If you are a newbie, here are some commonly used (and often misunderstood) terms used by otaku, along with their meanings. In no particular order…

Anime: Japanese animation, notable for its stylized imagery, heavy character development, and broad themes.

Manga: Japanese comic books. Unlike in America, where comics are seen as a pastime for adolescent males, manga are read by Japanese citizens of both sexes and all ages, from young children to the elderly.

Otaku: Literally, someone with a deep, intense obsession. In Japan, the word is used in a derogatory manner to refer to those who obsess over nerdy, narrow-minded interests. In America, the word has been claimed in a more positive light to denote fans of Japanese culture.

J-Pop: Japanese pop Music, or in a broader sense, Japanese pop culture as a whole.

Sub: Denotes an anime series or film that is presented in subtitles, preserving the original language track. Most hardcore Otaku refuse to watch anime in anything but the original track.

Dub: Denotes an anime series or film that is dubbed into english, usually by an American company. Just as voice actors in Japan often develop major celebrity status among fans, American voice actors for anime develop their own devoted fanbase.

Tezuka, Osamu: The “God of Manga,” an incredibly influential manga-ka (comic artist) whose work is credited with making comic art a staple of Japanese culture. His works include Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion (inspiration behind Disney’s The Lion King) and Black Jack.

Shonen: “Boy,” refers to a genre of Manga aimed at young male readers.

Shojo: “Girl,” refers to a genre of Manga aimed at young female readers.

Cosplay: “Costume play,” the art of dressing up as one’s favorite anime character. Usually a large amount of time, effort and detail is put into making the costumes, and the wearers are expected to study their respective characters and adopt mannerisms.

Hentai: Anime pornography. Often, Otaku culture is mistakenly considered by outsiders to consist entirely of this, when in fact it makes up only a small amount of the total Anime consumption at a given time.

Yuri: Denotes an Anime/Manga whose story revolves around an intense female relationship, sometimes bordering on lesbianism.

Yaoi: Denotes an Anime/Manga whose story revolves around an intense male relationship, usually bordering (and often outright diving into) gay themes. Oddly enough, Yaoi comics are largely popular among young women.

Kawaii: Super cute, almost self-depreciatingly so. The term is often used to describe the prevalent use of adorable mascot characters throughout Japan.

Bishonen: Literally, “beautiful boy,” male anime characters who are depicted in flamboyant, effeminate ways (see also Yaoi).

Hikikomori: A young individual, usually a  male, who has shut himself off from society, refusing to find work or participate in any activity involving social contact. This real life behavior has been attributed to a number of mental issues, including autism and PTSD. Though it has been known  to occur in other places, it is most common in Japan, where societal factors such as few jobs and intense pressure to succeed have been known to both enable and exacerbate the problem. Anime dealing with hikikomori include Welcome to the NHK and Rozen Maiden.

Magical Girl: A girl, usually a teenager or young woman, who  by magical powers or super technology, is able to instantly transform into a superhero.  A popular stock character in Japan, the example most familiar to western audiences would be Sailor Moon.

Lolicon: A portmanteau of the term “Lolita complex,” a genre of anime or manga featuring young girls, usually school girls, in highly erotic situations.

More to come…


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