8

I've heard/read countless sources explain that the Japanese used in anime is quite different from real world Japanese. However, I haven't seen an explanation of what ways it's different (at least, not beyond pointing to specific phrases/words that people in the real world rarely use, or simply saying that it sounds "unnatural"). Is there an analogous English way of speaking that is used in places, but normally sounds unnatural to English speakers? Is there a more general explanation as to how Japanese in anime is unnatural sounding? Or is it really just common phrases/words that are rarely used in the real world?

  • is the english used in old literature books natural if used in everyday life? Wouldn't people guess that you've been reading too much lately, and wouldn't you sound a little weird(unnatural) if you did so? I guess that's the idea, though the parts that will tell you off will be different depending on the language – Felipe Oliveira Mar 29 '18 at 20:23
  • This video might help: youtu.be/5zafsjXCmx4 – bcloutier Mar 29 '18 at 21:50
  • 1
    @FelipeOliveira: Old English was previously spoken though, right? From what I know, anime style Japanese never existed in the real world (though I could be wrong). More interesting though, I think I could give a fairly concrete explanation of the ways old English and modern English are different (even if a little long winded). That explanation is what I'd be most interested to hear about for the difference between the regular and anime Japanese. However, I did ask if there was an analogous English situation, so fair point in bringing up old English! – Shiania White Mar 29 '18 at 22:29
  • I think asking if there is an analogous English situation is outside the scope of this website. Maybe you should ask it on english.stackexchange.com – Marco Mar 30 '18 at 8:01
10

It very much depends on what anime. For example, an anime about daily life in the modern world would have generally "normal" Japanese. Conversational snippets sound totally normal, for the most part. You start to have "unnatural" Japanese when the writers, trying to make characters unique, give those people special "quirks" such as always referring to themselves in the third person. On occasion, in Japan, children will use this form of speech, using their own names when talking about themselves: "Yui likes apples very much!" (spoken by the girl Yui) another "quirk" is "gobi" or sentence ending particles. The standard word to indicate the end of a sentence is "desu" or "da" . But quirky anime characters are often given the habit of using special "gobi" unique to them. Squid Girl Ikamusume comes to mind.... she ends her sentences with "degeso". The word "geso" means "dried tentacles", or just "tentacles" if you're referring to the ones still attached to a living animal.

I learned Japanese in college, but I learn new phrases and vocab from anime all the time, and find it very helpful for that. BUT, many people can tell that I watch anime, in part because some phrases are rare, but also because most of the characters I watch are female. As a result, sometimes I unintentionally use speech patterns that in Japan are used only by women. It's hard for me to give examples of this, because the only ones I know well enough NOT to use are the female "atashi" instead of generic "watashi", for "I" and using the feminine "wa" to end sentences...

Then, of course, you have anime set in other time periods, or in "country-side" areas, which the writers like to do so they can emphasize certain "non-standard" accents or patterns of speech, such as the Osaka dialect, or Edo period Japanese, or similar. Trying to replicate that form of speech will definitely raise eyebrows.

Edit: an English example of this is provided by the most recent seasons of "The Walking Dead". Set in America, the vast majority of characters speak natural American English, but several characters have very quirky speech styles. The King uses florid, prose-filled English that everyone can understand, but no other person would use normally. The Garbage people use clipped English that is understandable but not natural at all. The character Eugene speaks with both a southern drawl and pseudo-intellectual vocabulary, oddly phrased. If people tell you that "Japanese in anime is different from real world Japanese" it is likely that they are referring to anime examples similar to these.

  • 1
    +1 for watching squid girl. Not relevant to the question obviously, but I wonder how you get "dried" from でゲソ? – user3856370 Mar 30 '18 at 7:51
  • 1
    sorry, that reveals a bias on my part. You're right, "geso" doesn't specifically mean "dried". It just means "tentacles". The reason I think "dried" when I hear the word geso is because over here in Japan, whenever people are talking about geso, they almost always mean the food version, rather than the "still attached to a living squid or octopus" version, so dried, shredded tentacle snacks immediately spring to mind. My bad. :P – ericfromabeno Mar 30 '18 at 9:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.