How To Learn Japanese With Anime – 8 Fluency Tips
Are you wondering how to learn Japanese with anime? Is it even possible? This article will guide you with the best tips and anime shows to do it right!
Can you learn Japanese with anime?
In short, yes, but it won’t teach you everything you need to know. You can totally support your Japanese lessons or study time by watching some types of anime, but don’t expect to increase your Japanese power level to over 9000 by binge-watching Evangelion.
That being said, anime is definitely an entertaining resource that can boost your pronunciation, strengthen your vocabulary, and improve the grammar you already know. However, there are some things you need to keep in mind.
This article will show where to find anime shows online, how to properly use anime to learn Japanese, why it’s a good idea to use this resource, and what are some of our top show picks for you.
Before we go on, don’t miss our article on The Best Way To Learn Japanese for expert tips to master the language. Also, if you haven’t already, make sure you download the Fluent Forever app and join our Live Coaching program to really supercharge your journey to Japanese fluency!
So, are you ready to learn Japanese with anime? 行くぞ! (Let’s go!)
Where to find anime for learning Japanese
If you’ve ever tried to find the new episode of your favorite anime, you know how hard it can be to find a good, reliable, and trustworthy website that won’t give your computer a thousand viruses. Luckily, the last decades have seen a boom of streaming platforms that host anime shows.
Below are some of the places to watch anime online.
Crunchyroll is probably the most popular anime website out there. It has hundreds of shows to choose from, as well as various genre categories to enjoy.
You can either buy a premium account or watch for free with recurring ads. Crunchyroll usually airs episodes on the same day that they come out in Japan.
Anime-Planet is an anime and manga recommendation database with over 45,000 anime episodes. Manga, by the way, is the original print version of an anime.
What’s more, Anime-Planet is free! However, you will have to endure its ads.
If you’re into more old-school anime, Retrocrush is for you. RetroCrush is a streaming service dedicated to show anime from back in the day, what some people call the Golden Age of anime.
Same as Crunchroll, you can either put up with ads or pay for a premium account.
Amazon, Hulu, & Netflix
With anime’s popularity soaring in the last decades and reaching the mainstream, well-known streaming sites like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix didn’t want to miss out on the action. Therefore, you will find some anime on these sites.
Obviously, the offer will be considerably less than the other anime-exclusive sites.
Lastly, Yatta Tachi is not an anime-streaming site per se. However, it’s a handy website that lists trustworthy and legal sites to watch anime.
Disclaimer: using anime to learn Japanese
Japanese follows Keigo, an honorifics system that changes how you speak the language depending on the relationship you have with the person you’re addressing.
So, think about the distinction between formal and informal settings, but then consider that your Japanese will change between a friend, family member, colleague, acquaintance, manager, or customer.
But, what’s this got to do with anime? Well, some anime characters will often speak by either completely disregarding or changing the Keigo system. Additionally, some anime – especially ScFi and Fantasy series – will rely heavily on slang or made-up words.
Therefore, it’s important to be aware that just because your favorite protagonist screams だってばよ (Dattebayo) every time they do something cool, it doesn’t mean that’s a real thing you can use in real life. Imitating your favorite characters can leave native speakers with the impression that you’re either rude or intentionally speaking like a child.
In short, you need to understand that the Japanese you hear in anime isn’t necessarily 100% applicable in the real world. You can learn more about the Keigo system in our guide to the best way to learn Japanese.
Why you should learn Japanese with anime
So, should you skip anime to learn Japanese? Of course not!
If you keep the last point in mind, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t watch anime to complement your Japanese studies. Here are a few reasons why you should learn Japanese with anime.
Fun and relaxing passive learning tool
When you watch anime, you’ll inevitably pick up some Japanese grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary by virtue of sitting down to watch and listen. So, take a break from your rigorous studying and enjoy an episode or two.
Practice your listening and pronunciation
In spite of some notable differences you should keep an ear out for, anime uses real Japanese. That means you will be able to strengthen your listening and pronunciation skills while watching it.
Boost your vocabulary
Similar to the last point, you will also pick up new vocabulary and phrases. And, depending on the anime and its characters, you’ll become accustomed to how the Keigo system is used.
Again, just be aware of any made-up words and expressions!
There is 100% something out there for you
From demon-hunting samurai, to a cafe run by literal talking bears, there’s absolutely an anime to suit every Japanese language learner. The array of genres is also extremely vast.
So, whether you’re looking for a horror anime or a slice of life rom-com, you will find something you enjoy.
Learn about Japanese culture
Depending on how realistic the anime is, you will learn about Japanese culture by watching these shows. That’s ideal if you happen to be interested in traveling, working, or living in Japan.
Follow these 8 tips to learn Japanese with anime
So, are you ready to plunge into the magical world of anime to learn Japanese? Well, if you’re going to use this highly addictive and entertaining resource, make sure to keep these tips in mind to make the most of your time.
Start at an intermediate level
You should wait until you reach an intermediate level to use anime as a learning resource. Once you’re an intermediate Japanese learner, you will have a reliable vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation base to work with.
Some knowledge of the language will help you to identify and avoid slang and made-up phrases. At the same time, you won’t get confused when characters misuse or ignore the honorifics system in their dialogue.
Use subtitles wisely
Unless you’re watching anime as a mere source of entertainment, you should avoid English subtitles. English subtitles in your anime will only help you very little to actually learn Japanese.
Because you’re ideally starting out at an intermediate level, you should be able to rely on Japanese subtitles. This is a great opportunity to strengthen your listening, vocabulary, reading, and grammar skills.
Go for high-quality sites
In relation to the above point, you want to make sure that you get your anime fix from a reliable source. The last thing you want to do is learn Japanese with erroneous subtitles or hilariously faulty dubs.
Double-check the words you hear
If you hear or see a word or phrase in an anime that you find interesting, it might be best to double-check that it’s something you can use in real life. Remember, some anime characters speak in unrealistic ways or with made-up words!
Ask your language coach or go-to native speaker to verify whether what the samurai cyborg said is even real. You can always sign up for our Coaching program and talk anime shop with your very own, 100% native-speaking Japanese coach.
Genre: stick to certain animes
As we mentioned earlier, there are tons of anime series out there. If you’re looking to use anime to learn Japanese reliably, you should stick to more realistic shows.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t enjoy ScFi or Fantasy animes, but keep in mind that these will probably use less vocabulary that you can actually use.
Listen and watch actively
As with any other language, if you’re going to consume media to strengthen your language learning, you should actively listen and watch said media.
Avoid playing anime in the background while you work; instead, make some time to make the most of this entertaining resource.
Read the manga
No, this isn’t one of those “the book is better” things. Reading the manga – or the print version – of an anime, with the former coming out way before the latter, can be a helpful support resource in case the show goes too fast for you.
Another benefit of manga is that you can read at your own pace and practice your reading comprehension in the process.
Shadowing refers to reading the subtitles out loud along with the character or narrator. This can aid you in reinforcing your pronunciation.
However – and we can’t stress this enough – make sure to mimic characters who speak like actual people. The last thing you’d want is to sound like that anthropomorphic protagonist who’s half-dog, half-crocodile, and why not, half-robot.
Our top 7 anime picks to learn Japanese
So, what anime should you watch? Considering everything we’ve said so far, here are our top anime recommendations for learning Japanese.
となりのトトロ (My Neighbor Totoro)
Tatsuo Kusakabe moves with his two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, to the countryside, closer to their hospitalized mother.
One day, Mei meets a small, bunny-like creature. After chasing it, she meets Totoro, a mystical forest spirit. Suddenly, the family’s life is magically transformed thanks to this fantastical creature.
Suitable for: Beginner/Intermediate
What you’ll learn: Japanese folklore, family culture, children’s vocabulary
うさぎドロップ (Bunny Drop)
30-year-old Daikichi Kawachi is a relaxed bachelor working a steady yet aimless job. When his grandfather passes away, he goes back to his family’s home to pay his respects and meets a young girl named Rin, who’s his grandfather’s illegitimate daughter!
Aware that no one else is willing to take care of Rin, Daikichi will embark on an unexpected adventure called fatherhood.
Genre: Slice of life
Suitable for: Beginner/Intermediate
What you’ll learn: Japanese culture, parenthood, family-related vocabulary
のんのんびより (Non Non Biyori)
Hotaru Ichijou’s life turns upside down when she leaves Tokyo and moves to the remote village of Asahigaoka. What’s worse, her new school has only 4 other students.
However, Hotaru will find that in the farthest corner of Japan, she can find the closest of friendships.
Genre: Comedy/slice of life
Suitable for: Beginner/Intermediate
What you’ll learn: Phrases about friendship, Japanese friendship culture
スラムダンク (Slam Dunk)
Based on one of the bestselling mangas in history, the anime follows Hanamichi Sakurago, a temperamental redhead who joins a high school basketball team, hoping to become a player in the best team in Japan.
However, he’ll need to learn how to play in a team and overcome his personal issues first.
Suitable for: Intermediate
What you’ll learn: Sports vocabulary, casual phrases, jokes among friends, high school culture in Japan
映像研には手を出すな! (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!)
Midori Asuka is an imaginative sketch artist who loves anime. Her best friend Sayaka Kanamori, on the other hand, is a business-minded realist.
When the two meet model Tsubame Misuzaki, Tsubame and Midori strike up a friendship based on their love for art and anime. Sayaka, smelling a potentially profitable business, suggests starting an animation club at their school.
Genre: Comedy/Slice of life
Suitable for: Intermediate
What you’ll learn: Jokes among friends, art-related vocabulary, primary school culture in Japan
ヲタクに恋は難しい (Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for an Otaku)
Narumi Momose has a secret: she’s an otaku, meaning an anime enthusiast and connoisseur. She promises herself that no one in her new job will find out. However, her cover is blown when she runs into Hirotaka Nifuji, an old high school friend and fellow otaku.
The show explores their blossoming friendship while they discover that their shared hobby might lead to something else.
Suitable for: Intermediate
What you’ll learn: Japanese work culture, romantic vocabulary, jokes among colleagues
君の名は (Your Name)
Mitsuha Miyamizu is a high schooler living in the rural town of Itomori. She wishes she could travel to a big city like Tokyo. At the same time, Taki Tachibana, another high school student who lives in Tokyo, dreams about becoming a successful urban planner.
Their lives are upended when they swap bodies!
Suitable for: Advanced
What you’ll learn: Traveling phrases, romantic phrases, jokes among friends, Japanese culture and folklore
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And there you have it! That’s everything you need to know about how to learn Japanese with anime.
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