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anime and manga glossary
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The Black Moon presents this glossary of anime and manga terms as a short, concise, beginner's guide. Written with the uninitiated in mind, this guide presents definitions for words and concepts frequently encountered in Japanese animation and print publications.
A
ANIME.. The Japanese contraction and pronunciation of the English word animation. Anime refers to traditional hand painted cel animation, but also applies to animation created in part or in whole by computers (Such as the 3D digital animation Final Fantasy.)
ARIGATOU.. Thanks. The use of this word denotes some familiarity with the person it is being said to. The full polite expression would be, Doumo arigatou gozaimasu (Thank you very much).
B
BAKA.. An insult that casts a shadow on the function and contents of the subject's mind.. the word quite literally means fool. One could also say, o-baka or great fool.
BGM.. Short for "Background Music." This is the music played in the background of an anime. Unlike music in most Western animation, the BGM in anime can be very sophisticated and can stand alone on its artistic merits. Some of Japan's most talented composers, performers, and singers have created music for anime. Anime shows can also generate enormous numbers of soundtrack CDs, ranging in style from Pop, Rock, and Classical, to experimental noise and traditional Japanese folk music. Sailormoon alone generated some 28 music CDs.
BISHOUJO.. The literal translation is Beautiful Girl. Example; Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon...
(Pretty Soldier Sailormoon).
BISHOUNEN.. The literal translation is Beautiful Boy. Bishounen are found in all types of manga and anime and can be quite masculine, they are not necessarily "effeminate" males but sometimes are. Bishounen are the focus in shounenai or Boy's love manga... see the definition of yaoi.
BUDDHISM.. Aside from Shinto, the other major religion in Japan is Buddhism. Buddhist teachings found their way to Japan in 552 AD, having traversed most of Asia from their birthplace in India. Gautama Buddha's message was that all suffering in this world is caused by desire and an attachment to the material plane of existence. Only through right living, ending desire, and doing away with the "self" can enlightenment be attained and the bliss of Nirvana entered. Although several very different types of Buddhism flourish in Japan, Westerners are usually most familiar with Zen Buddhism, which focuses on discipline and meditation, and has the most parallels with Taoism. When looking at manga and anime it's important to understand that these Arts sprang from a culture with a completely different religious orientation than Western countries. Japanese values and sensibilities have been shaped over thousands of years by Shinto and Buddhist teachings. Christianity is a latecomer to Japan, and today less than one percent of Japan's population embraces Christianity.
C
CGI.. Refers to Computer Generated Illustration as used in manga or anime. Macintosh computers started an explosion in the use of computer assisted illustration in manga production, and today's manga make heavy use of computers... though the results still look hand crafted. Today's anime makes wide use of computer technology, even when it is not evident. Miyazaki's Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke) used computer technology extensively for tracking motion, charting perspective, filling in color, and generating some limited special effects. Other contemporary anime like BLOOD: The Last Vampire rely heavily upon CGI but make no attempt to hide the results. "BLOOD" is a brilliant example of the fusing of traditional cel
animation with the digital arts.
-CHAN.. The honorific used when addressing or referring to children, girls and young women. The word is not used between adults unless there is a great deal of familiarity and affection. Because of the cuteness of the term, this honorific tends to be gender particular and is more often heard when referring to females, as in "Rei-chan spoke with Gendo-san."
CHARA.. Japanese shorthand for the English word character. The word refers to character designs in anime, manga, movies, or games. Entire illustrated books are released for various anime series in which rough black & white sketches and refined drawings of anime characters are compiled. Many anime illustration books include a chara section.
COMIKET.. A Japanese contraction of the English words comic and market. Comiket is Japan's largest biannual gathering of manga sellers and buyers in Tokyo. Held at the Tokyo Big Sight Convention Center, crowds of over 100,000 people will show up for the two day event. Over 10,000 creators and publishers of doujinshi sell their wares at Comiket, but you can also find vendors selling postcards, posters, trading cards, and other manga and anime related items. Game developers also have a large presence, selling the very latest in anime computer games.
D
DOUJINSHI.. Doujinshi roughly translates into same stuff, different people. These are unofficial, amateur produced manga based upon successful, well established manga or anime series. Doujin range in quality from crude black & white pamphlets numbering a few pages, to beautifully produced volumes that dazzle the eye. You'll find incredibly talented artists creating doujin, and many successful mangaka got their start in doujin circles. Most doujinshi are parodies, or alternative takes on established titles, with some doujin venturing into explicit adult themes. Large Japanese publishing houses generally look the other way and ignore the small print runs of doujinshi publishers... which never amount to more that a few thousand copies.
E
ED.. Shorthand meaning the ending music that plays over the closing credits of an anime. Successful anime shows will always have their OP (opening music), and ED songs released on Compact Disk Soundtracks, with some theme songs even being released as CD singles.
ECCHI.. Ecchi is a mild term referring to someone or something of a perverse sexual nature. It is also the Japanese pronunciation of the English letter "H" (see HENTAI).
EYECATCH.. A visual in anime that precedes and follows an advertising break. The eyecatch visually summarizes the show's nature and most often features the main characters, sometimes drawn in super deformed style (see SUPER DEFORM).
F
FACE FAULT.. Often seen in manga and anime, a Face Fault is an exaggeration of facial features meant to convey extreme shock or surprise. A flabbergasted character's mouth will open until it literally hits the floor and eyes will become larger than usual. Most often a face fault is accompanied by the character simply falling over from shock.
FANSUB.. An unofficial video tape release of an anime that has been subtitled into English by fans. While technically illegal because of copyright issues, fansubbing has been one of the major vehicles for getting translated shows into the hands of Western audiences. Hence, fansub projects are looked upon favorably by veteran anime viewers, provided the fansubbers make
no profit off of their projects.
FANFIC.. A work of fiction written by a fan and based on a popular anime or manga title.
G
GAIJIN.. Has the same meaning as the English word, foreigner though it's not necessarily used in a derogatory manner. The word is actually short for gaikokujin (foreigner), and is used to refer to all non-Japanese persons. While a few right-wing nationalist minded Japanese may imbue the word with the politics of distrust ("the foreigner" as threat to cultural purity), most people offer no offense when using the word and are most respectful to persons of non-Japanese descent.
GARAGE KIT.. A plastic model kit of an anime character that is constructed by hand with glue, customized, and hand painted. Most garage kits are representations of popular anime characters, though mecha are also to be found. In Japan there are several excellent magazines devoted to garage kit models REPLICANT (devoted mostly to characters), and HOBBY JAPAN (devoted mostly to mecha) being two such magazines. There are even large scale garage kit conventions that attract thousands of people. Wonder Fest, or WON-FES is a garage kit market held twice a year at Toyko's Big Sight Convention Center. At WON-FES one can see displays of the very latest anime character or mecha models constructed by fans. But kits are also available for purchase... either fully constructed and painted, or as kits to be built and finished by the buyer.
H
HENTAI.. A Japanese slang word meaning perverted or perversion. In the world of manga and anime, hentai refers to the adult oriented titles that present extreme, graphic sexual imagery. A common Western stereotype concerning manga and anime is that these artforms are filled with graphic sex. While such imagery exists (and has always existed in Japan), hentai titles make up just a small niche market in Japan's massive manga and anime output. Good examples of hentai anime would be La Blue Girl and Urotsukidoji (also see SHUNGA).
HENSHIN.. To transform. Seen most often in Magical Girl manga and anime like Card Captor Sakura, Sailormoon and Fancy La La. A henshin sequence is when a normal character transforms into their magical alter ego.
I
IDOL.. A young Pop singer, actor, or starlet. Japan has been awash with Pop icons since the 1960's, and today new Idols seem to be manufactured on a weekly basis. The all girl group Morning Musume is a fine contemporary example of an Idol group. Satoshi Kon's animated motion picture Perfect Blue is a murder mystery involving a female Idol singing group.
ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION.. A book of Illustrations or fine art created by a well known manga or animation artist. Illustration collection books are most often visual elaborations of already existing works, but they can also be an artist's exploration of new territory.
IMAGE ALBUM.. Music collections based upon popular manga or video games.
K
KAIJUU.. A huge threatening monster of enormous destructive power. Japanese science fiction films are filled with kaijuu... Godzilla (Gojira), Mothra, and Gamera are just a few.
KAMI.. An expression for Supreme Being (God), which in Shinto, can also be used to describe lesser supernatural beings and spirits inhabiting the natural universe (see also SHINTO). When speaking of a particular god or God, it would be proper to say, kami-sama. Kami can be translated many different ways depending on the context, for example,
kamikaze
means "holy wind".
KAPPA.. This monster spirit lives in water and has been associated with rivers. Kappa are very strong and are dangerous to humans. They like to drink sake and eat cucumbers, in fact, their love of cucumbers is so great that the sushi made from cucumber has come to be called kappa-maki.
KATANA.. The beautiful slightly curved sword called katana is said by many to be the very soul of Japan, and the county's history and folklore is replete with references to the blade.
KAWAII.. The Japanese word for cute. Cuteness is a national fixation in Japan and it is certainly one of the defining aesthetics of manga and anime. Westerners who first encounter the cult of cute initially go into shock... but believe me, it grows on you.
KETSUEKIGATA.. An understanding of a person's character made by knowing his or her blood type. Personal statistics for anime or manga characters will often include blood type as well as age, height, hair color, etc. You'll often be asked by new Japanese friends,
"What's your blood type?"
KODOMO.. Kodomo means "child" and in Japan there are manga and anime specifically created for children under 10 years of age. Doraemon and Anpanman are two wildly popular kodomo titles. Doraemon is a futuristic robot cat who is sent back in time (which would be our present), in order to combat evil and save humanity. Anpanman is a superhero sweet roll filled with bean jam who fights giant evil germs and feeds the hungry by letting them eat his head.
Yeah... you read that correctly.
-KUN.. An honorific used for addressing or referring to children and teenagers, particularly males, or in an adult setting, used to address an inferior. In anime, you see this term used more and more to address females, especially ones who tend to act rather "masculine".
L
LADY'S COMIC.. These manga are specifically created for women over 20 and for Office Ladies (those women who work office jobs). Lady's comics are filled with stories about dating, romance, and the occasional sexual fling.
M
MANGA.. In 1814 the famous Japanese artist Hokusai created a book of black & white sketches that he called manga (involuntary sketches). In recent Japanese history the word has come to describe those small illustrated books of black & white ink drawings that tell a series of stories. Graphic novel would be the closest translation for "manga" though they are not at all like novels in the Western sense, nor are they comparable to Western comic books. Manga cover a wide range of topics, from fantasy & adventure, to sports & cooking.
MANGAKA.. Manga Artist. One who draws manga. The word is gender neutral and can refer to a male or female artist. In fact many of Japan's most famous mangaka are women. Takeuchi Naoko (Sailormoon), Takahashi Rumiko (Ranma 1/2), and Watase Yu (Fushigi Yuugi),
to name but a few.
MAHOU.. The Japanese word for magic. Also used in conjunction with the word shoujo (Girl). Mahou shoujo literally means "magical girl" and is used to describe shows like Sailormoon, Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, and Card Captor Sakura.
MASAKA.. The Japanese expression for "It can't be!"
MECHA.. A Japanese contraction of the English word mechanical. Mecha (pronounced "meh-ka"), refers to anything of a mechanical nature... weapons, advanced body armor, vehicles, and of course... giant robots. The first mecha to ever appear in a Japanese production premiered in the 1957 live action science fiction film, The Mysterians ("Macross" fans take note). The mecha, called Mogera was a colossal bird-like robot that could shoot death rays from it's eyes!
MINNA.. Meaning everyone. You can respectfully address an entire room full of people by using the honorific minna-san, which is somewhat like saying "Ladies and Gentlemen." However, the honorific is gender neutral so it could be used when speaking to women, men, or mixed company.
MOOK.. A Japanese contraction of the English words magazine and book. Mook are books with the look, design, and layout of magazines. There are literally thousands of these beautiful, full color publications to be found relating to the world of anime and other topics.
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