New to the Anime experience? I admittedly use a bit of jargon in my reviews, and some of those terms aren’t exactly self-explanatory. But fear not! Here is your glossary to the terms I, as well as much of the general anime audience, use in reviews and other discussions of anime!
This will be a largely living document, as I’ll be coming back here to clarify much of the vocabulary as I use it in my reviews. So, if something new comes up and you’re not sure what it means, this is a good place to look for clarification!
- anime: Though I assume it’s a given usually, this term isn’t actually used in many social circles. the word anime is the English short-hand for Japanese Animation. It’s a catch-all term for all the animated shows that originate on the far side of the Pacific, while we use the whole ‘animation’ term for our own native works.
- dubbed: Anime that has been re-recorded with English voices (or other languages, depending on your locale). Generally, anime that have been re-recorded in this style are less enjoyable because of the high probability of something being lost in translation. Not that subtitles are perfect, but the loss of honorifics (they simply don’t translate into English well) is one particularly jarring aspect that I always miss in dubbed anime.
- seiyuu: This is Japanese for voice actor. It’s not exactly saving me a lot of time or anything by using it, but it is one way in which I can indicate that I am referring to the Japanese voice actor, rather than the English one, in the case of an anime that has both a subbed and a dubbed version. It’s also done out of a certain respect for really good Japanese voice actors: they’re worth the effort to use the proper terminology.
- slice of life: I don’t think I’ve ever heard this term for describing English entertainment, but it’s very common in anime. This refers to a genre of anime. It’s essentially a way of communicating that the anime’s situated in an “everyday” setting. The workplace or school, depending on the ages of the characters, and the mundane elements surrounding it (doing grocery shopping, chores around the house, studying for tests, and so forth). These anime often involve more than the simple day-to-day, but that component is either a strong staple for the background (as it is for many magical girl anime) or, in some cases, really the driving force behind the narrative (for instance, a story about a student trying to improve his grades to get into his dream college).
- subbed: Subtitled. This usually means that the anime retains the original Japanese voices, with a second pass being performed on the show to include timed English subtitles.
Japanese Honorifics (Descriptions Paraphrased from Del Rey Manga)
If you’ve watched any anime in Japanese (usually subtitled, or raw for those among you that are bilingual), you’ve seen many suffixes used on characters’ names. These honorifics are quite important in Japanese culture, unlike our own, and they each carry a certain connotation (that can be employed sarcastically, too, of course). The following is a brief collection of the most common honorifics used (if there are others you are curious about, leave me a comment and I’ll add them in):
- -kun: This is a fairly generic honorific for boys. It expresses familiarity, usually a friendly (or superior, if the speaker is older) relationship.
- -chan: Roughly the female equivalent of -kun, this is the most common honorific for girls. It expresses friendship and endearment, though generally carrying a more childish connotation.
- -san: This is roughly equivalent to using “Mr.” or “Mrs.” in English. It’s a polite, respectful honorific used for new acquaintances and elders.
- -sama: This is a more respectful, formal version of -san. For those personal idols and elders that deserve specific respect.
- -dono: This is yet another step above -sama, and is very rarely used. In general, it’s reserved for royalty and similarly powerful figures.
- sempai: Though not a strict honorific, this will often follow the name of an upperclassmen. That is, if I was a freshman in high school (again – ugh), I’d address the seniors in my theater club with this term.
- kohai: The inverse of sempai, though very rarely used in what I’ve seen. Those seniors in my example would, in theory, use this term when addressing me (more commonly, they’d use -kun).
- sensei: Another non-strict honorific, this term follows after both teachers (as has transferred into English vernacular) and anyone whom we would generally give the title “Dr.” to in English. Doctors, Surgeons, Psychiatrists, Physicists, and all those other PhD-complete folks. Carries similar meaning as -sama, but is more specific.
- <BLANK>: This is probably the most important reason for my appreciation of subbed anime over dubbed anime. Losing all the other honorifics is a little sad, but losing this particular element is really upsetting. Dropping all honorifics off of someone’s name in Japan is a very reserved right, granted generally only to family. Other exceptions to the rule include really close childhood friends and lovers. It’s an address that implies great intimacy, and while growing to earn the right to this intimacy can be a great and fulfilling accomplishment (sometimes the crux of romantic anime), breaching this rule prematurely can give great offense.
There is some sort of change in recent years, I find, regarding the use of no honorific in Japanese. many high-school anime showcase guys who off-handedly forget or ignore using these honorifics for their friends. I assume it’s in part because of a changing trend to discard the formality, and in part a form of quiet rebellion. However, it’s rarely taken lightly by the other characters in the story, and those conversations are some of the muddiest to translate into English.