Glossary of ANIME and Japanese Terms by Jareth David
(originally written as a study guide for tour guides for the My Reality exhibit's stopover in Tampa.
This is an expanded version of the flyer I wrote for the Tampa Museum of Art.)
AMV : (anime music video); music videos edited together by fans using footage from one or more of their favorite anime series and usually set to contemporary pop/ rock music. Originally this was done on high-end VCRs with editing features, but in recent years fan producers of AMVs do all the editing on computers using digitized video files. When done well, they follow a narrative or theme and show off the talent of an art or film school student, lesser AMVs are merely mindless, hacked-together battle sequences set to rap or metal.
Anime : a generalized Japanese term for 'animation', but when used in the U.S. it is intended to specifically refer to animation created by the Japanese.
bakemono : monster
'cartoon' : American term which conjures images of braindead Saturday morning TV fare and is therefore inadvisable to apply to anime in the presence of an anime fan. Likelihood of it being taken as an offense is something akin to getting into an argument with a large man named 'Tiny' and insulting his mother. Just because anime is animated does not make it necessarily a 'cartoon'.
-chan : suffix used often to refer to girls or babies or between two people who are very close friends (very rarely used towards men who are adults)
cosplay : short for 'costume play'; people dress up for anime / manga / sci-fi conventions as popular characters, sometimes crafting elaborate stage shows to perform in character...sometimes in Japanese. Term originally coined by Nov. Takahashi in the early 1980s in a series of articles for My Anime magazine. American anime conventions use the term 'Cosplay' for contests involving costumed skits and the term 'Costume Contest' for contests based on technical construction of costumes.
eyecatch : very short, usually animated, title screen inserted before and after commercial breaks during TV series and later used in OAV series after it became a standard
Go : a board game which looks simple, but is far more strategically complicated than western chess. It originated in China over 2500 years ago and consists of placing black & white stones on intersections of a grid with the goal of capturing more territory than your opponent; It is often played by the fathers in Ranma ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½ and is the subject of the popular long-running anime Hikaru no Go.
gokuraku : 'paradise'; also the name of a video store which I think should be appearing before me any day now...
-hime : suffix added to names meaning 'princess'; a loyal subject may address her as 'Hime-sama'.
hanaji : nosebleed; common cliche in anime; when you see a boy get a nosebleed in anime, it usually means his blood pressure has suddenly severely increased from seeing a really cute girl
henshin : usually refers to character changing into their heroic super-powered alter-ego. It is often accompanied by visuals like blinding color wheels or elemental forces. The transformation often is so melodramatic and extended that the enemy would logically have an easy target during this time, but an attack at such time would be in violation of the laws of anime physics. Ex.: Sailor Moon, Gatchaman, 99% of majoko series.
Hentai : (also called H or Etchi [alternate romanization 'Ecchi'], all of which translate to 'perverted'. A deplorable sub-genre of anime with strong sexual content (often including tentacle attack scenes); It is despised by many anime fans because the mainstream American media has latched onto this sub-genre simply to grab sensationalized headlines, thereby damaging public opinion of anime in the process. Sadly, it is apparently hard to sell a news story about family-safe anime and it is usually overlooked by most of the mainstream media as a result while they try to dig up (or fabricate) the next scandal to boost ratings. Some of the fault lies with a few companies stateside having licensed most of the hentai titles first as a way to make a quick buck -- because there's always a market for trash. To judge all anime by just looking at a hentai title is similar to watching Fritz the Cat or Heavy Metal and blaming popular animated family films (even though there is no connection between them and they are intended for completely different audences). Another example would be to walk into an adult video store and assume the titles found there are representative of all of American cinema. Anime is a medium, NOT a genre!
Parental note: some popular Hentai titles to avoid: Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend, La Blue Girl, Cool Devices series, Angel of Darkness, etc. Also beware of anything released by these video labels: Anime 18, Kitty.
There are occasionally some entertaining action genre anime which sadly include a few intense hentai scenes. Two popular anime in the assassin genre, Kite and Mezzo Forte fall into this category. The unedited directors cut versions of these each have 2 or 3 brutal rape scenes (which ruin what would have otherwise been a good story).
idol : may refer to an actress or other celebrity, but is most often associated with idol singers; there is an idol system within the entertainment industry that trains future stars and pays them as salaried employees, then later casts them aside when they outlive their popularity
ikinari kiss : sudden, unexpected kiss; you will see this in many shojo anime; it may be a dream come true from a boy they secretly have a crush on, but from an unwanted admirer it is taken as an inexcusable violation of their purity which they may fear will cause them to grow up to be an unwed old spinster
Jankenpon : game known in America as 'Rock, Paper, Scissors'; instead of once, twice, thrice the Japanese say "Jan, Ken, Pon" and in event of tie say "Ai, Ko, Dessho" during 2nd round
kansetsu kiss : (indirect kiss); often refers to something like drinking out of the same glass or same straw or taking a bite out of the same food
'Japanimation' : a marketing term used by some retail stores in America to describe anime. It is disliked by many longtime anime fans and is thought of by some as derogatory. (pick at random any derogatory slang term that has been used to describe Asian people and add 'animation' or 'imation' as a suffix and see if it comes across as sounding politically incorrect. 'nuff said.).
jigoku : hell, but not meant necessarily the same as the Christian concept.
kawaii : cute; Japan has a national obsession with all things cute. This is why things like Hello Kitty are hugely popular and having a cute tennis racket cover is more important to some people than athletic ability at the actual game. Also why idol bands like Morning Musume are insanely popular (along with brilliant marketing).
-kun : suffix used towards boys or young men by their elders (often used in school)
majoko : magical girls; anime about girls with magical powers who battle to save the planet (often accompanied by a cute animal mascot); Ex.: Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura, Minky Momo
manga : Japanese comic books; often printed bi-monthly in large phonebook sized volumes of multiple ongoing series by various artists. The popular titles are often republished in their own story collections called 'tankouban' -- a format somewhat similar to the 'graphic novels' sold by American comic book companies.
mecha : mechanized machines, often giant robots or robotic battle suits; Ex: GUNDAMs
Meganeko : may sound like it's about big cats, but word is derived from megane + ko (not mega + neko). Whoever said guys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses? Meganeko is the interest of boys in 4-eyed girls.
OAV / OVA : stands for Original Animation Video or Original Video Animation; dozens of these direct to video animated series or films are released each month. It is a trend the Japanese started in 1984 with the title Dallos long before American animation studios adopted the format to use for lower budgeted sequels to popular films.
oni : demon or ogre; often used in tales involving creatures from traditioal Japanese folklore ...or series where green-haired girls with horns lose a game of tag for the fate of the Earth and stay on as your unwanted fiancee.
onsen : these hot springs are a popular vacation resort spot for soothing baths. Despite common cultural misconceptions, there is almost always a wall dividing separate areas for men and women bathers
OP / ED : Japanese abbreviation for opening theme song / ending theme song
otaku : the word has many meanings, but we'll stick to the main usage of it in anime. An otaku is someone obsessed with a particular hobby. In Japan it is usually derogatory and is roughly equivalent to calling someone a sci-fi or comic book geek or Trekkie. In America, the term is sometimes worn as a badge by anime fans denoting that they are far more knowledgeable than casual fans, usage in that case is somewhat similar to a term like movie buff
Ramune : a popular type of soda made by various Japanese companies which tastes a bit like Sprite or 7Up (though some say it has a hint of banana or bubblegum flavor). It is marketed as a children's drink and comes in an ingenious gimmick bottle with a marble trapped inside which (in conjunction with the drink's carbonation) works like a pressurized stopper valve to keep from spilling the beverage when the bottle is held upside down. (also called Lamune by some people due to the Japanse phoenetic R=L situation)
sakura : cherry blossoms (also called 'sakurambo'); often seen in shojo or samurai anime; Cherry trees only blossom for about a week each year usually in early April and some Japanese people will take vacation from work to celebrate this popular annual horticultural event by having picnics under the trees.
-san : suffix attached to name to mean Mr. or Mrs.
seiyuu : voice actor / actress; there are actually schools for this in Japan
sempai : (senior); someone in a hierarcy (school, organization, business, etc.) who is your elder or superior; the opposite of sempai is kohai.
sensei : term used mostly to refer to teachers or doctors or masters of an art or craft
shogi : Japanese style chess with flat pentagonal pieces; captured pieces may be replaced on the board by opponent
shojo / shoujo : (girl); often used to refer to anime or manga that target a mostly female audience and often deal with romance and/or majoko themes and often include boy characters who are beautiful almost to the point of looking effeminate and frequent use of floral motifs in background; Ex.: long running soap opera anime such as Marmalade Boy or Kodomo no Omocha
shonen / shounen : (boy); often used to refer to anime or manga that target a predominantly male audience and often involve themes such as giant robots, fighting, sci-fi, mecha, or sports; Ex.: Mobile Suit Gundam
Shounen-Ai : literally translates to 'boy love'. Anime or manga about pretty boys who are 'interested' in each other. See also 'Yaoi'.
suki : said when one likes something (daisuki = like very much / love); pronounced like SOO-KEY
youkai : more or less means 'demon'; often heard in anime which deal with monsters derived from traditional Japanese folklore.
yubikiri : pinky swear
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