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
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.
Suffixes & Honorifics
RECOMMENDED BIBLIOGRAPHY &
If you want to read a
specific chapter, just
click on it.
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.
Fiction or Non-fiction
Daily Life, Sci-fi, Fantasy
Action, Comedy, Drama etc.
Sports, Cooking, Yuri, Yaoi
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.
• 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
Reality is more complicated as they say, and therefore not everything is what it appears to be. For instance:
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.
Daily Lives of High
Ghost in the Shell
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.
• Sci-fi has one foot
in reality and one
in imagination. But
this imagination is
an extension of
technology thus its
topics range from
space travel, time
alternate history to
This genre comes
• Daily Life is
which isn’t far
happens in our
• Fantasy on the
features lots of
Titles below: Dragonball, Kimi ni Todoke, Gunslinger Girls, Gintama, Mouryou no Hako,
Queen’s Blade, Shiki, and Aria
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.
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’?
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.
More about BL here: http://goo.gl/FiInSK
More about GL here: http://goo.gl/27WvxC
Love polygons are self-explanatory and so are
harems which can be either female or male
(what is known as reverse harem).
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
Original Net Animation. A relatively new format used mainly for trailers,
preview episodes and sometimes for mini series.
Aizoban collector’s edition
A5 (14.8 x 21cm)
More info on Wikipedia
B5 (17.6 x 25cm)
A6 (10.5 x 14.8cm)
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.
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
-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
You can read more in Wikipedia’s entry and/or in wa-pedia on How to use Japanese suffixes
‘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.
These familial honorifics can be applied to strangers that have similar age or role.
onee-san (big sister)
onii-san (big brother)
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.
Harsh outside, soft inside
Very sweet until she gets jealous and kills
Seemingly unemotional, until she opens up
Seemingly antisocial but just shy
There are of course degrees of
each character type like
himedere and ojou (hime,
(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.
The ‘top’ and the ‘bottom’ in a gay
relationship; tachi/neko are used by lgbt
‘rotten girl’: usually BL fans, but it’s ended
up meaning female otaku
Perfect woman: lady-like, proper mother
and wife, strong will to protect loved-ones
A girl who uses male pronouns (boku).
energetic and in high spirits – might also be
More character tropes
at TV Tropes
(=foolish hair; used to identify
foolish, bumbling or carefree
Signifiers of emotions
sweat drop /awkward
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
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
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
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 –
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.
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.