WARNING: Some of the terms used are pornographic or politically incorrect, and thus are not suitable for those under 18.
The following is a glossary of Japanese pop culture terms, most of which are connected with anime and manga. However, it also covers cosplay, music, fashion and other elements of Japanese pop culture. While I try to include as many relevant terms as possible, I know that this is not complete. If you are able to provide me with any other terms, with good sources, or if I have made a mistake that needs correcting, please contact me.
I cannot list all of my sources as the list would be too long, especially all the manga sources with their useful translation notes. However, here are some of the sources I have used.
- The Anime Encyclopedia: 3rd Edition, by Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy
- Anime News Network: Lexicon
- Boys’ Love Manga, edited by Antonia Levi, Mark McHarry and Dru Pagliassotti
- Manga: The Complete Guide, by Jason Thompson
- The Rough Guide to Anime, by Simon Richmond
- The Visual Novel Database: Meta Trait: Personality
- Absolute territory: “Fan service” term, meaning the gap of visible female flesh between the skirt and thigh-length socks. Term originates from protective barrier used in Neon Genesis Evangelion (No. 21).
- Aca-fan: A fan with a scholarly interest in a particular fandom. Portmanteau of “academic fan”.
- ACG / ACGN: Anime, Comic, Game / Anime, Comic, Game, Novel; subculture in China relating to a love of these things.
- Ahegao: Pornographic term, meaning the face someone makes when they are having an orgasm (i.e. a “cum face”).
- Ahoge: A single strand of hair sticking out of a character’s forehead. It usually indicates that a character is stupid, but this is not always the case.
- Ai no ko: Politically incorrect term that was once used to an interracial child. Replaced by “konketsu”.
- Aizōban: Collector’s edition on manga.
- Akabon: “Red book”, a cheaply-produced manga, common just after the end of World War II, named after their red covers.
- Akihabara: District of the Chiyoda Ward, also known as “Akihabara Electric City” and “Akiba”, often considered to be the centre of anime culture and perhaps the most geeky place in the world.
- Alternative universe (AU): A fan-work whose character(s) are place in a setting other than the one in their normal canon.
- Amecomi: An American comic book.
- Animage: The first magazine in Japan devoted to anime. Published since 1978.
- Ani-manga: Manga which uses still images from an anime film or TV series instead of drawn pictures. Also known as “film comics” or “anime comics”.
- Animate: The largest anime retailer in Japan.
- Anime: Animation from Japan.
- Anime club: Any club, normally at school or university, devoted to the study and appreciation of anime and manga.
- Animegao kigurumi: A form of cosplay in which the cosplayer wears a masked costume to look more like the character in question.
- AnimeJapan: The most famous anime event in Japan, normally held in March.
- Anime Music Video (AMV): The act of taking clips from one or more anime series and editing them to a piece of music, so that the track fits the resulting video.
- Anison: Songs used in an anime.
- Aniparo: Anime characters being used by fans in a parodic way.
- Aristocrat: A form of Japanese street fashion. A more mature version of the “lolita” style.
- Bakunyū: Pornographic material, including anime, depicting women with large breasts.
- Bara: Male homoerotic manga marketed at men. Also known as “Men’s Love (ML)”.
- Bessatsu: A supplement, often used in the titles of manga magazines like Bessatsu Margaret.
- Bifauxnen: A female character who positively represents themselves in a masculine/androgynous guise.
- Bishōjo: An attractive female character.
- Bishōnen: An attractive male character.
- Bokukko: A tomboy character, normally a female character who uses male pronouns.
- Boys’ love (BL): Anime and manga focusing on male gay relationships, marketed at women. See also “shōnen-ai” and “yaoi”.
- Bunkoban: A pocket edition of collected manga, considered superior to the standard “tankōbon”.
- Butler café: A café where men dress up as European-style butlers and serve mainly female customers. See also “maid café”.
- Cameko: Photographer or picture taker, normally for cosplayers.
- Catboy / Catgirl: Common form of “kemonomimi” in which a male / female character has a mostly human body but with cat-like body parts, such as pointy cat ears, a tail. Sometimes they also have cat-like fangs and claws.
- Chibi: “Shorty” or “Little one”. Often used in English speaking places to mean a “super-deformed” character appearance.
- Chokyo: A brand of pornographic anime and manga, concerned with the “breaking in” of new sexual conquests through abuse and domination.
- Chūnibyō: A character, often in their mid-teens, who constantly pretends to act like some kind of made-up character. For example, a character who pretends all the time to be a vampire or have some form of magical powers, has a strange form of speech and may have their own outfit or props.
- Comiket (Comic Market): Bi-annual convention/trade fair in Tokyo selling “dojinshi”.
- Compilation movie: A film version of a TV anime which mainly consists of clips from the original series.
- Coodere: See “kūdere”.
- Cosplay: To dress up as a character from an anime, manga, comic strip, video game, TV show, film etc.
- Cosplay group: Group of more than one cosplayer wearing the cosplay from the same work, series or theme, often getting together to take photos.
- Cours: A television season, normally 13 episodes long.
- Dakimakura: A large pillow. In the west it is associated with a “love pillow” and some are often depicted with anime or manga characters in suggestive poses. Sometimes wrongly confused with “waifu”.
- Dandere: A usually emotionless character who later displays a softer, more romantic side.
- Death game: Proposed anime and manga genre. Defined by this author as: “A series in which the central protagonist(s) is / are forced to take part in some sort of game or contest which involves having to kill the other competitors at the risk of being killed themselves. The story follows their efforts to win the game and thus at least escape with their life/lives and possibly to win something else too.”
- Decora: A form of Japanese street fashion, the main element of which is to decorate yourself with as many accessories as possible.
- Dōga: Moving pictures. Term of used in the names of anime studios.
- Dojikko: A clumsy female character.
- Dōjin: A group of people or friends who share an interest, activity, hobby or achievement.
- Dōjinshi: Self-published work.
- Dōjinshika: Creators of dōjinshi.
- Donkan: A character who is bad at understanding other people’s emotions.
- Dubtitling: Using a dubbing script as the source for a work’s subtitles.
- Ecchi: Pornographic anime and manga. Term comes from the Japanese pronunciation of the letter “H”, coming from the word “Hentai”.
- E-conté: Anime storyboards.
- Eroge: Video game featuring erotic content.
- Fan service: Things added to an anime or manga that have no connection to the plot, often used to treat viewers and fans. These include in-jokes and / or mild sexual content.
- Fansub: A fan-made subtitling or re-subtitling, normally from one language into another, of a TV show or film. Most associated with anime and usually illegal.
- Fifteening: The act of making an anime seem more adult and controversial than it really is by boosting its certificate rating to at least a 15. For example, by adding excessive swearing when dubbing it into English.
- Figua: A plastic model of an anime or manga character.
- Figure moe zoku: An “otaku” who collects figurines.
- Filler: Anime episodes not based on the original manga, normally added to allow the source manga to catch up with the anime adaptation.
- Flipped: A manga that when released outside of Japan has been published to head left-to-right, to make it easier to be read by western audiences not familiar with reading the right-to-left Japanese style.
- Fudanshi: A male “yaoi” fan. The terms comes the Japanese phrase for “rotten boy”.
- Fujoshi: A female “yaoi” fan. The term comes from the Japanese phrase for “rotten woman”.
- Futanari: Hermaphrodism. Often used to describe characters who are hermaphrodites.
- Gachapon: Small toy models, sometimes of anime characters, that are placed in plastic capsules and sold from vending machines. Onomatopoeic term, coming from “gacha”, the sound of the machine handle being turned, and “pon”, the sound of the capsule dropping.
- Gag-manga: Any manga that is purely humorous.
- Gaiden: A side story, such as a sequel or non-canonical spin-off.
- Gaijin: A foreigner or non-Japanese person. The term is now considered by many to be politically incorrect, and is now replaced with the term “gaikokujin” (“foreign-country person”).
- Galge: Video game featuring attractive female anime characters, normally aimed at a male audience.
- Ganguro: A form of ladies street fashion in Japan consisting of a deep tan and lots of make-up. The term literally means “black face”.
- Ga-nime: “Still-animated” video release, using still images and voice-overs.
- Garage kit: An assembly scale model, normally cast in resin and in Japan usually of anime characters.
- Gei komi: Male homoerotic / homoromatic manga aimed at men. Literally “gay comics”.
- Gekiga: A 1960s movement among some manga artists to create more sophisticated, adult alternative manga. Translates as “dramatic pictures”.
- Gekkan: Monthly. Tends to be used in terms of a manga magazine that is released monthly.
- Genki: An energetic female character.
- Girls’ love (GL): Anime and manga focusing on lesbian relationships. See also “shōjo-ai” and “yuri”.
- GloBL: The general spread of “boys’ love” around the globe. Coined by American yaoi author Tina Anderson.
- Gosurori: Gothic “lolita fashion”.
- Guro: Anime and manga which feature excessive violence, torture and death.
- Half: An interracial person.
- Hanami: Cherry blossoms. Often feature in anime / manga to indicate the changing seasons or a dramatic event.
- Haraguro: A character who is outwardly friendly, but inwardly cruel, sadistic and often villainous.
- Harajuku: District of Tokyo famous for its influence on fashion.
- Harem: Anime and manga genre, in which a character is surrounded by many other characters of the opposite genre, normally a male character surrounded by lots of female characters. See also “reverse harem”.
- Henshin: A sequence in an anime or manga involving a transformation. These include a character engaging superpowers or a “mecha” transforming into a different mode.
- Hentai: Mainly English term for pornographic anime and manga. Comes from the Japanese for “perverted”.
- Hetare: A character who is very inept and hopeless at most tasks.
- Hikikomori: An extreme form of recluse who withdraws from all forms of social life, often refusing to leave their own house for long periods.
- Himedere: A character who wants to be treated like royalty.
- Host / Hostess club: A form of night-time entertainment where men / women entertain women / men, by doing things like making drinks, engaging in conversation etc.
- Ikuji manga: Manga about childcare.
- Isekai: A series set in a parallel world or universe. Means “alternaitve world” or “strange world”.
- Ita-: Garish or painful. Used as a prefix, it is used to describe anything that is decorated with image from an anime, manga or games. For example, an “itasha” is a car decorated with anime images (although the term is also used to describe cars from Italy).
- Japanimation: American term to describe animation from Japan, first coined in the 1970s and generally no longer used.
- Jidai-geki: Period drama.
- Josei: Anime and manga marketed at women, usually 18 years and above.
- Juné: Manga or written work featuring male homoerotic themes, normally marketed at women.
- J-pop: Japanese pop music.
- J-rock: Japanese rock music.
- Kabedon: Common dramatic troupe, in which a character, usually male, will corner someone, normally a female love interest, against a wall by facing her and hitting their hand against the wall behind them. Comes from the words “kabe” (wall) and “don” (onomatopoeic term for the sound of a blunt impact or object).
- Kaijū: A giant monster, e.g. Godzilla. Translates as “mysterious creature”.
- Kakutō manga: Martial arts manga.
- Kamidere: A character with a God-complex.
- Kanedere: A character obsessed with money.
- Kantoku: Director.
- Kanzenban: A complete edition of a manga.
- Kazoku manga: Manga aimed at families.
- Kashibonya: A rental bookshop. Often used in the 1960s, especially in Osaka, to access hardback manga. Used by manga artists because they offered greater freedom to experiment at the cost of lower pay. Went out of business after people started buying manga rather than renting it.
- Kawaii: Cuteness, and anything cute in Japanese culture.
- Keitai anime / manga: Anime / manga distributed over mobile phone.
- Kemono: Anime, manga or other form of art featuring animal-like characters in human settings or situations.
- Kemonomimi: Characters with mostly human bodies but with some form animal aspects, usually ears and tails. Examples include “catgirls”.
- Key visual: A high-resolution image that is used to promote an anime, film etc., which can be used on promotional material such as posters. Also known as “key art” in the USA.
- Kibyōshi: “Yellow cover”. An illustrated picture book produced from woodblock prints, dating from the 18th and 19th century, often with satirical and political themes.
- Kichigai: Politically incorrect term that was once used to describe the mentally and learning disabled. May appear in early anime. Literally “crazy person”.
- Kigurumi: A character costume, akin to a mascot in the west, although in the west the term is more commonly used to mean an animal onesie.
- Kodomo / Kodomomuke: Anime and manga aimed at children.
- Kojin sākuru: A sākuru [see below] consisting of just one person. Literally a “personal circle”.
- Konketsu: An interracial person. Literally “mixed blood”. Politically correct version of the phrase “ai no ko”.
- K-pop: South Korean pop music.
- K-rock: South Korean rock music.
- Kūdere: A usually female character that is normally cold and harsh to others, but eventually reveals a kinder side to them. Also written as “coodere”.
- Kuronobou: Politically incorrect term that was once used to refer to people with dark suntans. May appear in early anime. Literally “blackie”.
- Layer: Abbreviated term for “cosplayer”.
- Light novel: A form of novel or short story collection, usually marketed at schoolchildren. Typically between 40,000-50,000 words and less than 200 pages.
- Lolicon: An attraction to underage girls and name given to anime and manga which features such attraction. Term is a portmanteau of “Lolita complex”. See also “shotacon”.
- Lolita fashion: A form of fashion in Japan usually featuring Victorian style clothing. The term and fashion has no connection to “lolicon”.
- MAD Movie: A fan-made music video with extra effects, akin to the “anime music video”, but not strictly anime related.
- Magical girl: Anime and manga genre featuring girls with superpowers. “Magical boys” also exist, but is much rarer.
- Maid café: A café where women dress up as European-style maids and serve mainly male customers. See also “butler café”.
- Manga: A comic strip from Japan.
- Mangaka: A comic book artist from Japan.
- Manhua: A comic strip from China, Hong Kong or Taiwan.
- Manhwa: A comic strip from Korea.
- Manhwaga: A comic book artist from Korea.
- Matsuri: A festival.
- Mayadere: A character who starts off as being very violent and villainous, but later then switches sides and becomes nice. A form of “tsundere”.
- Mecha: A form of piloted robotic tank, usually bipedal. Also name of the genre covering anime and manga that feature such machines.
- Megane: A male character wearing glasses.
- Meganekko: A female character wearing glasses.
- Moe: Budding, in the scene of someone’s young beauty un-flowering.
- Moe anthropomorphism: Cute personifications of certain objects or concepts.
- MyM: The most recent magazine concerning anime, manga and other aspects of Far Eastern entertainment in the UK, first published in May 2012 and released monthly. Also covers Western entertainment.
- Nanshoku: Male-male love, implying an age-discrepant relationship, often between an adolescent and a young adult or adult. Common in Japan’s Edo period (1603-1858).
- Neo: Oldest magazine covering anime, manga and other aspects for Far Eastern entertainment in the UK that is still being printed, first published in December 2004 and released monthly.
- Netorare (NTR): To be cuckolded. Often used in pornographic anime.
- Newtype: Monthly magazine about anime and manga, published in Japan since 1985. Name comes from a term coined in Mobile Suit Gundam (No. 2).
- Nipponbashi: Shopping district in Naniwa, Osaka, known for selling anime and manga related material. Considered to be Osaka’s version of “Akihabara”.
- Non-con (n/c): A non-consensual relationship.
- Non-school: Proposed anime and manga genre. Defined by this author as: “A series in which the central location is a school or other educational establishment which would never exist in real-life.”
- Odagiri effect: TV phenomenon in which a show gains a larger number of women viewers because the male actors or characters are attractive.
- Ojou: A wealthy, upper-class female character.
- Okama: A cross dressing male character.
- Omake: A DVD/Blu-ray extra.
- Only event / Onlies: A cosplay event that is only open to people cosplaying a particular work, genre or theme.
- OP / ED: Opening theme / ending theme of an anime. In TV anime these sequences tend to be 90 seconds long.
- Original character: Any character created by a fan for their own work.
- Original English-Language manga (OEL manga): A comic written in the English language but drawn in the manga style. See: “world manga”.
- Original Net Animation (ONA): An anime which is debuted online.
- Original Video Animation (OVA): A straight-to-video anime release.
- Osananajimi: A childhood friend.
- Otaku: Usually used in Japan as an insult to refer to someone with an obsessive interest in something, usually anime or manga, but it is not limited to just these. Akin to the British insult “anorak”. In English the term is normally used to describe any anime or manga fan, and is not normally considered an insult.
- Otaku USA: Currently the only American magazine covering anime and manga, first published in August 2007 and released bimonthy.
- Otome: A story based video game, normally marketed at women.
- Otome Road: Nickname for a road in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo that specialises in anime and manga for women, including boys’ love and yaoi.
- Otokonoko: See “okama”.
- Panchira: Term used by women to warn other women that their underwear is visible. Also used to mean a panty shot and thus is associated with “fan service”.
- Pesudomanga: A western comic that pretends to be manga. See also “Original English-language manga”.
- Pettanko: A female character who is flat-chested.
- Ponchi-e: An early form of 19th century manga. Named after the British satirical publication Punch.
- Q-version: Chinese term for the cartoonifaction of a serious or real-life subject, in particular when it is done in anime.
- Real Robot: A “mecha” series in which the mecha are realistic and have believable attributes.
- Redicomi: Ladies’ comics. See “josei”.
- Rekishi manga: Historical manga.
- Reverse harem: Anime and manga genre in which a female character is surrounded by many male characters. See also “harem”.
- Ryōri manga: Manga about cooking.
- Sadodere: A sadistic character.
- Sākuru: A group of dōjinshika. Literally a “circle”, like a literarily circle.
- Salaryman: A white-collar worker.
- Scanlation: The act of scanning a foreign-language comic, normally manga, and translating the words into another language. Usually illegal.
- Second Dimension / 2-D: Anything connected to anime or manga, as opposed to the real “Third Dimension / 3-D” world.
- Seiji manga: Political manga.
- Seinen: Anime and manga marketed at men, usually 18 years and above.
- Seiyū: An anime voice actor.
- Seme: The dominant partner in a “boys’ love”, “shōnen-ai” or “yaoi”.
- Sentai: Genre of TV show featuring colourfully costumed, masked heroes. Originally a military term meaning “task force” or “regiment”.
- Shin: New. Word often added into manga titles to indicate a sequel.
- Shōjo: Anime and manga marketed at girls, usually 10 years and above.
- Shōjo-ai: Anime and manga featuring romantic lesbian relationships, rather than erotic.
- Shōnen: Anime and manga marketed at boys, usually 10 years and above.
- Shōnen-ai: Anime and manga featuring romantic male homosexual relationships, rather than erotic.
- Shotacon: An attraction to underage boys and name given to anime and manga which features such attraction. See also “lolicon”.
- Show–panties: Cosplay term for underwear that cosplyers do not mind showing to people, normally worn when a cosplayer is wearing a short skirt.
- Shūken: Weekly. Tends to be used in terms of a manga magazine that is released monthly.
- Shunga: Erotic woodwork prints.
- Spo-kon: Formula for a sports manga story, often featuring a hero from a poor background suffering hardship, who through hard work manages to succeed, often assissted by a harsh coach or father, often nicknamed a “oni coach” (devil coach). Term comes from the words “sports” and “konjō” (guts, determination).
- Story manga: Manga that has an ongoing plot. The opposite to a “gag manga”.
- Super-Deformed (SD): See “chibi”.
- Super Robot: A “mecha” series in which the mecha are fantastical and taken to unrealistic extremes.
- Tankōbon: A collection of manga strips from a particular series or creator which is reprinted in volume, usually a paperback book, akin to a graphic novel in English.
- Tentacle porn: Erotica featuring a monster or machine with tentacles having sex with someone. Also includes “tentacle rape”.
- Third Dimension / 3-D: The real world, as opposed to anime worlds – i.e. the “Second Dimension / 2-D”.
- Toba-e: Humorous caricature sketches from the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Tokusatsu: Special effects, especially in live-action shows and the name used to describe such shows that feature large amounts of special effects.
- Tokyo Big Sight: Nickname for the Tokyo International Exhibition Centre, Japan’s biggest convention centre. In Ariake area.
- Tokyo Dome: The largest venue in Japan. Mainly used as the home for the Yomiuri Giants baseball, but also used for music concerts and other sporting events. In Bunkyō area.
- Tokyo Fashion Town Building (TFT): Building near to Tokyo Big Sight that often holds cosplay event.
- Tokyo Ryutsu Centre (TRC): Building that consists of distribution centres, exhibition hall and offices, hosting anime and cosplay events. In Heiwajima area.
- Tokyo Telecom Centre: Another area used by anime / cosplay events. In Aomi area.
- Tsundere: Character that is usually cold and hostile, but eventually shows a more friendly side.
- Tsundoku: To collect lots of books and letting them pile up unread, the greatest such book being your “King’s Newton”.
- Tsunshun: Similar to a “tsundere”, but also depressed.
- Tsuri manga: Fishing/angling manga.
- Uke: The submissive partner in a “boys’ love”, “shōnen-ai” or “yaoi”.
- Ukiyo-e: Colourful woodblock prints popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Unflipped: A manga that when published outside of Japan remains in the original right-to-left Japanese reading format, or a manga that was once flipped that has been republished back to the original Japanese style.
- Utsushi-e: Magic lantern show. Popular form of entertainment in Japan before the invention of movies.
- Visual kei: Form of Japanese fashion and music, similar to glam rock, punk or heavy metal, associated with flamboyant costumes, hair and make-up. There is debate about whether it is the look or the music that defines visual kei.
- Visual novel: A video game, often consisting mainly of narration and has few interactive elements. Outside of Japan, the term is used to both this sort of game and adventure games which consist of problem-solving and other elements.
- Waifu: A fictional character, such as one from an anime or manga, that you are attracted to or even love like a real-life partner.
- Weeaboo: English slang for a typically non-Japanese person who is totally obsessed with Japan and its culture over their own native culture, and believes it is superior to all others, to the point the weeaboo becomes incredibly annoying to everyone else around them.
- Wideban: “Wide edition”, a manga printed on larger paper in comparison to tankōbon, normally in paperback and designed to be cheap.
- World manga: Any work created in the manga of anime/manga style which does not come from Japan. See also “Original English-Language manga”.
- X-listed: A hypothetical anime or manga that would be so scandalous that the government would block any commercial release of it, and would put on a list of works that would be deemed too offensive to show. For more information see “The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, Extra VIII”.
- Yandere: Character who at first is friendly, loving and kind, but eventually their love becomes disturbed, twisted and destructive.
- Yankii – A delinquent youth.
- Yangire – A mentally ill character that “snaps” and attacks their victim without affection.
- Yaoi: Male homoerotic manga marketed at women, usually pornographic.
- Yonkoma: A manga comic strip which usually consists of four panels in a column. It is similar in style to the three-panel comic strip usually seen in newspapers in English speaking places.
- Young: Anyone aged between their late teens and early twenties.
- Yuri: Lesbian manga and anime. Can be romantic or pornographic.
- Zettai ryōiki: See “absolute territory”.
- Zōkan: A special edition, often used to refer to one-shots and spin-offs of manga magazines.
In Japan there is a wide range of honorific titles that are given to people. Unlike English titles like Mr., Mrs. Miss, Ms., etc., most of these are gender neutral. However, the way these are used are important in Japan, and in anime and manga give you an idea of the relationships between the characters.
If one does not use an honorific, it is normally considered very rude. Not using an honorific is usually only allowed unless the people using it are very good friends or are intimate with each other. Here is a mini-glossary of the more common honorifics.
- –san: The most common. Can be used in just about any situation and covers Mr., Mrs., Miss., Ms., etc.
- –sama: More respectful version of -san.
- –kun: Normally used by people in a senior position to address male juniors.
- –chan: Used as a form of endearment. Mostly used towards girls, but can be used towards boys, grandparents, lovers, friends, pets, etc.
- –bo: Akin to -chan, but normally only directed at boys.
- Oni-san/One-san: Big brother/Big sister.
- Ni-chan/Ne-chan: Little brother/Little sister.
- -senpai: Used towards one’s old colleagues: e.g., a student addressing a fellow student who is senior to them.
- –kohai: Used towards one’s younger colleagues: e.g., a senior student addressing a young student.
- –sensei: People of senior positions, such as teachers, doctors and other masters and mistresses.
- -cos: When added to the name of a fictional character, implies the person is cosplaying them.
Some anime feature their own honorifics. For example, in K-On! (No. 28) the character of Azusa once puts on a pair of toy cat ears and thus ends up being addressed regularly throughout the rest of the series as “Azu-nyan”. “Nyan” is Japanese for “Meow”by