Perhaps you’ve heard the term “kawaii” or “moe” in reference to Japanese culture. But do you actually know what it means? It can actually mean a variety of things! ‘Moe‘ is defined as a description of something youthful, innocent, or precious. It’s often linked with femininity and will often be used to describe young and cutesy characters in anime or manga. The best way to describe it would be: “If you want to hug and squeeze it, then it’s probably moe!” Moe inspires that loving feeling in your heart.
Kawaii, on the other hand, actually means lovable, cute, or adorable. It’s used to describe something that has a cute quality and can be used to describe people, things, appearance, behavior, and a wide array of other things. The fad began in Japan in the 1970’s. Girls began to dress in a cuter fashion in order to make themselves unique and stand out in a crowd.
The idea behind kawaii and moe products is that they are originally meant to be family-friendly. Animals, food, and everyday objects are meant to be targets of the art. They are normally meant to have cute faces and expressions that fit the kawaii style. This trend is extremely good for marketing and merchandising. Suppliers are able to sell a wide array of kawaii products because of the high demand that fits the needs and wants of the fans. Whether you just want a t-shirt with your favorite kawaii or moe character on it or you want a bear-shaped toaster that spits out bear-shaped toast, you can find anything your little heart desires.
Hello Kitty is a character that we all have heard of at some point or another during our lifetimes! Hello Kitty was made by Sanrio in 1974 and was known as a small white cat who always wore a small pink bow on one side of her head. She often wore an adorable pair of overalls as well. She was supposed to represent the childishness and innocence of young girls at the time. The marketing was mainly geared towards younger girls. She first made her debut on a coin purse in 1975. The character trend only exploded from then on out. Her worth skyrocketed up to $7 billion as of 2014. She began to appear on anything and everything you could purchase. Purses, home appliances, jewelry, clothing – anything that was marketable was fair game for Hello Kitty! Some even used her as a source of comfort. In Taiwan, a hospital even installed a Hello Kitty-themed maternity ward. She was pictured on everything from room decor, birth certificate covers and even the nurse’s uniforms. She was thought to help ease the stress of the child birthing process.
Another one of the most famous kawaii products is Gudetama. You probably have seen him on multiple different products that fit the kawaii description pretty well. He is an unhappy egg that has been cracked. The same company (Sanrio) that created the phenomenon Hello Kitty also created Gudetama. He has several catch phrases that make him memorable such as “Seriously, I can’t”, and things such as “ugh” or “meh”.
Sanrio, the creator of Hello Kitty, says that the inspiration behind the mopey Gudetama is that eggs are lazy and “lack spunk”. When asked why he chose an egg for his next kawaii sensation, he replied that his inspiration was food. Food is actually a whole culture in itself for the Japanese culture all the way from teas of every kind to sushi in every form and combination that you can imagine. Food even crept its way into the fashion scene when marketers began splashing food patterns and designs on all sorts of clothing brands. This combination of two phenomenons resulted in an explosion of a new kind of kawaii.
Gudetama serves as an antihero in both Japanese and Western culture. Because of his lazy and apathetic attitude towards – well, everything – he is supposed to be teaching us a lesson on laziness. He allows us to laugh at it and aspire to not be like him.
Another quite famous character is a robotic cat named Doraemon. He was featured in a manga series back in December of 1969. Yes, kawaii was even present almost 50 years ago! Doraemon travels back in time from the future and meets a young boy. Doraemon was sent back to help protect and guide the young boy named Nobita. Doraemon is also able to carry an endless amount of supplies with him known as gadgets. To add to the kawaii characteristics he has, he also has a hat known as the bamboo-copter that allows him to fly wherever he’d like. Interestingly enough he also has a door known as the Anywhere Door that can open up and take you to anywhere you want to go. Doraemon continues to be a classic Kawaii character in Japanese culture and will remain so for many years to come!
You can find these kawaii characters just about anywhere you go. On your bed, in the bathroom, kitchen – anywhere you can think of, there’s a product and a place for kawaii. You can be as bold or as subtle as you’d like, from wearing a whole kawaii outfit to even just having a Gudetama keyring.
Kawaii & Moe Idols
During this time, there was also a rise in the number of kawaii and moe idols. In the 1980s, a Japanese pop singer name Seiko Matsuda came to light. For some she was named the “Eternal Idol” of the Japanese kawaii scene. During her time as a pop singer, she had a whopping 24 consecutive number one hits. This completely shattered the record of a previous pop start of nine consecutive hits. She is known as one of the top Kawaii idols of her time and her popularity was mainly due to her ‘burikko‘. Burikko really means she gave off a very innocent vibe and was overly cute. She was popular to young women because of this and many girls sought to be more like her for these reasons.
But how do brands get us to love these kawaii and moe characters? This question inspired a whole new revelation known as ‘Moe Marketing’. Moe marketing was used in Japan for many years as a way to advertise for the Japan Self Defense Forces. This marketing featured moe characters as members of the self defense forces and were used on posters, advertisements, and even on the side of a Japanese military helicopter. There was much controversy regarding this kind of marketing, as it didn’t inspire much confidence or trust in an army that was made up of otaku. But what exactly are the otaku?
Otaku is a Japanese term for someone who has an obsessive personality towards certain things or interests. In this specific case, it is geared towards the anime and manga fandom. The word ‘otaku‘ is a term for someone else’s house or their family. When used in slang, it can mean that someone is a geek or a nerd. It can be referring to someone who is a fan of something in particular. The best way to describe it would be someone who is specialized in a certain area of a hobby, such as anime or manga. In some cases, people tend to see this word as describing someone who is so obsessed that they have trouble relating to reality.
So where would you normally go looking for the otaku hangouts? Look no further, the district of Akihabara is there to cater to all your needs. This district is an attraction center for the otaku and has many stores that carry endless amounts of anime, manga, video games, and other popularly collected items. There are also several different cafes where the waitresses will dress up and act as if they were actually anime characters. They can often be found wearing a maid’s outfit and their job is to serve the otaku that congregate there. They even refer to some of the customers as “master”. For a little more money, you could have them sing you a little song. Role-playing is even allowed in some cafes. In this regard, the customers would be able to imitate their favorite anime characters.
10 of the Most Popular Kawaii & Moe Girls in Anime
Still not sure what exactly kawaii or moe is? Well let’s give you some examples! Here are 10 of the most popular kawaii and moe girls in anime!
Tsukasa Hiirago (Lucky Star)
Tsukasa is known for her bright purple hair that is adorned with a soft yellow bow on top and makes her appearing in the series Lucky Star. She is kawaii because of her clumsy and careless characteristics and mannerisms. She’s very forgetful and tends to oversleep most of the time. She also wears her heart on her sleeve for all to see and is a great cook!
Fuko Ibuki (Clannad)
Fuko carries around wooden moe starfish that she carved herself to give to others in order to spread joy which puts her in my top 10 list! She appears in the series Clannad. She loves to daydream and space out and is known for being quite the loner. Although she prefers time alone, that doesn’t make her any less kawaii in our eyes!
Tooru Ichii (A-Channel)
All of us have that one short friend who is full of sass and feistiness and would stick up for any of her friends if she needed to. That’s our girl Tooru! Tooru is especially moe because of her oversized knee socks that are always falling down on her long legs, forcing her to constantly be trying to pull them up. She looks much younger than she is, so don’t let her looks fool you! She’s just as mature despite looking quite childish.
Mirai Kuriyama (Kyoukai no Kanata)
Another clumsy girl on the list is Mirai. Everyone loves a girl in glasses, right? Mirai wears a pair of bright red and thick rimmed glasses, along with a much-too-large sweater that makes her appear small and innocent. As if she wasn’t cute enough, she strangely enough keeps a blog about bonsai trees. But don’t let her cute demeanor fool you, she has a few dark tricks up her sleeve!
Tomoko Kuroke (Watashi ga Montenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!)
Tomoko has a head of unruly black hair and two jade green eyes. She spends most of her time playing video games and watching anime and rarely sleeps. She’s socially awkward and clumsy, but that just adds to the fact she’s moe!
Morgiana (Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic)
Morgiana is a small girl who has a big heart! She has a hard time being careful and this can often get her into trouble. She loves fish and has been through her fair share of hardships during a lifetime of slavery, but she’s one of the most moe characters.
Meiko Honma (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai)
She may be dead, but that doesn’t stop the cuteness! All Meiko wants is for other people to be happy and tries to reunite all of her friends even after her death.
Popura Taneshima (Working!!)
When Popura was born, she was named after the tall and strong tree with the hope that she would end up tall in her adulthood. However, Popura ends up incredibly short which adds to the fact she’s kawaii! She’s full of spirit, and she doesn’t let her size get her down.
Nunnally Lamperouge (Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch)
One of our kindest kawaii girls is Nunnally! She always has something nice to say to her friends and is a perfect example of the saying that bad things sometimes happen to good people. Nunnally was blinded and crippled after a cruel attempt to murder her, but she doesn’t let her disabilities get her down.
Kobato Hasegawa (Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai)
If Kobato isn’t the epitome of kawaii then we don’t know what is. Kobato is extremely clingy and very shy. She’s always looking for the affection and attention of her big brother, which makes things quite difficult when she doesn’t get it. It just adds to the cuteness that she is constantly dressed in a lolita style outfit!
The concepts of kawaii and moe have become a worldwide phenomenon. The sudden spread of the fascination caused the emergence of an endless amount of trends, fashion, and products. One of these trends was kawaii boys. They are normally dressed as youthful and cute Japanese boys who are the epitome of what we know as kawaii. In the media, these trendy boys have been called “genderless kei”, in which kei translates into style. Their styles are all very different and can be mistaken as feminine, but they are far from. They are made to be more childlike than feminine. They aren’t trying to appear as women or girls, but aiming specifically for the kawaii feel.
When it comes to fashion, this perhaps play the biggest role in the kawaii trends. There are several sites, such as Kawaii.i Campus, that sell specifically kawaii fashion. They even provide categories such as Gal, Gothic, Lolita, and others. The fashion consists of cutesy and sometimes elegant dresses that have a certain uniqueness to them. The Lolita fashion specifically consists mostly of dresses that more often than not are adorned with some kind of lace or frill material. They’re often very juvenile and flattering. It can also be described as a late Edwardian kind of look. If you were to travel to Harajuki in Japan, you would find a district that is known for its street fashion where everything is considered kawaii. The streets are lined with shops and hangouts that are dedicated to the kawaii idea. People here often dress in lolita and other kawaii manners.
The kawaii and moe culture have a wonderful way of bringing people together. There are several conventions and cons that are dedicated to the kawaii culture where people interested in the lifestyle can gather and meet one another. When you’re involved in a kawaii community you’re connecting with others who have the same interests as you which is something all of us are looking for. The fanbase is extremely welcoming and open to new ideas. They pride themselves on being unique and different. Seeing as every person in the community has a different sense of fashion or style, it doesn’t matter! You’re welcome in all areas no matter if you just enjoy a few kawaii or moe things here and there, or if you go all out and dress the part for all to see. It doesn’t look like the trend is going to disappear anytime soon and will only continue to grow and spread joy!