Getting Used to Watching Anime

It’s time for your favorite anime program. But this time, it will be different.  You will let go of those anime subtitles and spread your Japanese wings.  The first flight may not be pretty, but you will never leave the ground otherwise. For those of you who have struggled with turning your anime passion into your Japanese passion, there are ways to make your experience a lot less painful.

Using Anime to Learn Japanese

Learning The Talk

Do you know what あぶない, かまわない, かみ, じごく, まさか, and りょうかい mean?  Regardless if you don’t, if you watch anime frequently I promise you have heard them.

For many of us, we have been consuming anime for years and have picked up scattered words or at least have high recall when we here certain phrases. For example, I have read so many subtitles over the years that I can tell the quality of a translation job just by their word choices for certain phrases.

A group that I owe much gratitude to, the Yale Anime Society and David Soler  has created a list of 100 most common/useful words in anime.   Each list entry has romaji (although I would’ve preferred ひらがな or 漢字) with extended English explanation and usage.  Can you count the number of times you have heard a character scream, “あぶない!”?

For example: 1. Abunai- dangerous. The term has a broader application in Japanese than a direct translation would suggest, being employed in situations where an English speaker would say “Duck!” or “Look out!” Another common usage is as a euphemism for “deviant,” i.e. a “dangerous” relationship (abunai kankei)

This list at minimum is worth a quick scroll just to make sure you recognize all the words and possible worth up to entry into your anki deck for flavor sentences.

The anime/manga learning website previously reviewed on JALUP is also a great place to start.

Remember what is fun

The kinds of anime and story lines you enjoyed with subtitles you will still enjoy without them.  Depending on your level, you might not be able to watch the same show with 100% understanding or watch things that are super complex, but so what? If you don’t understand 100%, just listening will expose you to the words and bring you closer to the day when you will.

Take a second and look at the kinds of genres you like.  You can find anime with easier Japanese language levels with the same genres.  Also, focusing on genres has more benefits.  If you love school dramas, they will tend to have the same vocabulary so as you watch more of them, your exposure will increase and your recognition will follow.  Alternatively, if you like great music then find anime with good scores.  If you love pretty anime the find ones with great effects.  Follow what you love.

Remember where you’ve been

Never forget where you have come from.  Re-watching a familiar anime is as good place as any to start. You have the advantage of knowing the story and situations from your previous viewing so you can continue enjoying it in places where your Japanese skill might normally fail you.

Also consider crossing platforms. If there was a video game or manga you have played or read, check to see if it has an anime.  Make use of the time you have already invested with the world and characters.

Remember what makes the language level hard

Language in anime can vary widely and maddeningly, because of different kinds of formality, speech patterns, and regional accents.  You may have characters who only use super female words spewing かしら at the end of every sentence. Or you might get the super old Japanese おじいさん who turns every 私 into a わし。Then there are the differences between young male Japanese and middle aged man Japanese.  This is not even taking into considerations けいご and its varying levels of politeness. On top of all that, you have to think about the special language word sets.  You can have pirate, ninja, samurai, medical, magical girls, giant robot, and more.

Should this scare you off? I know the Japanese learners on this site don’t give up easily and you would love to get your hands on all the benefits that using anime will bring for your Japanese. If you want a little less language stress in the beginning, it may be good to start off with simpler, normal life anime settings like Azumanga Daioh.

March Forward

The world of anime is vibrant and stunning.   You get exposed to so many cultural aspects and the true breadth of language styles all in one source. There truly is something for everyone.  They say in Tokyo you can find anything you want and the same is true for anime.

And finally, while anime guides are in no shortage on the internet, I’ve decided to create a few that target specific users on this site who will benefit most.



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A writer for Japanese Level up and a 4th Year JET. Has the ability to consume anime and J-dramas at an alarming pace and may be too in love with kanji.

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