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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Anime Primer for Parents

(Originally posted at

It started with your son or daughter started watching Pokemon when they were younger.  And as they got older, the titles got stranger. Yu-Gi-OhxxxHolicChobits? And what the heck does "hentai" mean?

As a parent myself, I try to keep up with what my stepchildren are interested in. I have an advantage since I'm interested in anything Japanese.  But if your child has an interest in anime or mangas, here are some tips to understanding some of the more frequently used words in the anime and manga culture.

Anime -- In Japan, the word simply means "animation." So all animation is termed "anime."  In the United States, "anime" is strictly for any animation coming out of Japan.

Manga -- Japanese graphic novel, read right to left.  This can take some getting used to if you've never seen a manga before.  In the past, they were published in the American style "left to right," but in recent years more publishing companies have been getting into the business of keeping the artwork the way that the original artists intended.

Shoujo (Shojo) -- "Young Woman" in Japanese, usually under the age of 18.  Mangas and animes aimed at the shoujo audience typically have similar characteristics, such as "pretty" boys, idealized romances, flowery art.

Shounen (Shonen) -- "Young Man" in Japanese, usually under the age of 18. Mangas and animes aimed at the shounen audience often typically have a lot of humor, action and adventure, "idealized" women.

Otaku -- In Japan, "otaku" is a term used to describe someone who is a "super fan" of anything, such as anime, manga, video games, trains, etc.  It's not necessarily seen as a good thing in the Japanese culture.  Here in the United States, the term is used specifically for anime and manga fans.

Fanservice -- Typically a scene in a show or an entire show that plays to the interests of the fans.  Typically used to describe constant panty shots of women or other elements that attract young men into watching the show, but can also refer to an inside reference within the show.

Hentai -- In Japan, the term is used with people.  In the United States, it's used for certain types of anime.  It means "pervert." It's the Japanese version of pornography, but it tends to deal with subjects that American audiences might think are a little strange.

Lolicon/Shotacon -- I mention the term only because there are times I'll be using it when talking about the new bill passed in Tokyo that is related to this. Lolicon/shotacon is the equivalent of sexualizing children in manga and anime works. The term "Lolicon" comes from Nabikov's novel "Lolita" and refers to young girls, while "shotacon" is named for a character in the show Gigantor.

Yaoi/Yuri -- If you go to a convention, you'll see people with buttons referencing "yaoi" and "yuri." Yaoi is "boys love," while yuri is "girls love." Although there is some pornographic versions of both of these genres, it's not necessarily always the case.

Moe -- Pronounced "mo-ay." This one is a tough term to describe, because it relates to a feeling more than a genre of work.  It's the feeling you get when you watch certain characters on the screen and you just want to protect them.  Usually the characters are young-looking and cute.  In recent years moe has been a regular feature in a lot of anime and manga stories.

Harem -- Harem stories often involve one guy in a situation with four or more women, or one girl in a situation with four or more boys.  Usually in the story all the women will be vying for the attention of the guy, and vice versa. It's a common story element, so it will be mentioned quite a bit in reviews.

Mecha -- Robot shows, either portrayed in a realistic fashion (Mobile Suit Gundam) or fantastical one (Gigantor).

Magical Girl -- If you are familiar with Sailor Moon, you are familiar with the concept of the magical girl. She often has unexplained powers that are activated with the assistance of a magic item. An extension of this is the magical girlfriend, which often has a hapless guy who finds himself with a girl with special powers who is in love with him (Oh! My Goddess!).

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