West—even among the audience that appreciates niche games from Japan—sees “moe” as a positive thing.


“One of the reasons we used the word ‘moe’ in our brand name is of course because ‘moe’ is an important keyword within the otaku culture of Japan,” Fujisan replied. “But more than that, the word ‘moe,’ written in kanji as 萌, originally means ‘to sprout,’ as in grass or saplings, or alternatively to forecast events or to indicate the future. This original meaning has more meaning as to its application to our brand name.”


That doesn’t change the fact, however, that moe isn’t quite perceived the same way in the West as it is in Japan. Fujisan says MoeNovel hope to be able to change this as well, over time.


“We thought this apt for a new brand that’s meant to spread the Japanese-born visual novel genre throughout the world, and so we chose ‘MoeNovel.’ In the west the word doesn’t have a very positive connotation? I find that unfortunate. It traditionally has a very positive feeling to it, and is used in very old traditional Japanese songs (waka) as well. Perhaps Westerners are more used to seeing it be used in ways like, ‘Ooh, I like you!’ or something, and unfortunately this is what’s been focused on regarding the word.


“Within the otaku culture, if you analyze the term ‘moe,’ perhaps it could be described as a ‘sharing of a feeling’. They feel a character someone else create is cute, or that they’re cool (燃え). Maybe they feel a story to be wonderful, or get sucked into it. To sprout such feelings and share them with one another is what we think of when we think of ‘moe’. If Westerners don’t have a very positive impression of the term ‘moe,’ we at MoeNovel would like spread our interpretation of the term ‘moe’.”


We’ll have our full interview with MoeNovel up later this week, where we discuss topics like the publisher’s perception of the Western market, the kind of games they’re interested in pursuing, and their views on editing the content of their first game, If My Heart Had Wings.


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  • So… is it appropriate to take the meaning as somewhere around “investment” or “immersion”?

  • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus
    • Sergio Briceño

      Welcome to NHK XD

    • riceisnice

      What’s Eroge?

      Oh my freakin’ hell, you’re all perverts. I really must just… avoid any articles with bat-eyed girls and hideous hair.

      • DesmaX


        • andref

          Welp that won’t be up long as long as the mods have anything to say about it

          • DesmaX

            I just wrote “thatsthejoke.gif”. I didn’t put any image there

          • andref

            Responded to wrong comment, but i know you didn’t

      • X_Bacon

        You must be new here.

        • $7573679

          Oh my, I thought he/she was being ironic… *like withdrawn*

      • CirnoLakes

        Oh, I remember you. You’re the person who hated Hatsune Miku.

        You’re silly.

        • Aristides

          Is it even possible for someone to hate Miku? 0-0 I’m baffled.

    • Wappuli

      I’m still hoping for an anime/VN or whatever to actually have character like that.

      • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

        I thought they all already did.

  • DesmaX

    Well, if they focus on “moe” games, no problem in calling themselves “MoeNovel”

  • Saculogir

    Moe will always be a positive term in my heart. So power to them and their attempts to showcase true moe!

    • Himiko

      Moe is good. Negative connotation is a bit silly when people argue against it.

  • Kevadu

    I have no problem with the term ‘moe’. I think the people who do are mostly people who were never going to buy these games anyway…

  • RoxasTheUnknown1

    I like both meanings. xD Sides some jp companies intentionally use the “wrong” meaning because it just works.

  • The negative connotation of moe reminds me of commentators at some message boards who simply refuse to check out a game like Arcana Heart or Skull Girls or Dodonpachi Saidaioujo, etc. because it’s “too cute” and write it off as moe. I understand that, but if the gameplay is good and what they’re looking for, then what’s the harm?

    It got me thinking, though…
    Moe, actually, even has negative connotation to some fans. When a character shamelessly panders with their cuteness they are refereed to as ‘moe blobs,’ because that’s all they have to offer. I think those are obvious to point out, but some might paint all characters like that with a big brush, so I can see why.

    All we are saying~

    Is give moe a chance~

    • mirumu

      I think at least some of us were aware of both Japanese and western meanings of the term, and both are still kind of useful definitions in their own right.

      Personally I do tend to view moe negatively when used in western terms because it always tends to be used in reference to that shameless pandering you mention. Japan’s definition is broader and when I see it used I’m more receptive to the possibility it might be good.

    • CirnoTheStrongest

      “Moe blob” is like a compliment I can give! Everyone looks at things differently. I never really associated bad things with “moe”. There can never be enough moe!!

      Also, I feel like this is just a PR stunt really. People in the west only raelly look at “moe” as bad because they’re hankering for some sort of deep story, but won’t bother to get into books which will scratch that itch just fine.

      • CirnoLakes

        When I heard “moeblob”, I think of a particular character design. A design where the face is basically designed to be a big blob of moe. Like in Puchimas. Puchimas are definitive moeblobs.

        I love that character design. To be entirely honest.

        Also, is there really anything that bad about designing characters to be cute? Was Hello Kitty designed primarily for any other reason than being cute? Not every character has to be a part of a deep plot.

        Also, there are a lot of people who dismiss Slice of Life or what people are now calling the “cute girls doing cute things” genre of anime. But really, is there any reason that Slice of Life isn’t a legitimate genre of entertainment? Does entertainment need a conflict ridden plot to be good? Is conflict a, by default, better story? It seems like a rather macho idea that entertainment needs a conflict to be good. In my opinion, “plot” really is overrated. I’m glad that the Slice of Life is becoming a more mainstream genre. Traditional ideas of entertainment are a bit overrated.

        • I’m not entirely fond of the slice of life genre, but I agree that the thought that cute things are objectively inferior to non cute based stuff is very close minded and just outright wrong. A lot of these “moeblob” shows have actually decent to very good scripts and that’s completely ignoring how stuff like Yuyushiki for example was practially a masterpiece in visual aesthetics like background images(something a lot of other stuff is ignoring), or like how Love Lab has better animation than almost anything I’ve seen the last year.

          • Himiko

            Lol reminds me when producer or Urobochi said he made sure staff did not use “moe” when working on Psycho Pass. Just looked really childish to me.

          • mirumu

            True, the animation in Love Lab is glorious.

        • CirnoTheStrongest

          I agree wholeheartedly!

          I don’t get the hate for Slice of Life shows. I mean, if they ran on forever like the shows that air on American TV it would get old and annoying, but generally these shows last a couple seasons at the most and then we can then enjoy the lives of another set of characters.

          Conflict does have a purpose though, and that is in developing and growing characters. THOUGH, conflict isn’t always something which is easy to define. Or something very outward. Slice of life shows tend to focus mostly on inward conflicts. Conflicts that are usually much more subtle and not so easily solved. And sometimes the conflicts can be simplistic ones too.

          I think a lot of Slice of Life shows get looked down upon outside Japan because people are looking for something that’s ‘deep’, which those anime are definitely not meant to offer usually. Though there are exceptions of course.

          I just love watching how the characters interact with each other and how they slowly change throughout. Sometimes it’s also just great to watch all the comical situations that play out. Slice of life anime are usually amazing at providing comedy~

          And I’ve ranted for too long yet again xD

          • CirnoLakes

            Of course we agree, we’re the same person.

            Why does Cirno the Ice Fairy have two Disqus accounts for posting on Siliconera?

          • mirumu

            Maybe because she’s so ⑨ that she didn’t know sock puppet accounts are supposed to make it look like you’re two completely different people?

        • mirumu

          I think slice of life is okay, actually some of the best shows I’ve seen were slice of life, but it’s really quite a big genre covering a wide variety of shows. The more recent “girls club” sub-genre of slice of life has been pretty overdone in Japan in recent years. I’ve no problem with anyone enjoying it, but I can totally understand why many have had enough of it at this point.

      • Yume Miru Kusuri is a visual novel that really pushed me to the limit with moe. Aeka is a character that I just could not stand, even started getting annoying with, especially with how many others who read the VN started taking a liking to her. I can see why, but … Man, good thing visual novels usually have multiple characters in the story to focus on.

    • Kelohmello

      I just want to say that a game is more than gameplay. The entire package is entirely relevant to how someone enjoys playing it. As someone who played Arcana Heart and Skullgirls as a tournament fighting game player, I gotta say that the former became a little too obnoxious for me to stand at some point. The high pitched squealing and various exaggerated appearances were just really grating, and while the gameplay was solid, it just wasn’t enough for me to get over the fact that what I was playing was kind of annoying in every other aspect. I can enjoy things people consider “moe” since most things are like that, but Arcana for one kind of took it to its utmost extreme and when it goes too far like that I can’t be bothered to try and ignore it. Too much of any given thing can certainly become bad.
      I do agree that immediate bias without any effort to try and understand is certainly absurd though.

    • CirnoLakes

      The people who hate cute stuff really aren’t representative of American or any Western culture, really.

      There’s a lot of first person shooter dudebros, and yes, I said dudebros, it’s a great term. In the West. But it is still just a niche, just like anything else. Yes, guns and violence are more popular in America than Japan. But the types of people who like guns and explosions are their own niche. A successfully marketed niche, but still a niche. A niche of mainly young men with a certain desire and sense of masculinity.

      Just as there is a multi-billion industry for guns and explosions and other macho ore masculine stuff. There’s a multi-billion dollar industry for cute stuff like Hello Kitty.

      The people out there who hate girly or cute stuff are vocal, but I doubt it is as uncommon to like here, for instance, in America, as many people think. There are a lot of trolls and flamers for just about everything out there on the internet. I think one problem in the market, though, is that too many games are clearly aimed at men who play games to live out a fantasy of being masculine. Which is why you hear those voices so often.

      The mainstream video game industry in the West has focused on a certain niche. Which is why on a lot of gaming sites you hear about how a game is embarrassingly cute and Japanese looking or whatever. I maintain, however, that there are just as many millions of people out there who want to consume cute stuff.

    • Himiko

      everything is pandering though. I really don’t see it as “shameless”

  • Christopher Nunes

    I like the word “moe” and use it to refer to someone who is very cute and I grow attach to such a cute character.

    The first screen shot on this article, which Visual Novel is that from?

    • School Idol Addict

      If my heart had wing.

    • Daniel blue

      “I like the word “moe” and use it to refer to someone who is very cute and I grow attach to such a cute character.”

      Do your like the character simply because it’s cute, or because the character is actually interesting beyond the superficial level? That’s a very important distinction.

  • Logan Moll

    Ever played any of the Arland trilogy of Atelier games? That’s what I thought moe was. I enjoy those games as something different (and they have some legitimate merits), but a lot of aspects of those games are laughable at best. If the general population would think you are a weird pervert/pedo for watching/playing something, there might be something to that. I feel the Atelier games straddle that line pretty heavily.

    • puchinri

      I think that’s my problem with how moe is kind of being translated (and with moe as it’s evolved in general?). It shouldn’t inherently mean loli(con)/shota(con) or have to bring to mind aspects that relate to that kind of stuff, but in recent times it has certainly been shaped that way (which to me is more a problem with certain people/companies and how they pander than with cute/moe itself).

      Even though I do indulge in cutesy stuff and all, I do agree that when moe comes to reflect that set of features specifically, there may be relevancy to people’s problem with it and how some people enjoy it [because I can think of how differently I enjoy moe (especially in relation to loli characters) versus how some of my friends and acquaintances do].

    • supervamp

      All moe means is a feeling you get from something cute, it doesn’t even have to be anime, manga or game character.Nor does it have to be a cutesy style everyone has a different idea of cute so you can pretty much slap that title on anything.

  • CirnoLakes

    Don’t give them the wrong idea, Siliconera.

    There are those of us here in the West who are addicted to cuteness.
    Also, I’ve come across many in the West who think that “moe” has a better connotation here than in Japan.

    Again, don’t be giving them a wrong impression of the West, Siliconera. It’s us Westerners to blame for getting the WataMote promotional video more than 600,000 views.
    WataMote isn’t nearly as popular in Japan as it is in the West.

    • Daniel blue

      “Don’t give them the wrong idea, Siliconera.

      There are those of us here in the West who are addicted to cuteness.”

      But that’s exactly the kind of misguided connotation of what Moe represents that Moenovel is trying to fight against. By saying the West’s addicted to overly cute, otaku-pandering character designs you’re basically making us look worse in their eyes. You’re not helping!!!! D-X

  • Warboss Aohd

    i wish someone would use anotha kind o’ anime style already. Look alot o’ people like it, i get it, but almost everyone ‘as been usin’ it lately, i want variety.

    • Your species is kind of moe in a …obtuse way!

      • Warboss Aohd


    • mirumu

      Have you seen any of the Aku no Hana anime? (aka The Flowers of Evil) I found the choppiness painful to watch, but it’s certainly different to the typical anime art styles.

    • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

      I want to see a game made in Takashi Nemoto style.

    • MrSirFeatherFang

      you can find many different kinds of art styles in many different manga. Although since most of them don’t usually get an anime, they are not well known. That and when they do get an anime the art style s changed to be more appealing (usually more moe).
      Code Breaker is a good recent example.

  • shuyai

    One question i want to ask is are they planning to release all age version of the game only and censored then like they did to If My Heart Had Wings.

    i mean i can understand why and dont really care sex scene but kissing and sexy joke as well? thats too much.

  • Crimson_Cloud

    You should have asked him what he thinks of ”HHHHNNNNNNGGGGHHHHH!” term. :p

  • CirnoLakes

    So, after making a painfully controversial statement about the value of plot and conflict in entertainment. Now sounds like as good of a time as any to make another confession, eh? I figured I didn’t bother people enough with my out there ideas.

    Cuteness is one of two major things that I pretty much live for. Judging by what the outside world thinks, that is supposed to be shallow, insane, non-nonsensical, biased, prejudiced, embarrassing, giving in to “base desires” or something like that. Some reason that’s supposed to be bad. I don’t get it, but I’m not supposed to. Which is why I don’t go around saying things like “I live for cute stuff”. I know a good portion of people don’t think like that at all, and throw most things in life into a category of “good” or “bad”, including entertainment. Though I can’t for the life of me figure out what makes something “good” or “bad” to be entirely honest.

    But I really don’t care. Base desires are fun. Good food is tasty. Fun things are fun. Cute things are fun. I’m not alive to try to enjoy things that other people think are good by some “objective” standard. I am alive to have fun. Pretty much everyone on the planet who has ever lived, has lived less than 5000 weeks. The way we divvy up time, we make it seem like people live for a long time and that a week is a blink of an eye in comparison to a long life. That isn’t the case. There’s a good chance that a week is 1/2000th of your life or more if you’re already an adult. And that’s it, your mind disappears forever and you never get to enjoy fun things again.

    I’m not here on this planet a couple thousand weeks to waste it. I’m here on this planet to enjoy fun things. And I find base desires like enjoying cute things fun. Time having fun is time well spent.

    I don’t really have an understanding of why you are or are not supposed to enjoy something. I don’t really understand the intricacies of what Japan or the West or whatever likes and why with any true certainty. But you can count me in as another Westerner who likes cute stuff. Heck, I basically live for it along with another handful of things. Should I be embarrassed to admit that? Being happy and alive is better than being sad or dead.

    Thank you existence for me still being alive on this planet to consume cute things and be happy. And thanks Japan for producing so much of that addictive stuff which makes me happy.

    Why did I make this post again? Oh, by the way, I’m alive! Yay!

    • Nightmare637

      uhmmm….ok? not sure what your trying to get with this.

      • CirnoLakes

        I dunno? Maybe I should delete that post if it might cause trouble for me.

        I just kind of wanted to get it out there that I really like cute stuff, I think. Thought I’d might as well go all out and basically say that cute stuff makes me happy to be alive?

        • Nightmare637

          yeah I got that.

          you really went all out with it lol.

          • CirnoLakes

            Did I say something bad?

            I am such a confused and uncertain person sometimes. Woah, I feel weird after thinking about existence like that.

          • Nightmare637

            no I’m happy for you, not alot of people have something that makes them that happy.

            It was just kinda unexpected I guess? Idk just surprised me is all.(I was expecting something controversial going by your first paragraph)

          • RoxasTheUnknown1

            Neptunia + SMT makes me happy. :D

          • Bacon_n_Lettuce

            Now that right there would be an interesting crossover.

        • xzeldax3

          Don’t delete your post. Everyone needs to read it just for the fact that people should live for themselves (or loved ones) and not care what other people like.

    • anarchy_panty

      Your passion for moe is very moe to me.

      • CirnoLakes

        I have achieved moe.

        If moe or cuteness is a religion, this must be nirvana.

    • mirumu

      Respect. Life’s too short to worry about what you’re meant or not meant to like.

    • DFM

      While I do understand and appreciate your position, the often-cited argument of “it’s my business/hobby; it doesn’t impose on others, ignore the opinions of others and so leave me be” can’t stand on its own. I have no particularly strong feelings of like and dislike towards “moe”; if push comes to shove, indeed I would admit that I’m guilty of liking cute stuff/having fun liking cute stuff. But then again, cuteness, “moe” or whatever one chooses to call it, lies in the eyes of its beholder. An 8 year old female dressed in a typical low-cut maid costume may look “moe” to some; others may scream that it reeks of pedophilia. Typical “moe” behavior when translated into reality may induce awkwardness or bewilderment. Even if one does like “moe”, an overload of it is similar to eating an excess of candy: you’ll get a toothache. Japanese “moe” doesn’t translate well to the West because both places have diverse cultures and mindsets. MoeNovel’s attempt at redefining “moe” to the Western market, while not overly-forsaking its otaku roots, is a wise move on its part.

    • puchinri

      I enjoy moe myself (to an extent), and I indulge in cute (but at the same time, I’m a female so that’s also socially expected of me).

      Lets indulge in plenty of cute while we can~! ^u^

    • Alicemagic

      Several paragraphs of seemingly pointless preaching later, I can say nothing but “amen”. Perhaps “fucking amen” to add to the impact.

  • I take it by the NMH screenshot in the article that Ishaan shares my skepticism about MoeNovel’s defense of “moe”.

    Though, uh, the reason why “moe” usually has negative connotations in Western fandom is because the subset of otaku subculture it’s associated with tends to be viewed in a negative light. The word itself isn’t the issue.

    • That’s not why I used it. I just thought it was an appropriate in-joke that most people would understand. :P

  • anarchy_panty

    When one of my close friends went off to college, he ended up becoming pretty good friends with a middle Eastern exchange student. He was a cool guy, but obviously speaking English as a second language. Thus, he had a really, really, really hard time picking up on sarcasm, irony, and other such things that a native speaker just intrinsically understands. Sure, he learned to pick up on certain verbal cues, distinct gesticulations, and other tells that allowed him to go, “Ah ha! That is sarcasm!” He could get it, but he never really got it.

    That’s how I’ve always seen moe. I’ve learned to pick up on certain defining characteristics that allow me to go, “Ah ha! This is using moe characteristics to appeal to an audience!” But I’ll never truly understand the concept the way a Japanese person does.

  • ZekeFreek

    I hope they aren’t delusional enough to think visual novels will ever be truly mainstream. Could the market be bigger? yes, but only as much as the JRPG market at best, honestly.

  • keriaku

    I really like the definition as ‘sharing a feeling’, I feel like I can really get behind that. A large part of what I’m interested in being a philosophy major is our ability, or lack thereof, of being able to communicate with each other. Our ability to understand each other and pass something from my mind to yours. And this is what I find fiction of any kind is all about. I feel visual novels as a medium have a lot of potential, beyond many other mediums, because of how much information they can pack into them. They can tap into the depth of a novel but add so much more with music and light visuals, giving you something for your mind to jump off of. Applied to what MoeNovel is saying, ‘moe’ seems to be about really making the characters feel real. This is something that can only be accomplished if there are people trying to bring these character into themselves. This is something I feel is lacking from western consumers. People aren’t trying to really dive into things themselves, they expect things (purposely vague here) to be handed to them. Enjoyment, depth, this feeling of ‘moe’, can’t be handed to you. You need to find it yourself.

    Long story short, I really hope MoeNovel can succeed in their mission.

    • JustThisOne

      I agree. It’s definitely a different definition to moe than I’m used to, but I can really see where they’re coming from with this.

      • I do appreciate their willingness and intention to untangle the complications associated with the term, at the very least.

  • Hinataharem

    This article is moe

  • puchinri

    I think a main point being forgotten (or assumed anyway) here is, that not everyone in Japan even approves of moe – or at least its usual context. I also think the connotations it holds here are pretty mirrored in Japan, so it’s really a matter of audience.

    To me, it’s similar to the way otaku was taken out of context for a very long time here. But either way, they probably chose an apt name in the end for their intents and purposes, which is fine as long as it works well for them~.

  • Auvers

    What exactly does “Moe” mean? It seems like everyone has a different definition of it.

    • Wappuli

      This article answers pretty clearly what the term means.
      If you wanted to know what kind of characters are moe then there really isn’t a clear answer as moe lies in the eyes of the beholder.

      • Auvers

        so it’s just… thinking a character is cute or cool? That’s pretty broad for something niche.

        • Wappuli

          Amongst other things yes, it’s pretty much a burning(moeru) passion for something. Series like Upotte, where guns are cute schoolgirls, is something that is usually considered as “moe series” and are pretty much the reason why the term is so hated, but to some guns can be moe even without giving them Upotte-treatment.
          And to be honest, definition for something like cute and cool can be pretty broad too, a character/creature you find as disgusting or scary might quite easily be cute for someone else.

        • supervamp

          It doesn’t have to be a character you get a moe feeling from real people too.

  • Pinkemon

    Yeah, I did notice that you could think of a whole bunch of different interpetations of moe. Personally, I interpret it as “A character who is cute whom you wanna see being happy and cheerful” or something like that. I like cutesy anime artstyles and such cause it appeals to me(Of course, like someone else in the comments I’m also female so its expected of me anyway.), but I do understand it if people don’t like it, especially if there’s a whole bunch of it being shoved into their faces. Variety is a good thing either way.

  • David García Abril

    The problem with the word “Moe” in the west is that the works that got recognition in those territories had, either saccharine stories, sexualized (underaged) female characters or both.

    The more innocent examples were completely under the radar of most people.

    Combined that with the overload of the last few years of the concept and… there you go!…

  • supervamp

    I didn’t know people misused the word moe i thought that was hentai and ecchi.

  • ShadowDivz

    Moe is a wod that defies human comprehension, it cannot be described.

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