A question for the reader: what are your favorite Japanese anime phrases? Probably everyone reading this introduction was first introduced to the Japanese language through exposure to Japanese anime.
These hand-drawn, computer-generated Japanese animations or “cartoons” were wildly successful, so much so that they became commonplace to western children throughout the world. And needless to say, anime would not be anime without its very distinct anime way to speak Japanese.
Today’s article is all about anime phrases, what they are, and how they differ from standard Japanese. Grab a seat and enjoy the ride!
Anime Phrases vs Standard Japanese Phrases
Let’s be clear – how anime characters speak is not how native Japanese people communicate with one another! That’s true for the most part, anyway. And that’s the reason this article exists in the first place!
Some anime are very mature and standardized, reading as a real-life film or TV drama would. Other anime may be more fantastical but still, use realistic-sounding dialogue throughout. These anime are great to study if you’re looking to polish up your Japanese communication skills.
Other anime (and definitely the more popular anime) use a very specialized style of Japanese, pretty much only found in anime and manga (remember, most anime come from a manga original.)
If you’ve been using the Japanese words you’d learned in anime to communicate with your Japanese friends, be warned! – there is a big difference between anime-Japanese and real-world Japanese!
While almost all Japanese words found in anime are real Japanese words, their usage, placement, combination, etc., get repurposed for the sake of the anime art style.
The Most Common Anime Phrases – Top 30 Anime Words
With our introduction out of the way, here are the most popular anime phrases to be on the lookout for during your next Pokemon binge-watch (or whatever anime you adore!) We make sure to point out all the anime-exclusive words in this list as well!
- ていめい (teimei) – This is an old way to say “you” in Japanese. It’s a pejorative word and is used toward those whom you look down on or see as your inferiors. Sometimes when used in anime, the negative connotation is not there.This is an anime-exclusive word you’d never use in normal Japanese.
- きみ (kimi | 君) – Another way to say “you” in Japanese, this word is usually used to express intimacy between speakers but can also imply contempt. This word is rarely used in standard Japanese.
- おまえ (omae) – This Japanese word for “you” is nearly always used to address those of lower status in a really harsh way. You’d probably never want to use this word in your real-life conversations!It’s a masculine word used by men, and sometimes, it’s used positively in anime.
- あいつ (aitsu) – This is an older Japanese word used to refer to “that person.” To pluralize this word, i.e., “those people,” あいつら (aitsura) is used instead. This is rarely used by Japanese natives speaking very informally.
- せんしゅ (senshu | 選手) – A fighter or player. You’ll frequently hear this in Shounen combat anime, like Naruto and Dragonball
- たいかい (taikai | 大会) – Another fighter-heavy word, this means a tournament.
- たいちょう(taichou | 隊長) – This word means captain and is more like a military term not to be heard in daily Japanese, usually.
- おれ (ore | 俺) – This word is used to refer to oneself in Japanese – it is the word “I.” It is a masculine word.
- われ (ware | 我) – This is a very old way to say “I” in Japanese that is no longer used in standard conversation. It is used by male figures and carries a boastful sentiment, and in anime, it is usually used by villains. (wareware | 我々) is the plural for this word, meaning “we most esteemed” or something like that.
- しょうがない (shou ga nai) – This is a really standard Japanese word that literally means “it can’t be helped” or “it’s no use.” Another way to say this expression is しかたがない(shikata ga nai| 仕方がない) – both terms are very popular.
- ばか (baka) – This is one of the first “curse” words Japanese learners pick up, and this word means idiot or stupid. It is mostly used by speakers of the とうほくべん (touhokuben), which is the dialect that Tokyo natives speak.In Japanese (anime and real life alike,) this word is pretty disrespectful, so we wouldn’t recommend throwing it around… ever.
- あほ (aho) – This word is the (kansaiben|), or Kansai dialect, equivalent of the word above.
- ほら！ (hora!) – This popular anime expression means hey! or yo! It can also be used in-person
- りょうかい (ryoukai|了解) – Roger that in Japanese. It’s a serious military term not usually heard amongst real people. This term can be heard a lot in the popular anime Attack on Titan
- いやだ (iyada) – This Japanese expression means absolutely no way! or impossible. It’s a really subjective term and is used when someone really opposes something, particularly when that thing is disgusting. Sometimes written as やだ (yada). This is a commonly used Japanese expression we’d recommend remembering!
- スゲー(sugei) – Cool or wondrous. The standard spelling and pronunciation for this word is すごい (sugoi) – maybe you’ve learned it already. Oftentimes in anime or when speaking slang Japanese, おい (oi) is changed to えい (ei).
- しんじられない (shinjirarenai | 信じられない) – This word openly means it is unbelievable, but it’s usually used to say I can’t believe it. This is the short form negative of a standard Japanese verb and is very frequently used in everyday Japanese. Be sure to remember this one!
- まかせてください (makasete kudasai|任せてください) – Please leave it up to me. Another standard but rarely used Japanese term often heard in anime.
- めんどくさい (mendokusai) – This Japanese adjective means annoying or irritating and is often used in daily conversation by both men and women.
- とりあえず (toriaezu) – Meanwhile…, or let’s begin with… It’s nearly always used at the start of a sentence and refers to an observation/action of the speaker.
- ばば (baba|馬場) – Witch or old hag. It’s a mostly disrespectful term used to address older women. (jiji|爺) and (ossan| おっさん) are the male equivalents but are not quite as widely used.
- ちび (chibi) – a slang adjective meaning small and cute. The very popular and classic anime Chibi Maruko Chan carries this word in its title.
- いくぞ (ikuzo | 行くぞ) – Let’s go. This may be one of the most distinctive anime words of all time – it just stands out and sticks with the listener. It is a slang variation of the standard (ikou | 行こう) and is often used in anime. Very rarely is it used amongst people.
- へいき (heiki | 平気) – This is really an adjective meaning unfettered or unbothered, but it’s often used as a shorthand anime expression to mean I’m fine.
- いたい (itai | 痛い) – This Japanese expression means ouch, or it hurts. It can be heard a lot in fighting anime and is a totally standard Japanese word.
- くらえ！(kurae! | 食らえ！) – Eat this! or Behold! It’s always used in fighting anime right before the execution of some super powerful super move.
- くそ！(kuso!) – Another Japanese curse word, its direct translation is damn! or shit! It’s a mild word, just like its English counterparts, and is frequently used in standard Japanese.
- めのまえに (me no mae ni | 目の前に) – Literally, in front of one’s eyes. A popular anime phrase also used by normal people
- げんかい (genkai | 限界限界) – Limit. Often used in the expression もうげんかいだ (mou genkai da|もう限界だ), meaning already reached the limit. It usually refers to a person’s limit. And it’s the name of one of the characters in the very classic anime YuYu Hakusho!
- しね (shine | 死ねー) – The slang transformation of the Japanese verb to die. This word is super popular and usually shouted right before an opponent takes a heavy blow. When used in the same way in standard Japanese, it can be seen as a curse word.
Learning Japanese with Anime
Watching anime is a great way to learn Japanese, but it’s essential that you triple-check any new expressions before making them a part of your daily vocabulary. For the most part, popular anime characters speak in a very shorthanded, slangy, “cartoonish” way – real people just don’t speak that way!
But on the other hand, anime is written in Japanese and cannot escape from its mother tongue. The best parts from which to learn Japanese in anime are the serious dialogues, usually the ones explaining a situation or plot.
And if nothing else, listening to anime is a perfect way to train your ears for Japanese. Try to pick up as many words as you can as you go along (especially the words from this list!)
What are the Different Types of Anime?
As you go down the well of entertaining anime as you’re studying Japanese, you’re sure to come across quite a few styles of shows. In fact, there are many anime genres, just like books or films. Each genre targets a specific audience, which may change how frequently certain expressions will appear or how words are formed in general.
Here are the different types of anime, along with some context on their styles.
しょうねん (shounen | 少年)
This is by far the most popular form of anime and probably what you’ve seen the most. 少年 (shounen) is targeted toward young boys and male teens. Typically, they’re action-packed and intense, and the main character is a male.
For that reason, expect to hear (usually) a more boyish or brattish form of Japanese in these anime with a cool and charismatic flare. Of course, that doesn’t go for every anime character, however!
Some popular 少年 (shounen) examples are Dragon Ball, Naruto, and One Piece.
しょうじょ (shoujo | 少女)
Quite the opposite of 少年 (shounen), 少女 (shoujo) anime is targeted toward young girls. These anime are also very popular and are based on romance and relationships instead of high-paced action (for the most part). In this genre, the protagonists are female characters.
Expect to hear a gentler, innocent, and more feminine cadence of Japanese in these kinds of shows. Some popular examples include Sailor Moon and Vampire Knight.
せいねん (seinen | 青年)
青年 (seinen) anime are very similar to 少年 (shounen) in that their plots, themes, and interests points are the same, but they tend to be more intense. For this reason, they are targeted toward young adult males.
You can expect a lot more gore and violence in this genre of anime, as well as more convoluted psychological aspects. There are plenty of good 青年 (seinen) comedies out there too.
Gantz, One Punch Man, and Ghost in the Shell are great examples of this genre.
じょせい (josei | 女性)
Here is the counterpart to 少女 (shoujo) anime. This genre is geared toward adult women. It carries all the same themes as 少女 (shoujo), but with a healthy dose of harsh reality. Expect to explore heavy topics like infidelity, sexual assaults, and even eroticism. The language will follow suit, so get into this for some very somber studying.
Normally the protagonists here are female, but they can also be male. Anime like Paradise Kiss, Honey and Clover, and Loveless fall under this umbrella.
こどもむけ (kodomomuke | 子供向け)
This genre of anime is targeted toward young children. The series here is innocent and fun and usually provides some moral lessons in each episode. After all, they are purposed to make good people out of young viewers!
Expect fantasy and imagination in 子供向け (kodomomuke) and childish language (or, at the very least, nothing overly crude.) And protagonists can be a number of things, from boys to girls to animals!
Popular examples are Hello Kitty, Doraemon, and AnpanMan.
Note: These are the most popular genres of anime – we bet you noticed many of the titles we mentioned above – but they are not the only genres.
How many of the common phrases above are you familiar with? Remember, most of the phrases from anime and manga aren’t actually spoken in Japan. However, they’re fun to learn about, and you’ll recognize the words and phrases the next time you watch an anime (even without subtitles)!
How about learning about Japanese culture next? We have an article dedicated to it here!