Anime in Japanese Studies

How would you react if I told you that anime could be a great tool for studying Japanese?

“Anime Is Not Good For Japanese”

Maybe some of you view the idea of studying Japanese through anime with skepticism.

Throughout the Internet, there are a lot of arguments against utilizing anime – and I for one, actually agree.

Here are some of the reasons why anime is not a good resource:

1. The Voice Acting

Voice acting is a respected form of performance in Japan. In fact, Japanese fans sometimes choose to watch an anime just based on the appearance of one of their favorite voice actors.

However since it’s a performance, there’s a bit of exaggeration, meaning people don’t necessarily sound like that in real life.

In other words, please don’t try to mimic anime characters (especially squeaky high school girls… well, you can if that’s what you want)


2. The Speaking Style

I often recommend people to focus on the polite style of Japanese, since that is most likely the way you will hold conversations with Japanese people initially.

In anime however, depending on the characters’ relationships with each other, they will probably be speaking in casual style.

Also, in shounen anime, the protagonists tend to have a rough speaking style based on their attitude and personality. Therefore it’s not recommended to learn from these types of characters without understanding the polite way to address the same situations.


3. The Content

Ninjas, pirates, and super saiyans, oh my.

This reason is obvious, but a lot of content in these kinds of shows are probably not applicable to conversations you will have in real life -unless your profession lies in these fields. In which case, please message me and tell me how to be a professional super saiyan.


4. The Lack of Japanese-text Subtitles

I think listening is one of the hardest aspects of learning Japanese for beginners, and even for those who have been learning for a while.

Studying Japanese from anime requires a good ear for distinguishing words from each other, especially for different verb forms and speaking styles.

Also, it’s difficult to confirm what you thought you had heard since there are rarely Japanese-text subtitles provided.


Anime Can Be A Great Motivator!

It may seem that I have shot down the statement I had presented at the beginning of this article so now I’ll try to restate it differently.

How would you react if I told you that anime could be a great tool for keeping up your motivation to study Japanese?

Let’s take a look at the chart below!

Anime in Japanese Studies Japanese study chart

Working from the upper left quadrant, maybe you start off your Japanese studies with motivation and enthusiasm.  You look online for how to get started, begin working through a flashcard set or two, and maybe even buy a textbook.

“Think of all the things you will eventually be able to understand and say in Japanese one day!” you tell yourself…


Until you move into the right quadrant, which is when you get bored or frustrated with your current Japanese ability.

This chart is meant to be applicable to any level of Japanese learner, especially with this phase – regardless of if you’ve been studying Japanese for a few months or a few years, there are bound to be times when you experience frustration.

“What’s the point of studying? I’m not getting any better.” “I’m not really going to use it anyway.” If you’re at this point, I want to say…


Go back and watch some anime, one that you really enjoy or even one of the first ones you ever watched, if you feel like rewatching it.

Maybe for many of you, like me, anime was one of the main reasons why you started studying Japanese.

Even if you’re further down your studies and have different reasons for learning Japanese, you should go back to a source of motivation, especially if you’re at the point of frustration or boredom.


Remember what got you into studying Japanese. In watching some of your favorite anime, you’ll realize that…

You DO understand some things that you weren’t able to before!

Sure, at the same time there are still probably many things that you don’t understand yet, but appreciate and focus on the things that you do know.

  • Were you able to hear a new vocabulary or grammar form that you had just studied?
  • Could you understand the usage of a formal phrase after seeing it in context in an anime?
  • Did you have a deeper understanding of a word pun or cultural joke?

If you answer yes to any of these situations, you should feel like a boss. It’s a satisfying feeling to see what you’ve learned in use, especially in a media form that you enjoy. Hopefully this feeling will motivate you to go back and…


Study more Japanese! See how anime can tie to motivation throughout learning Japanese?

For any of us, it’s possible to fall into a slump – so at these times, don’t make your Japanese studies a chore. Make it fun for yourself and let that help you ease back into learning with flashcards and textbooks.


Using Anime in Japanese Studies

Here are some tips for incorporating anime in learning Japanese:

Anime in Japanese Studies Shirokuma Cafe anime Japanese


Pick an Anime with Useful Conversations

In all anime, even the shounen ones, there are a lot of usable phrases. However, you may have to sift between the specialized vocabulary and masculine speaking style in order to find them.

Therefore I recommend watching a slice-of-life anime, since these shows are more likely to have conversations that pertain to what people would normally say in everyday situations.

Niffer has a great recommendation list of these shows here. My personal favorites are K-On! (school setting), New Game! (office setting), and Shirokuma Café (basically everywhere else).


Try to Listen for Things You Know, and then Expand

Unless you’re an advanced learner, you should not aim for 100% comprehension right away. In fact, this could be overwhelming and possibly frustrating.

Instead, try to listen for things you have studied and work from there.


For Beginners; you could start with basic cultural phrases (Ohayo/Otsukaresama/Tadaima etc) and listen for polite form verbs that you have studied (masu/mashita).

You can then move up by listening for the words surrounding those verbs, such as the direct object (~ wo) or the location ( ~ ni, ~ de).


For Intermediate Learners; you will have a wider range of grammar and vocabulary to work with so you will be able to pick up more.

To challenge yourself, study the different forms of a verb when you come across it in a dialogue.

For example, you may know the base word taberu/tabemasu, but do you know passive and potential forms? How about with ~sugiru or ~yasui attached at the end? This is a good chance to improve your grammar.


For Advanced Learners; you may be at the point where you can roughly understand most of conversations that occur in a slice-of-life anime.

There will still be words that are new to you, but you are more able to pick them out and look them up.

When you come across these words, try to look up example sentences so you can understand its full usage.

Also if you come across grammar that changes the nuance of what the character is saying, see if you can put it in use yourself.

Anime in Japanese Studies Sailor Moon Japanese youtube


Share What you Know

Do you have classmates that you study Japanese with? Or a friend that likes anime and is interested in learning Japanese? Take the cool things you’ve come across in anime and share it with them!

Teaching others is a great way to solidify the knowledge of a concept for yourself.

This was my goal when I started my Youtube Channel, アニメで勉強チャンネル. Through my videos, I try to highlight useful Japanese that come up in anime and explain the grammar and culture behind it. Ultimately, I want to make Japanese learning fun for others.

– GaikokuJenny


Recently my channel has been inactive due to some changes I’m making in the set-up, but I will be back and posting in May.

GaikokuJenny Using Anime in Japanese StudiesUntil then, you can catch me on Twitter @gaikokujenny. Please feel free to say hi and tweet me any recommendations for anime or Japanese learning resources!


Bio: Gaikokujenny is a Japanese language enthusiast and dork. She has been studying Japanese for over 6 years and is currently working with Japanese expat families in the U.S. In her free time, she likes to read, watch anime, and chill with her Shiba-inu and Netherland dwarf bunny, Rin and Kuri.

You can catch her on Youtube or Twitter.


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