VN Terminology Dictionary

Here you’ll find expressions, terminology and words (“jargon”, if you will) used by some in the visual novel community. You may also find that a few of these terms cross over into the anime, manga and non-visual novel gaming communities. As a result of many of these terms originating from Japan, some VN fans, especially newcomers, may not be able to understand them. This section aims to compile terms you’d commonly encounter, as well as a some obscurer ones. It’ll range from near-universally known words like “tsundere” and “yandere” to lesser-known terms like “jitome” and “sanpaku-gan”. Additions, corrections and suggestions are always welcome, so please comment in this section if you have any.

Here are my chief sources. I sometimes use one (or more) of these to double-check I’m getting my facts straight, as well help for trying to explain the terms:

~ Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC: Online Japanese Dictionary Service
~ Nico Nico Pedia
~ Otome Hearts Forum’s “The Otome Jargon” stick post, where this idea and some of the definitions here I originally posted in.
~ TV Tropes.org
~ The Visual Novel Database
~ Wikipedia: English and Japanese versions.

Sources from one-off locations will be credited and linked to accordingly.

In the interest of making things easier, I decided to compile all of the definitions on a single page. This is so that people can use Ctrl+F and freely navigate through all of the terms rather than switch between two or three different pages. If this actually makes life harder, I’ll be happy to make the adjustments needed.

 

* ADV/AVG *

ADV the shortened from “adventure” and AVG is the shortened form of “adventure game”. ADV is a popular format of visual novels that are also the most common  released every year. ADVs are characterised by little-to-no interactive gameplay, centrering around a “choose-your-own-adventure” narrative style. The player is intermittently prompted to make decisions from a set group of choices to advance the plot and eventually reach one of the varied amount of endings. The amount and frequency of choices vary from game-to-game. ADVs always feature multiple endings, and are widely loved by its fans because of its high replay value.

ADV is also the term used to describe a text format very commonly used in visual novels. This is where the text (almost always inside a textbox) is placed at the bottom of the screen. You can see an example of this here, in a screenshot of Starry☆Sky ~in Summer~ (taken from VNDb.org). The ADV namesake most likely stems from the vast majority of ADVs using this text display format.

Another- and a much less common- presentation of the ADV  is the “speech bubble” or “floating texbox” format. As the names imply, this is where the textbox shifts positions onscreen in accordance to the person speaking or thinking what is to be read by the player. An example of this can be seen here, in a screenshot of Gekka Ryouran Romance (taken from VNDb.org).

* Ahoge (アホ毛) *

Literally means “idiot hair”. “Ahoge” refers to a single strand (sometimes two or even three) of hair that sticks out like an antenna. Similar to the way that typically in Japanese media, red hair indicates a “fiery” personality, and blue hair indicates a “subdued” one, ahoge is another expressive hairstyle. Characters with ahoge tend to be absentminded, carefree, clumsy and foolish. More common on female characters than male, and it is considered a “moe” trait. Sometimes, even the strand itself is expressive (and this is usually played for laughs).

Examples: An “expressive ahoge” example in Kuroi Sumi from Moetan and a “standard” ahoge example in Konno Mitsune from Love Hina.

* Bakkapuru (バカップル) *

Japanese portmanteau combining ‘baka’ and ‘couple’ used as derogative slang to indicate a ridiculously lovey-dovey couple.

* Banchou (番長) *

A banchou is a leader of a group of yankee.

* Bara (薔薇) *

Bara refers to male-on-male media typically made by and for homosexual men. In bara works, the artistic designs of the men are muscular and their personalities more traditionally masculine. The word itself  literally means “rose” in Japanese.

* Bicchi (ビッチ) *

“Bicchi” is the Japanese pronunciation of “bitch”. However, in Japanese usage, it only refers to the definition of “a lewd woman.” Kind of like calling somebody a “slut”.

* Bijo (美女) *

Meaning “beautiful woman”, bijo is a word used to describe a beautiful female, regardless of her age.

* Biseinen (美青年) *

Means “beautiful young man” in Japanese. Biseinen is a general term for a “pretty” young man. Biseinen is the better term to use when describing an attractive man who is over 18, as “bishounen” is a word used to describe younger boys, such as those still in high school. This is since “seinen” refers to young men, and “shounen” refers to young boys. Biseinen tend to be on the “prettier” side of attractiveness, but is sometimes used as a term to describe any young man that is attractive in general.

* Bishoujo (美少女) *

The word literally means “beautiful young girl”. It is a Japanese word that refers to attractive- often in a feminine manner- young women. Even so, a young woman can be a different “type” of attractive (cute, sexy, etc.) and still be correctly referred to as a bishoujo. In the Western fandom, bishoujo is used to describe a lady as attractive regardless of her age, but the more correct term for a beautiful “older” lady would be “bijo”, which is a general term to refer to an attractive woman.

* Bishoujo Game (美少女ゲーム) *

Also known as galge. Meaning “pretty girl game” in Japanese, a bishoujo game is a subgenre of visual novels and dating sims that feature bishoujo girls as obtainable love interests. Bishoujo games are marketed towards a heterosexual male demographic. It is important to note that not all bishoujo games feature pornographic content. For example, Clannad, a very popular bishoujo game visual novel, is for all ages. Even though it was targeted towards a heterosexual male audience, its widespread popularity eventually boasted a varied demographic of fans.

* Bishounen (美少年) *

The literal meaning is “beautiful young boy.” As such, this is a term used to refer to “pretty” boys or male teenagers, rather than young men (in other words, “bishounen” wouldn’t be an entirely appropriate term form an adult male). A good English equivalent is “pretty boy”. The popularity of this word amongst Western fans gave birth to a shortened form, “bishie“. Western fans commonly use bishounen and bishie to refer to any attractive man, regardless of his age or the type of his attractiveness.

* Boys’ Love (commonly abbreviated to just “BL”) *

BL is a term used to describe media that features idealised heteronormative homosexual relationships between two attractive men, whom are usually classified as “bishounen”/”biseinen”. BL is also the general term to refer to any homosexual media that is designed to appeal to a female audience. BL is almost always created for and by heterosexual women. In most BL, the two males featured are typically divided into two main character archetypes, “seme” and “uke”. The “seme” is the dominant guy, and is the one who makes the moves on the “uke“. The seme tend to look more masculine than the uke. The “uke” is the submissive guy of the relationship, and typically has a “cuter” appearance and feminised personality. He is nearly always smaller in stature than the seme. In sexual situations, the seme “tops” the uke.

* Charage (キャラゲー) *

A mashup of “character (キャラクター) game (ゲーム)”. Similar to the term, “character-driven plot/story”, a charage is one in which the game focuses on the characters the most out of all other key elements of it (such as gameplay or its plot). This term isn’t exclusive to the visual novel genre.

* Cherry Boy *

A young man who is a virgin. It may have something to do with the Western slang, “popping your cherry”. Sometimes shortened to just calling such a male a “cherry”.

* Chuunibyou (中二病; 中2病) *

Credit to AnimangaWiki’s page for helping me with sources.
Like moe, chuunibyou is difficult to explain precisely. While the word itself roughly translates to “Second Year Middle (equivalent to Year 9 /8th Grade) School Illness”, its meaning is along the lines of “delusions of adolescent grandeur”. It’s a pejorative slang that is used to refer to individuals whom act overimportant; particularly, in regards to having “special abilities” that only they (supposedly) possess. The phrase was coined by Ijuin Hikaru, whom further defines the phrase to incorporate “the things people normally do during their 2nd year in middle school.”

The “Chuunibyou User Manual” by Kotobukiya provides definitions of three “types” of chuunibyou people:

1) The DQN-kei (DQN系): The “DQN” is pronounced “dokyun”. Pretends to be anti-social or acts like a delinquent when in fact he or she is not or cannot become like either one. Tells made up stories about gang fights or crimes, or boasts and pretends to know about that subculture. “DQN” is slang for “antisocial person” or “annoying delinquent”.

2) The Sabukaru-kei (サブカル系): Translates to the “Subculture type”. Equivalent to being a “Hipster”. Often avoids everything mainstream and has a heavy preference to “things that few people like” and establishes themselves as being special. People of this type do not really love the subculture itself but rather strive to obtain the “cool” factor by not having the same interests as others.

3) The Jakigan-kei (邪気眼系): Translates to the “Evil Eye type”. Admires mystical powers and thinks that he or she has a hidden power within them as well. It is this trait that they create an alias specifically for said power. This is also known as the delusional type.

* Dandere (ダンデレ) *

A dandere is a character that is initially and/or outwardly quiet/silent, taciturn and/or antisocial, but when around the right people, they’re revealed to be sweet and loving. More often than not, a dandere is just shy. More commonly applied in romantic relationships, but can be used in friendships as well. A part of the “-dere” family, the word is a mashup of the Japanese words “danmari (黙り)”, which means “silence; taciturnity” and “deredere (デレデレ)”, which means “lovestruck”.

* Denpa (電波; デンパ) *

“Denpa” itself means “electromagnetic wave(s)”. However, in anime-fandom usage, this term refers to individuals that behave in bizarre manners and are disassociated from society. Characters of this type are particularly prone to having delusions that are highly resistant to reason. Denpa characters are so bizarre, it’s as though they’re “hypnotised by voices carried through electromagnetic waves”. According to this post on Anime Suki, the term was coined by an insane murder’s insanity plea that he committed his crimes because electromagnetic waves compelled him to do so. Apparently, this motion was rejected and he’s in prison without the possibility of parole.”Denpa-kei (電波系)” or “denpa-san (電波さん)” are also ways to describe characters of this nature. For those familiar with TV Tropes, their trope called “Cloud Cuckoo Lander” is the closest English approximate to denpa.

* Deredere (デレデレ) *

A deredere character is one whom is completely lovestruck, often right from the moment they realise their affection for their love interest.

* Do-M (ドM) *

A Do-M character is one whom is very masochistic. Also refers to media which feature such characters and themes. Comes from the Japanese prefix “do”, which means “extremely; incredibly; very” and the “m” from “masochist(ic)”.

* Do-S (ドS) *

A Do-S character is one whom is very sadistic. Also refers to media which feature such characters and themes. Comes from the Japanese prefix “do”, which means “extremely; incredibly; very” and the “S” from “sadist(ic)”.

* Dojikko (ドジっ子; ドジっ娘) *

A dojikko is a female character that is clumsy, but rather than being a flaw, it is seen or played as more of an endearing trait. Though a feminine term, it is not uncommon to see clumsy male characters being referred to as a dojikko by their female fans. The word is a mashup of the Japanese words, “ドジ (clumsy)” and “子 (child)”/”娘 (young girl)”.

* Donkan (鈍感; ドンカン) *

Means “thickheadedness; emotionally dense” in Japanese. In other words, a donkan character tends to be slow on the uptake with jokes, fail to “read the atmosphere”, doesn’t realise when somebody has feelings for another (including themselves) and doesn’t always realise they’ve been insulted. The donkan character archetype is a popular choice of protagonists for many visual novels.

* Doutei (童貞) *

Means “virgin”. Though the word can be used for a virgin of both genders, it is much, much more commonly used for male virgins.

* Eroge (エロゲ; エロゲー) *

An eroge is a genre and a general term of reference to visual novels and dating sims for adults that feature pornographic content in an anime style. Nearly all of the “obtainable” characters are bishoujo and bishounen. Because of how much of a blanket term eroge is, releases are typically referred to by one of the many subgenres of eroge. Examples being nukige and calling otome games for adults “R18+ otome games” rather than just “eroge”. The word is a portmanteau of “erotic game”.

* Fujoshi (腐女子) *

Literally meaning “rotten girl”, a fujoshi is a fan of media featuring yaoi. Fujoshi is sometimes seen as the female equivalent of “otaku”, but this is inaccurate. As well as being fans of yaoi, fujoshi are just as well known for their prolificness in creating doujins of established series pairing canon male characters together- a lot of the time, of a pornographic nature. Unlike otaku, which is a term that was never intended to be negative, fujoshi is a self-mocking term, created by fans of yaoi.

* Furubokko (フルボッコ) *

It means to get beaten senseless. A close English equivalent is the phrase, “getting the shit beaten out of”. This word can be used on both animate and inanimate objects. It is the shortened form of “Full Power de Bokkoboko (フルパワーでボッコボコ)”, which essentially translates to “getting severly beaten up at full power”.

* Gal Game (ギャルゲーム) *

Gal game means “girl game” in Japanese. It’s much more commonly shortened to “galge (ギャルゲ; ギャルゲー)”. Galge is a synonym for bishoujo game. Please scroll back above and read the entry for “bishoujo game” for more details.

* Gijin-ka (擬人化) *

Gijin-ka means “anthropomorphication; personification”. The original type of gijin-ka is giving a humanised form (anthropormophic) to an inanimate object or entity. A “classic” gijin-ka example would be the characters of Hetalia, who are personifications of countries with appearances and personalities centered around national stereotypes. A more recent, secondary definition of gijin-ka is giving a humanised form to non-human characters that aren’t inanimate. An example of this would be Damekko Doubutsu.

* Gyakugire (逆切れ; 逆ギレ) *

A term that is commonly associated with modern Japanese comedy (“owarai“), it describes a situation in which the person who is supposed to be on the receiving end of anger get angry themselves. A simple example would be the jock bullying a nerd, but the nerd gets angry and beats up the jock. “Gyaku” means “opposite; reverse” and “gire” means “to cut; get angry; use up”.

* Hanme (半目) *

Literally means “half eyes” in Japanese. Hanme are eyes that are drawn in such a way that the top lid is flat and straight, and commonly, irises are coloured lighter to produce a “tired, half-conscious” look. Like jitome, hanme can be “permanent” or “temporary”. Permanent hanme are common in characters that are aloof, gloomy, kuudere, lazy and/or always tired. Sometimes can be found in carefree and laidback types. Common causes of temporary hanme include, but aren’t limited to:
~ Drowsiness
~ Tiredness
~ Being close to losing consciousness
~ When looking down upon somebody, both figuratively and literally.
Often confused with “jitome”, especially since the two can overlap. However, hanme don’t have the characteristic “frown” that jitome tend to. Also, the personality types the permanent varities tend to have are different.

Examples: Spanner from Katekyo Hitman Reborn! and Makise Kurisu from Steins;Gate.

* Haraguro (腹黒) *

A haraguro person is one who has an outward appearance of being amicable, friendly, innocent, kind and/or “refreshing”, but uses any combination of the aforementioned traits to hide their real cruel, cunning, evil, manipulative, mean and/or sadistic side. Despite the negative connotation, not all haraguro are villains. The term comes from the Japanese word, “Haraguroi (腹黒い)”, which means “black-hearted; mean; scheming”.

* Hentai (変態) *

The word means three things: 1), strange, 2), pervert and 3), tranformation. In general Western usage, “hentai” is the word used to refer to anime and manga pornography. In anime fandom usage in general, it commonly is a way to refer to a character as a particularly lascivious pervert, or one with a notably perverse sexual desire or act.

* Hikikomori (引籠もり; 引き籠り; ひきこもり) *

Literally meaning, “confining oneself; pulling towards oneself”, hikikomori describes an individual that chooses to stay in their homes/rooms and rarely leave, if ever. It’s becoming better-known around the world, due to Japan’s prevalence of them and the spread of “otaku culture”. According to The Japan Times Online, there are around 700,000 hikikomori (estimated in 2010 by the Japanese government). Japan is known for its high-pressure society, be it in education, employment and social interactions. As a result, some individuals react by withdrawing themselves from society; seeking extreme levels of isolation.

* Hosome (細目) *

Meaning “narrow/thin eyes”, the word is also used to describe a “realistic” eye shape. This typically consists of thinner and smaller eyes than the typical big and round types in anime. If the hosome in question isn’t trying to depict “realism” to a certain extent, it may be used for villains or “meaner” characters to evoke something of an unpleasant, “scary” gaze. In general usage, it makes characters look maturer and older. Sometimes qualifies as tsurime as well, but “true” hosome are defined by being on the “narrower, thinner and smaller” side.

Examples: Hibari Kyouya from Katekyo Hitman Reborn! and Levi from Shingeki no Kyojin.

* Imouto (妹; いもうと) *

Means “younger sister”, but also is used to describe the “imouto character archetype. Quite popular in male-targeted Japanese media. Though the character archetype is referred to as “the imouto”, such a character doesn’t have to literally be the main male’s younger sister. The traditional imouto has a cute and innocent, “moe” appearance, often (but not always) designed in a “loli” manner. Their personality tends to be innocent, dependent, cute and cheerful. However, it is also popular to make the imouto character a “tsundere”

* Iyashi-kei (癒し系) *

“Iyashi-kei” means “therapeutic” and “soothing”. A character described to be an “iyashi-kei” are ones that are gentle and kind with a down-to-earth, pleasant attitude, resulting the reader in feeling “relaxed” around them. They’re also often considerate, mature and polite. Commonly portrayed by voice actors with gentle vocal tones, usually with an air of maturity.

* Jirai wo Fumu (地雷を踏む) *

Meaning “to step on a landmine”, when somebody says “jirai wo funda” (past tense), it means that they have bought something they thought that they’d really enjoy, but it turns out to be horrible. In the visual novel context, this often coincides with kusoge. Thus, the game is also fiscally worthless as one would get next to nothing if they wish to sell it. This is more of a big deal in Japan where the used game market is a much larger and more significant. “Jirai” alone refers to the offending item itself.

* Jitome (ジト目) *

A character with jitome is one who is glaring or staring with disgust, reproach and/or scorn. Jitome is characterised by the top lid being drawn on a flat, straight angle to produce a “blunt” look, and often accompanied with a frown of varying degrees of “sharpness”. From what I’ve been reading and seeing, jitome, tend to be temporary as it is a form of expression. However, some characters seem to have this expression all the time, and have personality types that make them prone to giving somebody jitome. Commonly applied to frosty and irritable characters, such as kuudere and tsundere.

Can get confused with “hanme”, because it’s possible for a character to have both. Jitome are nearly always accompanied by a frown, and usually an icy and abrasive personality. Jitome has a “being glared at” kind of feel, whereas hanme are often blank and “hollow” looking. The word is thought to have originated from the portmanteau of the Japanese words, “じと~ (the “onomatopoeia” of somebody glaring intently) and “ (eyes)”.

Examples: Orifushi Mafuyu from Kanojo x Kanojo x Kanojo and Ibara Mayaka from Hyouka.

* Kamige (神ゲー; 神ゲ) *

The direct opposite of “kusoge”. Kamige is a mashup of the words for “god ()” and “game (ゲーム)”. When somebody calls a game a “kamige”, they’re trying to say that they thought it was near-perfect (if not perfect) and that they greatly enjoyed it.

* Kemonomimi (獣耳; けものみみ)*

Means “beast/animal ears”. A kemonomimi character is one that is humanoid, but possesses “real” animal features. Most of the time, the only non-human aspects of such characters are their ears, and maybe the inclusion of a tail. Common animals picked for this are cats, foxes and rabbits.

Examples: Holo from Spice & Wolf and InuYasha from InuYasha.

* Kitsuneme (狐目; キツネ目) *

Literally meaning “fox eyes”, a character with kitsuneme appear to always have his or her eyes closed. A lot of the time, the line of their eyes are placed diagonally facing downwards, very similar to the style in which the eyes of foxes in Japanese folklore are traditionally depicted, hence the name, “kistuneme”. Despite looking like their eyes are always closed, most kitsuneme aren’t visually impaired and tend to have normal eyesight. When the kistuneme are drawn in the classic manner- the sharply diagonally downwards way- this evokes a sense of mischievousness, sneakiness or untrustworthiness. Drawn in an arc-like style is meant to depict that a character is happy. Upside down arcs indicate sadness, sulleness or depression. How the lines are drawn (coupled with the eyebrows) greatly affect what the kitsuneme are meant to represent.

Examples: A classic example (mixed with a bit of the “happy type” as well) in Ichimaru Gin from Bleach and a “non-slanted” version of Brock’s/Takeshi’s from Pokémon.

* Kouhai (後輩) *

A kouhai is a junior at school or work. A good English equivalent is “underclassman.” In a school setting, a kouhai is somebody below your grade. However, in Japan, an underclassman/junior at work does not need to be referred to as [last name]-kouhai, unlike a senpai, whom are almost always referred to as “[last name]-senpai”. In a workplace environment, a kouhai isn’t always somebody whom is younger than you. Let’s say that I’m older than Kinose-san, but since Kinose-san came first, I am Kinose-san’s “kouhai”. I would respectfully refer to him as “Kinose-senpai”, unless he otherwise states a preference for being called something else.

* Kuro Rekishi (黒歴史) *

Literally meaning “black history”, but the more accurate translation is “dark history”. This term is used to refer to something in the anime fandom that is so terrible, that it should never be mentioned again. An infamous example would be a large number of Umineko no Naku Koro ni fans’ reaction to the anime adaptation of the VN. According to this Anime Suki post, the term originated from an anime called “Turn-A Gundam”, which apparently frequently used the phrase, “kuro rekisihi” to refer to the lost technologies of an advanced and bygone era.

* Kusoge (クソゲー; クソゲ) *

The direct opposite of “kamige”. Kusoge is a mashup of the words for “crap; shit; shitty (クソ)” and “game (ゲーム)”. If somebody refers to a game as being a “kusoge”, they’re trying to emphasise how poor the quality of the game was, and/or how much they disliked it. Unlike kamige, kusoge tends to be used in a more objective sense. Of course, opinions will ultimately be subjective, but by “more objective”, I mean to refer to games that are widely considered to be horrible. Here is a site that lists traits required of a game to be a candidate for the “kusoge” title.

* Kuudere (クーデレ) *

A kuudere character is aloof, cold, distant, icy, impersonal, stoic, etc. around everyone else, but shows a kinder, warmer and even loving side toward the right people. More commonly seen in romantic relationships, but can be used in friendships as well. A part of the “-dere” family, the term is a mashup of the English word “cool” (written as “クール” in Japanese), which means “calm and collected” and “deredere (デレデレ)”, which means “lovestruck”.

* Loli (ロリ) *

The term used to describe an always female character that fits the “lolicon” design mold. A “loli” character has little-to-no bust, is short, isn’t curvy and has a “cute” facial appearance. To put it simply, their physical appearance mirrors that of an average pre-pubescent female.

* Lolicon (ロリコン) *

Lolicon is a term that describes media that feature themes about attraction to younger girls (or at least, older ladies that look much more like younger girls), or targets those that are attracted towards such female characters. It is also used as an adjective to describe somebody whom is a fan of such material. The term is a shortened mashup coming from a its original name, “Lolita Complex”. It originated from Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel called “Lolita“, which is about a middle-aged man that becomes sexually obsessed with a 12-year-old girl. Please note that “Lolita/loli” is the correct term to use to describe a character whom fits the “lolicon look”.

* Megane (めがね/メガネ/ 眼鏡) *

“Megane” itself means “glasses”. This is the generalised term for characters of any gender that wear glasses, and/or this is considered to be one of their defining attractive traits. Similar to Western media generalisations of those with glasses, a megane character is usually intelligent, likes to read, is level-headed, etc. It’s also a loose Japanese equivalent of the English for “glasses fetishism”.

* Megane Danshi (-男子)/Megane-kun (-君)/Megane-otoko (-男) *

Megane danshi is a male-specific term, and is under the “megane” umbrella. The common characterisations of megane danshi are broader than the meganekko. Some megane-danashi are more like meganekko- book-loving, geeky, intelligent and/or quiet. Just as many other portrayals feature intelligence, but also coldness and sadism. However, the latter types of megane-danshi are better known as “kichiku megane”.

* Meganekko (メガネっ娘/メガネっ子) *

The specific term for bespectacled females. It also encompasses the definition of “megane”, but has its own connotations. A stereotypical meganekko is geeky, intelligent, and often shy. They tend to love books and are quiet. Meganekko are known to overlap with “dojikko” traits often. Fans do sometimes refer to male megane as “meganekko” due to affection or misuse.

* Menheru or Menhera (メンヘル; メンヘラ) *

A mashup word created by attaching the first two Japanese characters of the borrowed “mental health (メンタルヘルス). As the word’s origin implies, if a character is referred to as “menheru/menhera”, it means that they’re afflicted with a mental disorder/illness. It doesn’t matter if the character actually has an established condition or not. The phrase also refers to mental illness in general.

* Meruhen (メルヘン) *

“Meruhen” is the Japanese pronunciation of the German word “märchen“, which means “fairy tale”. When one refers to something or someone as “meruhenchikku (メルヘンチック)” or “meruhentikku (メルヘンティック)” (meruhen + English suffix “-tic”), they mean to say that the subject is “like something out of a fairy tale”. Sometimes, “meruhen” is used in the same manner as “meruhenchikku/tikku”.

* Moe (萌え) *

Moe is a very broad term to describe a character (usually female) that is cute and tickles one’s protective instincts. The word “moe” in Japanese means to “sprout; bud”. Moe also can be used to describe a media that induces such feelings in you, or media that features many “moe” characters. A very popular example of a “moe” anime is K-On! Another common use is to say something or somebody is “moe”, which is akin to one saying in English, “that’s so cute!”

The application of “moe” to a character is acceptable to be subjective about it, but there are also thought to be specific patterns or personality traits a character must possess in order to “qualify”. For female characters, the popular consensus is that they must be cute and young. Clumsiness, density, innocence and quirkiness are also desirable “moe” traits.

Games that centre or feature many moe characters or themes are referred to as “moege (萌えゲー; モエゲー)”.

* Nakige (泣きゲー; 泣きゲ) *

Translating to “crying game”, the term is a portmanteau of the Japanese words for “crying (泣き)” and “game (ゲーム)”. It is a subgenre of games (particularly visual novels) that are aimed to make the players cry- be it in happiness or sadness. Failing crying, the aim is to at least greatly move the players. Key, the company that created Air, Clannad and Kanon, are popular producers of nakige and have defined the genre.

* NEET (sometimes written as ニート) *

NEET stands for “Not in Education, Employment or Training”. While the term is popular in Japan, it actually originated in England. While the finer details of who would be considered a NEET varies from country-to-country, the general consensus is that the person in question must meet all of these criteria:
* Unemployed
* Not undertaking education or training
* Not a housewife or househusband
* Not seeking employment

* Nekketsu (熱血) *

“Nekketsu” means “hot-blooded” in Japanese. There are no significant differences between what a hot-blooded character is like in Japanese media vs. Western media.

* Netorare (寝取られ; often shortened to just NTR) *

It literally means “taken while asleep”, but the actual definition is “one’s lover/spouse being cuckolded”. One who cuckolds is the “netori (寝取り)”. Netorare works are meant to incite jealousy (mostly sexual) in its consumers. These works often begin with showcasing the protagonist and their partner’s happy relationship, only for the netori to make their way into the partner’s life and “steal” the partner away from the protagonist. Being a broad and longstanding genre, netorare has a variety of “types”:

~ By far the most common, a type in which the netori gets the partner to have sex with them via morally questionable means. However, the partner begins to enjoy the sex and leaves the protagonist.

~ Your standard “cheating” story. Completely consensual.

~ The partner is roped into sex with the netori and never enjoys it.

~ A less-common type where the protagonist orchestrates the netorare. The reason(s) they may do this widely vary from story-to-story.

* Nikushoku-kei Danshi (肉食系) *

The opposite of “soushoku-kei danshi”. “Nikushoku” means “carnivorous”, and “-kei” means “type”. “Nikushoku-kei” refers to men that are aggressive, competitive and forward in their pursuit of women, sex and money. A loose English equivalent is “a man’s man”. In fiction, the nikushoku-kei overlaps with the ore-sama type often, to the point that some see practically no differences between the two terms.

* Nukige (抜きゲー; 抜きゲ) *

Literally meaning “pulling game”, the term is derived from the Japanese words “抜き (pulling, which is also a slang in Japan for masturbation)” and “ゲーム (game)”. Nukige emphasises pornographic content over its plot. Given that all eroge obviously contains erotic content, the distinction is confusing for some. A first method of discerning is taking a look at the cover art. Sexually explicit cover art is a common sign. Others include websites previewing more “H” CGs and the trials covering erotic content over plot. Many nukige also have very long titles that essentially summarise the game’s content and plot.

* NVL *

The shortened form of “novel“, NVL refers to a text display style in which text is displayed across the entire page, rather than in a textbox (unlike the ADV style). This is similar to the way a page of a book has text placed across the breadth of the paper. Nearly all NVLs allow readers to temporarily make the text disappear from the screen, so that the pictures and CGs can be better seen. Some NVLs have “borders” around the text, such as Fate/Stay night, and others do not, like Umineko no Naku Koro ni (both screenshots are taken from VNDb.org).

* O.E.L.V.N. *

OELVN stands for “Original English Language Visual Novel”. Much like it  implies, this is the term to refer to visual novels that are originally in English, and made by those who speak English. This title is applied to games to distinguish it from other titles which are commonly created in Japan (the most prolific creators of visual novels in the world).

* Onii-san (お兄さん; おにいさん) *

A polite way to refer to your own or somebody else’s older brother. For usage as a character archetype (common in otome games), it refers to a male character who’s (usually) older than the protagonist. An onii-san character is commonly portrayed to be gentle, kind, (over)protective, reliable and responsible. He usually has a soft voice and a gentle method of speech.

* Ongaku Game (音楽ゲーム; おんがくゲーム) *

Means “music game” in Japanese. Often shortened to “otoge (音ゲー; おとゲー)” or “onge (おんゲー)”. Also known as a “rhythm game (リズムゲーム)”. An ongaku game is a type of computer game in which the gameplay is centred around keeping in rhythm with the music in order to progress. Popular examples include Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution franchise, and Nintendo’s Rhytm Tengoku (Rhythm Heaven) series. Be careful to not confuse “otoge” with “otome game”, as both share the same shortened form. A visual novel example would be the all-ages title, “Symphonic Rain“. Ongaku games aren’t very common in the visual novel sector.

* Ore-sama (俺様; オレ様) *

Ore-sama is a term used to refer to often aggressively overconfident and/or pompous male characters. The term comes from the Japanese masculine pronoun for “I; me (俺 or オレ)” and the very respectful honorific suffix, “-sama”. As such, the majority of ore-sama type characters use “ore-sama”, which is the most arrogant way a male can refer to himself. Other than being overconfident and pompous, ore-sama characters are also known to be boastful, forward, hasty and having a “my way or the highway” attitude.

* Otabare (オタバレ) *

Otabare is the word used to refer to the phenomenon of an otaku being found out that they are one. The word is a mashup of “otaku (オタク)” and “bareru (バレる)”, which means “to be found out”.

* Otaku (おたく; オタク; ヲタク) *

An often misapplied and misused term, otaku is derived from the Japanese word, “お宅 (an honorific used to refer to another’s family or house)”. However, in this context (written as “おたく; オタク; ヲタク” to avoid confusion with “お宅”), it simply refers to somebody that has an extreme interest in their hobby/interest. In more modern times, the term has come to be near-exclusively used to describe those that are  obsessed with anime, manga, video games and/or visual novels. Though the definition itself is neutral- being neither positive nor negative- otaku is commonly viewed as an insult. There are a myriad of reasons why otaku are “silently” discriminated against in Japan and received its negative connotation. Some small reasons being their supposed tendencies to be asocial, hikkikomori, NEETs, unkempt, etc. As for why otaku get quickly categorised as a “creep” is explained in fantastic detail here. The post on Anime Suki recounts the infamous crimes committed by an otaku named Tsutsomu Miyazaki in the late ’80s. (May be graphic for some, please be aware!).

After Miyazaki was apprehended, numerous hentai (anime pornography) videos of lolicon and various violent content were supposedly found in a search of his home (alongside videos of himself committing the crimes). Needless to say, the public went mad, and a moral panic towards otaku spread through the country. Years on, the panic disappeared, but the image that otaku are “creepy loners/f***ed up/lolicon freaks” remains.
Otome Game

* Ouji-sama (王子様; おうじ様) *

Ouji-sama is the Japanese for very respectfully addressing or referring to a prince. Even so, not all ouji-sama characters are princes or even any type of royalty. This character archetype is more referential to the stereotypes associated with a prince: “pretty boy” attractiveness, chivalrousness, gentlemanliness, politeness, wealth, high social standing (through nobility or popularity), a silver tongue and/or even knightly virtues if the universe the character is in permits. The ouji-sama is essentially a “gentleman” character.

* Route (in Japanese: ルート; sometimes expressed in shortened form as “√” in Japan) *

A route is “a course, way, or road for passage or travel” (Dictionary.com). When used in the context of visual novel plots which aren’t linear (see ADV/AVG for more information), a “route” denotes a particular branch of the plot. You will often see someone use this word in conjunction with a character’s name- usually a main character/love interest. This means the speaker is referring to a branch in the visual novel’s story that focuses on the character they had just named.

Another frequent term you may encounter under the “route” umbrella is “common route”. A common route is essentially the portion of a multi-branched visual novel which does not focus on a particular character. Common routes typically function to set the scene of the VN and introduce players to the characters (especially the main ones and love interests). Divisions into character-specific branches are made depending upon the player’s responses when sets of choices appear- this is by far the most common method VNs employ. For other games, the common route will conclude and players can select which characters’ route they’d like to play.

* Sanpaku-gan (三白眼) *

Literally means “three white eyes” in Japanese. Commonly referred to as just “Sanpaku” or “Sanpaku eyes”. Those with Sanpaku-gan have smaller irises, which results in a look where the sclera (the white part) makes up for a greater portion of their eyes. Wikipedia’s definition is more detailed, which also serves to explain the origin of the term:

“The term refers to the iris being rather small, so that it only covers about two-thirds or less of the vertical axis of the eye; e.g. delineate an eye into four portions; the iris would only occupy one portion of the divided four sections; thus leaving the other three in white, hence “three whites.”

Because Sanpaku-gan produces a more “piercing and sharp” look that lacks cuteness, Japanese fiction tends to apply it to aggressive, delinquents, and/or violent characters. If not necessarily antagonistic and villainous, they’re just “rough-around-the-edges”. Can also be used to make an older character look more mature, in which it becomes especially more noticeable in a cast with predominantly “cuter-looking” characters.

Examples: L from Death Note and Takasu Ryuuji from Toradora!

* Seiyuu (声優) *

“Seiyuu” is a gender-neutral Japanese word meaning “voice actor/actress”.

* Senpai (also written as “Sempai”) (先輩) *

A character’s “senpai” is their senior at school or work. A good English equivalent of senpai is “upperclassman”. When combined with a name, such as “Kanakubo-senpai”, the speaker is literally saying “Kanakubo upperclassman”, but is simply indicating respect towards their senior. In a school setting, a [last name]-senpai is always how an upperclassman should be referred to unless you’re close to them. A senpai doesn’t necessarily have to be older than the addresser. For example, in a workplace, Kinose-san is younger than me but he has been working there for two years. So out of respect and politeness, I’d refer to Kinose-san as “Kinose-senpai”, especially if he’s showing me the ropes.

* Shota (ショタ) *

The shortened form of “shotacon”. However, shota is commonly used more as an adjective to describe a character’s appearance. For example, I wouldn’t call Pico from Boku no Pico a “shotacon”, because that sounds like I’m implying he likes very young-looking guys. Instead, I would refer to him as a “shota”, since I’m trying to get across that he looks cute, innocent, young, etc. and appeals to the shotacon demographic.

* Shotacon (ショタコン) *

“Shotacon” is a term that describes media that feature themes about attraction to younger boys (or at least, older guys that look much more like younger boys), or targets those that are attracted toward such male characters. It is also used as an adjective to describe somebody whom is a fan of shotacon material. The term is a shortened mashup coming from a its original name, “Shoutarou Complex (正太コンプレックス)”. Please note that “shota” is the correct term to use to describe a character whom fits the definition’s mould.

* Shoujo Ai (少女愛) *

Meaning “young girl love”, shoujo ai is the term used to describe works that focus on homosexual romantic developments between girls, with an emphasis on the emotions involved. Not all shoujo ai is yuri, however, shoujo ai is a common element of yuri media.

* Shounen Ai (少年愛) *

Meaning “young boy love” in Japanese, shounen ai refers to media that has an emphasis on the romantic emotional developments between men. It differentiates from yaoi by not being centred on sex. However, shounen ai is a common element of yaoi media.

* Shuuru (シュール) *

“Shuuru” is the shortened form of the Japanese pronunciation of “Surrealism”, “shurureanizumu”. “Shuuru” refers to both key definitions of “surreal” which are- 1) “Having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic.” (Dictionary.com), and 2) an artistic style called “Surrealism“.

* SLG *

“SLG” is the shortened form of the whole term, “simulation game (シミュレーションゲーム)”, which essentially are games that aim to simulate some kind of real life action, occupation or situation. The most common type of SLG is a “raising simulation”, in which a large emphasis of its gameplay is on raising stats. Stats are based on aspects of real life that have been numerated, rather than the standard HP, MP, Attack, Defence, etc. types that are commonly seen in classic RPGs. This type of SLG is frequently combined with the “dating simulation” type, in which real-life stats are raised in order to progress your relationship with one of the game’s love interests. Non-romantic examples that aren’t limited to stat-raising are Sim City and RollerCoaster Tycoon, whereas a classic romantic (and a VN) example would be the Tokimeki Memorial series.

* Soushoku-kei Danshi (草食系 男子) *

The opposite of “nikushoku-kei”. “Soushoku” means “herbivorous”, “-kei” means “type” and “danshi” means “man.” The term was coined by Fukasawa Maki, in which “herbivore” was used for types of men that don’t have aggressive desires for “flesh”, unlike the standard “carnivorous” men. Soushoku-kei danshi, often referred to as just “soushoku danshi”, are (typically) young men that are more peaceable in their pursuit of women, sex and money, unlike the typical male stereotype of being competitive and aggressive. These types of men are typically kind, cooperative and family-oriented. It can also be used as an insult, referring to “spineless” guys that pretend to not be interested in women and sex for fear of rejection, and do not make any moves themselves. According to Wikipedia, it also refers to a phenomenon in Japan where men are shunning relationships and marriage. This has caused a decline in the nation’s birth rates, and is projected to become an issue in the future.

* Sports Baka (スポーツ馬鹿; -バカ) *

A sports baka is a character whom is totally devoted to and loves sports. The term itself can encompass a lover of any type of sport. Stereotypically, a sports-baka excels in any manner of sporting or physical activity, but tends to not be booksmart or even smart full stop. Sometimes, some people will specify the type of sport the character is devoted to. For example, soccer-baka and tennis-baka. The word comes from combining “sports” and the Japanese word, “baka (“馬鹿”, fool; idiot; stupid)”.

* Tareme (垂れ目) *

Tareme means “drooping eyes” in Japanese. Tareme is a style of anime eyes that are typically applied to cute, immature, innocent and/or young characters. Characters with tareme are rarely antagonistic, and also are known to be quiet and shy. The opposite of tsurime.

Examples: Asahina Mikuru from the Suzumiya Haruhi series and Hiiragi Tsukasa from Lucky Star.

* Tsundere (ツンデレ) *

A tsundere is a character whom starts off with a hostile attitude (be it physically and/or verbally), but shows their sweeter side (often caring, kind and loving) when they open up around the right people. Most commonly, this archetype applies to
romantic situations. However, it can also apply to friendships. The best-known member of “-dere” family, the term is a mashup of the Japanese words “tsuntsun (ツンツン)”, which means “irritable; pointy”, and “deredere (デレデレ)”, which means “lovestruck”.

Tsundere can be broken down into three “types”:

Type 1: They’re “tsun” around others but “dere” around the right people. This is the most common one, and is also referred to as “Classic Tsundere”.

Type 2: They’re “dere” or otherwise on the significantly friendlier side, but around the people they like, they’re “tsun”. Despite this pattern technically being “dere-tsun”, it’s still called “tsundere”.

Type 3: They alternate between “tsun” and “dere” when around selected loved ones. Most of the time, a Type C’s default attitude towards everyone is “tsun”. More common in romantic relationships than friendships. Type C is a more recent incarnation, and is sometimes called “Modern Tsundere”.

* Tsurime (攣り目; 吊り目) *

Tsurime means “almond-shaped; slanted; upturned eyes” in Japanese. Tsurime is a style of anime eyes that are often applied to arrogant, confident, hot-blooded and proud characters. Tsurime tend to be a common choice for use on tsundere characters. They can sometimes overlap with hosome- particularly when used on older characters- but are distinguished by their typically larger size. Also, tsurime is a more neutral choice, whereas hosome tend to be significantly more applied to antagonistic, “mean” and/or older characters. The opposite of tareme.

Examples: Sakura Kyouko from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica and Itoshiki Nozomu from Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei.

* Utsuge (欝/鬱ゲー; 欝/鬱ゲ) *

Utsuge translates to “depressing game”. It’s a mashup of the Japanese words for “depression (/)” and “game (ゲーム)”. As the word suggests, utsuge are games that are designed to evoke a low-spirited feel and/or have no happy ends. Key themes in utsuge are doubt, hopelessness, futility, meaninglessness, etc.

* Yandere (ヤンデレ) *

A yandere is a character that is initially caring, kind, loving, sweet, etc. and tends to appear cute and innocent… but their (often) genuine love for the object of their affection becomes psychologically destructive. Their behaviour can depend on which “type” of yandere they are, but the end results are usually psychologically destructive and violent. Also not exclusively a term for romantic relationships, but is seen much more often in them. A popular part of the “-dere” family, the term is a mashup of the Japanese words “yanderu (病んでる)”, which means “to fall or be ill (in this context, mentally ill)” and “deredere (デレデレ)”, which means “lovestruck”.

You may have noticed that this behavioural pattern is more “dere-yan”, but it is always “yandere”. It’s also worth noting that yandere is not a blanket term to describe an insane person that is lovestruck around the right people. The emphasis is on the loving-mentally destructive dynamic rather than the specifics of their insanity.

TV Tropes define yandere characters as coming in one of two types, but many alternate or are both:

Obsessive: These yandere get completely obsessed with the love interest, to mentally unstable degrees. Obsessive yandere tend to stalk their love interests for every little information about them they can get. They also can go to extreme lengths to “get rid of the competition”, which often results in violence.

Possessive: Possessive yandere are so in love with their love interest, that they become insanely possessive, and in extreme cases, totally unwilling to allow their interest to spend time with others. Possessive yandere do stalk as well, but usually to keep tabs on their love interests. This type of yandere commonly end up imprisoning their love interests. In more violent endings, they kill their love to prevent others from “taking them away”.

* Yangire (病ん切れ) (A.K.A. “Cute and Psycho” due to the popularity of TV Tropes) *

Yangire is a Japanese term, which is a portmanteau of “病んでる (meaning to fall or be ill) and “切れる (meaning to cut and is the slang for “snapping” in anger). Yangire characters are cute (or otherwise pleasant-looking), harmless-looking and innocent characters that have a criminally violent, insane side. Very easily confused with yandere, as both could (arguably) be each other. However, a yangire character’s trigger is not associated with an obsession or possessiveness of a lover or friend. As to why they go crazy is dependent upon the character him/herself, and has no “one true” answer. A yangire character may or may not be consciously hiding his/her insanity. Some are so unstable that it takes very little to “snap” them; often ending in bloodshed.

* Yankee (ヤンキー) *

Yankee is used to describe an individual who is a juvenile delinquent. Without application to a person, yankee on its own refers to delinquency in general.

* Yaoi (ヤオイ; やおい) *

Yaoi is a term used to describe male-on-male homoerotic pornography created by and for heterosexual females. The term derived from “(山[場]なし, 落ちなし, 意味なし), which translates to “No peak, no fall, no meaning”; describing yaoi’s focus on the sexual aspects.

* Yuri (百合; ユリ; ゆり) *

Yuri a term coined by the anime fandom to refer to media with a focus on lesbian pornography and/or themes. Yuri can also have focuses on emotional developments, which is often categorised as “shoujo-ai”. The word means “lily” in Japanese.

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