Anime/Manga 101

Are you familiar with anime and manga, or just completely confused? ┬áIf so, here are some definitions – as well as explanations – of both to help you out!

Thanks to Bob Nelson, who provided us with the basis of this lesson.


So What Exactly Is Anime, Anyway?

Anime is the Japanese translation for “animation”, which means it defines any movie, video, or TV episode that is animated. America’s definition of the term is any animated feature that is produced in Japan. To America, anime is considered a small genre. Yet, in Japan, it encompasses its own genres. Examples of genres of anime include shoujo (anime which is aimed at girls), shounen (anime aimed at boys), and hentai (aimed at the 18+ audience). Animated cartoons are taken much more seriously in Japan than America. For example, American animated cartoons are either made for a younger audience (Example: Johnny Bravo), or an adult audience (South Park). However, in Japan, anime can be aimed at a young audience (My Neighbor Totoro), a teenage audience (Yu Yu Hakusho), or an adult audience (Urosukidoiji), as well as many other groups.

The art of anime differs dramatically from American cartoons. A prime example would be facial expressions. When characters talk in anime, they may use unusual facial expressions when they speak, while in most American cartoons, realistic facial expressions are used more often. Also, the shape of the eyes can symbolize what type of personality an anime character has. More sympathetic or cute characters have large, light colored eyes (like Sasami from Tenchi Muyo!) while evil characters have smaller and much darker eyes (Vicious from Cowboy Bebop).

The style of most anime drawings was established by Osamu Tezuka (a.k.a. “The God of Manga”). His style was highly inspired by the creations of Walt Disney, and therefore, the animation styles of American animation and Japanese animation are directly connected. The artwork in anime movies and TV series are at least loosely based off of Tezuka’s creations.

Another thing that separates anime from American cartoons is plot. Anime explores adult-oriented concepts and incorporates elements that are intended to draw a large amount of emotion from the audience, whether it be sadness or laughter. The plots that are implemented in anime are, for the most part, much more sophisticated than the plots of American cartoons. The intricate designs and personality development of the characters within anime are the supports for a plot as well.

Japan is more open to adult content in their animation in general. The Japanese are not affected by non-sexual nudity (casual nudity), or by profane language and gore in their anime. However, even Japan has its limits. A prime example would be Cowboy Bebop, which was taken off the air after 12 episodes because of its extensive violence, drug usage, and nudity.

And What About Manga?

Manga is simply the Japanese word for “comics”. However, manga differs from American comics in several ways. The first, and most notable difference, would again be the style. While American comics pay distinct attention to color, manga is always produced in black and white. Also, manga tends to be much more personal to the artist, or manga-ka — for example, it’s very common to have a random sidebar on a page where the artist talks about something completely random. Also unique to manga is the range of genres. Unlike in America, where superheros seem to be the most popular comic subject, the Japanese produce manga about almost any subject one could think of. Children’s manga, young people’s manga, adult manga, business manga…they have it all. Plus, in Japan, there isn’t so much stigma attached to reading manga past one’s teenage years. In short, there’s a manga out there for everyone.

The chief inspiration for most anime tends to be manga. Many stories are first produced by an manga artist and, if popular, are picked up by a production company and animated. When a manga becomes an anime, the story line is usually condensed and sometimes changed altogether so that the show can air in the allotted amount of time (most shows tend to be 26 episodes). Thus, lots of people would say that manga is actually better than anime…but it’s really just a matter of opinion.

Popular Anime/Manga Terms

Because anime and manga are Japanese, non-Japanese fans have created quite an interesting lexicon of words that are used often. Below are some of the most popular terms…

  • Arigatou – Japanese term for “thank you”.
  • Baka – A noun which translates into “idiot”. One of anime’s most common words ^_^.
  • Bishoujo – Bishoujo is an adjective used to describe an attractive girl, and is directly translated into “pretty girl”.
  • Bishounen – Bishounen is an adjective used to describe an attractive boy, and is directly translated into “pretty boy”, or a boy who’s so beautiful that he resembles a girl.
  • -chan: A suffix of endearment which adults call children by (Example: Shinobu-chan). Young girls can also use this among their girlfriends.
  • Con – A slang term used to describe an anime-related convention.
  • Cosplay – Stands for “costume play”. An event (usually at a convention) in which anime fans dress up as one of their favorite anime/manga/video game characters.
  • Doujinshi – A comic or manga written by a person other than the original creator.
  • Dubbing – Dubbing is the translation of Japanese dialogue in anime to English or another language.
  • Dub – Dub is a slang term for an anime produced in a language other than Japanese (such as English).
  • Ecchi – a Japanese term meaning “pervert”.
  • Engrish – In Japan, using English words is hip, but lots of times it can result in nonsense (just like Americans wear kanji shirts or get kanji tattoos).
  • Fan Service – A term used to refer to unnecessary body shots or nudity incorporated solely to please the audience. Anime like Love Hina and Ranma 1/2 use fan service extensively.
  • Fanart – Anime-related artwork created by fans.
  • Fanfiction – A term for stories written by fans. Fanfics are usually based off of another anime movie or TV series.
  • Fansub – A fansub is the subtitling of an anime by a group of fans.
  • Hai – A polite Japanese term for “yes”.
  • Hiragana – A Japanese alphabet used to write native Japanese words.
  • Hentai – Hentai is adult-oriented anime and contains scenes of strong sexual content. Most hentai actually incorporates a coherent plot while using sexual content as a catalyst for the story.
  • Japanglish – Japanese dialogue mixed with English dialogue.
  • Kanji – The characters of the Japanese writing system which represent whole words. There are over 2000 kanji symbols.
  • Katakana – A Japanese alphabet used to write foreign words (which are often used extensively in the Japanese language).
  • Kawaii – An adjective which means “cute”. Used extensively in anime.
  • Konnichiwa – The most common way in Japanese to say “hello”. Translated literally, it means “This day is.” Used mostly in afternoon.
  • -kun: a name suffix used primarily for men who are of similar age or younger than the speaker.
  • Lemon – Used to describe hentai with very strong and graphic sexual content.
  • Lime – Used to describe hentai that has mild sexual content.
  • Mecha – A slang term for a mechanical figure, such as a robot, ship, or plane. Most often, mecha are giant robots which people ride around in and control; such technology usually results in huge battles and general mass destruction…-_-; The various Gundam series are perhaps the most notable examples of mecha.
  • Mosaic – A method used to blur a screen to hide the more inappropriate portion of anime (normally is used in hentai).
  • Moshi Moshi – A Japanese term for “hello”. This term is used when greeting someone on the telephone.
  • Nani – The Japanese term for “what?” or “huh?”.
  • OAV – An acronym which stands for ‘Original Animated Video’. An OAV bypasses movie theaters and television and goes straight to VHS and/or DVD. Also written as OVA.
  • Original Soundtrack – A soundtrack of numerous audio tracks from an anime. Also known by the acronym OST.
  • Otaku – By Japanese definition, it means an obsessive anime/manga nerd or geek. The word is actually a polite term for house, suggesting that such a person only watches anime, reads manga, and never sees the light of day. However, in America, it simply means a big anime/manga fan, and is used positively in the anime community.
  • Romanji – the Japanese language translated into a foreign alphabet.
  • -sama: A respectful suffix that is used to define a person who has superiority over yourself. Normally a boss, political figure, or nobility.
  • -san: A respectful suffix that is used to describe a person of your own age or someone who is similar to yourself (Example: Takahashi-san). Probably the most commonly used name suffix.
  • Sayonara – The Japanese term for “goodbye”.
  • Seiyuu – Seiyuu are Japanese voice actors who play the roles of anime characters in a show. Some very famous and popular seiyuu have quite a fan following.
  • -sempai: A respectful suffix which underclassmen call upperclassmen.
  • -sensei: A respectful suffix which defines a teacher.
  • Shoujo – Shoujo (meaning “girl”) is used to describe anime or manga that is aimed at a female audience. Shoujo normally incorporates a love interest and more drama rather than focusing on fighting.
  • Shoujo-ai – Anime and manga which focuses on girl/girl romance. As a rule, shoujo-ai is not inherently sexual, focusing more on the relationship.
  • Shounen – Shounen (meaning “boy”) is a genre of anime or manga that is aimed at a male audience and normally incorporates more fighting scenes and action.
  • Shounen-ai – Anime and manga which focuses on boy/boy romance. As a rule, shoujo-ai is not inherently sexual, focusing more on the relationship.
  • Sub – A slang term for anime which retains its original Japanese dialogue and provides subtitles to read.
  • Subtitles – Lines of dialogue that translate or show what the characters are saying.
  • Super-Deformed – A term used to describe a character who has been distorted (usually big head, small body) in an attempt to create a form of humor. Used mostly in shoujo anime like Sailor Moon, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Fushigi Yugi. Abbreviated SD.
  • Urusei – Translates into “annoying”.
  • Yaoi – Yaoi is homosexual anime, manga, or fanfiction. Yaoi does not necessarily contain graphic sex scenes, but the focus of the plot is a male/male sexual relationship.
  • Yuri – Yuri is lesbian anime, manga, or fanfiction. Yuri is not necessarily contain graphic sex scenes, but the focus of the plot is a female/female sexual relationship.