Watching Martian Successor Nadesico, I made a striking discovery. The first users of the word “moe” must be Super Robot otaku!
Here are some evidences. In Episode 2 of Nadesico, Daigouji Gai, one of the prominent animated otaku, describe a certain anime show as:
“All 39 episodes are so moemoe!”
Well, but the anime he is describing is this:
The “moe” show.
As a parody of classic Super Robot show, Gekigangar 3 is all about PASSION, FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, and of course a GIANT ROBOT. For the uninitiated, PASSION (熱血; nekketsu) basically means shouting the name of your hisattsus (sure-kill attacks) before landing the blow on your enemy. FRIENDSHIP (友情; yuujou) is important because Gekigangar 3 means it is a GATTAI (合体; means “combine”) of three smaller robots, which must have 3 pilots. What keeps them combining and working together? FRIENDSHIP of course. And how does this Super Robot show have anything to do with LOVE (愛; ai)? Hah! How can you save the planet from insidious aliens if you have no LOVE?
Gai’s use of the word is no coincidence. Other otaku uses it as well. One example is Amano Hikaru, one of the first animated fujoshi:
“Once I watched it, I get all this moemoe feeling…”
She even claims that she’s considering making a Gekigangar doujinshi for the Cosmiket (SIC).
Okay, you may think that saying that the “moe” in Nadesico and the present “moe” are same are pretty far-fetched. Japanese gurus would say they are not the same word! The moe in Nadesico is 燃え, which means “burning” with PASSION, a suitable word to describe the emotion that arises when you watch Gekigangar 3 or Mazinger Z. The present moe is 萌え, which means “budding” as in the budding feeling of love that arises when you see modern loli characters.
My (incredebly far-fetched) theory is that the present moe must have come from the past moe. In the 90s, the old-school “moe” giant robot anime started to disappear to make way for more realistic or more emo counterpars such as Gundam Wing or Evangelion. These animes do not conjure strong emotions Getter Robo or Mazinger Z can conjure. Heero is full-blown yaoi material, and Shinji is just a wimp. Nekketsu heroes like Kabuto Kouji fell into extinction or existed only as gag characters.
But then came the 21st century and modern bishoujo characters that grab the heart of Japanese otakus all alike. Of course, they conjure strong emotions! Doesn’t your face look like Gai’s when you see a moe characters? Don’t you want to publish doujinshi featuring them for the comiket like Hikaru does? So, what word would best describe this long-lost sensation? MOE, of course! But the “burning” moe is too strong a word, so let’s change it to the “budding” moe. Make sense?
PS: What you can take away from this post are only two things: (1) “moe” had a completely different meaning 10 years ago, and (2) Nadesico is an awesome anime. Other conjectures and theories are just complete crap… :P