What is 'real Japanese'?

I always hear people say “Anime isn’t real Japanese” but never really explain why, or how? Is it the words they use, how they speak(too exaggerated/shouting), their pronunciation? Do manga and TV Shows share these problems as well?

Also, what can I learn ‘real Japanese’ from, other than (Virtual/)Youtubers?


People have mixed feelings about this youtuber’s street interview videos, so I’m not trying to make a blanket recommendation, but he also does videos where he just breaks down anime lines and talks about how normal Japanese people might say the same kinds of things.


I think of it in in the same way you can think about Western cartoons.

Dialogue is often heightened, with interactions that wouldn’t seem to fit in every day conversation. The purpose of the form is to entertain, rather than be realistic, so the dialogue is written and acted accordingly.


If you ever try to learn French, on the contrary, you will be told the way real people talk is not proper French and you should speak like animated characters :sweat_smile:


I think there’s two main angles to consider when it comes to anime. First of all, any kind of TV or entertainment is going to involve acting to some degree, and acted speech tends to have a different quality from everyday conversational speech. Like if you think of how people sound in movies versus how it sounds when you talk to someone in person. This isn’t that big of a problem, but it’s definitely noticeable. The second thing is that “anime” is a very broad term and covers a lot of different kinds of shows, some of which involve very strange and unnatural speech. When some people say “anime” they think of things like dragon ball, one piece, bleach, and other shonen anime where everyone has some kind of wild over-the-top accent or speaking style. Even in more down-to-earth anime, characters tend to have weird speech quirks or (possibly fake) kansai-ben accents that can be hard for learners to separate from “regular” Japanese until they have more experience.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting input from entertainment, but it is nice to hear more conversational Japanese because you’re going to need to get used to hearing people talking normally. Acting tends to be annunciation way more clearly, which makes listening comprehension easier (most of the time, there are definitely exceptions). Youtubers can be a good source for that, another thing you can try is seiyuu interviews (they tend to speak in their natural voice for those) or TV clips if you can find any. Only thing to watch for with VTubers is that some of them do silly speech quirks like anime characters, though even then they tend to speak more relaxed because they’re doing stuff live.


I actually did, in high school. Did not like it one bit, mainly because after 6 years I could barley hold a conversation in France about anything other than bicycle and clothes(:man_shrugging: idk)

There are 3 levels to this.

The first is that for any work of fiction, it’s going to be structured for entertainment. Thus, the conversations are going to be naturally dramatic/comedic, lack speech imperfections you see in real life (stutter, filler words, etc), and generally be clearly annunciated and easy to understand. This is all true of English as well.

The second is because of 役割語, and in particular キャラ語尾. 役割語 is “role language” that is something unique to Japanese. This involves things like old men using わし for "I, " noblewomen using the feminine version of わ and fully annunciating です, punks using っす when talking to those they respect, and so on. It basically doesn’t have any origin in reality (all of the speech patterns described could possibly be used by anyone), but in fiction they have these uses. However, this isn’t exclusive to anime and manga (they appear in any type of fiction), so this isn’t a full reason to specify manga/anime.

However, the aforementioned mentioned キャラ語尾 is mostly exclusive to anime and manga. This is where a character attaches a particle ending that is either fake or from an obscure dialect of Japanese. For example: 片岡優希 in the manga 咲 often ends her sentences with じょ and じぇ, which are two sentence final particles from two different dialects (IIRC, Hiroshima and Nagano?) that most Japanese people wouldn’t know. These sentence ending particles either serve to make the character sound cutesy, have a minor accent to show they "aren’t from around here, " or otherwise just make the character more distinct. However, it is usually pretty easy to identify these since the number of normally used sentence ending final Japanese particles is rather small (just か, ね, よ, わ, な, ぜ, ぞ, and then depending on what you would count, also の, かな, かしら, っす, and だろう/でしょう). So long as the reader/listener knows this, it doesn’t seem like one would accidentally pick these up.

Lastly, there is the aspect that Japanese instructors are terrified that someone is going to visit Japan and start speaking like a Shounen protagonist, so they often try to persuade students to not use language from it, which then some learners transform somehow into Anime and Manga being somehow "not real Japanese. "


I used to hate on those who learned Japanese from anime…

Though mostly because they didn’t really learn Japanese from anime… but whatever.

The issues that previous posters mentioned are easily remedied by exposure to a variety of sources and good old fashioned conversation practice.

So enjoy your anime and manga. Yes it’s real Japanese for Japanese people. You’ll pick up some general cultural knowledge, reinforce vocab and grammar, and enjoy yourself to boot.

*edited for clarity


I’m not sure about this but in anime, in general, the characters speak slower and is “too correct”, often with lines that you’ll never hear in real life. This may be either that they speak like they read a passage in a novel, or speak with so much slang and exaggerations. At least in japanese youtubers I heard, they do speak so much faster than in anime (which surprised me at first, but just got used to it) and they don’t usually blurt out novel-like lines.

Well, I think this is true for any language :woman_shrugging:

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Is the English used in Avengers movies “real?”

It’s the same question, really.

If you learn English by watching Marvel movies, native speakers might find your English “odd” in a variety of ways. Same if you learn it by watching Merchant Ivory films.

But if you watch both, you’ll start to understand that native speakers have a variety of vocabularies, speak with different accents, use different levels of formality, and so on.


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