Anime and Manga Terminology

Here is a list of select terms used to describe anime and manga. It is helpful to understand these basic terms when conversing with others or reading on the subject.
Note: Japanese words have no plural ending, for example manga can refer to one or several manga depending on the context. Also be aware that the Japanese use of these terms sometimes varies from English speaking fan use.

Other terms can be found listed in the Anime Companion Supplement - Topical / Subject Index especially the sections Culture - Literature/Folk Tales - Modern/Post-1868 and Terminology - Fanish.

Anime アニメ:

Animation produced in Japan for the Japanese market.
Anime, as defined by common fan usage, is simply any animation that is made in Japan for a Japanese audience. In Japan the word simply means any animation made anywhere in the world. Commercial anime dates back to 1917. Modern anime dates from the 1960s with the work of Osamu Tezuka, best known in the U.S. for "Astro Boy", Tetsuwan Atom in the original Japanese.

While anime is sometimes erroneously referred to as a "genre" it is in reality a medium that includes any genre that can be found in cinema or literature. The evaluation of anime titles should be done with all the care that goes into evaluating movies or novels, even more so since it is often hard to get good reviews of anime to aid the selection process.

In Japan, anime is released in three ways:

1. TV shows - often later re-released on video.
2. Movies - often later re-released on video.
3. OVA

Antenna see: Shokkaku (antenna)

BL or Boys Love ボーイズ ラブ see: Yaoi

Chara moe キャラ萌え:

A term coming from otaku culture used to refer to the feelings of moe one has to a chara (character) in anime, manga, video games and other character sources. The feelings can also be focused on specific alluring characteristics such characters may have to the point of fetishism.

Circle ("sākuru") サークル:

A group of people who come together for non-work related projects. Among fans this can be creating a dōjinshi, making garage kits, or any other kind of activity that works well with a group. However circles are not limited to fandom. In schools and workplaces circles may come together and form school clubs to carry on their activities.

Dōjinshi 同人誌:

Fan produced manga or other self published works.

These are usually made by small fan circles and often will use characters from anime, manga, TV shows, games or actual persons. Japanese companies tend to ignore dōjinshi which use trademarked characters or see it as a sign of the popularity of their products. Outside Japan dōjinshi have a reputation for being sexually explicit, this is not the case as there are plenty which are not. Some non-Japanese will incorrectly use the term to refer to any erotic manga.

Eromanga (erotic manga) エロ漫画:

Erotic manga, sometimes called porunomanga. These are sexually explicit manga mainly made for men. In the English speaking world the term hentai-manga has come into use. However this use of the word hentai is not the way the Japanese use it.

Fujoshi (rotten woman) 腐女子:

A term coined by female fans of yaoi dōjinshi and BL (Boys Love) manga to describe themselves rather than use the sometimes pejorative word otaku. While the pronunciation is the same as another word that means wife or woman the first kanji has been changed to another, also pronounced fu, that is used in words that refer to rot, decay and depravity. The self-deprecating term can be translated as "rotten woman" and has connotations of "fallen woman".

Gekiga 劇画:

Dramatic pictures. A type of realistic manga for, mainly male, older teens and adults developed in the 1950s which often includes antiheroes such as gangsters, poor samurai and the urban poor, often in violent and sexual situations. Today such stories are common in manga intended for adult consumption.

Gensakusha 原作者:

A story writer who teams up with a mangaka to create manga. Not all manga are produced by one person, such writer artist teams are not unusual. The most famous gensakusha is probably Kazuo Koike.

Hentai 変態:

Usually translated as perverted, or sexually explicit. This word in Japanese usage is far more complex than that as it has other meanings such as metamorphosis, weird, an anomaly, or abnormal. But most of the time that you see or hear it in anime or in fan circles it refers to perverted.

English speakers will apply it as an adjective as in 'hentai manga' or 'hentai anime'. The Japanese do not do this, rather they will speak of ero-manga or ero-anime. The Japanese will use the term to refer to a person as in "he is hentai".


A term created by combining the words Japan and animation. The pronunciation is Japan-i-ma-tion. All evidence indicates this term was invented by C/FO (Cartoon Fantasy Organization) member Carl Gafford in 1979. By the early to mid 1990s the term has fallen into disfavor among fans, especially as some non fans started pronouncing it "Jap-animation".

Jōsei 女性:

This means woman, when used to describe manga or anime as in 'josei manga' it refers to works made for that demographic. In Japan there is a very large market for manga aimed at adult women.

Kyō-seme 強攻め:

The kyō in kyō-seme means strong. In Boys Love and yaoi fan terminology the combining of the term with seme refers to an aggressively dominating character in a male - male sexual relationship or pursuit.

Ladies' comics see: Redikomi (ladies' comics)

Light novel see: Raito noberu (light novel)

Manga 漫画:

Manga can be roughly translated as "comic books", in reality it is a much more complex subject. Manga can include almost every subject imaginable from funny stories to serious literature. Technical manuals and even legal case histories have been released in manga format. Looking at some books about manga, especially those of Frederik Schodt, will probably be the best way to understand this unique form of publishing.

Many companies outside of Japan are issuing translated manga in multi-volume sets at an increasing pace. In most cases they are no longer flipping the images and leaving the manga in the original right to left format. There are two reasons to do this, some manga artists will not allow their art to be flipped to a European left to right format, the other reason is that leaving the art unflipped reduces the time and expense it takes to bring a translated title to the market by eliminating much of the retouching of images. I have discovered that most readers have little trouble reading unflipped manga, something that caught me by surprise.

Manga zasshi (manga magazines) 漫画雑誌:

Magazines largely, or exclusively, devoted to publishing manga, either stand alone stories or serialized tales. Such magazines have a variety of publishing schedules most being weekly, biweekly or monthly. Such magazines began in the 1950s with popular titles such as Shōnen sandē (Shōnen Sunday) and Shōnen magajin (Shōnen Magazine). The larger magazines may have as many as 400 pages printed on inexpensive paper, squarebound and intended to be read and discarded as the most popular stores will later be collected into tankōbon. The original magazines were mainly aimed at children, however over time newer magazines explored other audiences and today there are manga zasshi for all age groups, demographics and niche markets. Sometimes the term is contracted to manga-shi. Examples of manga zasshi which non-Japanese fans are likely to have heard of include: Afternoon, Be-Love, Big Comics, Comic June, CoroCoro Comic, Garo, Margaret, Weekly Shōnen Jump, Weekly Young Jump, and Young Animal.

Mangaka (manga artist) 漫画家:

A manga artist, either a man or a woman, the word is gender neutral. Sometimes they only do the artwork using a story written by a gensakusha. At other times they both write and draw the story. Many mangaka work with assistants who handle inking, running errands, cooking, research and other secondary work.

Moe 萌えor もえ:

A term, pronounced "mo-eh", used to express feelings regarding cute, usually young, persons and objects one has a special affection for. The modern use of the term seems to be derived from the word for a sprouting plant. That word has a very long history of use as an expression for budding love. Today moe is usually applied to cute anime, game or manga characters to express affection at their cuteness and innocence. The term is also applied to actual persons such as idol singers. Moe has a strong platonic element to it, much like the affection and protective urge an older brother has for a younger sibling. However by extension the term is also used for items that are associated with cute characters such maid outfits, glasses, uniforms and so on, this can easily cross the line into fetishism ceasing to be innocent.

Otaku オタク:

A word originally used as a polite way to refer to someone. It has undergone several changes to a newer use to refer to highly serious fans. The term can be derogatory or neutral depending on the situation. While increasingly the Japanese term is used rather than trying to find a rough translation, common translations include; fan, fanboy, geek and nerd.


Original Video Animation. These are anime released directly to video. This method of release allows companies to target specialized audiences in a way that is not financially or socially possible with TV or movie releases. Sometime you will see this spelled OAV in English works.

Raito noberu (light novel) ライトノベル:

Light novels, the English phrase is used by the Japanese. These are short novels, which are often illustrated, marketed to young adults. This type of literature attained popularity in Japan in the 1980s. Included among these works are original stories and adaptations of stories from other media such as from manga and anime. Some of the stories are serialized in young adult literary magazines and then collected into books. Several US manga publishers are also publishing translations of light novels in English.

Redikomi (ladies' comics) レディコミ:

A contraction of "ladies comics", these are manga publications aimed at adult women. The term is often used as a synonym for jōsei manga. Redikomi have generated some controversy in the regular press over the explicit and sometimes extreme sexual content found in many redikomi magazines. This has led the term to be often narrowly defined as erotic manga for women, rather than to refer to all women's manga. It is still at times used broadly to also refer to jōsei manga.

Seinen 青年:

A term for young man, usually men in their late teens to mid twenties either college students or young working men. This word should not be confused with another word pronounced seinen, meaning adult, but written with different kanji 成年.

Sasoi (inviting posture or stratagem) 誘:

Sasoi means an invitation or temptation. In martial arts sasoi is an inviting posture or stratagem intended to lure the opponent into making a move, to bring them closer to you. In Boys Love and yaoi fan terminology a compound phrase sasoi-uke exists to describe a seductive uke who lures the seme to him.

Seme せめ, 攻め:

A concept found in the martial art of kendō. The term is used by fans of Boys Love and yaoi to indicate a active or dominant character who pursues another, often passive character type referred to as uke. This is very similar to the traditional inserter / insertee roles of shudō in the Edo Period. The term is also subdivided into specific types by adding adjectives to form descriptive phrases such as kichiku seme (cruel seme) and oresama seme (narcissistic seme). The term is not used to describe actual gay relationships, the equivalent term for real people would be tachi.

Shōjo 少女:

While usually translated as girl, young woman would also be appropriate. Generally the word refers to school age girls and teens. Japanese sources list ages ranging from as young as seven to ten at the youngest to about eighteen at the oldest. There is a large market for manga and anime aimed at this group. Stories in the shōjo demographic range from innocent girl's stories to stronger material for the older readers.

Shokkaku (antenna) 触角:

Simply an antenna. In relation to anime and manga terminology the word is applied to the depiction of hair on a character's head that is in the form of a lock of hair resembling one or more antennae. This characteristic was popularized by the visual novel Kizuato (The Scar) and is considered a very cute element on girl characters.

Shōnen 少年:

A school aged boy roughly under the age of 18.

This definition has an overlap with seinen in the later years. Entertainment aimed at this demographic tends to be action or humor oriented, however there are exceptions as in romance stories for boys.

Shōnen-ai see: Yaoi

Tankōbon (a separate book volume) 単行本:

A separate book volume, this term applies to any type of book, including manga in book form. In the case of manga tankōbon are usually small paperbacks often with dust wrappers. In Japan almost all manga tankōbon are collections of chapters originally published in magazines and on higher quality paper than magazines use. In the US manga are usually published directly in this format as most publishers have abandoned serialization in magazines or as comic books. Sales of popular titles can be in the millions of copies per volume.

Uke (receiver, blocking, bottom) 受け:

In martial arts the uke is the receiver or blocker of a technique, often of a blow.
In Boys Love and yaoi fan terminology the uke, usually translated as "bottom", is the character pursued by another character type called a seme. The seme-uke relationship convention in such stories is one of a relatively passive character, the uke, chased by the active seme. This reflects traditional gender stereotypes and in sex acts determines who is the insertee and who is the inserter. In fan terminology the term is also subdivided into specific types such as sasoi uke (seductive uke), etc. This term is not used in actual gay relationships, the equivalent term there is neko.

Yaoi やおい:

English speakers use this term to refer to any male male romance or sexually explicit tales. However in Japan yaoi is used for a genre of dōjinshi rather than regular commercial products. For commercial products in this genre of male-male stories the Japanese have used several terms over the years. Originally, in the early 1970s, the term shōnen-ai was used, then the literal English translation of shōnen-ai: "Boys Love", came into being, today "BL", which is short for Boys Love, is what one usually hears used by Japanese. This genre is mainly produced by women and for female fans in both Japan and other nations.

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Created April 1, 2007 | Content last updated July 6, 2010