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.