Anime & manga grammar syntax and vocabulary 101


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My attempt at helping the newbies and engage the seasoned fans in debate about terms and categorizations

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Anime & manga grammar syntax and vocabulary 101

  1. 1. By Foxy Lady Ayame
  2. 2. Hello, there! Welcome to this guide for those interested in exploring the world of anime and manga, but are still newbies and kinda lost. Older fans might find it interesting as well, since there is an effort to untangle many terms and clarify their meaning. This project is, in other words, a venture into the basic structures, forms and vocabulary of the field; not a big recommendation or top xnumber list. Don’t worry though; the last section points you towards handy books and sites  Hopefully, you’ll enjoy reading it! Disclaimer: The rights to the pictures belong to their respective owners.
  3. 3. SYNTAX VOCABULARY  Intro Suffixes & Honorifics Categories Character Types Subcategories Design Characteristics Genres Subgenres Themes GRAMMAR Sources Format Technical Terms RECOMMENDED BIBLIOGRAPHY & OTHER RESOURCES If you want to read a specific chapter, just click on it.
  4. 4. When you search for a title, you’ll probably want to stick to something that has similar traits with what you’ve enjoyed in the past. That’s why classification is important. Although not entirely trustworthy for reasons explained later, it’s still a map of a labyrinth. What is often encountered in attempts of seasoned fans to show the way out is a mess of labels, like someone has lumped everything in a huge bag. ‘Shoujo’ is followed by the terms ‘sci-fi’ and ‘sports’ in the same post/thread. The term genre itself is very loosely defined. For the sake of clarity this is the classification in this guide: Categories have to do with the content being true or completely made-up Subcategories relate to whom (age & sex) the content is addressed Genres are about reality factor of the setting Subgenres answer to the question ‘how does this anime/manga make me feel?’ Themes or elements are what they sound like; extra information on the types of relationships, action, setting etc. P.S.: Publishers, anime production studios, retailers and marketers actually capitalize on such a classification since they can better promote their products.
  5. 5. Fiction or Non-fiction Demographics Daily Life, Sci-fi, Fantasy Action, Comedy, Drama etc. Sports, Cooking, Yuri, Yaoi etc. This classification may be more useful to bloggers than simple fans who care to know only the basic terms. Reminder: This is a subjective classification, so it’s not without flaws.
  6. 6. • Describes imaginary events and people • Based on real facts, usually a biography or autobiography Non-fiction is rare in manga and much rarer in anime. The most recent Miyazaki film The Wind Rises treads thinly between fiction and non-fiction because although the story in the film follows the historical account of Horikoshi's aircraft development chronologically, the rendition of his private life is entirely fictional. But A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi is certainly an autobiography, while Showa: A History Of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki is a mix of autobiography with historical account of that era.
  7. 7. Anime and manga are usually grouped (at stores) by their demographic target, hence by age and sex: Minna (=everything) usually refers to ‘family movies’ like the Ghibli ones. In the manga world has appeared the last years what is called the fifth column and are for “anyone who wants to read” them Kodomo (=child) targets children till the age of 11-12 Shoujo are addressed at girls and shounen at boys, both an audience roughly between the ages of 10 and 16 In a similar way josei are marketed to women and seinen to men of 15/18+ years old
  8. 8. The famous Ghibli studio produces movies that can be enjoyed by all members of a family. It’s the Japanese equivalent of Disney, though soaked in Japanese culture (spirits, more violent or scary scenes by the western standards etc) and with stronger female leads. – On the top left a scene from My Neighbor Totoro. The bear-like forest spirit is also the emblem of the studio. In the Minna category also belong anime or manga that are adapted from literature classics, like Anne of Green Gambles below on the right, Heidi in the middle and Moomin on the left.
  9. 9. The ‘Fifth column’ refers to a category that you can’t specify where exactly it targets. The audience can be female or male and comes from different age groups, although it seems it’s not for the young readers. Probably it was created after publishing houses speculated that shounen are also read by many girls and certain shoujo appeal to boys, too. The thought behind this fifth column must have been to attract as many and diverse readers they could, since specific categorization might have pulled away some readers. – On the right: Manga erotics f and Comic Beans (magazines that publish such manga). For more about the ‘Fifth Column’ visit this page
  10. 10. For very young kids Kodomo are pretty much innocent entertainment involving personified animals or other animal-like creatures. Especially for the preschoolers, talking animals are the protagonists of every day stories that reflect the achievements done, steps towards growth the kids made and the interests they have. The story may revolve around adventures and pranks, too. But usually the stories have didactic/ moralistic character. Hamtaro, Doraemon and Hello Kitty on the left.
  11. 11. As the children grow older, the stories get more antagonistic, despite the fact that friendship is a steady value in all of them. This can be explained through the roots of most of these titles, which are adapted from video games (with the purpose to promote them and other merchandize). Battles, contests, gadgets and evolutions are very prominent traits. ‘Bad guys’ make an appearance once in awhile, but rivals are the standard. Medabots, Digimon, Bayblades and Pokemon on the right.
  12. 12. Pretty design? Especially pretty (androgynous) boys? Lots of sparkles and flowers blooming out of nowhere? Pink in ample doses? That’s certainly shoujo. Girls lust after –or are conditioned to if you want- cute things and romance, so there’s a bit of this almost in every shoujo story. Wish fulfillment is a common denominator among all teens and of course girls aren’t excluded. For that reason, be it love, friendship or strength are offered in these fictional worlds in spades. Your true love will come along with one, two, three or more behind him to fight for your heart. And you can be a warrior of justice who kicks asses in ribbons and frills. Below: Strobe Edge, Skip Beat, Sailor Moon, Uta no Prince-sama.
  13. 13. Rough design especially for the male characters -which may highlight their masculinity- is one way of knowing you are watching/reading something addressed to boys. As the latter grow up, “hormones rage” and therefore female characters in shounen have rich ‘assets’ along with a clumsiness that not only makes them cute but also more prone to reveal their panties. Innocence is shred for wish-fullfillment in great adventures, upcoming stars in sports or girls flocking around a simpleton. Thus, things get more violent and more lewd. The older the central character is, the more the possibility of a complex story with morals on stake rises as well. Below: To Love Ru, One Piece, Slam Dunk, Fullmetal Alchemist.
  14. 14. Josei is the smallest demographic out of the four main with the smallest circulation in manga and the least visibility in anime. Visually may not be clearly distinguishable from its cousin, seinen, but thematically is more limited to issues that concern young adults and ladies at their working place. Although there are some smutty titles in shoujo, in josei sex is actually expected but in a blasé way. Life is full of worries and life can crush you. It is not unlikely that josei titles contain homoerotic undertones, particularly when the cast has lots of males (even in non-BL titles). On the right: Usagi Drop, Honey & Clover, pink, NANA
  15. 15. The ultimate demographic for older watchers/ readers where everything is possible: bloodbaths, dark humor, more developed relationships between friends/lovers/ sometimes family, taboo themes, anti-heroes etc. Beyond the fact that the protagonists themselves are above 15 and there’s no furigana above the kanji (if you try reading Japanese manga directly), seinen is tad difficult to define. Well, if it isn’t anything else, it’s seinen, it’s your bet. On the left: Oh My Goddess!, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Berserk, Monster.
  16. 16. Reality is more complicated as they say, and therefore not everything is what it appears to be. For instance: Shoujo? Shounen? Seinen? Seinen Shoujo Josei Kodomo? Seinen The safest way to label a series is to see where it was published. Ultimately that’s how it works: a title is seinen as long it is published in a seinen magazine. Magazines have understood that rigid attachment to stereotypes won’t make them bigger profit and for that reason versatility is important. Original works are roughly labeled.
  17. 17. Daily Life Daily Lives of High School Boys Science Fiction Ghost in the Shell Fantasy 12 Kingdoms The reason the arrow connects the two genres is that the boundaries aren’t very concrete always, eg. there’s what is called Science Fantasy.
  18. 18. • Sci-fi has one foot in reality and one in imagination. But this imagination is an extension of science and technology thus its topics range from space travel, time travel and alternate history to parallel universes and extraterrestrial life. This genre comes with philosophical questions. Fantasy Science Fiction Daily Life • Daily Life is obviously a fictional reality which isn’t far from what happens in our lives. • Fantasy on the other hand features lots of magic, supernatural creatures and imaginary worlds.
  19. 19. Titles below: Dragonball, Kimi ni Todoke, Gunslinger Girls, Gintama, Mouryou no Hako, Queen’s Blade, Shiki, and Aria Action// Adventure Romance Drama/ Tragedy Comedy/ Parody Mystery/ Detective Ecchi/ Hentai Psychological/ Horror Iyashikei A series is described with more than one subgenre as a rule, since we experience more than one feeling during watching/reading, it just tends to have one more prevalent than the others.
  20. 20. Subgenres Emotions Subgenres Emotions Action//Adventure excitement Mystery/Detective curiosity Romance doki doki Ecchi/Hentai arousal Drama/Tragedy sorrow, sympathy Psychological/Horror fear, angst Comedy/ Parody merriness Iyashikei calmness, melancholy Notes: 1. Adventure frequently goes hand in hand with action, but there are occasions adventure stands on its own. That’s why there’s ‘//’. 2. doki doki is onomatopoeia for a heart pounding, usually in a romantic enthusiasm The case of slice-of-life Here iyashikei is used as a substituted of the problematic term ‘slice-of-life’, though the latter is what is commonly used. There are three reasons for a reconsideration of this term: a. The ‘slice’ part may lead someone to think that if a series is episodic in nature, then it’s SOL, which isn’t always true. b. It’s noticeable that SOL as a subgenre is confused with the Daily Life Category or/and a school/work setting. But they aren’t necessarily linked. c. The terms SOL-comedy and SOL-drama suggest a false unprecedented hierarchy. We never say an Action-Romance and Action-Drama, so why do that with ‘SOL’?
  21. 21. As mentioned before, themes give us further info about the type of story we read/watch, eg. the relationships and interactions of characters in the Romance or the Ecchi subgenre. Harems GL Romance // Ecchi BL More about BL here: More about GL here: Love polygons are self-explanatory and so are harems which can be either female or male (what is known as reverse harem). Love Polygon It’s noteworthy though how GL (=Girls’ Love) and BL (=Boys’ Love) are considered separate subcategories/genres by some probably due to the fact that there are magazines that publish such stories exclusively. On a semantic level GL and BL state only that a romance or a sexual activity occurs between same-sex characters. Yuri is another term for GL and shoujo-ai is sometimes used in the West to denote chaste affairs of this kind. In the same vein there are yaoi and shounen-ai, though yaoi is very much PWP (=porn without plot).
  22. 22. Others: Sports Games Cooking Political Music Martial Arts Super Powers Action Swords Guns
  23. 23. Anime/ Manga Original Spin-off/ Sequel/ Prequel  Due to financial risk, most anime aren’t original.  Light novels are popular novels that aren’t full-blown novels. Very often their adaptations aren’t very good both due to the inherent flaws of LV (like poor script) and due to the disproportion of words-imagery.  Similarly visual novels & games with their multiple roots can’t be replicated faithfully in anime form. Read more here: Adaptation Manga/ Anime (Light/ Visual) Novel Game
  24. 24. Anime Series The smallest number of episodes is 10 nowadays, while the average is between 12 and 26. The big shounen titles though may exceed the 100. Each episode lasts around 24 minutes. There are cases though of 3-5 minutes. Film Usually lasts between 40 minutes and 2 hours. Beyond the original stuff produced, recently it’s been a trend to readjust a series in a multipart film – to cash on the success of an established title. OVA Original Video Animation. Series with explicit material may be offered in this format to avoid TV censorship. The number of episodes is nowadays small but in the past it could span as long as a whole series. ONA Original Net Animation. A relatively new format used mainly for trailers, preview episodes and sometimes for mini series.
  25. 25. Aizoban collector’s edition Wideban Shinsoban Kanzenban A5 (14.8 x 21cm) A5 A5 Book Soushuuhen More info on Wikipedia B5 (17.6 x 25cm) Manga Magazines Bunkoban Webcomic/ A6 (10.5 x 14.8cm) Scans Manga magazines are thick anthologies that circulate weekly, monthly, bimonthly, quarterly or biannually. This is where the manga chapters are first published before collected in tankoubon, namely volumes sized Japanese B6 (12.8 × 18.2 cm, 5.04" × 7.17") and ISO A5 (14.8 × 21.0 cm, 5.83" × 8.2"). In America, many manga are released in the so-called "Tokyopop trim" or "Tokyopop size" size (approximately 5" × 7.5"), originally introduced by Tokyopop as a compromise between the aspect ratios of the A5 and JB6 sizes. Webcomic format is rare for Japanese comics that go through publishing houses to get exposure. But they are very popular with Korean manhua. – And scans are the illegal way to access a manga.
  26. 26. Unlike most European languages, Japanese has an extensive grammatical system to express politeness and formality. Broadly speaking, there are three main politeness levels in spoken Japanese: the plain form (kudaketa), the simple polite form (teinei) and the advanced polite form (keigo). Since most relationships are not equal in Japanese society, one person typically has a higher position. This position is determined by a variety of factors including job, age, experience, or even psychological state (e.g., a person asking a favor tends to do so politely). The person in the lower position is expected to use a polite form of speech, whereas the other might use a more plain form. Strangers will also speak to each other politely. Japanese children rarely use polite speech until their teens, at which point they are expected to begin speaking in a more adult manner. […] Many researchers report that since the 1990s, the use of polite forms has become rarer, particularly among the young, who employ politeness to indicate a lack of familiarity. That is, they use polite forms for new acquaintances, but as a relationship becomes more intimate, they speak more frankly. This often occurs regardless of age, social class, or gender. Source: Politeness Level in Japanese in wa-pedia
  27. 27. -san, -sama No suffix For ma lity Inti ma cy -chan, -kun, -tan Contrarily to what many foreigners and Japanese alike usually think, "san" is not the equivalent of "mister" or "mrs". For example, "san" can also be used for animals […] Let us say that Japanese suffixes are simply untranslatable into English. The reverse is also true, as "Mr", "Mrs", "Miss" or "Ms" are also untranslatable in Japanese. Besides, Japanese prefixes can be used either with first or last names, while "Mr" and "Mrs" are not normally used just with given names in English. In everyday life, "san" is the most common suffix. "-chan" is a more affectionate term, used mainly with friends, family members and children. "-tan" is a kind of slang version. "-kun" is usually reserved for boys or young men, but can sometimes be used for girls or young women too. “Sama” is a markedly more respectful version of "san". It is used mainly to refer to people much higher in rank than oneself, toward one's guests or customers and sometimes toward people one greatly admires. You can read more in Wikipedia’s entry and/or in wa-pedia on How to use Japanese suffixes
  28. 28. ‘Senpai’ means upperclassman and very much like ‘sensei’ can be used after a (sur)name or on its own. The ‘kouhai’ attach this suffix to express respect to older students, but it might be used in a workplace, too. ‘Sensei’ is used for teachers/ martial arts master, doctors, artists and can be used after a (sur)name or on its own.
  29. 29. These familial honorifics can be applied to strangers that have similar age or role. onee-san (big sister) oji-san (uncle) oba-san (aunt) ojii-san (granddpa) obaa-san (grandma) otou-san/ chichi-ue (father) onii-san (big brother) okaa-san/ haha-ue (mother) Note: Since it’s so difficult to find a family picture in anime, the relationships suggested here aren’t always true for the characters of this series, Shouwa Monogatari.
  30. 30. Tsundere Harsh outside, soft inside Yandere Very sweet until she gets jealous and kills Kuudere Seemingly unemotional, until she opens up Dandere Seemingly antisocial but just shy There are of course degrees of each character type like himedere and ojou (hime, ojou=princess), kamidere (kami=god) which are variations of tsundere or yangire which is a yandere whose motivation for being violent isn’t necessarily ‘love’. Moe is a ubiquitous word with a very vague content. All of the types on the left can be moe. Do you want to protect him/her? Seems to be the essense.
  31. 31. Seme/Uke- Tachi/Neko The ‘top’ and the ‘bottom’ in a gay relationship; tachi/neko are used by lgbt Fujoshi ‘rotten girl’: usually BL fans, but it’s ended up meaning female otaku Yamato Nadeshiko Perfect woman: lady-like, proper mother and wife, strong will to protect loved-ones Bokkuko A girl who uses male pronouns (boku). Genki energetic and in high spirits – might also be clumsy (dojikko) More character tropes at TV Tropes
  32. 32. ahoge (=foolish hair; used to identify foolish, bumbling or carefree characters) Signifiers of emotions nerves arousal lonely /punished Chibi/ Super deformed doomed/ depressed sweat drop /awkward Tsurime eyes, with pointed (tareme) being the opposite kemonomimi crying lots shocked/ dead (=Animal ears) megane (=glasses) By Hahifuhe
  33. 33. Arc: an extended or continuing storyline. It spans several chapters or episodes and revolves around a certain adventure or a character’s past. BGM: BackGround Music. It enhances the viewing experience by emphasizing certain scenes. Cel: celluloid, a transparent sheet on which objects are drawn or painted for traditional animation. Nowadays such a technique is rarely employed. Everything is done digitally. CGI: Computer-Generated Imagery. It is most commonly used to refer to 3D computer graphics used for creating scenes. Cour: a ‘season’- a unit of production in Japanese TV equivalent to 13 episodes. Dub/Sub: dubbing is when a foreign language series/film gets local voice actors. Subs stands for subtitles. It is preferred by most fans, since the original voice actors do a great job and the dialogues are more faithfully transcribed. Eyecatch/bumper: a very short (2-15 secs) ad placed between a pause in the program and its commercial break, and vice versa. Filler: material that is combined with material of greater relevance or quality to "fill out" a certain volume. Key frame: a drawing that defines the starting and ending points of any smooth transition. The remaining frames are filled with inbetweens. OP/ED: opening/ending songs/animation of a series. Sakuga: is a term used in anime to describe moments in a show or movie when the quality of the animation improves drastically, typically for the sake of making a dramatic point or enlivening the action
  34. 34. Since only the basic notions are examined here, you can take a look at The Rough Guide to Anime by Simon Richmond if you want to search anime titles that you might be interested in watching. Respectively, there’s The Rough Guide to Manga by Jason S. Yadao for manga titles. These are the most recent guides of that type, being published in 2009. They include 50 essential titles, analytically reviewed, and many more in the other sections when referring to directors , mangaka, studios and publishers. They are great basic books all in all, even having a synoptic history section for each medium. If you want to delve deeper into the history of things, you will search for Brigitte’s Koyama-Richard books, Japanese Animation From Painted Scrolls to Pokemon (2010) and One Thousand Years of Manga (2008). Another book that is recommended to animanga fans is The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insider’s Guide to Subculture of Cool Japan by Patrick W. Galbraith, which is literally an – illustrated- encyclopedia. You can purchase these from your big local bookstore or the nearest library if you are lucky enough, or find them online in Amazon. If you don’t live in UK or USA, Book Depository is a great solution to save money.
  35. 35. In case that you are financially in a pinch, then don’t despair; there are online free resources that cover your needs. Here are some:  The Golden Ani-versary - A blog built solely for the purpose of celebrating 50 years of anime (1963-2013) by having various bloggers choose and discuss a single year each time. A very neat idea and very useful to find out anime trends, older and newer (obscure) titles, as well as blogs to follow if you are into reading reviews and/or essays on anime.  You can’t bother to read much? This tumblr user has posted a quick list.  Manga Baka Updates – When you want to find manga titles categorized by genres and themes, search what titles a certain publisher has published, when a title first run, if and how much of a manga is scanlated or licenced, this is where you go.  Similar databases for anime are MAL , which is very popular and beautifully designed, but faces login issues sometimes and lots of trolls, and AniDB, which can inform you of fansubbers as well, but its system may register a title under multiple names in different languages and that can be irksome.  For reliable news, like licenses and end of manga series, Anime News Network or Crunchyroll are great solutions. Also, check out Anichart for airing and upcoming anime titles. Animecalendar will help you with scheduling.
  36. 36. Thanks for reading! Let us meet again!