For people who have never sat down and watched an anime, trying to understand the terminology that is used when referencing the genre can be quite complicated. A lot of the terms are in Japanese, and if one isn’t used to seeing or hearing the language, then the meaning could very easily be lost. What I’ve attempted to do here is to create an alphabetical primer for those readers who may not know a whole lot about what anime and manga are. I hope that these terms and their definitions are helpful. Again, anyone who might have something to add is welcome to leave a comment. I’m always happy to hear from readers and learn new things, as I by no means claim to be an expert. Enough with the jibber jabber. Here goes.
A: Anime– Alright, this should be the simplest term, and probably the one that I should start with. Anime is simply the term used for animations that are created in Japan. While using the term “cartoon” doesn’t seem quite right, because of the content of cartoons in America, that is generally what Anime is. It’s short for animation. This is different from Manga, which is the graphic novelization of works.
B- Baka– Baka in Japanese means idiot. Get used to hearing and seeing this term a lot. If you watch anime or read manga, there is almost always a character that does stupid things, and they will most likely be called a baka at some point in time.
Bishonen– Bishonen is a term in Japanese anime and manga that refers to a pretty boy. Boys that are Bishonen, or Bishie for short, tend to be very feminine in looks and personality.
C- Chibi– Chibi means “little one” in Japanese, and this term refers to the type of characters that are drawn in a way to make them look cute. Often times, in manga especially, Chibi characters are used in the margins of a story to show something that is happening in imagination or something that isn’t crucial to the rest of the plot.
D- Doki– Doki is the sound that your heart makes when it is beating fast. In anime and manga, characters will often talk about how someone made their heart doki-doki. This term is used frequently, especially in romantic manga/anime.
Doujin– A doujin is a fan-created manga piece. Often times, these can be sexual in nature, but they don’t have to be. Think of it as fanfiction.net with pictures.
E- Ecchi– In Japanese, Ecchi can be a blanket term used to describe anything that is “naughty.” In anime/manga speak, titles that are ecchi tend to be titles that push the envelope, and could be dirty, but aren’t blatantly so.
F- Fan Service– Fan service refers to manga/anime that has a purpose of titillating a certain demographic. Often times in anime, there are episodes that are geared toward fan service, which can include but are not limited to: beach episodes, hot springs episodes, school festival episodes…basically anything that could make your heart doki doki by watching it.
G- Gomen Nasai– This is simply the Japanese term for “sorry.” If you watch or read, you will hear this term. Frequently.
H- Hentai– Ah yes. I’m sure some of you were waiting for this term. While in pop culture, hentai tends to refer to manga/anime that is about sexual encounters, the actual term has a much broader meaning. A hentai is a pervert, and in anime/manga, a character will be called a hentai if they are strange or have strange thoughts. Usually these thoughts are sexual in nature, but they do not have to be.
I- Itadakimasu– This is a common Japanese phrase that means “Let’s eat” or “Thanks for the food.” In manga and anime, before any meal, most characters will say this. It’s similar to the tradition of saying grace before eating.
J- Jidai Geki– This term is used to describe media that is set in historical Japan, usually in the feudal era.
Josei– Josei is the Japanese term for women, so when referencing manga or anime, Josei is one of the terms that is used to describe material that is written with women as the target demographic.
K- Kawaii– Kawaii means “cute” in Japanese, so anything that is Kawaii is especially adorable. Usually used in reference to girls, cats, outfits, boys you happen to be in love with, etc.
Kitsune- Kitsune means fox in Japan. These characters appear a lot in anime and manga, as they have historical and cultural importance.
L- Light Novel– A light novel is a novel that is a basis for an anime or manga. Like manga, these are serialized in magazines in Japan, and are published monthly or bi-monthly.
N- Nani– This means “what” in Japanese. It’s an important term that everyone should know.
O- Onsen– An onsen is a hot springs, which are frequented often in manga/anime. Almost every series that involves some sort of tension between love interests has an onsen episode in which someone ends up in a hot springs with a member of the opposite gender, or their love interest. Hilarity ensues.
P- Pettanko– This is another one of those odd terms that you may not hear terribly often. Pettanko is a term used to reference a flat-chested girl. In some series, it is an insult, and others, it is a glorious compliment.
Q- Alright, I couldn’t figure anything out for this letter.
R- Raw– This is a term that is used to describe the original form of any manga. Many websites will have fan-made translations of manga as they are released in Japan, and the original Japanese release would be the raw and the same goes for anime. (Un-subtitled and un-translated anime is also called the raw.)
S- Senpai– Please notice this entry. This is a term that is used to address someone who is older than the character describing, such as a classmate, co-worker, or other person who is of the same level, but older. In anime and manga, it is a trope for a character to fall in love with a senpai, and then go through a tortured period of time in which s/he wishes her senpai would notice her.
Shoujo– Shoujo translates to “girl.” Manga or anime that is labeled as shoujo is geared toward a young, female audience, and usually involves a story in which a girl is trapped between her love for the main boy and a rival for her attention. Fruits Basket is an example of a shoujo series.
Shounen– Shounen translates to “boy.” Shounen anime and manga tends to be action adventure oriented, where the main character has super powers and must gain strength before a final battle comes to a head. Dragon Ball Z and Naruto would be perfect examples of shounen.
T- Tankoubon– A tankoubon is a box set of manga or novel volumes. Because manga and novels are usually serialized in monthly installments, tankoubon collect the stories and are sold as a more permanent copy to keep at home for re-reading.
Tomodachi– This is a Japanese term that means “friend.”
Tsundere– This is a character trope in anime and manga. The tsundere character is one that acts cold and distant at first, before slowly warming up into one that is shy and welcoming. The tsundere often hides their feelings beneath the veneer of cold distance, before finally opening up and acknowledging their feelings. The character of Taiga in Toradora! is an example of a tsundere.
U- Ureshii– This translates to “I’m happy” and is usually used as an exclamation in anime and manga to indicate this happiness.
V- OVA– Alright, I know that this should technically go under O, but I couldn’t find anything for V. An OVA is a straight to video animation that usually contains a side story to an anime. It is not considered part of the animation canon, but will often give glimpses into the backstory of the characters, or tell of something that wasn’t discussed deeply in the original series.
W- Watashi– One of the Japanese terms for “I.” Because it is a unissex term, you find this often in manga and anime when characters refer to themselves.
X- Excitingly enough, there’s not a term for this letter either. Go figure.
Y- Yaoi- Yaoi is a term that means “boys love” and it usually describes a series that has a focus on homosexual male relationships that are sexual in nature. It is very popular among Japanese women.
Yuri- Yuri is “girls love” and it is the female equivalent of yaoi. Yuri series deal with female homosexual relationships, and is often very graphic in nature. This is very popular among male readers and viewers.
Z- Zettai Ryouiki– The literal translation of this is “absolute territory,” but the meaning of this term is the portion of exposed skin between the bottom of a woman’s skirt and the top of her socks. This is such a big thing that there is even an ideal ratio.
Well, there you have it, your A-Z list of terminology that is helpful when beginning your foray into the world of anime and manga. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to give a like and leave a comment! If you do, I’ll be sure to send more anime geekiness your way!
– By Alex Adams