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Anime is a great and super fun way to learn Japanese. Picking up random words and short phrases from anime is one of the first steps to learning Japanese and building interest in taking up proper Japanese lessons. Singular words aside, what common anime phrases can you actually use in real life?
Header Image Credit: ©赤坂アカ／集英社・かぐや様は告らせたい製作委員会 / ©遠藤達哉／集英社・SPY×FAMILY製作委員会 / ©2018 大武政夫・KADOKAWA刊／ヒナまつり製作委員会
Table of Contents
You probably know doki doki well from watching shoujo romcom anime. Doki doki is the Japanese version of “thump thump” for the sound of a beating heart. You can usually see it in manga as an SFX.
It can also mean (heart) beating fast, (heart) pounding, (heart) throbbing. 💓 Pretty much said or thought by every love interest in romance anime:
Mune ga mada doki doki shiteiru
- My heart is still pounding.
Kanojo no koto wo kangaeru to shinzou ga doki doki suru
- My heart starts pounding whenever I think of her.
Waku waku means excited or thrilled. It’s most famously said by Anya Forger from the hit anime SPY x FAMILY. Anya exclaims waku waku spiritedly whenever she’s excited, like when discovering her parent’s hidden identities and when watching her favourite spy cartoon.
"Spy… mission… waku waku! "
- Anya Forger, SPY x Family
Suddenly going “waku waku” outright is pretty cringe, but you can use it normally in sentences to express your excitement for something:
Ashita no ensoku ni waku waku shite imasu.
- [I am] excited for tomorrow’s outing.
Waku waku shi sugite nemurenai!
- [ am] so excited [I] can’t sleep!
Aa, watashi no sumaho gaaaa-
Aa, my smartphoneeeeeee...
- Random monks getting beat up, Hinamatsuri
「あいったー」comes from comedy gag anime Hinamatsuri about Hina, a girl with powerful supernatural powers who crash lands (literally) into Yakuza member, Nitta Yoshifumi’s life. Hilarity and chaos ensues in their daily lives.
Whenever someone gets hurt or beaten up in this anime, their expressions of pain comes in the form of 「あいったー」which is short form of 「ああ、痛い」, or “Ah, it hurts” or more literally “Ah, pain”. This is used a lot, and I mean a lot in the anime, so much so that あいったー Twitter icons were released to commemorate the anime’s official Twitter hitting 100,000 followers.
Image Credit: ©2018 大武政夫・KADOKAWA刊／ヒナまつり製作委員会
As an exclamation of pain, “A ittaa” can be used simply as it is, simply meaning “ouch”. Other variations include “Itte!”, “A ittee”, or even “Itte-te-te-te!” when the pain is drawn out.
Mukatsuku is just one of many other Japanese anime phrases to express irritation, anger, frustration and dissatisfaction. Others include 頭にきた (atama ni kita) frequently said by Tohsaka Rin from Fate series, and 腹が立つ (hara ga tatsu). You’ve probably heard mukatsuku being used in anime like so:
Anta de maji de mukatsuku!
- You really p*** me off / You really get on my nerves!
- He’s annoying / He p***es me off / He gets on my nerves.
(Depending on context, can have different meanings or carry different weight. For example, it can be used when you really don’t like someone which carries negative feelings; at the same time, it can be used when you’re grumbling / sulking over a friend who keeps beating you in a game which doesn’t necessarily mean you hate your friend, more like “Aargh, he keeps beating me!”)
- Argh. (Fed up/Annoyed with the situation.)
Aside from outright saying “I’m p***ed” in anime and manga, the anger mark 💢, smoke coming out of ears / nostrils, or swirly swirls beside the head are other common signs of anger in anime and manga.
This phrase is super useful to learn as it’s used quite frequently in Japan. It can be used in all situations from school, at work, on the phone, and even when paying at the cashier when you’re digging through your purse for cash.
- Please wait (a moment / a minute).
At work, when speaking to your superiors or customers, try to use the more formal version of the phrase which is,
Shoushou omachi kudasai.
Or this if you’re expecting them to wait more than “a little”.
Ima shibaraku omachi kudasai.
- Please wait for a while.
Image Credit: © 岸本斉史 ｽｺｯﾄ/集英社･ﾃﾚﾋﾞ東京･ぴえろ/ © TV TOKYO Corporation
Mendokusai kedo yaru shikanee na.
What pain but there's no choice but to do it.
- Nara Shikamaru, Naruto / Naruto Shippuden
Shikamaru from Naruto and Gintoki from Gintama are probably the most memorable characters when it comes to “mendokusai”, especially Shikamaru whose lines in Naruto always includes the word.
Mendokusai is used to express feelings of reluctance to do something because it’s too troublesome or tiresome. We totally get that feeling though. Classic examples include:
- A: You aren't preparing bento?
- B: Yup, ‘cause it’s too troublesome (mendokusai).
- A: Ah! [We / I] forgot to buy soy sauce! Can [you] get it?
- B: Now? [We] just got home. How tiresome (mendokusai).
Shukudai suru no wa mendokusai.
- Doing homework is troublesome / tiresome / such a pain.
Saiaku means bad or the worst, it is used to describe many things including horrible situations and bad things. Saiaku is frequently used in anime like so:
Kore.. saiaku na jyoukou da.
- This… is a horrible situation / This is a nightmare.
Saiaku na kekka ha minna ga shinu.
- The worst case scenario, we all die.
You definitely know famous anime Attack on Titan, it’s not wrong to say that every time a titan attack happens is pretty much a 「最悪な状況」, “worst possible situation”, for the human race.
Opposite side of the spectrum is Saiko or simply Besuto (as in “best”). Technically, Saiko’s opposite words is Saitei (最低) which though similar in meaning to Saiaku is used differently, most commonly being to insult someone for being the worst - 「お前最低だ。」”You’re the worst / despicable”. Examples of Saiko:
Kono yama kara no keshiki ga saikou desu.
- The view from this mountain is the best.
Omae-tachi, hontou ni saiko daze!
- You guys are really the best!
Both Shouganai and Shikata can mean many things:
It can’t be helped.
It is what it is.
There’s nothing you can do.
There’s nothing that can be done.
Tone is important when using this phrase! Depending on your tone of voice, it can come across as comforting or just telling someone to give up! Note that shikatanai is a more formal version than shouganai.
Some examples of shoganai used in everyday life in Japan:
Child drops ice cream and starts crying. Mom goes,
Ara ara, ochite shimatta. Nakanai yo mou, shouganai deshou.
- Oh dear, [ice cream] dropped. Don’t cry, there’s nothing that can be done.
No choice but to do something.
Mendokusai de mo shouganai…
- [It’s] troublesome but there’s no choice [but to do it]...
Image Credit: ©ONE・村田雄介／集英社・ヒーロー協会本部
Makasetoke means leave it to me. You'll often hear this phrase in anime with heroes, or characters with a strong sense of responsibility, or a slow-developing character with something to prove. And usually said in a loud firm voice laced with conviction.
Mama ni makasete!
Leave it to mama!
- Fujiwara Chika, Kaguya-sama
Yoku hitori de taetana. Ato ha makasetoke!
You hung in there well. Leave the rest to me!
- Saitama, One Punch Man
Ore ni makasete kure.
Leave it to me.
- Uzumaki Naruto, Naruto Shippuden
In real life, it’s better to add on kudasai at the end to make it
- Please leave it to me.
Sugoi, simple enough, means amazing. It can be used stand alone, something like “Wow!” It is used to express excitement or amazement. Variations of sugoi include “Sugee” or more formally “Sugoi desu”. Just like in anime, sugoi is a flexible word that can be used in many real life situations.
To praise someone,
〇〇 sugoi to omoi masu.
- I think you’re amazing.
to exclaim excitement and amazement,
Sore sugoku nai.
- Isn’t that amazing?
to emphasize, and more.
Sugoi omoshiroi yo ne.
- This is really interesting.
Everyday greetings like hello and goodbye are commonplace in anime, they’re really easy to pick up being short and usually not part of other sentences. Just from watching anime, many non-Japanese speakers can learn simple greetings like ohayou, oyasumi, konnichiwa, and more.
Any frequent anime watcher probably already knows ganbatte (kudasai), but take it one step further with ouen (shimasu / suru yo) which means “[I’ll] cheer for you” or “[I’ll be rooting for you]”. A whole conversation will look something like this:
Ashita no shiai ganbatte kudasai. Ouen shimasu!
- Do your best in tomorrow’s match. I’ll be rooting for you!
- Un, thank you. I’ll do my best.
It can also be used to perk yourself up and raise your fighting spirits.
Kobato will do her best! / I will do my best!
- Kobato Hanato, Kobato
Itadakimasu,「いただきます」, is said before partaking in a meal. The correct way to do it is to clap your hands together and slightly bow down whilst clearly saying “Itadakimasu” out loud. At the end of the meal, gochisousama or gochisousama desu, 「ごちそうさま(でした。)」, is said instead also with hands clapped together and a slight bow.
The significance of this practice is to express heartfelt gratitude and thanks to not just the person who prepared your meal but others involved - the farmers who grew and harvested the rice, the lives of animals lost (your meat), amongst others. The practice of itadakimasu and gochisousama is taught in Japan from a young age by parents to their children and also during school lunch.
When leaving the house, you say ittekimasu,「行ってきます」that means “I’m leaving now” or “I’m off”. You’ll be sent off with itterashai, 「行ってらっしゃい」that means “Take care” or “See you”. Many scenes in anime have these phrases included as the character’s daily lives which is a pretty accurate presentation of life in Japan. At work, we also use it to send off colleagues leaving on business trips or going out to run an office errand.
Very specific phrases for very specific situations. Giri giri seefu, 「ギリギリセーフ」, is used when you’ve just barely made it on time for class, work, meetings, etc. The direct translation is “barely safe”. It’s not a phrase you hear everyday in Japan but you do hear or say it when the situation calls for it.
Image Credit: ©Buronson & Tetsuo Hara / Coamix 1983
An iconic phrase famous inside and outside the anime world, thanks to memes! The origin of the phrase that translates to “You’re already dead” is Fist of the North Star (北斗の拳 Hokuto no Ken). It is said by Kenshirou (ケンシロウ) who is voiced by Kamiya Akira (神谷 明).
Image Credit: VIZ Media, LLC
A popular phrase said by protagonist Yagami Light (夜神 月) who is voiced by Miyano Mamoru (宮野 真守) in Death Note. The phrase became popular thanks to English fansubs of Episode 24 when 「計画通り Keikaku doori」was translated into “All according to keikaku” with a translator’s note saying “Keikaku means plan”.
Screenshots of the aforementioned scene became widespread and the translation accompanied with translator’s note was humorously repeated in fansubs of other anime where the phrase was used. In other words, it became a meme.
The magical words used by Sailor Moon Tsukino Usagi (月野 うさぎ), voiced by Mitsuishi Kotono (三石 琴乃), in the classic Sailor Moon anime. The phrase translates to “In the name of the moon, I’ll punish you!”
Image Credit: PR Times
Catchphrase by our favourite child detective Edogawa Conan (江戸川 コナン) who is voiced by Takayama Minami (高山みなみ) in the anime Detective Conan. The phrase can be translated to “there is only one truth”.
Image Credit: PR Times / ©TYPE-MOON・ufotable・FSNPC
Taken out of context and mostly treated as a joke, these phrases were said by Emiya Shirou (衛宮 士郎), voiced by Sugiyama Noriaki (杉山 紀彰), in anime Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works respectively. The phrase 「人は殺されれば死ぬ」is famously (in memes) fan-translated into “people die when they are killed” and 「お前の正しさは、ただ正しいだけのものだ」into “just because you’re correct, doesn’t mean you’re right”.
N-Nani?! Sonna bakana!
And other common anime phrases are fun to quote and all, but keep in mind that not all phrases can be used in every situation. Some phrases can be too casual or even downright rude to say to your seniors, boss, or people you are not close to.
We do understand the fun of sharing random anime phrases and trivia, so our advice is to share them with close friends and especially anime-loving fans - don’t have any? Time to make some new otaku friends!
Not sure what anime to start watching? We have a list of 15 anime recommendations especially for Japanese learners you can check out.
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