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Welcome to the Anime Dictionary! In this section, I've put a bunch of key terms that you'll probably hear if you're involved in anime fandom. So if you're eager to learn some anime jargon, I hope this little dictionary helps!
Anime: Japanese for "animation" or "cartoons." In American fandom however, it's used to refer to any form of animation produced in Japan. Anime comes in the form of animated TV shows or movies, video games, and comic books (see Manga). For a much more detailed description of what anime is, click here
AMV: stands for Anime Music Video. AMVs are videos made by fans that feature scenes from anime together with audio from another source such as English songs, dialogue or music from another TV show, or movie trailers. The best AMVs are praised for their good video editing techniques and cleverness in choosing the best anime scenes to go with the chosen song or dialogue.
Baka: Japanese for "stupid," "idiot," or "fool." One of the most common Japanese words used by many American fans to describe people who are, well, bakas!
BGM: stands for "background music." This refers to the background music of an anime TV series, video game, or movie. They're usually fairly common and popular tracks among many anime soundtrack CDs.
Bi-: a prefix denoting beauty. A "bishoujo" is a young and beautiful girl and a "bishonen" is an attractive and often effeminate boy.
Cel: during the early years of modern anime, each anime show and movie was mostly hand-drawn, colored, and put together using thousands of animation cels made by the original animators. In the early 2000s, all animation studios switched to digital animation and cels were no longer necessary. Nowadays anime cels function solely as collectors' items and can be sold for high prices, especially if they feature popular characters.
Chibi (CB): Japanese for "small," "little," or "young." A "chibi" style drawing of an anime character usually depicts them as being baby-like, with smaller, chubbier bodies, larger eyes and head, and shorter arms and legs. Chibi characters are usually made to be extremely cute and endearing, and it's not uncommon for even villainous characters to be drawn as such. CB is an acronym for Child Body, and is a prefix indicating a chibi style. Artists draw their characters like this from time to time as a sort of "self-parody" (fans love them as well).
CLAMP: an extremely famous and popular all-female manga creating team made up of Nanase Ohkawa, Mokona Apapa, Mick Nekoi, and Satsuki Igarashi. Some of their most famous works include Magic Knight Rayearth (which was their first breakthrough hit), Cardcaptor Sakura (which became the #1 shoujo manga series in Japan in 1996), Clover, Angelic Layer, and Chobits. All of their works are focused mainly on the characters' relationships and inner conflicts, and the sheer beauty of their stories show that you don't need tons of fighting and action to get an impacting message across.
Cosplay: short for "costume play." Cosplay is the act of dressing up as an anime character. Many fans tend to do this at big anime conventions such as Anime Expo.
Doujinshi: Japanese for "fanzine." Doujinshi refers to unofficial manga produced by fans. These fan-made stories can use already existing anime and manga characters or original ones. They're usually distributed online, but in Japan, some of the better doujinshi is sold in stores.
Dub: refers to editing out the original dialogue of a foreign TV show or movie and replacing it with dialogue of a different language. In the anime world, the "dub" refers to the English language version of an anime.
Ecchi: derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the letter "H" (from the Japanese word "hentai," which means "pervert"). It refers to anime with an amount of sometimes humorous indecency, usually involving gratituous nudity and sexual situations. However, it's milder than hentai (see Hentai.)
Ending theme: also called an "ending song" or "outro". Refers to the song sung at the end of every episode of an anime series while the end credits role, along with a sequence of animation that usually flows with the words of the song. Almost every anime has an ending theme that usually changes each season or if the anime's plot changes significantly. The ending theme is almost always followed by a preview of the anime's next episode, and is usually more calm, slow, and gentle than the opening theme.
Eyecatch: a quick animation sequence shown in the middle of practically every single anime episode to signify the beginning and ending of a commercial break. The eyecatch is different with each anime but it usually includes the anime's logo.
Fandub: like a fansub (see Fansub), except rather than adding subtitles, the Japanese dialogue is edited out and replaced with a fan-made English dialogue. Fandubs are much rarer than fansubs.
Fansub: refers to an anime episode or movie with subtitles made by fans themselves and not by official companies. They are distributed among the anime market mostly via the Internet. They are very popular among anime fans because many fansubs are made for episodes or movies of anime that hasn't yet been officially released and dubbed/subtitled by American companies. Depending on who you ask, they could be considered somewhat illegal, but so far they're generally tolerated since most fansubbers create fansubs purely out of passion and not to make a profit. Also, fansubs help promote the anime market and they open opportunities for American companies to acquire the rights to anime shows that are currently popular fansubs.
Fan fic: short for "fan fiction". Refers to original stories written by fans using already existing anime/manga characters and plot lines.
Fan art: art made by fans depicting characters from an anime or manga.
Fan service: usually used to refer to scenes in anime that don't have much purpose but are there mainly to please any adolescent male viewers. Such scenes include a female character taking a shower or bath, having her panties show, etc. On a more positive note, fan service could also refer to anything shown in an anime that is unrelated to the story but is pleasing to the fans, such as cute animals, flashy outfits, or cool action scenes.
Filler: refers to an episode of an anime series that does not occur in the series' original manga (and thus, not created by the original author). The purpose of filler episodes is to give the manga time to catch up with the anime or to make the anime last longer than the manga. Since the stories of filler episodes are not made by the series' original creator, they usually involve events in which nothing extremely significant is done or accomplished that affects the actual main storyline. Instead, these episodes usually focus more on character development, or they could just be randomly funny or cute episodes in an otherwise serious or action-packed anime series.
Graphic novel: a book made up of chapters from a manga series. They're usually around 150 to 200 pages long. Most manga is originally sold in a series of chapters in weekly magazines. About 10 of these chapters make up a graphic novel. The Japanese word for graphic novel is "tankouban" (see Tankouban).
Hentai: Japanese for "pervert." Hentai is an actual genre of anime that includes major nudity and sexual situations.
Hiragana: Japanese characters/letters used for words of Japanese origin only or words without a based Chinese kanji reading. Japanese grammar particles and certain Japanese names are also written in hiragana.
Image song: a song from an anime sung by one of its characters usually about his/her thoughts and feelings. These songs are usually only heard on the anime's soundtrack CDs and are always sung by the actual voice actor/actress of the character.
J-pop and J-rock: refers to Japanese popular or rock music, similar to English pop and rock but with its own unique sound. A lot of anime use existing songs by Japanese artists and almost all of them have at least one available soundtrack CD (usually the longer and more popular an anime is, the more soundtracks it gets).
Japanime(tion): an old Americanized word used to refer to Japanese animation (see Anime).
Kanji: Japanese characters/letters based directly on Chinese writing. Each kanji usually has a specific meaning and several readings.
Katakana: Japanese characters/letters used to write words of a foreign origin. Fantasy-based words, sound effects, and some characters' names are written in katakana.
Kawaii: Japanese for "cute." A very popular word used among American anime fans used to describe things that are, well, cute.
Manga: Japanese for "comics". In American fandom it's used to refer to Japanese comics specifically. Unlike American comics which are basically limited to the superhero and comedy genres, the manga industry is enormous in Japan and manga encompasses an extremely wide range of genres and tastes. Most anime TV shows have a manga series that they're based on.
Mecha: a genre of anime/manga that involves giant, often anthropomorphic robots that are usually piloted by humans. Examples of mecha anime include Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam Wing, and Robotech.
Moe: Moe typically refers to the archetype of cute, warm, innocent, and often times under-age girls in anime that evoke some passion or arousal from male viewers. The stereotypical moe character is a cute, polite, naive, submissive, and vulnerable young girl who makes others want to protect or support her, or to simply feel relaxed and content with her, not necessarily in a sexual way. However, moe could also refer to any character that evokes these kinds of "moe" feelings in a viewer.
Miyazaki, Hayao: One of the best and most well-known anime movie directors of all time. Along with his friend Isao Takahata, he founded his own animation studio, Studio Ghibli, and has produced many well-loved films. Some of his most famous works include My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Laputa: the Castle in the Sky, and Spirited Away. All of his films have a universal feel to them, involving characters and situations that anyone could relate to. As Miyazaki once said, his movies are for "those who will be ten years old and those who have been ten years old."
OAV or OVA: stands for Original Animation Video or Original Video Animation. OAVs are usually a series of anime episodes made exclusively for home video release and not for TV or cinema. OAV's usually have longer and better episodes (since they don't have to worry about TV censorship) and better animation. An OAV could be based on an already existing anime TV series or it could be a totally original story.
Opening theme: also called an "opening song"or "intro". Refers to the song sung at the start of every episode of an anime series while the beginning credits role, much like the "theme songs" of many American TV shows. However, the songs of anime opening themes are usually much more symbolic and they're made to flow specifically with the animation being shown. Almost every anime has an opening theme that usually changes each season or if the anime's plot changes significantly. The opening theme is usually more fast-paced, exciting, and enticing than the ending theme.
OST: stands for Original Sound Track. An OST is a music CD including all of the major background music and songs from a given anime series.
Otaku: a derogatory Japanese word used to refer to anyone who's totally obsessed with any one thing. In American anime fandom however, it's less derogatory and is used to refer to someone who's obsessed with anime and manga.
Scanlation: Like a fansub, except for manga instead of anime. A scanlation of a manga is when the original Japanese writing is edited out and replaced with a fan's translation
SD: acronym for "super deformed". Similar to chibi (see Chibi) but even more smaller and chubbier.
Seiyuu: Japanese for "voice actor/actess." American anime fans use it to refer to the Japanese people who do the voices for anime characters. Like the anime shows themselves, seiyuus have their own fan following too.
Side story: a story set in the same world as an already existing anime/manga but focusing on different subjects, such as minor characters, new characters, or subtle plots that aren't really talked about in the actual series.
Shoujo: Japanese for "girl" but it's also an anime/manga genre. Shoujo anime/manga usually have a target audience of young girls and involve a lot of emotional female characters and effeminate, attractive male characters. They're drawn in a pretty, flowery, romantic style and the plots are mainly focused on character relationships and interpersonal conflicts. Examples of shoujo anime/manga include Fushigi Yugi, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Fruits Basket.
Shoujo - Ai: (see Yuri)
Shounen: Japanese for "boy" but it's also an anime/manga genre. Shounen anime/manga usually have a target audience of young boys and involve mostly fiery male characters (who usually have super powers of some kind) and evil, villainous characters (many of which eventually become good guys). They're drawn in a sharp, hard-core style and are mainly focused on fast-paced but often complex plot lines, with a lot of fighting and action scenes. Examples of shounen anime/manga include Dragon Ball Z, Yu Yu Hakusho, Bleach, and Naruto.
Shounen - Ai: (see Yaoi)
Sub: short for "subtitled." Refers to the anime in the original Japanese dialogue with subtitles in another language (usually English).
Takahashi, Rumiko: considered by many to be the best manga artist of all, she's made tons of different manga series', most of which have become extremely popular both in Japan and America. Some of her most well known titles include Inuyasha, Ranma 1/2, Maison Ikkoku, and Urusei Yatsura. A key to many of her stories' popularity is that they involve very complex relationships, ongoing plot lines, and clever humor.
Tankouban: Japanese word for a volume or graphic novel of a manga series (see Graphic Novel).
Tezuka, Osamu: considered the "father of anime," almost all modern anime are based on his drawing style (which was greatly inspired by Walt Disney) and he practically invented Japan's modern manga industry during the 1960s. A couple of his most famous works include Astro Boy, which is considered the very first modern-style anime (and the first to be released in America) and Jungle Emperor Leo, which aired in America during the 1960s under the name Kimba the White Lion.
Yaoi: an anime/manga story in which the plot is centered around a romance relationship between two male characters, usually at least one of them being very effeminate. There is a good amount of yaoi in many actual anime/manga series' but yaoi is mostly seen in the world of anime fan art and fan fics, in which the fans (usually girls) take the male characters of a particular anime/manga series and put them in gay relationships. Yaoi relationships are also referred to as "shounen-ai," meaning "boy's love."
Yuri: the same as yaoi (see Yaoi above), but with the romance relationship being between two female characters. Yuri relationships are also referred to as "shoujo-ai," meaning "girl's love."
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