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Learn Anime Terminology With Senpai – Categories

Senpai has noticed that you, my kouhai, struggle to understand some of the complicated anime terminologies that Anime-sensei was trying to teach you. Well, it’s time to learn these words as early as we can so you can be ready for the exam. Time flies, so let’s start.

Before we do anything, I will have to say something about how I will tackle these words. Some words have gotten many meanings over the years for multiple reasons, however, I will mostly go with the original meanings of words, usually as they were intended in Japanese because a lot of the upcoming words (in future posts especially) have changed meanings because of misunderstandings.

In this post, I will mostly go over the basics. This will be genre identifiers that aren’t found in western media. in later posts, I may go over advanced lingo, like genga, doga, and kusa.


Let us start with the basics of the basic. You may think you know this already, but we should define it to make sure we’re on the same page. Anime is by definition a short way of saying animation. In Japan, it’s used for anything that wouldn’t be live action, but animated. This means that by technical standards, even Pixar movies are anime. However, this is an exception to what I said above. Anime should be a divider because if not, there would not be a point in having the term.

The best way to think of anime is the slightly loose term, but also partially restrictive one. That would be anything that has a style somewhat similar to the Japanese styled animations. I choose this definition, as even Japanese animation has people from the west working on them, and the in-between frames are often outsourced to other countries where it costs less. If we said that any animation made in Japan was anime, then most anime wouldn’t be called anime anymore.

This is a vague definition, but it’s vague, as anime is too diverse to give a clear pinpoint as to what can be considered anime. Anime was originally inspired by western cartoons (Disney), so the roots should be the same. We even have anime that are heavily inspired by western cartoons like Panty & Stockings. So, let’s keep the term anime vague.



Manga means impromptu/whimsical drawing or something of similar meaning. It is, in the west, used for comics made in Japan with a similar style to anime. In Japan the term is a bit more lenient and can be used for anime as well, however, let’s not get complex here and let it be its own separate thing. Manga is published in magazines, either weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. The most popular manga magazine is Shounen Jump which has featured the most popular manga like One Piece, Naruto and Dragon Ball. Shounen Jump is published every week, which is why the manga in that magazine tend to feature very simple art because the manga needs a new chapter every single week. Shounen Plus is the monthly variant of Shounen Jump. Other than Shounen Jump there are loads of other magazines focusing on other groups or subgroups.


Light Novel

Contrary to fully fledged novels, these tend to be lighter, both in size and in content. No shit? Yeah, it’s quite simple. They are serialized and published volume by volume. Usually, they have a focus on dialogue over heavy descriptions. They may completely omit who is talking and how they’re saying it. They also often have a few images sprinkled in drawn by famous pixiv artists



All these “genres” have one thing in common. They are not genres. A lot of people tend to say “I like shounen shows”, however, in reality, that’s not what you like. All of these are different demographics and are simply based on one thing, what manga magazine it was originally published in. Simple as that. They say nothing about a show at all, we have shounen that is enjoyable for adults and seinen that are enjoyable for kids. However, the target demographic for these magazines generally tend to differentiate the content of these anime.

Shounen: Means young boy in Japanese and tend to target boys between 13-18. This is the largest demographic and that’s why the shounen tag is on so much anime. Usually features a young boy as the protagonist.

Shoujo: Means young girl in Japanese and tend to target girls between 13-18. This used to be more popular before but is now mostly exclusive to the Precure series, which is quite sad. (not to say that there’s no shoujo anime anymore, but there used to be more). Usually features a young boy as the protagonist

Seinen: Anime intended for young adult males. This tends to be aimed at adult males between 18-25. Seinen can be more varied in who is the protagonist, but the protagonist is more often a young adult male than anything else.

Josei: Anime intended for young adult females. This tends to be aimed at adult females between 18-25. Josei can also have a more variety as to who is the protagonist but once again tend to feature a young adult female as the protagonist.



I need to define this one before the next term. A harem is a group of females that all love the same man. It’s actually a gender-specific term and should be used that way. The opposite would be a reverse harem. Anime with this tag features several girls interested in the same guy. This used to be a very popular genre back in the ’00s. Back then if you talked about a harem anime it was always set in a school and featured a clueless guy that somehow ended up with all the girls.



This is an essential term today, as isekai as overtaken the harem genre and is also taking up a big portion of all anime made today. The genre may have technically existed for long but was popularized after Sword Art Online got popular. Isekai literally means “another world” and is identified by anime that features a character that is transported to another world. I earlier mention that it has technically replaced the harem genre, and this is not just because it’s as popular as the harem genre used to be, but also because a lot of isekai anime also features a main character that acquires a harem over time.



A term that has sadly almost gone extinct. Nowadays we almost exclusively get either more Gundam, Trigger productions or that one Full Metal Panic anime. Mecha anime features mechanical robots with a human to pilot them inside. It’s a genre that has a lot of people shy away because on the surface it looks very uninteresting. However, Mecha anime is like any other anime. They tend to actually not focus on the mecha’s in general, and more on the life besides it. Often these tend to be very political, but in some cases, that’s not it either. I recommend watching some mecha shows before saying you dislike them because I a made the mistake of saying I disliked the genre before I had seen any, which was a big mistake.



Literally means healing and is anime that is made to let you relieve your stress and relax after a long day at school or work. A lot of iyashikei are also seinen works, which shouldn’t be a surprise as young adults often tend to feel be very stressed as they reach the end of their schooldays or have entered the workforce and since anime generally target males more often than females. They are often quite slow in pace and are meant to be relaxing. This is more of an umbrella term as the next two terms often align with iyashikei.


Cute Girls Doing Cute Things

This should be quite self-explanatory, but since many fans of this genre, including myself, shorten it down to either cgdct or cute girls anime, some fans may find it difficult to understand. The genre implies that there’s a group of cute girls that do something in a cute manner. This could be cute girls doing music, cute girls doing boats, cute girls doing work or whatever really. Digibro made a really great chart of essential cgdct anime that you should check out if you’re interested in this type of anime. Just to be clear, a cute girls anime can feature a male character, but there can’t be a male protagonist. In general, males shouldn’t be present at all.


Slice of Life

This is one of the most difficult genres to identify, as almost any anime could share this tag. In general, it means an anime where you show slices of someone’s life that is relevant or interesting for the viewer. They tend to be set on earth, but could also be set in a fantasy world. They can feature fantasy elements but are generally quite toned down. They tend to not feature action, but sometimes they may. SoL are slices of someone’s life.



Contrary to popular belief, idol anime isn’t really that different from other anime. Actually, I’d say they’re just music anime where the girls happen to be idols. Like them or not, but it’s one a big industry in Japan and they’re here to stay. Try one out, because they can actually be quite good.



This is a very complex series of genres and honestly, I don’t want to go into that much detail. Apparently, if you say the wrong things here you’ll be prosecuted by fans of BL (boys love), so I’ll stay out of it. I’ll do a very simplified version of it though so that you know what to expect if you see any of these tags. In general, they all mean anime about same-sex relationships.

Shoujo-Ai: Anime that feature girls love. The term literally means young girls love. These tend to feature less sexual acts and the height of it could be the kiss at the end.

Shounen-Ai: Anime that feature boys love. This term literally means young boys love. As with Shoujo Ai, it tends to feature less sexual acts and the height of it could be the kiss at the end.

Yuri: Anime that feature females in a romantic relationship. Can feature more sexual acts and tend to be more mature than the shoujo-ai counterpart.

Yaoi: Anime that feature males in a romantic relationship. Can feature more sexual acts and can also be more mature than the shounen-ai counterpart.



This used to be a term that was used all the time but has decreased in popularity for the word, lewd. Ecchi means anime that have content that is lewd. It’s the Japanese pronunciation of the letter H and is used as a short for hentai (which is coming next).



Literally meaning pervert in Japanese tends to, in the west, mean any anime featuring visual sexual acts. Basically, it’s anime porn. In Japan, however, that’s not the case. If you go ask people if they know what hentai anime is, they will probably not think about porn unless they know the western side of anime. For simplicity’s sake, this will keep the western meaning as anime porn, even though I tend to say anime porn to not cause confusion.


Coming next time:

This episode was just to get you familiar with the most basics of the basics. In the next episode of Learn Anime Terminology With Senpai, we will be talking about a lot of misused terms that can in worst case offend a lot of people. Senpai will also finally teach you what senpai, kouhai and sensei means, as senpai has used all of these terms in this episode without even explaining them! We will sooner or later get into difficult words that even seasoned watchers can learn from. At some point, we will probably be getting into the production of anime, as that is a topic that senpai is also quite interested in.



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