For those of us who remember back in the day when we popped in that first subtitled VHS, the colorful cel-animated characters on the screen might as well have been speaking alien. And slowly, it opened up a new world as we began to recognize small phrases here and there without subtitles; spent long nights squinting at hiragana-guided manga by dim lamplight; discovered clippings of songs by high-pitched voice actresses streamed over dial-up via long-lost Geocities sites (ah... the good old days of the original internet).
For fresh anime watchers just discovering this world, there are those commonly-heard words that always seem to jump out first. Maybe not the best words for a tourist to navigate around Tokyo with, but great for joking with friends or insulting siblings that may not know what you're saying.
A word that is ubiquitous in the anime fan community, baka
means "fool" or "idiot" and has a near endless variety of uses. It's quite a favorite of Tsundere types, as you'll find them blushingly spout the word while fleeing the room, or hotly declare anta baka?
(are you stupid?) If you want to take the insults up a notch, you can use bakayarou
, which is about the equivalent of "stupid asshole" in English.
Find Baka gifts for a special someone
The word fuzakeru
means to joke or make fun of, so this particularly rough-sounding comeback can translate to "don't screw with me". It's best used by irritable street hoodlums or pissed-off heros.
Find Fuzakenna t-shirts and more
With the plethora of high school comedies available, you're more likely to hear this one played up in more recent anime, though it's of course an age-old concept to Japan. Your senpai
is generally anyone older than you or higher in seniority, and there are no lack of super-cool upperclassmen and women in anime who deserve to be called senpai
with squeals of admiration that may hint at either suki
(a crush) or akogare
(a longing to be
Senpai will notice you with our senpai t-shirts
There's always that type of character - the genki
character - the one that always seems to have a fire under their ass. The one who's always ready for anything, no matter how stupid the plan. And if they're not shouting an energetic (but badly accented) "Let's Go!" in English, they'll be declaring the Japanese counterpart of ikuze!
) as they dash off to glory (or if they're polite, the softer ikimasho
). Whether or not anyone actually follows is another story.
Find our ikuze design on tank tops and more
Meaning "awesome", this phrase is best used by onlookers while watching the hero acquire a new ridiculously badass power-up, or watching something really big go up in smoke and flames. Drag it out dramatic-like with sugoooooi
, or if you're an arrogant guy, use the rough and slangy sugee
We promise our sugoi shirts to be especially sugoi
A most "Japanese" of words, ganbatte
is an encouragement to try hard or do your best. In anime, you'll hear it in various forms, such as ganbarimasu
(I'll do my best) or ganbare
(more of a command). Expect to hear this a lot on the obligatory High School Sports Day episode.
Our ganbatte collection will help you try hard!
An easy word to pick up, nani
means "what", often in question form. Use it to express your utter disbelief, or mix it up with phrases like nani yattendayo?
("what are you doing?") or nani kore?
("what [the hell] is that?").
Get nani kanji bags and t-shirts here
Literally meaning "shit", this Japanese word can be used much the same as the English expletive. You'll find anime characters often using this when they screw up or find themselves in a tight situation. Usually written in hiragana or katakana (though you can use the kanji to look like an old-school samurai, as in our t-shirt), you can also use kuso
for extra slangy emphasis, as in kuso kakee
Our kuso t-shirt is seriously the shit
A staple phrase of tokusatsu series like Kamen Rider, anime viewers might know this word from magical girl series such as Sailor Moon. Meaning to transform or metamorphose. A magical might be compelled to henshin
when she finds herself in a bind.
Power up! We have shirts for magical girls and magical boys here
CHOTTO MATTE (ちょっと待って)
Meaning "wait a bit" or "just a second", this is commonly said by lazy characters in a whiny voice when everyone else leaves their slow ass behind.
That's right, there's a shirt of it! And a hoodie, and a bag, and...
MONDAI NAI (問題ない)
A favorite catchphrase of many anime characters, mondai nai
means "no problem". For extra reassurance, pair it with "it's okay" (daijoubu da
- 大丈夫だ), or "leave it to me!" (watashi ni makasete
Find mondai nai t-shirts and more - No problem!
This word literally means "noisy, annoying". When it is directed at a person, you are saying "you are noisy!" - with the connotation, of course, that "I would like you to stop being noisy". This is the reason urusai
often gets translated into English as "Shut up!".
That sums up our top twelve, though you are sure to have a few more not found on this list that you consider your go-to anime catchphrase. What were some of the first Japanese phrases you associated with anime? Did we mention any of your favorite characters' best lines?
If you want to discover more Japanese lines, or need to get your best friend a Baka sweater, go explore our Anime & Manga section
Japanese Number Slang
12 Perfect Xmas Gifts for an Anime Fan