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Understanding the Genres Of Anime

Updated on April 7, 2015

Types of Anime Genres

I am an adult cartoon fan. I don't mean adult in the sense of explicit scenes, but in the sense of content fit for an adult to watch and enjoy. I'm talking about colorful characters, deep stories, action, meaningful dialog and some intensity.

Over the years, I guess I gave up on cartoons, because as an adult there really wasn't much for me, other than the Simpsons, or other things like that. But some years ago, I stumbled upon anime, and I saw things in them that threw me for a loop--things that I'd been looking for for years.

Being a late comer to admiring anime had its down sides, though. It was hard to find genres that suited me. Anime has all the normal action, adventure, fantasy, science fiction and romance, but usually that wasn't enough to understand. Anime is not just divided into genres, it's also broken down into demographics, styles of display and characters types. What makes this even more difficult is these are broken down using words specifically created in Japan. Now, I do not speak Japanese, so all of these words had me reeling to figure them out.

I saw words like shoujo, shounen, ecchi, josei, seinen and mecha. I saw even more obscure terms, and many of them were used in concert with others. This sent me on a journey across the internet to figure them out, and this is what I've come up with.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Gamaliel Espinoza Macedo

Pikachu
Pikachu

Kodomo Is For the Kiddies

This word is written as either kodomo or kodomomuke, which is the full word in Japanese. It literally means "child" or "childlike".

This is anime directed at children, typically young children under 10. These shows will include colorful simply drawn characters, and most times animals, or animal like lovably cute creatures. They can really be as sickening as the Teletubbies, but, you know, the little kiddies love them. Cuteness is key, and sticking together for the sake of friendship and all that are also pretty important here. Often simple moral lessons are learned along the way.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Matt Leyva

Examples of Kodomo

Hello Kitty Triple Pack (goes to the movies, saves the day, plays pretend)
Hello Kitty Triple Pack (goes to the movies, saves the day, plays pretend)

It's the quintessential little girl's movie about a fictional cat saving the day. What's not to love.

 
Pokemon 4 Film Series [Blu-ray]
Pokemon 4 Film Series [Blu-ray]

It's Pikachu, and all the rest, ready for battle.

 
Sailor Moon
Sailor Moon

Shoujo Or Shojo For Teen Girls

The word Shoujo, sometimes spelled Shojo, is typically translated to mean "girl". It implies a young girl, between the ages of 10-18.

These are shows geared towards school aged girls, and they are extremely popular in Japan, in fact it is widely considered the most popular of all anime types. Some common themes include relationships with boys, interactions with girls on a popularity level and school challenges. This would be the High School Musical or Twilight crowd.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons Photo by David Cardoso

Examples Of Shoujo

Sailor Moon Box Set (Vol. 1-6)
Sailor Moon Box Set (Vol. 1-6)

Sailor Moon is the Wonder Woman of Japan.

 
Maid Sama! Complete Collection
Maid Sama! Complete Collection

Sama, student body president of an all boys school by day, a waitress saving the world by night.

 
Shounen Mosaic
Shounen Mosaic

Shounen or Shonen For Teen Boys

The literal translation of Shounen, also spelled Shonen, is "few years" in Japanese, but it's become synonymous with school aged boys between 10-18.

As these are for teen boys, romance isn't as much a key for these story lines, although sometimes it is used, as long as it's not the main feature. Most times, action, adventure and sports pervade the themes. This would be the average action movies, but with watered-down violence, family language and often achieving confidence through self-perseverance is a key attribute.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Gamaliel Espinoza Macedo

Examples of Shounen

Naruto Uncut Box Set: Season 1, Vol. 1
Naruto Uncut Box Set: Season 1, Vol. 1

He's a goofy ninja in training trying to prove his worth.

 
Slam Dunk, Vol. 1
Slam Dunk, Vol. 1

Sakuragi joins the high school basketball team to impress his dream girl Haruko.

 
Josei Woman in Komono
Josei Woman in Komono

Josei Is For the Ladies

Literally, the word Josei means "woman", and it's come to mean the demographic of women between the ages of 18-30.

These stories are mature and realistic tales for women who've lived a bit, and aren't taken in by the normal colorful romances. These stories are more emotional and gritty. If there's romance involved, it's less idealized, and typically flawed. If there's a character journey, it's usually rough, slow and ,more often than not, doesn't have the happy ending.

These are somewhere in the range of Downton Abbey and Black Swan. As Shoujo is possibly the most common type of anime created, Josei is by far the least common.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons Photo by The Wandering Faun

Examples of Josei

Honey and Clover, Box Set 1
Honey and Clover, Box Set 1

Art prodigy Yuta Takemoto enrolls in a prestigious college, movies into a broken down apartment with two young men, spawning a love triangle.

 
Nana Box Set 1
Nana Box Set 1

Two girls with the same name, but very different goals in life move in together in Tokyo. It's a regular odd couple.

 
Berserk
Berserk

Seinen Is For the Men

The word Seinen means "mature", but it's come to mean younger adult men, although you don't have to be a man to enjoy these types of movies.

Seinen typically indicates action with a more visceral edge than Shounen. There's a great deal of blood and killing, and the intensity is cranked up. There's usually attractive females, but they aren't the key components to the story. They're more like window dressing. There's language, violence, alcohol, cigarettes, and immorality is at a premium. This would appeal to the audiences of Die Hard, Predator and Road Warrior.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Animeol

Examples of Seinen

Naoki Urasawa's Monster, Vol. 1
Naoki Urasawa's Monster, Vol. 1

Dr. Tenma risks all to save the life of a young boy, who grows up to be a serial killer. Now he's the only one who can stop him.

 
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I - The Egg of the King [Blu-ray]
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I - The Egg of the King [Blu-ray]

Follows Guts, a two-handed sword wielding mercenary in a fairly violent look at medieval life as an assassin.

 

Shoujo-Ai Has Something Special

The literal translation here, is shoujo means "girl", and ai means "love". So, Shoujo-ai means girl love, and it's sort of what you might think. These are romance stories between two women.

I know what you're thinking, and I was thinking the same thing when I stumbled upon this. I always thought of Japan as being much more conservative than the West, but here it is. Shoujo-ai is a type of anime that centers around lesbian romances. There's kissing, and small amounts of nudity, but for the most part, the stories center around the romance. Shoujo-ai are mature stories, geared towards women who are interested in other woman.

Examples Of Shoujo-ai

Blue Drop Complete Collection
Blue Drop Complete Collection

Follows Mari, enrolled at an all girl's school, and Hagino, captain of an alien race about to invade Earth, and the emotional toll on both sides.

 
Simoun: Complete Collection
Simoun: Complete Collection

An alien race that's all female until the age of 17, but where only females can fly the war ships. Which would you choose, and how would you use if you were drafted during war time?

 
Shounen-ai Boys
Shounen-ai Boys

Shounen-ai Is the Boys Special Edition

Do you remember Brokeback Mountain, and the controversy it caused? Well, who would have thought Japan would have a whole genre for movies of this type. Shounen-ai are gay romance stories. These are geared towards woman, who are interested in seeing two men together. There is a sub-genre, of lesser popularity, called Bara, which is geared towards gay men.

I'll be honest, Shoujo-ai and Shounen-ai took me very much by surprise, but these are real genres with a certain main stream popularity. Neither of them are explicit in any way. They are specifically written to focus on the romances. Most of them have greater story lines, with the romance aspect being a part of it, but it's typically crucial to the ending.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Midnight_Shadow

Examples of Shounen-ai

Sukisho - Complete TV Series
Sukisho - Complete TV Series

Sora and Sunao are more than best friends. Sunao watches over Sora as he tries to remember who and what he is after a terrible fall.

 
Princess Princess Collection
Princess Princess Collection

Tooru Kouno leaves home to go to an all boys school, and his pretty boy looks make him immediately popular.

 

Bishoujo and Bishounen are not different genres. These words mean beautiful girls and pretty boys. They are just common character types that are used in other types of anime.

Ecchi
Ecchi

Ecchi Shows Some Skin

Ecchi is a slang term in the Japanese language that is considered to mean dirty or naughty. Anime of this type typically has little premise, or story, other than boys and girls in awkward social situations, and scantily clad.

This type of anime can also be called fan service, and it comes in the form of harem, or reverse harem forms, which mean, either one boy, sought after by many girls, or the opposite. One girl, sought after by many boys.

A common theme in these is bathing, undressing and faces turning red from blushing. There's nothing typically too over the top, but these types of anime do have mature content, such as large chested women and mild nudity.

Examples of Ecchi

Freezing: Complete Season One [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]
Freezing: Complete Season One [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]

Freezing is the story of a young man who turns out to be the only person who can turn on the single greatest fighter at an all-female fighting academy. It's loads of fun, awkward situations and romance, until the final battle.

 
Sekirei: Complete Series (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Sekirei: Complete Series (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Sekireis are a special race of warriors who are to fight to the death in the name of their Ashikabis, always of the opposite sex, and the pair that remain, will live happily ever after.

 
Evangelion
Evangelion

Mecha, It's the Giant Robots

Mecha is a word that comes from mechanical in English. There can be many different genres included in this kind of a story, action, adventure, fantasy or science fiction, but one thing must be there. There's got to be some kind of robot or mechanized monster that's either controlled by humans, or has run amok, or possibly both. Typically, it's not just necessary for these robots to have a place in the story, but they need to be vital to it. If you've ever seen the film Pacific Rim, that was adapted from a mecha anime.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Paul Evans

Examples of Mecha

Robotech: The Complete Set [DVD]
Robotech: The Complete Set [DVD]

A futuristic world where aliens attacked, but crashed. Their technology was then used against them by creating huge mechs controlled by humans.

 
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Collection
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Collection

In the future, almost all humans have been killed by mecha angels. One man instructed to enter another mecha, called Evangelion, must defend those who remain.

 

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    • boneworld profile image
      Author

      Jackson Thom 3 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @reasonablerobby: That's an interesting way of looking at it. It is a very good break down of demographic.

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 3 years ago

      Really informative. I reckon in could use this as an example of segmentation for my business students too!

    • boneworld profile image
      Author

      Jackson Thom 3 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @Spirality: Cool! That's awesome. There's a kind of anime for anything you could possible want.

    • Spirality profile image

      Spirality 3 years ago

      I love anime most specifically sports anime

    • boneworld profile image
      Author

      Jackson Thom 3 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @nonya222: I'm glad! It's a bit interesting as the words start to make a little more senses. I'll bet your son is having a great time.

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      nonya222 3 years ago

      My son is a HUGE anime fan, so much so he took Japanese as his language in college. You have helped me decipher his world a bit,

    • boneworld profile image
      Author

      Jackson Thom 3 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @Zeross4: No problem, I appreciate your persistence ;)

    • boneworld profile image
      Author

      Jackson Thom 3 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @Zeross4: Nice! I love Bleach. It's one of my favorites. It would be under Shounen, because no excessive language, blood or skin. When I first started putting this together, it was under Shounen as an example, but apparently 20 Amazon links is the max, and so each example only got two, and I decided Bleach was the one to go.

    • Zeross4 profile image

      Renee Dixon 3 years ago from Kentucky

      I'm sorry my computer froze when posting that last comment, and it went on like 4 times :(

    • Zeross4 profile image

      Renee Dixon 3 years ago from Kentucky

      This was great, you did a really good job on this! I love anime- and I was a late comer to it as well. I am watching Bleach right now, I'm not sure what category that would be though?

    • boneworld profile image
      Author

      Jackson Thom 3 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @PaigSr: Miyazaki is great, too. There's something for everyone, really. I hope your daughter likes this article.

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 3 years ago from State of Confussion

      This is one for the daughter. I shall be passing it on to here. The closest I come to Anime is Miyazaki.