To help you understand some basic anime terms and meanings in order to better enjoy your leisure time dedicated to watching Japanese anime, Anime Troops suggests you discover this anime words starter guide.
The Japanese leisure industry has become incredibly popular, whether through its manga, its anime or even its video games. However, the Japanese language is fundamentally different from English, as is their mentality and state of mind.
In fact, it is at best difficult, and often impossible, to translate all the anime terms and words to English. Besides, many funny japanese anime phrases have become used regularly by fans.
I am making this guide to help you to understand some common japanese words in anime! Actually, I am aware that there are already such lexicons on the net as long as you know how to use Google to find anime slang.
However, the majority of them don’t offer enough context and explanation for my liking.
Besides, it is obvious that this listing is not exhaustive, and it remains possible that some important anime terms escaped me. If you notice that it seems to be missing some anime terms, feel free to point it out in the comments.
So, let’s start our anime terms guide!
Specific anime terms: A & B
- Akihabara: A district of Tokyo famous for its many electronics, computer, manga and video game stores. It is also popular for its Cosplayers and maid cafes. In short, Akihabara is “The Otaku’s Paradise”.
2. Anime: This term refers to cartoons in Japan! Be careful, don’t confuse it with Manga.
3. Art-book: A book that contains illustrations, sketches, as well as a description of the universe, characters and technical information about an artwork, as can be found in games or films.
4. Bishôjo: Literally means “Beautiful young girl”. Don’t confuse it with the term “Shôjo“. It is a type of chara-design for female characters, who are inevitably college girls who are beautiful, slender, charming and with fine features. The heroines of Sailor Moon are good examples of Bishôjo.
5. Bishônen: Literally means “Beautiful young boy”, but unlike the Bishôjo, the Bishônen will only be present almost exclusively in the Shôjo manga. They are very thin boys, with fine and effeminate features, therefore very unmanly, but loved by “girls”. Ouran Highschool Host Club is an excellent example of an anime full of Bishônen.
6. Brocon (Brother Complex): it is an anime term that designates a girl having very strong affectionate feelings towards her brother. It can be a form of extreme filial love or a romantic feeling which can lead to incestuous relations. The male counterpart of the thing is the Siscon.
Specific anime words: C
7. CG (initials of Computer Graphics): This anime term gathers in the same category the drawings, graphics and animations carried out on computer. The quality of CG is very important because the visual rendering is often very different from that of traditional animation made by hand drawings. Mecha anime are probably the ones using CG the most to represent vividly the huge space battles.
8. Chara design (or Character design): This anime term corresponds to the creation and the visual identity of the characters. It can include the way they are drawn, their appearance, character…
9. Chûnibyô (The 8th-grade syndrome): it is a phase that some Japanese teenagers go through, generally around 13 or 14 years old. They take refuge in their imaginary world, imagining themselves to be a superhero, a mage, or another type of fairly charismatic character. You could compare it to an extreme form of Role-play in real life. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! focuses on this subject.
10. Cosplay (Costume Play): It refers to the act of dressing up as a character from a video game, anime or manga. Cosplay enthusiasts like to appear in disguise to take pictures, participate in contests, and have fun.
Specific anime terms: E & F
11. Ecchi: While “Hentai” is the equivalent of pornography, the term “Ecchi” is the equivalent of something more measured, which could be compared to glamor. Some examples of clearly Ecchi works are Nanatsu no Taizai and No Game No Life.
12. Ending Theme: End credits of an anime, and it is part of OST.
13. Esper: It is an English term that designates an individual capable of telepathy, telekinesis or/and other paranormal abilities. The powers of the Esper are called ESP (Extra Sensorial Perception). “Espers” and their powers are extremely popular in Japanese anime and manga. One could consider that almost all of the characters with special powers are in fact Espers.
14. Fanfiction: This term designates stories written by fans, and using characters or/and the universe of a manga, an anime or a video game. It is therefore sometimes an opportunity to “correct” what we consider to be a stupidity of the original author, or it can also be an opportunity to continue the story after the canonical end.
15. Fanservice: Orientation of a program that uses and abuses well-oiled mechanisms to satisfy an audience that is already acquired (for example, with eroticism like when they put heroines in light clothes). This is a subject that deeply divides fans. Some fans appreciate it while others despise it and are particularly irritated every time because it does not add anything to the story.
16. Fansub (Fan Subtitles): This anime term refers to works that have been translated and subtitled by fans (called Fansub Team). The fruit of their work is available for download on the internet.
Specific anime words: H – J – L
17. Harem: It is an anime sub-genre, in which a quite ordinary hero is the love interest of many girls. Examples of Harem anime: Yamada-Kun to 7-nin no Majo (TV), Nisekoi, …
18. Hentai: Refers to a pornographic type product, whether it is a manga, a game or an anime. It also serves as an insult in Japanese, so it could be roughly translated as “pervert”.
19. Hikikomori: A hikikomori is a lonely, withdrawn person who has difficulty communicating with other people and hardly ever leaves his home. It is a psychosocial pathology that affects many young adults in Japan. The most famous anime dealing with the subject is of course NHK ni Youkoso!
20. Jôsei: A fairly specific genre aimed at women “between 18 and 30 years old”. It is the female counterpart of Seinen. The themes dealt with are generally more serious than the naive high school romances of the Shôjo. The heroines are usually young adults here. Example: Chihayafuru, Nodame Cantabile, Nana, etc.
21. Light Novel (LN): A type of Japanese novel that is relatively short (less than 50,000 words) and embellished with some images of characters, places, etc. Like manga, light novels are published in magazines, then the chapters are put together in paperback books. More and more often the Light Novels are used as basic material for an anime adaptation. Examples: Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy Wa Machigatteiru., Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu…
22. Live-action: In the film and television field, the term Live-action refers to a production using sequences filmed with real actors, and whose original medium was an anime show.
23. Lolicon (Lolita Complex): This term refers to a sexual attraction for young adolescents or even for girls. By extension, female characters that can potentially be targeted by Lolicon are called “Loli”.
Specific anime terms: M & N
24. Magical Girl: It is an emblematic Shôjo character. Usually, a normal young girl, who turns into a sort of superheroine with magical powers. Usually accompanied by a cute mascot and her friends, she will have to save the world from an evil force. The most famous of the Magical Girl anime is Sailor Moon and Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
25. Maid cafe (Maid Kissa): A tea room or restaurant in which young waitresses are disguised as a typical British Victorian-era maid. There are however a very large number of variations revolving around cosplay (waitresses wearing cat ears or disguised as anime heroines). They welcome customers like their masters. Kaichou Wa Maid-Sama! is an anime that focuses on the subject.
26. Mecha: It is a science fiction genre that features robots or characters dressed in robotic armor. Very often linked to the Shônen genre, the Mecha type includes many extremely famous anime and manga such as Gundam, Macross, Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, Code Geass, etc.
27. Nekketsu: It is the main sub-genre of Shônen, and literally means “boiling blood”. We can also call it the Battle Shounen. It is to be dissociated from the other sub-genre of Shônen, Pantsu, which mixes him rather comedy and Harem.
Particular anime words: O
28. OAV / OVA (Original Animation Video or Original Video Animation): These anime terms refer to anime that are not intended for television or cinema, but only for sale in the DVD and Blu-Ray forms.
29. Opening Theme: Refers to the opening credits of an anime show. It is a sort of trailer accompanied by music and the title, all lasting one minute and a half, like the ending. Some Openings seem to have no direct connection to the content and unfolding of the story, while others are huge spoilers on what lies ahead for the viewer.
30. OST (Original Sound Track): This term refers to the original soundtrack of an anime, equivalent to the soundtrack (original soundtrack). This includes the Opening, Ending and Insert Songs.
31. Otaku: This term designates people who live for their passion, who tend to become cloistered and gradually lose contact with reality. It is not exclusive to the anime world, but also to that of video games, Idols, sports, etc. In Japan, the use of this term can sometimes be pejorative. In the West, the pejorative aspect is usually not present, and it specifically designates fans of anime and manga.
Glossary of anime terms: P – S – T
32. Pantsu: The second most widespread sub-genre of Shônen. Taken from the English word “pants” literally meaning “panties”. It is recognizable by its comic and romantic Harem-type approach revolving around a male protagonist, usually a college or a high school student, quite shy and self-effacing.
33. Seinen: A type of anime/manga aimed at an audience of young adult males. The content and the approach stand out from those of the Shônen because of its more mature (psychology, politics, etc.) or shocking (sex, gore) content. Some famous Seinen are Berserk, 20th Century Boys and Monster.
34. Seiyû: Japanese artist specializing in the dubbing of anime characters. It is a very prestigious and elitist profession in Japan. Many Seiyû are famous and recognized like Fukuyama Jun, who voiced Lelouch in the Code Geass series and Kamiya Hiroshi who voiced Levi in Shingeki no Kyogin.
35. Shôjo: Literally means “Young Girl or Adolescent”. This term refers to anime and manga which are mainly aimed at this type of audience. The stories most often take place in a high school and revolve around love (but not always). Some good examples of Shôjo are Kimi ni Todoke and Fruits Basket.
36. Shônen: Literally means “Young boy or Adolescent”. This manga genre is mainly aimed at this type of audience. The Shônen are much more often focused on the action than the Shôjo. A large part of the most famous anime are Shônen. Examples: Dragon Ball, GTO, Hajime no Ippo, Naruto, One Piece, Gintama, etc.
37. Siscon (Sister Complex): This anime term designates a boy having very strong affectionate feelings towards his sister. It can be a form of extreme filial love or a romantic feeling which can lead to incestuous relations. The feminine counterpart of the thing is the Brocon.
38. Spoilers: From the English verb ” To Spoil”. This word is now used to refer to elements that have been revealed in advance to a person who has not been able to discover them directly while enjoying the work in question. For example, by knowing in advance that a character is going to die.
39. Stalker: This anime word is taken from English, and can be roughly translated as Tracker. Used to refer to someone who has an obsessive fascination with another person, very often of a sentimental or sexual nature, but without the other party being aware of it. This one-sided relationship pushes the Stalker to discreetly follow and watch his target in order to observe his every move.
Guide of anime terms: T- V – Y
40. Tsundere: This anime term designates a generally female character who at first has an aggressive personality, and who ends up softening, until entering into a romantic relationship with the hero. This is one of the most used anime character types. Rin Tôsaka from Fate/Stay Night, Makise Kurisu from Steins;Gate are famous tsundere.
41. Visual Novel (VN): It is a type of video game very popular in Japan, but almost unknown in the West. It is a kind of interactive book, where the player will be asked to make choices, which will have a more or less important impact on the continuation and the end of the story. Examples: Steins;Gate.
42. Yandere: It is a Japanese term used to define a personality who is affectionate and tender at first glance but who at some point becomes disturbed or even psychotic. Yanderes often instantly declare their love for the hero, before showing an unhealthy obsessive possessiveness. Yuno Gasai from Mirai Nikki is a good example of Yandere.
43. Yankee: The word used to refer to Japanese delinquents. The latter are generally recognizable by their dress style, their hairstyle, and their very specific Japanese slang. Great Teacher Onizuka is a good example.
44. Yaoi: Also called Boy’s Love (abbreviated BL), it is a type of female manga featuring homosexual relations between men, and whose degree of eroticism depends on the target age for the audience.
45. Yuri: It is an anime/manga featuring homosexual relationships between girls. This type of anime is primarily aimed at young adult women.
If you know other anime terms and words, please add them to our list in the comment section! ;)