Japanese comics, known as manga, have their own language. Anime Troops has selected for you the necessary manga terms and words to know to understand what fans of the genre consider as an art.
As rich as the universe of Hokusai which gave it its name, the manga world has its own vocabulary and terms.
Manga is literally translated as “derisory drawing“. For the great artist Hokusai, its creator, it meant rather “unfinished sketch“. The mange genre has its codes, its rites, its esotericism and its specific terminology.
For the English-speaking readers, more and more fond of Manga, Anime Troops has selected the manga terms and expressions that must be known to understand all its finesse.
Manga terms: Manga genres
When you walk into a Japanese bookstore, you will find that Japanese comics are arranged by genre. We can enumerate many manga genres:
1. Shônen: This term indicates manga for young boys. It is the most prolific manga genre. The most iconic shounen titles are Kishimoto Masashi’s Naruto, Oda Eiichiro’s One Piece, and Akira Toriyama‘s Dragon Ball;
2. Shôjo: This word designates manga for young girls. Very often it tells a love story and tackles the favorite teenagers’ subjects (hobbies, sport, music, etc.). The most popular shoujo manga titles are Nakamura Yoshiki’s Skip Beat, and Takaya Natsuki’s Fruits Basket;
3. Jôsei: this manga genre is for a female audience older than the Shôjo. An emblematic title is “Nodame Cantabile” by Tomoko Ninomiya;
4. Light Novel (LN): It is intended for an audience of young adults and teenagers. Light novels have a lot of dialogue. They are usually no longer than 50,000 words, and they also come with manga-style illustrations;
5. Seinen: literally means “for young men”, the genre targets young adults. Akira by Katsuhiro Ôtomo, as well as Yotsuba by Kiyohiko Azuma, and Monster by Urasawa Naoki illustrate the richness of this manga genre;
6. Hentai: The literal translation suggests that Hentai refers to the genre of pornographic manga;
7. Dôjinshi: is a manga drawn by one or more amateurs and sold at the Comiket. It can contain original stories and universes, but it is more often based on existing and popular works. It is then the occasion for the author of Dôjinshi to place the characters in clearly more adult situations. The Dojinshi are often “hentai”;
8. Yonkoma: Manga genre in four boxes. This type of manga is often used as the basis for short anime with episodes of two to three minutes;
Manga terms: Honorifics
Japan, The Land of The Samurai, is an incredibly codified society. Honor, affection, and respect have their own honorific suffix. here are the most common honorifics used in manga:
9. San: It’s the most common honorific, and it’s equivalent to “Mister” or “Miss”. It’s a title of respect used between equals, so you can use it for anyone, especially when you are confused about what honorific to use for him or her;
10. Sama: This honorific is the formal version of San. It’s used to refer to someone who deserves the highest respect status, like God, a Noble Person or somebody you truly admire;
11. Chan: it’s a very affectionate honorific suffix, used mainly for children, young girls, close friends, and between lovers;
12. Kun: It’s the most commonly honorific used in manga, and it is a mark of politeness used between people of the same age and status, or by superiors to inferiors;
13. Dono: It is an obsolete version of “Sama”, generally used to speak with a lot of respect about someone;
14. Senpai: This word designates the elder in a hierarchical context (school, sports, work). The Senpai acts as a tutor or godfather for the Kohai;
15. Kôhai: This term refers to a young student who owes respect to his senpai. This hierarchy is expressed at school, in a sports club, at work…
16. Sensei: It is used to address a master. He or she could be a teacher, a doctor or a sports trainer;
17. Tan: It’s an even more affectionate variant of “Chan”;
18. Bō: It is a loving word that expresses endearment. Like the Honorific Chan, it can be used for young children, but it is strictly used for boys;
19. Heika: It’s the most formal title of nobility in Japan which is equivalent to “Majesty”, and it’s reserved only for the Emperor and Empress;
20. Denka: This term is reserved for all other members of the Imperial Family, and it’s the equivalent of “Highness”
21. Shishō: this honorific is used for martial arts instructors.
The essential Manga terms and expressions
These manga terms form the ABCs of the genre. They are found almost in all the works.
22. Baka: Literally means “Idiot”. It is the most popular insult in Japan, which is a much more courteous culture than ours. It can have an affectionate or warm connotation depending on the context and the person;
23. Hikikomori: It is a person, most often young, who, overwhelmed by the weight of society, decides to cut himself off from the world;
24. Kawaii: This epithet means cute or adorable. It can be used to describe objects, animals or even people;
25. Moe: Term used to qualify female characters from manga or anime that gives rise to a certain fantasy of protectionism among male audiences;
26. Otaku: It’s a word that describes people who dedicate a significant portion of their time to a passion. It was a pejorative term for a long time, but like geek anglicism, it tends to lose that connotation;
27. Youkai: It is a generic term that defines monsters, spirits, ghosts;
28. Yandere: This term refers to someone who starts sweet and kind but ends up being obsessive and even violent with his emotions towards someone;
29. Tsundere: It is a term used to define a person whose personality seems cold at first but becomes warm afterwards;
30. Comiket: It is the abbreviation of “Comic Market”, the biggest exhibition fair for manga lovers. fans go there to buy Dôjinshi for example;
31. Mangaka: Author of manga, whether he is a screenwriter or/and designer. You can learn more about the life of the mangaka with the Bakuman anime;
32. Manhua: Chinese comics;
33. Manhwa: Korean comics;
34. One-shot: It refers to a manga in one volume. Before deciding to publish a new series in a magazine, the mangaka publishes a One-Shot version of his manga to see how it is received.
Manga words in Japanese life
Here are seven manga terms that we can find easily in the daily life of the inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago:
35. Bentô: This is a term that could be translated as “snack”. The presentation of the dish has as many values as its nutritional qualities;
36. Bushido: literally means “the way of the warrior”. It is the code of honor of the samurai;
37. Dogeza: It is the most extreme form to apologize. The person asking for forgiveness kneels in front of the injured person, with their hands flat, lowering their head until their forehead touches the ground;
38. Onsen: Literally means a “natural hot spring”. A specific hostel is often built around a hot spring, which allows the Japanese to go there for relaxing weekends to take baths. It is an omnipresent element in manga and anime, in order to provide comical or naughty situations between characters;
39. Ramen: It is a Chinese dish popularized after World War II. It is a noodle soup, which can contain all kinds of things, like pork, seaweed, hard-boiled eggs, etc. Its recipe varies from one restaurant to another, some having for example a version with seafood;
40. Seppuku: This term means “cut in the stomach”, it is a suicide ritual. It has been officially banned since 1868. It consists of opening the stomach horizontally to expiate an unforgivable fault. Women practice Jigai, which consists of slitting their throats;
Do you know other manga terms and words? Share them in the comments section below! 😉