If you’re teaching yourself Japanese, you’re likely on the lookout for resources to make the job easier! Diversifying your learning tools—and making sure that at least some of them are entertaining—is the key to avoiding burnout and staying motivated. If you haven’t yet, we recommend giving Japanese anime (アニメ) a try. Anime, and other movies and TV shows, is a fun way to improve your linguistic abilities and learn more about culture. For tips on how to learn Japanese with anime, keep reading!


What Is Japanese Anime?

An anime (アニメ) is an animated movie or show from Japan. They are often based on books known as manga.

Fun fact:Anime” is a diminutive that comes straight from the English term animation, which is transcribed into Japanese as animēshon (アニメーション).

The very first Japanese animations were produced in 1917. But it wasn’t until the 1960s and the iconic works of Osamu Tezuka that the genre began to really take off.

By the 1970s, anime was being exported on a large scale and gained an international following. Over the past fifty years, the genre has only continued to grow.

By the 1990s, anime and manga had become hugely popular in Japan and around the world. Shows like Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Power Rangers (an American adaptation of the Japanese show Super Sentai) brought anime into American homes on popular TV channels, and overlap in the video game market spurred additional interest.

People in the West might have the perception that anime is a youth subculture. But do Japanese people watch anime? Yes, and in Japan, kids aren’t the only ones watching!

There’s a wide range of anime shows for older audiences that explore subjects like social norms, psychology, history, and more.

Just like with manga, there’s something for everyone.

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How to Learn Japanese from Anime: Vocabulary and Grammar

Sure, it’s fun to watch, but can you learn Japanese from anime? To explore the rich potential for learning Japanese from anime, it’s important to understand how to use them to improve your vocabulary and master grammar.

Listen and repeat to practice pronunciation

Whenever you’re learning a language—no matter what it may be—listening and pronunciation are two essential skills to prioritize. Dialogues in anime are an ideal way to learn new words and to work to understand how they are used. And they’re also a great way to practice correct pronunciation as well as the general rhythm and pronunciation of the language.

Remember the shadowing technique that we’re always talking about at MosaLingua? This exercise for practicing pronunciation through imitation is the perfect way to train your ear and develop more natural pronunciation. Listen to Japanese conversation (or scripted dialogue) in small tidbits, and try to replicate the sounds as closely as possible.

‍Also, if you’re going to learn Japanese with anime, it’s important to know that watching in Japanese with subtitles can help you draw connections between the audio and the written text. This helps reinforce reading skills.

By associating words and sounds, you can improve your reading speed and enrich your vocabulary.

If you learn Japanese with anime, you’ll be able to combine listening, pronunciation, and reading in an interactive way. This makes the learning process more active and entertaining while also providing continuous and authentic exposure to the spoken language.

Use anime to familiarize yourself with Japanese registers

‍So what type of Japanese is used in anime?

Just like other TV shows, anime offers a range of characters and different language styles. They can expose learners to more or less formal language, different ways of speaking, and even regional dialects. Just like talking with people in real life.

But do beware, anime characters often tend to be portrayed in a caricatured way. So don’t expect to hear Japanese people speak exactly like they do in anime!

Immerse yourself in Japanese culture

‍Aside from the linguistic benefits, anime can play an important role in understanding Japanese culture. They are a fabulous gateway to learning about the traditions, social norms, and values that shape Japanese society. It also provides valuable insight into daily life in Japan: social interactions, traditional festivals, cuisine, clothing, and many other elements of Japanese culture.

Learning the language goes hand in hand with learning the culture. Studying a language enables us to grasp cultural nuances that can otherwise be lost in translation. And knowing more about habits and customs enables learners to use Japanese appropriately.


Our Top Picks to Learn Japanese with Anime

Below, we’ve assembled a diverse collection of anime that you can use to improve your Japanese. We hope there’s something on this list that catches your attention. If not, don’t give up – there are many, many more out there. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section!

Chi’s Sweet Home・チーズスイートホーム

Japanese anime - Chi's Sweet HomeThis anime recounts the adventures of Chi, a kitten adopted by the Yamada family. The episodes are short (about 3 minutes), and the dialogues are fairly simple. The human characters speak with a neutral tone, unlike some more caricatured anime voices.

This is a great show for learners who don’t have a very wide vocabulary yet, but who want to start familiarizing themselves with the language. It’s cute and accessible, because the world is viewed through the eyes of a kitten exploring her surroundings.

If you’re a cat lover, Chi’s Sweet Home is a great starting point!

Ano hi mita hana no namae wo boku-tachi wa mada shiranai・あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない。

Japanese anime - AnoHanaTranslated literally, the title is “We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day.” Its more common abbreviated name is AnoHana.

The eleven episodes tell the story of a group of five young friends whose worlds are turned upside-down when the sixth member of their group, Meiko “Menma” Honma, dies in an accident. The children grow up and go separate ways as they enter high school. Then Menma’s spirit starts visiting one of the friends, trying to communicate with him. Menma wants him to fulfill a wish for her, but he can’t quite understand what she’s asking for. To try to solve the puzzle, he will have to bring his old friends back together.

Azumanga Daiō・あずまんが大王

Azumanga Daiō cover - a group of five girls in red school uniforms.This anime doesn’t have a running plotline, since each episode combines a series of different stories.

In general, Azumanga Daiō recounts the daily life of a group of high school friends. Just like any high school class, there’s the know-it-all, the shy dreamer, the athlete… in short, with this diverse cast of characters, you’re sure to be entertained.

Though the language level is a bit more advanced in this series, we still recommend it because there are lots of repeated words and phrases. It’s also good for memorizing common grammatical structures.

Shirokuma Café・しろくまカフェ

Shirokuma Cafe cover - a white polar bear holds a tray of coffees.Shirokuma Café is a quirky Japanese anime with a unique sense of humor that will surely appeal to some.

The story takes place in a world where animals and humans live side by side. The story centers around the Shirokuma Café—its polar bear owner and its various patrons.

A big part of the humor is the anthropomorphic animals that have evolved alongside humans. This leads to a lot of really funny situations and visuals.

The animation is also really beautiful. It’s very detailed and more naturalistic than many classic anime styles. Once you start understanding Polar Bear’s bad puns, you can feel pretty good about your Japanese language abilities!


Japanese anime - DoraemonWe certainly can’t leave this famous anime off our list!

This story follows the life Nobita, a lethargic dreamer, and Doraemon, the futuristic robot-cat that tries to help him become a better person.

Doraemon has a magic pouch from which he can pull all kinds of gadgets and machines to help him do good. But Nobita often manages to manipulate them to get himself out of tricky situations or to flee his responsibilities. This leads to all kinds of tense but lighthearted situations that Doraemon always seems to be able to resolve.

Even if the dialogue isn’t always easy to understand, viewers should still be able to follow the plot without much difficulty. With subtitles, it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

One piece ・ワンピース

Japanese anime - One PieceOne Piece (ワンピース, Wan Pīsu) is based on a very popular shōnen manga (traditionally targeted toward teen boys) created in the late 1990s. It tells the story of Monkey D. Luffy, a boy whose body becomes elastic after he eats a cursed fruit.

Luffy is searching for One Piece, a legendary treasure that will transform its discoverer into the king of pirates. During his journey, he forms a band called the Straw Hat Pirates. He encounters many fascinating characters, each with their own unique dreams and motivations.

Part of this show’s popularity comes from the characters’ expressions, which are very rich and nuanced. These Japanese expressions provide a unique perspective on their reality.

Demon Slayer・鬼き滅めつの刃やいば

Demon Slayer coverDemon Slayer, known in Japan under the title Kimetsu no yaiba (鬼き滅めつの刃やいば, literally “Blade of Demon Destruction”), is a manga series recently adapted to anime.

The story takes viewers back in time to a version of the Edo period populated by fantastical creatures from Japanese folklore such as oni and tengu. The protagonist, Kamado Tanjirō, searches for a way to return his younger sister Nezuko to her human form after she turns into a demon herself.

This show is fairly violent, so sensitive or queasy viewers might want to stay away. But if you enjoy fantasy and are curious about ancient Japan, Demon Slayer just might be for you! The animation of the clothing is particularly striking.


Conclusion: Can You Learn Japanese with Anime?

Yes! Now you know why Japanese anime are a worthwhile resource for learners. Give one of our suggestions a try, or see if you can find another that tickles your fancy! As you learn more and more Japanese, you can watch shows with more complex action and dialogues.


Next Steps

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