5 Anime That You Shouldn’t Need English Subtitles To Watch — 60 Comments

  1. Another easy anime I think would be しろくまカフェ(Polar Bear cafe). It’s a slice-of-life anime with animals. Much of the dialog is spoken slowly. It’s also very funny. ♪

  2. Chi’s Sweet Home is also a really great way to introduce Japanese TV to kids. I’ve used it with both preschool age and elementary school age. And it’s short enough to keep up with their attention span too!

    And I totally agree with Jiseri about しろくまカフェ!

  3. Nice article. But I really don’t understand why people struggle so much to watch Japanese content without subtitles. I think it is all about the mind set. A lot of comments I see on the internet make out that watching their favourite anime without subtitles is almost a form of self-induced torture.

    I am pretty much as beginner as they come. So technically I am not really up to the whole immersion phase in the JALUP methodology. But I watch at least 2-4 hours of Japanese content (movies or j-drama) everyday.

    I am telling you for a fact I do not understand 99% of whats being said. But I still highly enjoy watching it. The thought of wanting subtitles doesn’t even enter my head. I have trained myself to hate subtitles. I avoid subtitles at all costs.

    It only took me about 2 days and now it is like a religion to me. I simply refuse to watch anything with subtitles. My wife is Japanese, and sometimes she starts watching a drama on youtube with subtitles.

    I ask her to find please find another link to the same show, or I simply refuse to watch it. I will listen to it instead whilst I am practising some Japanese, but never will I watch the subtitles.

    I think people just need to adjust their thinking, and then it will become so natural that when you see something with subtitles it will repulse you so much that you never want to see an other subtitle ever again.

    • You’re exactly the same as me. I avoid subtitles at all cost, even though I’m a beginner. I also watch at least 2 hours of Japanese TV everyday.

    • It’s definitely possible.
      I remember going to my Japanese friend’s house back in high school when I barely knew hiragana. We would watch raw Japanese tv shows and even though I couldn’t understand anything I was entranced. (Maybe because of the cute boys though.) I would just ask her about certain things that looked particularly interesting and could at least understand contextually what was going on. And it was fun trying to pick out a の or a は in the background images or if the show used their own Japanese subtitles for humor emphasis.

      So yeah, if you have the passion there is definitely a way to not need subtitles.

      My issue these days is that I’m becoming obsessed with seeing how certain things are translated. Seeing if I would translate something similarly or differently. Although a good skill to have, it’s not something I really need to focus on right now so I should go back to ignoring subtitles.

    • “But I really don’t understand why people struggle so much to watch Japanese content without subtitles. I think it is all about the mind set. A lot of comments I see on the internet make out that watching their favourite anime without subtitles is almost a form of self-induced torture.”

      I really don’t understand how one could even begin to make such a comment. Suppose you have an ongoing japanese show (like one of the longer animes) you have been watching with subtitles for a while. Then turning off the subtitles may mean essentially reducing the complex characters you’ve come to love to the shadow of them that can be gleaned from the animation itself.
      Maybe for some material and for some people that shadow still contains enough of what they like to be enjoyable, but there’s definitely no reason to expect that to be universal. In my case, for instance, my vocabulary has been steadily increasing (via the reading world) to the point that nowadays I will generally be able to glean something from many if not most spoken lines for some types of media, but it is still far too little for me to actually be deem the experience that enjoyable (as opposed to my reading, which is now almost there).

      • “I really don’t understand how one could even begin to make such a comment. Suppose you have an ongoing japanese show (like one of the longer animes) you have been watching with subtitles for a while. Then turning off the subtitles may mean essentially reducing the complex characters you’ve come to love to the shadow of them that can be gleaned from the animation itself.”

        Like I said it is all about the mind set.

        I was a mad anime fan since I was 17 until about 26, my hundreds of DVD’s sit on the bookshelf like glimmering Japanese trophies. I also really enjoy the anime Naruto, which is very long running and I still watch. But since I found this website I have not watched a single episode of Naruto with subtitles. Nor any of my other anime.

        Do I understand everything that going on or being said? Of course not, but I actually enjoy watching anime more now without subtitles. Every second I watch is one second closer to Japanese mastery.

        • I think both Uvauva and Nayr have a point here. Personally, I can find myself enjoying any material, in whatever language, in the original language. My ears are drawn to new words, music and visually I am entranced by the gestures characters will make, the setting and so on. However, I’m also passionate for story, character development and so on. When I was a beginner, I did not give up the subs. Now, I don’t need them and passionately avoid them. I never looked back once I started avoiding them, but my Japanese is good enough to pick up the story. I don’t understand 100%, but experiencing the media in Japanese is thrilling, good for my Japanese and sometimes more revealing than the translated version. I just love doing things in Japanese.

          Just a word of advice to Nayr, it’s not always easy to avoid subtitles. You may be watching with friends who don’t understand Japanese, or in a class where a scene from a film is being shown, so train your eyes to avoid the subtitles! Depending on the size of the screen and how big the font is, it may be difficult, but you can do it! And with your wife, you can hide the subtitles through creative ways, such as opening up notepad and spreading it over the screen. Some things are just hard to find without subs.

          • I find the hardest thing for me at them moment is when I am watching Japanese dubbed movies is to make my brain not lip read the english.

            Especially difficult if it is a movie I have already watched alot in English. I have to force myself sometime to not look at the chracters mouths.

        • “Like I said it is all about the mind set.”

          Do you think that one’s taste is part of ones mindset, or that it can be changed by mere force of will?

          Since you brought up Naruto, I’ll also say how I dealt with it.
          Nowadays I actually don’t watch the anime anymore since I’ve switched to the manga. When I first started learning japanese the manga was entering (what seems like) the final arc, and my decision was that I cared too much about the story to try reading it’s end with half-assed japanese. My expectation is that it would be the equivalent of spoiling the story for myself.

          That is not to say I don’t read stuff in Japanese, as I read plenty nowadays, but I don’t do it with stuff I have previous investment in.

          If you want to call that a “mindset” problem, you can, but I think that that is ultimately reductionist. Rather, I view it as a matter of taste, and just because your taste does not “prevent you from watching (your) favorite anime without subtitles “, I do fail to see why you find it so hard to understand that some people might.

          If something does work for you, that’s great, and by all means share, but don’t just assume that everyone who doesn’t feel the same way is somehow at fault. For instance, nowadays I go through a daily 300+ anki reviews, while some people who post on this website seem to feel that even 50 a day is torture. Should I then, you think, question their mindset, or is there room for personal taste in influencing what study methods one finds viable?

          • Hey Uvauva, by no means was my post intended to discreadit people who watch subtitles, and if my post has offended you in some way I am sorry.

            We are all on the same team here (the JALUP team) and my post was intended to try and inspire or encourage people who perhaps cling to subtitles to much to try and shift their mind set.

            I think eventually people will enjoy Japanese only content that they may have though not possible previously regardless of theri level.
            However I can only talk about my own personal expericence. Everyone is diffrent.

            Happy studing.

            • Hello, I get what you’re saying and I myself am finding that I would like to take the step of watching things without subtitles, even if it means watching things twice (I HATE not understanding what’s going on).
              For me, I would liken this whole subtitle situation to people who like J-pop who don’t understand any Japanese. For some people the tune, voices, fun video and attractiveness of the singers is enough, while others really would prefer to understand what’s being said, especially when it comes to more than one random song.

              Anyway, I noticed from an earlier post that you are at least 26 years old, so I don’t want to sound patronizing AT ALL, but I would just advise you that if you are ever trying to encourage and inspire, do not start off with saying you don’t understand the feelings/mindset/ideas/struggles of the person/people you are trying to encourage. Encouragement will never come from ‘I don’t get why you feel like that when *I* feel this way’. It’s actually quite demeaning.
              I say this, not as somebody exceptionally smart, but as someone who has needed encouragement at many points in my life so far. I know what it takes!

          • Well, I think it comes down more to priorities, rather than taste (or perhaps that is taste?), and perhaps a certain mindset can help you focus on a priority that might be difficult for you to take on otherwise.

            For instance, some people give up all their favorite English tv shows to focus just on Japanese. It is a sacrifice, but it’s not a necessity of life to watch those English tv shows A certain mindset might be needed to encourage oneself to do so.

            I’d say subtitled tv shows are almost like those English tv shows, but you are getting some Japanese, so it’s middle ground. Sometimes people prioritize the series they like over the extremity they put into their Japanese studies. It does not mean they are less dedicated in their Japanese. In fact, they may even watch certain things all in Japanese, but save their favorite series that they’ve already been watching for English subtitles.

            And just like you said, I would find 50 reps a day unrealistic, because I just have other priorities to attend to. I don’t prioritize anki at all, and use it as a tool for periods when I’m engaged in a specific active study (like RTK). Mostly, my study is through extensive immersion (reading/listening/watching/conversing). I question the effectiveness of long term anki use, and don’t feel I should rely on it. That’s certainly taste, not mindset. Just as you said.

          • I’ll just say this. There are definitely people like me and Uvauva out there. He’s definitely not alone.

            I’m not trying to continue this old conversation here, but I wanted to get my message out. I’ll give an example — when I decided to read Clannad, a visual novel, I could never relax because I wanted to understand 100% of every sentence. Not just “want”, but more like I was compelled. I absolutely can’t stand just “not knowing” a sentence. It’s simply too precious to me, I absolutely don’t want to miss out and the likes. It would gnaw on me for ages if I did it. That’s the feeling I get.

            Know what I ended up doing? I actually learnt a lot, a whole lot, more words in a weird way. I used subtitles, but I found myself always listening to the audio first since I understood what was being said without reading the subtitles, or fragments of it. Then, whenever I found a n+1 sentence or a sentence I was interested in, I just typed it out and added it to Anki. If there were a sentence that was too hard, I just read the translation and moved on, and I still understood it. It did not feel like a chore and hell anymore, every word I learnt genuinely felt like a win, because I wanted to learn them and was curious about them.

            My point with all of this is not to use English subtitles. I agree wholeheartedly, in general, that one should not use them. But just like some people absolutely thinks subtitles are never good, there are some who uses them to some degree and benefits. Just like there are some who can drop subtitles without any problems, and there are some who find it extremely vexing and hard.

            Find what works for you. :)

        • Maybe it’s time to just give up on commenting _(_u_)_ Internet culture can be brutal. I do learn things from discussion, but you have a point I’ve often though about.

    • (I’m really responding to the whole thread here, not any particular post.)

      Almost every decision comes down to both priorities and taste. How unpleasant is something? How hard to you push yourself to do it anyway? How hard do you try to change yourself? Since the answers to these questions are different for everyone, it’s very hard to judge other people’s experience.

      I’m pretty sure the title of this is actually about helping people find the best of both worlds – monolingual and understandable – so that the desires for being able to follow the plot and progress in Japanese don’t have to be in conflict. I think this is the best approach anyway; you also learn more when you understand the context that the new words are in.

      Personally I’m just not particularly into watching things in *any* language, *especially* without subtitles (I turn on English subtitles for English shows since I figured out this was a good part of why I tended to prefer foreign things.) Most of the reason I watch anime is to have something to do with my husband, so the subtitles are on no matter how easy it is. When I watch things by myself I watch them without English subtitles and with Japanese if I can find them, but I don’t watch things by myself very often. Maybe that’s partly because I haven’t found many I can follow, but I’d rather pick up a manga even if I I’m not following that any better. I’m pretty certain that’s taste; while reading *is* a high priority for me that’s because I enjoy reading.

      • Oooh, nice to find someone like me! I always have subs on, except when I’m watching sport! I’m not 100% sure it’s taste with me though, more a case of not having the best hearing and becoming used to subs.
        I would love to watch things with Japanese subs and wish Crunchyroll (where I watch most of my anime) had that option. Even with English subs, I find myself having to pause multiple times throughout shows to check what I *think* I heard in a dictionary. *sigh*

    • I never used subtitles at all in my entire and on going Japanese experience. I started a little over 2 years ago, and Have not watched a single show/anime/whatever with subtitles.

      If there are subtitles, they are softsubbed, and I delete the subtitle file because I avoid them at all costs. If it is hard subs I will avoid it until I can find one without subs.

      I think watching without subs from the very beginning is better in the long run, because rather than reading subs to understand, you get in the mentality that “Boy, If I want to understand this I better get some mad japanese skills and fast!”.

      Usually with subs you think you understand more than you actually can too.

    • If you don’t understand 99% of what is happening in the show then this ‘method’ makes absolutely no sense. What are you learning from it?

      • It does if you think about it. Little kids learning their native language don’t get “subtitles”. They have to pick things up through context and repeated exposure, which leads to strong real-world connections with new words and more natural use patterns. Immersion is extremely powerful, given enough time.

        Obviously the higher your % understanding is, the more effective this immersion and context learning becomes. But there’s no need to wait for 99% to enjoy the benefits. I was picking up words from context in that way back when I had as little as 30% understanding. I was also learning more nuanced details about words I already “knew”.

        I will say that it’s difficult initially to get over the feeling that you need to understand every little thing they say, but once you let go of that you’ll be surprised by just how much you can follow, and how much you’re enjoying doing so =)

      • Like Matt points out, this is the most natural form of language learning. It is not like reading a text book with specific items to study. Instead you learn the flow, sound and natural use of the language. This works no matter what your skill level is. You do it in your native language as well. Nobody teaches you new words or slang – you just pick it up naturally from being immersed in the language every day.

  4. けいおん! belongs up there with あずまんが大王 and 日常.

    Also even though the episodes have partial English subtitles as part of the skits everyone should watch The World of Golden Eggs.

    • Haha, my wife loves that show. I have the DVD’s at home but I havent really sat down to watch it yet.

    • The World of Golden Eggs is a brilliant show!
      I used to love the solid line-up of that, Sun Red, and Peeping Life on Kids Station(?).
      Reminds me of certain adult swim line-ups.

  5. Ok, it’s never mentioned *anywhere* (seems like no one else watches it!), but I would add Mainichi Kaasan/Mom’s Life. I’m watching it for the second time since I hadn’t properly started studying Japanese the first time and it’s still funny and cute and interesting!
    I will probably buy it and watch it again in a year or so completely sub-less.

  6. speaking of chi’s sweet home, you can also use it as a pronunciation guide. I tried reading the manga first because the grammar is easy and the kanji are common ones with furigana, but if you have trouble reading it (because the furigana is tiny :/ ) , the anime is word for word from the manga.

    • Thanks 光, you gave a great insight. Using the manga and anime to reinforce each other is a great way to study!

  7. It hasn’t been mentioned much, but I find watching with Japanese subs very helpful. I have watched most of my favorite anime this way. From very early on (early first year of Japanese) I was struggling through jp-subbed anime, looking up every other word. I am now part of a small sentai who are all doing this. I was painfully slow at first, now I am pretty fast (it has been about a year and a half).

    I do also need to watch without subs as my kikitori is a weak point, though interestingly I can watch with subs (a lot) faster than I can watch without subs (and understand well) and also a lot faster than I can read. A synthesis of reading, or half-reading, and hearing works very well and is developing both skills, I imagine.

    I actually started this after talking with a Spanish friend whose English is amazing. She said the only difference between her and her classmates (whose English is terrible) is that she watched English movies with English subtitles intensively. She said it took about four years before she could dispense with the subtitles.

    Of course Spanish (or English for a Spanish Speaker) and Japanese are not the same thing. I can read Spanish better than I can read Japanese even though I can’t hold a conversation in Spanish (I can in Japanese). But I am sure that watching Japanese with Japanese subtitles is a good method for me and seems to be working well for my close Japanese-learning friends.

    Also (half-) ignoring the subtitles because you want to learn to HEAR becomes quite a different process because a) they are easier to ignore since reading Japanese is not (yet) as automatic as the see-and-understand process in English and b) one can actually glance at them for a little help which is really good rapid-recognition kanji practice!

  8. Clannad is also a pretty easy one I think, for those who like anime that is both critically acclaimed and fairly easy to follow without subtitles.

    Also I would highly recommend going back and watching any anime that you’ve already seen and rewatching without subtitles.

    This is great if you’re still a beginner because you can enjoy it just fine without feeling like there are details you are missing, you get a boost to your confidence because you’ll find yourself understanding things that you might normally have trouble with (those moments where you know nearly every word in the sentence but for some reason can’t mentally string it together fast enough to comprehend it the first time you watch; since you know the context already now, you’ll find yourself being like “oh i get why this sentence means XYZ!” ), and for learning to understand new words (when there are sentences where you remember what they were saying and you find that you know every word except for one, you’ll naturally piece together what that word means, or if there are certain words being used a lot)

  9. Give me subs whenever possible. Nichijou can’t be enjoyed without subs in some spots. And the spots that don’t have subs don’t have any dialogue anyway!

  10. wrong ! that is good for deaf people for anime (japan)for subtitles englishand other,it is important for deaf people to read subtitles dvd

    • You’re right. Subtitles are really important for Deaf people. For a long time, anime has rarely included subtitles, so it’s been really hard for Japanese Deaf people to enjoy anime. I think more anime has subtitles now a days.

      But this is talking about how to learn Japanese listening skills for hearing people. If a Deaf person were learning Japanese, it would be best to put the subtitles in Japanese to immerse themselves in the language.

  11. I LOVE Nichijou, and watched the whole series with subs. I just found some MKV files with embedded soft subs, and the corresponding J-subs for the first three episodes. Lined up perfectly in subs2srs. Should I be concerned that the cast is almost entirely young females (and I’m a dude)? I don’t want to inadvertently pick up gender-inappropriate speech patterns.

    • Also, does anyone know where I can find Japanese subs beyond the first three episodes (which are on kitsunekko)?

  12. 名探偵コナン (detective conan) is great for Japanese practice I think. It has a combination of adult and child characters so the speech can be really easy at times but goes up a notch depending on the character. But overall it’s pretty easy considering I think. There’s like a million episodes too. I just got into it last fall and have been watching it every night and there’s still tons more to watch. Can’t seem to stop ;p.

  13. @paul that is an excellent point. コナン is an excellent series for Japanese practice. It uses lots of N2 grammar all over the place. It also has a variety of characters that consistently speak both causal, semi formal, and formal Japanese.

  14. I don’t like how ambiguous your article is, it’s like you’re advising to watch raws or something (>watching Natsume raw, kek). I know plenty of people who watch raws and delude themselves into thinking they understand a lot while then barely get 30% of what is going on (looking at you Stark). And unsurprizingly when they don’t study on the side they almost never make any progress in their learning of the language.

    Which is why you should at least advocate the use of Japanese subs, one of the best learning tools I ever found.

    • Japanese subtitles are helpful, but ultimately not everything is going to come with subtitles. Whether it’s a new or obscure anime, a YouTube video, or a real life conversation, these things won’t have subtitles. By all means use subtitles if it helps you, but watching raw is what will really prepare your listening skills for these situations. Like anything, you’ll get used to it, even when you understand less than 30%.

      • >you’ll get used to listenning without understanding anything
        I don’t really see the point, I can get used to watch Chinese tv too, but what for?
        Any extensive listenning should have 80 to 90% of comprehensible input to be any useful, if you have less you should do intensive listenning and there’s really no need to waste your time with watching raws “to get used to it”.

        I get you’re trying to get newbies to tackle native material earlier on, but that could be counter-productive and demoralizing to some.

    • here’s my advice: watch with subtitles where available, remove subtitles on repeat viewings, extract audio and use it for passive listening. Try it, and tell me what you all think.

      • I agree! And this could apply to Japanese subs. That way, your understanding is maximized through the Japanese subs while watching, and then afterwards you still get the RAW listening benefits.

        I personally don’t use Japanese subs because I don’t need them. But I wasn’t able to watch things RAW until level 30. Until then I watched with English subs when available and did repeated listening (obviously without subs) in the car. I wish I had used Japanese subs when I wasn’t ready to watch things RAW!

        • I meant Japanese subs sorry! But before level 30 definitely English subs>jp subs>no subs> passive immersion

  15. I don’t know about these other anime, but I’ve seen Natsume: Book of Friends, and you’re insane if you think you can watch it without some kind of translation. It’s story-based, with a LOT of talking. You NEED TO KNOW what is going on, or you’ll never understand the episodes.

    • I second your thoughts on Natsume. I first saw it back while it was originally airing w/ English subs and now I’m watching re-runs on Animax unsubbed and it has a LOT of specialized vocabulary pertaining to youkai and Japanese mythology that I wasn’t even aware of before watching it unsubbed. There’s no way a beginner would be able to understand it as a starting point. The same goes for Nichijou. Part of its charm is the many Japanese culture references interspersed throughout the show, but these include Haiku, wordplay, and other factors which are usually delivered in a fairly quick pace which can make it a bit tough to follow (though to be fair, it’s just a very random show in general lol). I’d much sooner recommend Azumanga to a beginner than Nichijou, or any other slice of life comedy for that matter. Persona also has its own fair bit of specialty terms.

      I’m all for immersion, but jumping into things that are too advanced for you can actually be more detrimental than helpful. At the start, short-term pay offs tend to be far more motivating compared to long-term ones, and not being able to understand what you’re watching can be frustrating for some. Chi’s Sweet Home is really the only one on this list that I can agree with. Chibi Maruko-chan or Doraemon would also be good ones since they’re very iconic shows. Strawberry Marshmallow is another slice of life title that I’ve found to be very easy to understand and entertaining, though as a warning, some of the jokes are a bit adult in nature. The same would go for Minami-Ke. Honestly, while I support what’s being said, I feel like there are far better choices out there than the ones that were actually given.

      • Thanks for this. I tried Natsume on the strength of this article and my morale was crushed when I couldn’t understand a thing.

      • I’m trying to find a good beginner’s anime to watch without subs, but I’m struggling to find any of those you suggested. I’m trying to find a legal way to watch online, but crunchyroll has none of those titles. Where do others find their anime?

        • You could try Non Non Biyori. I know CR has that one and it’s a pretty good show to try and tackle without subs.

          Depending on how much exposure you’ve had to “non-standard” speech patterns, some of the characters’ way of talking might throw you at first, but you get used to it after a while and it shouldn’t prevent you from following the story.

          Good luck!

  16. Crunchyroll has a really long running series: Folktales from Japan (ふるさと再生 日本の昔ばなし) and you can turn the English subs off on it. ;)

    The stories are all really short and straight forward and even if you don’t get all of it the animation makes it pretty clear what’s going on. It’s a great way introduction to Japanese folklore/fairy tales, which get referenced in more complicated anime like Hozuki no Reitetsu (鬼灯の冷徹) a LOT.

    • That sounds great! I would love knowing more about the Japanese folklore… I’m thinking of using Non Non Biyori as my study anime for serious listening practice (watching every episode multiple times to get most of what they are saying)… ふるさと再生 日本の昔ばなし sounds great for a more relaxed approach with no subs but going for understanding the overall story and not bother too much with missing some of the conversation…

  17. Thanks for the Chi’s Sweet Home tip! My toddler has fallen in love with it! Now I can have some Japanese listening practice without trying to hear it over Mickey Mouse Clubhouse — which I have to confess trying to find in Japanese. -.-

  18. I’d recommend any Yu-Gi-Oh! series with Japanese dub tbh. Due to the many terms that they borrow from the English language, some language structures are very easy to recognize.

  19. I’m just gonna add to this list by mentioning Flying Witch, which is also really easy to read and one of my absolute favorite series! A great way of getting into what ordinary Japanese conversations sound like, and also what the country actually looks like :)

  20. Where is それいけ!アンパンマン , a perfect kids’ cartoon to learn Japanese and also my favorite anime?

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