The official antiotaku glossary – Being a simple Primer to Educate Readers in the vocabulary of the Deviant Tribe, the Otaku
One of my main goals when starting antiotaku was to write about anime without using any of the massive amounts of slang and jargon that the fandom has accumulated. It’s another barrier to entry in getting people to watch anime, and it can be pretty intimidating to someone just starting to get interested. You shouldn’t have to keep Wikipedia open just to understand a discussion.
But one of the reasons for the preponderance of jargon is that anime tends to reuse a lot of the same tropes and concepts. If you want to discuss those concepts, as we obviously do, it helps to have words to describe them, if only so you don’t have to keep writing “boys-only romance show aimed at girls”.
So we’ve put together a short glossary with some terms that just keep comping up, or that we feel need further explanation. It’s by no means complete: we’ll update it regularly, as we need to.
We’ve covered many different types of shows over the past six months at antiotaku: romances, comedies, action shows, and dramas; shows aimed at the male and female demographics; shows which are stunningly good and utterly awful. But we’ve yet to touch on one very specific genre of anime which is both popular and influential: the magical girl show.
Dating back to at least Sailor Moon, given new life with shows such as Card Captor Sakura and Shugo Chara, and subversively interpreted in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha and Futari Wa Pretty Cure, magical girl shows still share some common themes, which don’t appear in all of them, but in enough to form a trend. An ordinary girl will be bequeathed with or discover she has magical powers, that such powers are needed to fight in some continual battle, that there are others with these powers who may help or hinder the protagonist, and—maybe a third to halfway through a show’s run—a specific plot that may have nothing to do with the original conflict will emerge as the central fight of the narrative.
Come to think of it, that’s a reasonably good description of male-oriented action shows like Bleach. Clearly there are some other factors in play.
There’s a certain genre in anime that I’ve never been able to properly define. It’s a vague thing: a combination of the typical collection of premises, aesthetics, settings and character archetypes that make up most genres, but there’s something else to this that defies description.
Let’s start with the superficial elements, because they’re necessary, but not sufficient, to explain what this is. These series nearly always take place in high school, and typically stars a not-particularly exceptional male and his social circle. There are nearly always more female members of that circle, and at least some of these are typically (but not always) attracted to the male, for reasons that are rarely satisfactorily explained.
Whenever we cover a unique cultural aspect of Japanese or otaku culture, we usually try to do it within an article about a related work. But sometimes, that concept is just too complicated or too weird to explain satisfactorily without completely drowning out the rest of the review.
Visual novels are a medium almost entirely unique to otaku. They developed out of simple PC games in the 80s which consisted of simple stories framed by anime-style artwork. At certain points, the player would be offered a choice, and the story would branch based on that choice.
It needs to be said that most of the interaction in these games consists of clicking to see the next line of the story. There’s not nearly the kind of interaction common in Western adventure games, or any other Western game genre. The closest comparison I can think of is to a particularly low-key and narrative-driven piece of interactive fiction.