Sometimes I must leave my house. When I do, I am reminded that not everyone (the pizza guy, random passersby on the street, the Amazon delivery guy) is as far gone as I am into the depths of the pit that is anime fandom culture. According to my editor, I have to assume that some of my readers might be among that group.
As such, there are a lot of words that I might casually drop into my Nothing But Trash articles that you might not know. But however strange, they all have real, specific-ish meanings. This page will be a living document of the terms, ideas, etc that make Nothing But Trash a little more comprehensible to the “muggles” out there.
On the one hand, it should be an excellent resource anytime you find a term in my column that you don’t understand.
On the other hand, if that’s why you’re reading this, I have to warn you. It’s not too late! Get out now. You don’t have become like me and my weeb trash ilk. (See below for a definition of “weeb trash.”)
Best girl: Anime fans (many of them male) argue amongst themselves over who is “best girl” in a particular series, season, year, or of all time. Sometimes these arguments become heated. This term can also be used ironically to describe male characters who are the best parts of their show (or sometimes for fan hated characters).
Everything will be Daijebou: Literally, this means everything will be okay (see keikaku for other examples of needlessly untranslated Japanese). In general, the phrase is used within the anime community to refer to any ending of an anime in which, despite all the risks and narrative stakes, all of the major characters end up unharmed (physically and emotionally).
Fujioshi: A female fan of male on male romance (or BL), which may either be explicit in the story or implied. A number of modern sports anime (Haikyu, Yowapedal), are essentially aimed at two audiences: the young males who are rooting for the sports teams to “win the big game”, and the females who are secretly rooting for the attractive male characters to end up together–or not so secretly, in the case of the Haikyu animator who was fired for tweeting erotic drawings of the characters.
Honorifics: Japanese uses suffixes after names to reflect the relative status and position in society between two characters. We anime fans appropriate those terms because they are sometimes hard to translate gracefully, and because it allows us to make fun new phrases: for example, “Box-chan” implies that I am very good friends (or possibly romantically involved) with a cardboard box. Here are some commonly used honorifics:
-san: “Mr.” or “Ms.” It is the default form of address in “normal” interactions.
-chan: A very informal mode of address, denoting either extreme closeness (dating, childhood friends) or that the speaker considers the subject a child in some way.
-kun: This signifies that the subject (usually a male) is in some way lower in the social order than the speaker. Most commonly used for the construction MC-kun, the generic term for a protagonist, or main character.
-sama: Lord, or possibly god. Used to express our proper respect for a character like Tatsuya-sama, so he won’t cross mediums (and realities) and kill us for not respecting him enough.
keikaku, just according to keikaku: In the past, fan translators of anime have often had a fetish for leaving Japanese words untranslated even if they have very good English equivalents. The most famous example of this was Death Note fansub which had the line “Just according to keikaku. Translator’s note: Keikaku means plan.” This is usually a reference to a poor translation, or a translation by someone who thinks that leaving as many Japanese words as possible in a sentence makes it sugoi.
MC-kun: A specific anime fandom construction used to refer to a harem lead–an average guy who is fawned over by an ever-increasing, diverse array of female characters (most of whom invoke the 2nd meaning of Moe). MC-kun is usually used to imply that the main character has no meaningful traits (including his name), besides the fact he is starring in a harem show.
Moe: Better writers than I have spent longer than I’m going to spend trying to describe what this means. At this point it has a couple different definitions:
1. The feeling of wanting to protect or look after a fictional character like they are your little sister . Often referred to as a “heart boner.” Also refers to a character or show that attempts to engender these feelings.
2. A character having fetishistic attributes (cat ears, maid costume, green hair), inspiring the viewer to feel a “burning passion”(sexual) for them.
The key to understanding moe is that, at some level, to the modern anime fan, these two meanings are the same thing.
Onii-san, Onii-sama, Imouto: Words for big brother/little sister. In the same way that a few specific characters eventually became the archetypes of tsundere and senpai notice me, implied feelings or romance between little sisters and big brothers are now a thing in anime. Just like most fujioshi would actually be weirded out if the characters in Free, Haikyu, or Yowapeda began making out (in canon works), most anime fans would be weirded out/disgusted if these “possible relationships” were consummated (physically or emotionally). If you find that you are friends with anime fans who aren’t, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your life choices. In fact, if you’re reading this, you should really probably re-evaluate your life choices, no matter who your friends are.
OTP: “One-true-pair.” In most harem and harem-like shows there is one female that the main character is “destined” to end up with according to the narrative. Usually it’s clear which girl this is from the 2nd episode. While in the larger non anime fandom, the term OTP can mean a fan preferred or fan favorite term, within anime fandom the term is usually a reference to the anime writer’s preferred couple (in the structure of the show).
Plot: In anime fandom, “plot” is a reference to something else. I think it’s easier to show with a gif:
Senpai, Senpai please notice me, I hope senpai notices me, Notice me senpai: Senpai means “upperclassman.” There is a specific character archetype (originated or at least popularized with Sakura from Fate/Stay Night) of a meek female underclassman (or girl from the same year) who is pining after a boy who doesn’t “notice” her. It contains several of Japan’s most frustrating gender roles in one trope, and these characters usually don’t make a lot of sense to westerners new to watching anime. Besides the similarities to the Yamato Nadashiko idea, the senpai notice me characters are also a sexualization of passivity and of women as dependent and meek creatures. The type of character to pine after her senpai is reserved to the point of having no agency at all–but this will be treated by the story as a good and/or noble way to be.
Tsundere: A character who alternates between being mean and nice. There are several “types,” with the most common being a character who starts out mean but opens up as the viewer realizes that her meanness (and the slapstick violence that often accompanies it) is her way of dealing with emotions that she feels but doesn’t really understand. This “classic” type (type 1) involves a character arc that ends with the character somewhat different than they began. The more modern (type 2) tsundere is unlikely to change over the course of the story; instead, they will constantly vacillate between physical violence and poorly expressed feelings. The switch between hatred and love is what’s selling those body pillows.
In the past three or so years, there have been some new tsunderes who are genre-savvy or self-aware to the point of parody. (For example, my own waifu, Hitagi refers to herself as a tsundere at one point in Monogatari).
“It’s not like I wanted to [X], baka.” This is the classic tsundere speech pattern: the character refuses to admit to herself (or at least to the object of her affection) that she has feelings. Baka literally means idiot, but is usually left untranslated as a reference to tsundere speech.
Waifu: In Japan, anime is not expanding to reach new fans. It’s not trying to have “breakout” or “crossover” appeal. Instead, most anime is aimed at selling body pillows and PVC figures to every one of its small core of dedicated fans. A waifu is a fictional character that a person is in love with, and often anime characters are designed to be “waifu material” so that they can sell those figures and body pillows. Shows are sometimes “judged” on having too few characters that would make good waifus–or judged as having too many, if you’re one of those filthy misanthropes who doesn’t believe in love between a man and his platonic ideal of best girl. Of course, a waifu does not have to be best girl, and vice versa.
Weeb trash: A construction based on the term weeaboo, which is a disparaging term for someone who is obsessed with all things Japanese. A weeaboo values things for their Japanese-ness. Weeb trash, besides disparaging the subject for their Japanophilic tendencies, is also an insult to the person’s overall taste (and general quality as a person).
Yandere: A girl who falls head over heels for the main character. She believes that love conquers all. Or if love won’t, at least she will. (See “Nice boat“). Yanderes are dangerous, and very often violent in a scary way. As opposed to a tsundere, who might slap the object of her affection for talking to another girl, a yandere would kill the other girl, then remove her “boyfriend’s” tongue so he can’t talk to anyone else. Ever.
Yaoi: Explicitly homosexual eroticism. Originally referring to fan works, the term now also references new “official” works that feature explicit homosexual sex. Homosexual media that is not necessarily explicit is described with the term BL, or boy’s love.
“Shonen/shonen tropes” overview
“visual novel” adaptations