Defining Obsession: Anime Lingo

Shojo or shonen?

What’s a harem?

Read on, Miss Pink is here to help.

Since this entire project was begun as a newbie’s guide/journey into the world of anime, I’ve been meaning for some time to write an entry focusing on some common anime/Japanese definitions. And since my On Demand is currently broken (barring me from watching the very last episode of the series that I had planned on reviewing) today seems like the perfect chance. I’ll keep updating this entry as more phrases occur (as they inevitably will, the further that you delve into any subject) so we’ll keep learning together. And learning, as we all know, is the spice of life.

The anime Princess Jellyfish gives a good overview of the way that otakus are generally perceived in Japanese culture.

Otaku: A Japanese term for someone with obsessive interests. In Japan there are different niches of otakus, i.e. anime oatkus, cosplay otakus, military otakus, etc. It can be seen as a negative term, implying someone with limited social skills. However, in English the term generally refers to someone who is a dedicated fan of anime, manga, and Japanese culture, and it is not strange to find an English speaker who self-identifies as an otaku.

Anime: Hopefully this one goes without saying, but for the record, anime is the term for Japanese animation, at least in the English-speaking world. In Japan it is simply the term for any animation worldwide. Fun fact: the oldest known anime dates back to 1917!

Manga: Pronounced “mahng-guh“: Japanese comics. People of all ages read manga in Japan, and many anime series are based on manga. Traditional manga is read right to left.

Light Novel: Short, illustrated Japanese novels, often aimed at young adults. The writing style is simplistic and dialogue-driven. Many anime series are based on light novels.

Vampire Knight is a quintessential shojo manga.

Shojo: Also known as shōjo or shoujo, this descriptor implies anything meant for young girls. For example, shojo manga are comics intended for an audience of young girls, and often center on romance and female heroines.

Shonen: Also known as shōnen or shounen, this descriptor implies anything meant for young boys. For example, shonen manga are comics intended for an audience of young boys, and often center on action and male heroes.

Moe: Pronounced “mo-eh,” this one is tricky to define. It refers to a deep adoration of specific fictional characters, such as a love of butlers or girls who wear glasses. However, it’s also a particular type of “cute” or “adorable,” most often concerning (but not limited to) young female anime characters. Moe can also be used as an interjection within an anime to refer to a character considered to be a moekko: attractive, young, and cute.

OHSHC is a shojo reverse harem with bishōnen characters and elements of moe and cosplay.

Harem: A subgenre of anime and manga involving a central protagonist surrounded by three or more members of the opposite sex who each harbor romantic feelings for the protagonist. Traditional harems feature a central male character surrounded by females, but reverse harems with a central female character surrounded by males have grown in popularity. There are also other forms of harems such as yuri and yaoi.

Yuri: A genre of Japanese culture focusing on lesbians, most commonly associated with anime and manga. Yuri audiences can be female or male.

Yaoi: A genre of Japanese culture focusing on gay males, most commonly associated with anime and manga and targeted towards a female audience. This differs from bara, which is created by and for gay men.

Bishōnen: Japanese term for a “pretty boy;” a young male with androgynous beauty and feminine characteristics who can exhibit fluid sexuality. Often bishōnen break down gender stereotypes by being lithe, graceful, and beautiful (i.e. “feminine”) but displaying strong skills in combat and athletics (i.e. “masculine” as well). On the other hand, the term bishōjo is not an exact opposite of bishōnen, but rather a young and beautiful female, often with characteristics of moe.

Kämpfer is an excellent example of yuri ecchi fan service.

Fan Service: Also known as fanservice, this is an anime/manga term for anything overtly sexual, violent, or otherwise gratuitous included solely for the benefit of the fans and not necessarily for the enhancement of the story. There are many types of fan service, but more often than not it refers to sexual titillation.

Ecchi: Specifically sexual innuendoes included in anime and manga. It is considered playfully perverse and naughty, though no actual sex takes place in ecchi anime, as opposed to outright pornography.

Hentai: In Japanese it refers to works of sexual perversion, but in English it is applied to any anime, manga, or computer game with pornography. (Sorry kids, you’ll have to Google that one yourselves.)

Origin: Spirits of the Past is an anime feature film with elements of mecha.

Mecha: A Japanese term referring to all types of mechanical objects. A mecha anime focuses primarily on robots.

OVA: Abbreviated term for “original video animation,” this is the Japanese equivalent of a direct-to-video or straight to DVD release.

Cosplay: Abbreviated term for “costume play,” cosplay involves dressing up to portray any fictional character or idea, though it is often a term used in conjunction with anime, manga, and video game characters.

I hope that this little primer helps as you read my reviews. Before you know it, you too will talk nerdy with the biggest otakus at the anime convention.

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