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Moe anthropomorphism (萌え擬人化 moe gijinka；萌娘化 meng niang hua) is a form of anthropomorphism where moe qualities are given to non-human beings, objects, concepts, or phenomena. In addition to moe features, moe anthropomorphisms are also characterized by their accessories, which serve to emphasize their original forms before anthropomorphosis. The characters here, usually in a kind of cosplay, is drawn to represent an inanimate object or popular consumer product. Part of the humor of this personification comes from the personality ascribed to the character (often satirical) and the sheer arbitrariness of identifying a variety of machines, objects, and even physical places as cute. Since females often have curvier body lines than males, personifications are usually drawn as cute girls, with male examples existing, but being rarer. Many names of these girls end with -tan (たん), which is a child's mispronunciation of -chan (ちゃん), an informal, intimate, and diminutive honorific suffix for a person used for friends, family, and pets. In this case, the mispronunciation is used intentionally to achieve the contrived cute or charming effect that is commonly associated with its use by young children. This form of anthropomorphism is very common in otaku subcultures. With the exception of kemonomimi (which are human-like characters that have animal features), many moe anthropomorphizations started as dōjin efforts. Many are the results of discussions on Japanese internet forums such as 2channel or Futaba Channel. Recently, the trend spread out of dojin circles as commercial anime and manga such as Binchō-tan and 090 Eko to Issho also prominently feature characters who are personifications of inanimate objects.
Kemonomimi, literally meaning "animal ears", is the concept of drawing animals as bishōjo/bishōnen or having bishōjo/bishōnen wear animal accessories (such as ears or tails). Catgirls/boys are the most prolific in this category, although bunnygirls, foxgirls, and dog girls are also common. Kemonomimi characters typically appear human except for added animal-like qualities.
Although Chobits (2001) and Toy's iMac Girl (1998) came first, the meme of turning computer-related phenomena into moe subjects did not start until しいたけちゃん, the anthropomorphization of Internet Explorer's Stop button. The idea of Shiitake-chan came in 2001 on 2channel, starting with a poster who claims he saw the Stop button as a shiitake. Shiitake-chan has since been called the origin of moe anthropomorphism by some.
Following Shiitake-chan are the OS-tans of 2003. The concept is reported to have begun as a personification of the common perception of Windows Me as unstable and prone to frequent crashes. Discussions on Futaba Channel likened this to the stereotype of a fickle, troublesome girl. The personification became expanded, with the creation of Me-tan (dated to August 6, 2003) followed by the other characters. Mac OS X, Linux, and Linspire girls have also shown up on the Internet and some male characters exist for application programs and hardware. One example is Norton AntiVirus, which is usually portrayed as a creepy-looking, possibly lecherous old doctor. When Microsoft released Windows 7 in Japan, they included a theme pack centered around a personification of the OS named "Nanami Madobe" with voice samples from Nana Mizuki. Microsoft used another personification involving two girls named "Yū Madobe" and "Ai Madobe" to promote Windows 8 in Japan.
Since the creation of the OS-tans, other software and websites have been anthropomorphized as well. For example, the free encyclopedia Wikipedia has its own Wikipe-tan, while Mozilla applications have their own set of Moezilla. Chinese netizens have created a "Green Dam Girl" to parody China's content-control software Green Dam Youth Escort. In 2010, Taiwanese illustrator known as "shinia" on Pixiv created a personification of Microsoft Silverlight named Hikaru Aizawa, who is officially promoted by Microsoft Taiwan.
The manga and anime series Aoi Sekai no Chūshin de features characters who are personifications of computer games. Video games with characters based on them include Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario and Tetris.
Mecha Musume are anthropomorphic personifications of military hardware, such as guns, tanks, ships, aircraft or even missiles. Popular subjects of this kind of anthropomorphism include World War II military vehicles; collectible mecha musume figures of these vehicles have even been released.
MS shōjo (or Gundam girls) are another type of mecha musume. They preceded the trend of turning real-life weapons into girls, as Gundam girls first appeared in print in the 1980s. MS shōjo are mecha robots that are drawn as girls, often gundams or zakus. Features of these girls often include helmets, armour, beam sabers, and/or beam rifles. MS in this case stands for Mobile Suit.
Mecha-Musume and kemonomimi crossed in the anime Strike Witches, featuring magical girls who exploited magic and technology to fight in a war. They took on characteristics of Mecha-Musume both in the Striker hardware they wore and their names/nationalities, and kemonomimi in that when they transformed, they grew animal ears and tails.
In the manga and anime series Upotte!!, the main characters are girls who are moe anthropomorphic representations of guns.
Due to the existence of railfans in Japan, anthropomorphizations of trains are also common. Though at the beginning such anthropomorphizations were just faces in front of the trains (i.e. eyes as the windshields), by the 2000s they became more and more humanoid due to the influence of otaku culture. In such cases, the girls are often drawn so that clothes worn reflect the front design of the first car and the colors of the railway company operating the train. Indeed, the personification is nearly as much about the train operator as about the train itself.
This sort of anthropomorphization arises from the fact that there is a significant overlap in railfans and otaku, and such anthropomorphizations are the products of their affection towards the trains. However, not all railfans in Japan are otaku, and thus some railfans view these anthropomorphizations with contempt.
Notable trains who were drawn as girls include the Fastech 360, often drawn with cat ears because of the train's emergency air braking plates. Called "Fastech-tan", this particular "train girl" has its own collectible figure, sold with permission from the East Japan Railway Company. Unlike Mecha Musume or OS-tans the personifications of trains rarely feature non-Japanese designs; among the few exceptions are Eurostar and KCR Hong Kong EMU SP1900 (called "Princess SP1900").
Other things have also been given moe characteristics:
- Celestial bodies
- The celestial bodies which consist of Pluto and Charon, etc. Pluto is depicted as an unwanted child in light of its demotion from the list of planets in 2006.
- Based on binchōtan and other types of charcoal, the anime and manga Binchō-tan uses the dajare in the Japanese word for 炭|tan to create a series of cute girls.
- A set of "Cigarette Girls" is drawn to represent different brands of cigarettes in Japan.
- Convenience stores
- A series of moe anthropomorphisms of convenience stores has been classified as Conven-tan.
- As with national personifications, moe versions of various countries are present. For example, Japan is Nihon-chan, Afghanistan is Afuganisu-tan — both have their own webcomics in Japan. Beyond these, however, are the countries of Hetalia: Axis Powers, a manga depicting the countries involved in World War I and World War II using boys instead of girls, with only a few female characters mixed in. It is more surreal entertainment than the similar but notably more educational Afuganisu-tan.
- Habanero-tan, the unofficial mascot of Bōkun Habanero; and Bisuke-tan for biscuits that KFC sells in Japan. The light novel series Akikan! has soda cans that magically turn into girls. Jelly flavours have also been anthropomorphised.
- Home appliances
- Erotic computer games Like Life and Monogokoro, Monomusume both feature home appliances as girls. These appliances include washing machines, alarm clocks, blackboard erasers, pillows, first aid boxes, cell phones, and even post boxes, among others. The very nature of such games, however, puts the main characters in unusual situations when the sex scene happens — such as essentially "having sex with the washing machine".
- Likewise, the manga 090 Eko to Issho features girls who are cell phones.
- Elements of the Japanese constitution have been anthropomorphised into moe girls, such as Article 9, which prevents Japan from waging war, "is portrayed as a peace-loving girl."
- Pokémon moe anthropomorphism is popular among Japanese Pokémon sites, where they are featured as Pokémon Mystery Dungeon members. There is a wide variety of how each Pokémon looks in its moe form, one of the most frequently drawn Pokémon being Gardevoir, as it is already very human-shaped.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion Angels
- Angel Chromosome XX is a recent series of figures from WAVE, GAINAX, and Sgt. Frog artist Mine Yoshizaki featuring the various Angels from the anime in anthropomorphic forms.
- Tokusatsu characters
- More commonly applied to Kamen Riders, consists of the girls wearing attire inspired by the hero's armor, and a headdress patterned after the hero's helmet, so as to keep their faces uncovered.