A Dictionary of Anime

A beginner's guide to basic terminology


The following is some terminology used in the anime scene in general.


Japanese for 'animation'.

'Anime can range from the very silly to the very serious, and is not necessarily intended for children or any specific age group.'
- Michael Kim

Animation as an industry is much bigger in Japan than it is in North America, being of the same order of magnitude as the 'live-action' film industry there. All genres are supported through three separate mediums: TV episodes, Original Video Animation (OVA), and full length feature films. While anime varies in quality according to both production techniques and artistic merit, the level of sophistication is, in general, far superior to it's counterpart outside Japan, the 'cartoon'.

Bishonen, or bishie

In Japanese, this means "beautiful boy". In anime circles, it refers to an incredibly beautiful or disturbingly feminine-looking male anime character. The more feminine they look, the more the female fans go crazy for them.


Short for 'convention', this typically refers to an anime convention; an event where anime fans from near and far gather together to celebrate their favorite hobby. The larger ones often have special guests such as anime voice actors and have panels on all sorts of anime-related topics.


Literally a truncation of 'costume play', to cosplay means to dress up as an anime character. This is a huge phenomenon among a lot of fans; some will even change between a dozen different costumes over the course of a convention.


Anime that is subtitled by fans. The anime is imported from Japan, translated, subtitled and then distributed. This is all done by people on their own time, as an act of (near religious) devotion. And those of us on the receiving end are truly grateful. Once fansubs are produced they can be copied freely, and to relive the strain on the few main sources, most people get second or later generation copies from the huge network of people involved in copying and trading them.


Sometimes confused with anime, manga is the Japanese word for comic book (or graphic novel, if you prefer) and is used in English to mean Japanese comic books. Manga and anime are very closely related, as artists frequently crossover, as do the characters they create. Usually the manga is created first, and if it becomes really popular then the market is deemed capable of supporting a much more costly animation based on it.

Mecha, or mech

Whether in the loving detail of Reiji Matsumoto's WWII fighter aircraft, or the perfectly fluid Valkyrie transformation sequences in Macross, the Japanese fascination of all things mechanical finds its way into a lot of anime. 'Mecha' is the Japanese derivation of 'mechanical', and loosely refers to any and all cool pieces of technology. The term mech, though, is largely reserved for the large humanoid robots that battle it out in a myriad of science fiction anime.


In Japanese, a derogatory form of 'you' which also has the meaning of, roughly, 'no-life geek who spends all his time building GUNDAM models...' Be that as it may, in certain circles its meaning has evolved into a less perjorative term, namely, 'huge anime fan who is respected because he spends all his time building GUNDAM models...'


The following is some terminology specific to the context of the St. John's Anime Film Society (though some terms may happen to be applicable to other societies, but I wouldn't count on it).


The St. John's Anime Film Society, or a showing held by same.

As confusing as it sounds, yes, the word 'anime' is used both to refer to the society itself as well as what it shows. For example, "Are you going to Anime tonight?", "When is the next Anime?", or "Who is running Anime these days?"


An exec is one of the officers of the Anime Society that has some kind of official responsibility towards the operation of the society (at least on paper). It can also be used as a collective term that refers to the entire group of executives.

Library, or tape library

The society's collection of VHS fansubs.

Midterm Fest

Over the weekend of midterm break in any given semester, the anime society typically selects an anime TV series and shows it in its entirety, which usually ends up meaning about nine episodes a night. It's a rewarding experience for those who can endure to the end.

Spring Festival

At the end of the winter semester, the anime society often has a half-showing, half-party, where a short feature is shown, followed by many anime or Japanese themed festivities. They typically include Japanese snacks, cosplay, and anime karaoke.

The Star Wars Room

This is the nickname of ED-1014, a lecture room in the Education Building. And no, Star Wars was never shown there, at least not by the anime society.


At the end of each semester, the execs design and ask to the willing participant members a battery of unreasonably difficult triva questions based on the anime movies and series that have been shown that semester. Getting even one correct answer wins you a special high-quality poster featuring artwork from all the anime shown that term. The questions are so obscure and specific that it is usually at least half an hour before the first poster is awarded.

In recent years, it has been known for the exec to offer the members a chance at revenge by allowing them to ask an exec a question from one of the semester's showings, rewarding the member with a box of pocky (a Japanese sweet snack) if the exec cannot answer it correctly but the member can.