Moe 101

This site is primarily geared towards those who already have an interest in or love for Japanese entertainment. But I know that if you’re a new fan, it can be a daunting prospect to pick up some of the lingo. Thus, I present to you a handy cheat sheet of terminology you might come across on these pages. (Don’t worry; I won’t tell anyone you were looking stuff up.)

  • Ahegao — A face made by someone in the throes of brain-melting orgasmic ecstasy, easily recognised by the lolling tongue and dribbling. Heart-shaped pupils optional. Not to be confused with ahoge.
  • Ahoge — A rogue lock of hair sticking up out of the head, often used to denote characters who are foolish or carefree. Do not confuse with ahegao.
  • Anime — In the West, a blanket term for Japanese animation. In some Japanese works, you may hear the word anime used to describe animation in general.
  • ARPG — Action RPG. A role-playing game with real-time (as opposed to turn-based) combat, typically with no delineation between exploration and combat. Generally as dependent on player skill as character stats. Good examples include Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online, the Ys series and mobile title Dragalia Lost. Note that RPGs with MMO-style combat are not ARPGs.
  • Beat ‘Em Up — Also brawler, belt scroller or belt action. A game that focuses on hand-to-hand combat in a “one vs. many” context. Usually involves one or more players cooperating to work their way through various stages on their way to a final showdown against a tough enemy, but has expanded to encompass games such as the Senran Kagura and Warriors series over time.
  • Bishoujo — “Pretty girl”. Usually used when describing games in which the main characters are, unsurprisingly, attractive girls.
  • CGDCT — Cute Girls Doing Cute Things. Typically used to describe creative works (usually anime or manga, but there are examples of games, too) where the main point is the characterisation and moe appeal of the central all-female cast rather than dramatic narrative.
  • Danmaku — “Bullet curtain”, also known as “bullet hell”. Subset of the shmup genre of video games in which the emphasis is less on the shooting and more on the dodging of intricately designed bullet patterns.
  • Dating sim — A video game based around relationship mechanics. Most accurately used to refer to games where the mechanics depict the growth of a relationship, typically through RPG-style stat-building, but is often also (mis)applied to relationship-centric visual novels.
  • Doujin — Term typically used to describe the Japanese equivalent of the indie game development scene.
  • Doujinshi — Independently created Japanese comics, often based on existing material, whether or not the creators have permission to create derivative works. Not necessarily pornographic in nature, but the sheer amount of pornographic doujinshi out there means that the word tends to carry pornographic connotations.
  • DRPG — A role-playing game that focuses on exploration and game mechanics rather than narrative exposition, usually presented from a first-person perspective with grid-based movement. These games don’t necessarily lack narrative, but their core appeal is in exploration and character progression. Also known as dungeon crawlers or, specifically in the case of first-person grid-based titles, gridders. Examples include Demon GazeDungeon Travelers 2 and MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death.
  • Ecchi — Slang term for lewd conduct. Usually used to describe suggestive content in Japanese media that doesn’t quite cross the line into explicit material. Characters in skimpy, revealing outfits, provocative poses and/or implied sexual situations rather than explicit scenes. Contrast with hentai.
  • Eroge — Abbreviation for “erotic game”, a term usually used to refer to dating sims or romance-themed visual novels featuring explicit, erotic content, though this is not the focus of the experience. Contrast with galge and nukige.
  • Fanservice — Two definitions: 1) Used to describe fan-baiting ecchi (or sometimes even hentai) content in anime, manga or video games, the theory being that if there’s the prospect of seeing a favourite character’s pantsu they’ll keep watching/reading/playing. 2) Content included in a creative work — usually as part of a series — to make fans of said series happy. Final Fantasy XIV is full of references to previous Final Fantasy games; this is fanservice by the second definition.
  • Fighting game — Contrast with beat ’em up. A competitive game based around hand-to-hand or weapons-based combat that usually unfolds as a one-on-one battle between two players. Some variants include tag-team combat (see SNK Heroines), where players can switch characters in mid-battle; or more than two players fighting at once, best seen in Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series.
  • Futanari — Sometimes shortened to just “futa”. A pretty lady with a willy. Being a dude who is into this does not make you gay. Not to be confused with the word for “two people”, which is futari, just to put you on edge during Japanese classes.
  • Galge — Abbreviation for “gal game”, a term usually used to refer to dating sims or romance-themed visual novels with no explicit, erotic content. Contrast with eroge.
  • -ge — A suffix added to a word to indicate it is a game with that theme. Moege is a game with moe appeal. Eroge is a game with ero (erotic) content.
  • Gap moe — A character whose appeal comes from the “gap” between the front they put up to the world and the person they really are. Yumiko from Grisaia.
  • Hentai — Literally, “perversion”. Usually used to describe Japanese anime, manga or video games with explicit content. Often abbreviated as “H” which, confusingly, is pronounced “etchi”.
  • HNNNNG — Exclamation used to express pleasure — not necessarily sexual — at the cuteness of something. Can be optionally exchanged with Uguuuu~.
  • JRPG — Short for “Japanese role-playing game”. Refers to video games, often (though not exclusively) on console platforms, of Eastern origin or developed in a style evocative of Eastern developers. Tend to be more story-centric, less customisable and more linear than their Western counterparts.
  • Kawaii — Japanese for “cute”.
  • Kinetic novel — A visual novel in which there is no player agency or interactivity at all; it’s simply a linear story to enjoy. See: Nekopara, Ne no Kami.
  • Kuudere — A popular character trope, traditionally though not exclusively exhibited by female characters and sometimes by “class president” types, in which a romantic, loving aspect of their personality is hidden beneath a cool, calm and sometimes seemingly emotionless exterior.
  • Light novel — Popular literature; a Japanese evolution of pulp media, usually aimed at young adults. Typically no more than 40-50,000 words in length, illustrated and published rapidly. Many popular anime series are based on light novels.
  • Loli — Short for “Lolita”. Slang for a young-looking (though not necessarily underage) female character. One of the most frequent sources of misunderstandings between otaku and non-otaku, for reasons that are probably obvious.
  • Manga — Japanese comics. Read from right to left rather than left to right.
  • Metroidvania — A grossly overused term to describe 2D side-scrolling platform games that unfold in an open world and feature heavy exploration elements as well as progression tied to the acquisition of various abilities. The term comes from the Metroid and Castlevania series, which are regarded to have invented and popularised the concept between them.
  • MMORPG — Short for “massively multiplayer online role-playing game”, a variant of the RPG genre in which many players all inhabit the same virtual world online. See: Final Fantasy XIV.
  • MMO-style combat — Used to describe role-playing games that are not ARPGs, but in which combat occurs in quasi-real time in the game world rather than on a separate battle screen. Typically involve automatic basic attacks on a timer, a strong emphasis on positioning and dodging area-effect attacks, and special abilities that have “cooldown” times before they can be used again. Good examples include the various installments of the Xenoblade Chronicles series.
  • Mobage — Generic term for free-to-play MMORPGs on iOS and Android devices, named after DeNA’s popular Japanese portal for mobile games. See: Granblue Fantasy, Fate/Grand Order.
  • Moe — An aesthetic, primarily for character design, intended to provoke feelings of intense affection or even love in the audience. Typified by (though not exclusive to) large-eyed, attractive female characters.
  • Moe anthropomorphism — The practice of turning things (often inanimate objects) that are emphatically not cute girls into cute girls. Good examples include mobile games Girls’ Frontline (gun girls), Azur Lane and Kancolle (ship girls) and the anime Kemono Friends (animal girls).
  • Netorare — Often abbreviated as NTR, netorare describes a story (usually pornographic in nature) in which a main character (typically a heroine) has sexual relations with someone other than the (usually male) protagonist, either with or without their knowledge — and we, the audience, get to see all this happening in excruciating detail. As fetish material, NTR is designed to deliberately evoke feelings of jealousy; since this is a negative emotion that a lot of people aren’t keen to seek out willingly, it is regarded as a somewhat controversial fetish and narrative subgenre.
  • Nukige — A game or visual novel in which the sexual content is the main appeal element. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a total absence of story, but what story a nukige does contain is usually more a means of getting from one sex scene to another than anything else. Contrast with eroge and galge.
  • Oppai — Large breasts.
  • Oppai loli — A loli with big tits, obviously.
  • Otaku — Someone who is very interested in and passionate about something. In the West, it is usually interpreted as a fan of Japanese popular media, but in Japan you can be an otaku of anything. Carries pejorative connotations in Japan, but has a more neutral meaning in the West. Closest British equivalent is probably “anorak”.
  • Otokonoko — A more socially acceptable means of saying trap. A play on two Japanese homophones: 男の子 and 男の娘, both pronounced otokonoko. The first means “boy” and the second means “male girl”. Used to describe men who cross-dress, but does not directly correspond with a particular sexuality or gender identity.
  • Otome — literally, “girl” or “maiden”. Usually used to describe video games, often dating sims or visual novels, written with a female audience in mind.
  • Oujo-sama — A “princess-type” character who believes herself to be well and truly above pretty much everyone else in the world. Typically characterised by her distinctive “Ohohohohoho!” laugh.
  • owo — What’s this?
  • Pantsu — Underpants. (You could have probably worked that one out.) Can be used to refer to either male or female undergarments.
  • Permadeath — A game in which when a character dies, they are dead and gone. There are several variants on this; permadeath in a roguelike describes the genre’s practice of deleting your save file when you die, while permadeath in a game like Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series of SRPGs describes the fact that a dead character cannot be used again in that playthrough… but loading an earlier save or restarting the game will allow you to use them again.
  • Pettanko — A flat-chested woman. Sometimes a character who is really insecure about this fact, though not always. Often used to distinguish between older girls and women with flat chests who are not lolis.
  • Platform game — Also platformer. A game whose main focus is the precise navigation of a character around perilous environments filled with hazards. Has both 2D and 3D variants, with the former unfolding from a side-on perspective and the latter either using fixed camera angles or, more commonly, a third-person view.
  • Roguelike — A game that is like the early ’80s dungeon crawler Rogue. If you are playing a turn-based role-playing game that is combat-heavy, features abstract presentation, unfolds in a procedurally generated dungeon and which deletes your save game when you die, you are probably playing a roguelike.
  • Roguelite — Term coined by Cellar Door Games in 2013 to describe their game Rogue Legacy, which incorporates elements of roguelikes without being a full-on clone of Rogue. Typically used to describe a game with procedurally generated levels and some form of permadeath, though roguelites tend to feature some form of persistent progression outside of each run.
  • RPG — Role-Playing Game. A game that features places a strong emphasis on abstract mechanics to represent character growth — usually the acquisition of experience points to “level up” and grow in power. There are many different types of RPG out there; see ARPG, DRPG, MMORPG and SRPG for four distinct, recognisable subgenres. Different types of RPG may place greater or lesser importance on their narrative component, but there is usually a coherent story of some description to direct the experience.
  • Shimapan — Striped panties, usually with white and mint-green stripes. It is a bit of a visual meme in a lot of anime and video games that feature fanservice to have at least one female character wearing these and flashing them occasionally.
  • Shmup — Contraction of shoot ’em upa genre of video games in which the main focus or mechanic involves shooting things. Usually used to describe such examples of these games that play or are presented in two dimensions; first-person shooters like Call of Duty are not shmups, for example. Sometimes also called STG (for ShooTing Game).
  • Shoujo — Japanese for “little girl”. Sometimes used with manga to describe works aimed at a stereotypically young, female audience. Often relationship-centric. Mahou shoujo, conversely, means “magical girl” and is used to describe a specific genre of anime and manga typified by shows such as Sailor Moon.
  • Shounen — Regarded as the inverse of shoujo, sometimes used with manga to describe works aimed at a young, male audience. Often action-centric.
  • SRPG — Strategic Role-Playing Game, sometimes also referred to as Simulation Role-Playing Game. A game that combines the abstract character growth of an RPG with the larger-scale tactical action of a strategy game. SRPGs typically involve less in the way of exploration as the focus is on the battles. Said battles usually unfold somewhat like a board game, with characters moving around on a grid-based map and making use of various special abilities to defeat their foes and complete objectives.
  • Survival horror — A computer or video game which is designed to be atmospheric and scary, usually with a mechanical focus on managing severely limited resources (such as ammunition or health restoration items) while uncovering a mysterious narrative. See Project Zero.
  • Trap (This word upsets people sometimes. Only use it among people who are thoroughly familiar with this definition! Use otokonoko for a less risky means of getting across the same meaning if you’re worried about offending.) A feminine-looking boy dressed up as a girl in such a manner for them to be indistinguishable from a “real” girl. Like futanari, totally not gay, but a bit more gay than futanari is. Real-world people who describe themselves as a “trap” tend to distance themselves from LGBT issues; they often have no desire to transition and many are not gay, they just enjoy dressing up as a cute girl.
  • Tsundere — A popular character trope, usually exhibited by female characters, where they tend to appear abrasive and rather defensive (tsuntsun) in an attempt to hide a distinctly lovey-dovey nature that they’re often a bit embarrassed about (deredere). See: Noire.
  • Umu — Nonsensical utterance most commonly associated with Nero Claudius from the Fate franchise. Helpful video reference.
  • Utsuge — “Depression game”. A game — usually a visual novel — in which the main point is to tell a sad, tragic story and elicit an emotional response from the player. Probably the best-known example is the visual novel Kana Little Sister.
  • uwu — Pwease be gentle, senpai.
  • Visual novel/VN — Computer or video game in which the primary activity the “player” engages in is reading, though they are sometimes given choices to make that determine the ending. (A visual novel without choices is called a kinetic novel.) The text they are reading consists of narration and dialogue, and is supported by images, music, sound, voice acting and sometimes animation.
  • Waifu — A female character with whom one resonates particularly strongly for one reason or another — with those reasons being more significant than “I find this girl attractive”. Having more than one waifu will ruin your laifu! If you are having difficulty picking one waifu with which to spend your laifu, I recommend the weekly Waifu Wednesday column for some suggestions.
  • Whaling — Spending money, usually to an excessive degree, on a free-to-play mobile game in an attempt to get a favourite character, usually during a limited-time event. From the less-than-respectful term developers of mobile and social games have used for “big spenders” since the earliest days of Zynga.
  • Yandere — A character trope, usually exhibited by female characters, in which the person in question is obsessed with the object of their affections to such a degree that they are willing to hurt people — including themselves and the one they love — in an attempt to express their feelings, or to overcome irrational jealousy.
  • Yaoi — Sometimes also referred to as “Boys’ Love” or just “BL”. Containing homoerotic male relationships. Usually used today to describe material written for a female audience but depicting homosexual male romances. Being a dude who is into this might mean you are a bit gay.
  • Yuri — Containing lesbian themes. In Japan, it is used more broadly to describe any content with lesbian themes; in the West, it is most commonly (though not exclusively) applied to ecchi or hentai content. Good examples of yuri content including strong narrative and characterisation include Ne no Kami and Seven Days with the Ghost.

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