The Sensei Next Door: Lingo

I made the utterly insane decision to catch up on Hunter x Hunter before the final episode airs in a few weeks (you can follow my 50-episode odyssey on Twitter), and it’s been making me think of this term a whole lot. So I figured I’d spend some time explaining it, and why I actually think it’s kind of great:

adj (slang).
Ridiculous levels of badassitude.

verb (slang).
To love a character because of their ridiculous levels of badassitude.

“GAR” is one of those accidental Internet slang things, sort of like “teh.” The story goes that a commenter was discussing an episode of the Fate/stay night anime and the absurdly macho character Archer. The commenter meant to say he was “gay for Archer” but one typo later and he was instead “gar for Archer.”

Somehow the term took off, although almost exclusively in the anime community (I didn’t even know about it until it cropped up in Enzo’s Lost in America blog), and eventually evolved into an adjective used on someone or something that’s unbelievably tough, persistent, and all-around badass (“Roy Mustang was so GAR when he fought Lust, you guys”). It doesn’t have to be a good thing, mind you – GAR can be excessive and exhausting, and you can use the word in a negative sense – but most of the time it has positive, fist-pumping, “hellz yeah!” connotations to it.

I’m actually really fond of this term, partly because it’s practically an onomatopoeia (if you saw “GAR!” as an SFX in a comic, you’d totally know what it meant), and partly because it encompasses all these notions of traditional masculinity/manliness while still being sex- and gender-neutral. Anyone can be GAR. And that’s awesome.

So go forth, ladies and gents, and remember: When the chips are down, you’re covered in wounds, and your buddies are bleeding out all around you, just grit your teeth, clench your fist, and give the world your best GAR battle cry. Somewhere, someone will swoon over it.

The Sensei Next Door: Seasonal Lingo Edition

I was discussing this with a friend the other day and realized not everyone is familiar with this terminology, so I figured I’d write up a little crash course in how to discuss anime shows, episode counts, and air dates.

As with U.S. shows, the entire run of an anime is called the series. However, unlike major U.S. networks, which split their shows into seasons generally running from September to May, anime programming is divided into four broadcast seasons which roughly match the four calendar seasons. As such, you’ll often hear people referring to them by these terms (such as the “Summer 2014” season).

The term “season” gets a little murky when referring to a specific series season. For example, Yowamushi Pedal ran from (approx.) September to May, meaning it ran through the Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons. However, because it was planned to run this long from the beginning, the studio and marketers (and by extension, the viewers) consider this the “first season” of the series.

YowaPeda went off the air during the Summer season but was popular enough to get renewed for more episodes beginning in the Fall, and this new batch of episodes will be considered the “second season.” In other words, a series season doesn’t necessarily match the broadcast seasons, which can lead to some confusing conversations.

To help deal with the ambiguity of the term “season,” the anime community uses the term cour to refer to a single Winter/Spring/etc. season of a specific series. It’s a fairly flexible term that refers, in general, to a three-month block of television consisting of about 10-13 episodes.

This helps people to define a show’s length, so that you can refer to Paranoia Agent as a “single cour” series while referring to Cowboy Bebop as a “two-cour” series. When U.S. companies release DVD/BD box sets, they generally divide the shows up into these cours, so that each “Part” contains about 13 episodes. For me, cour is a particularly useful term because you don’t have to remember the exact episode count of every show you watch; instead, you can just generalize it as being one-cour or two-cour and people know that means “around 13” or “around 26” episodes, respectively.

Additionally, if a show takes a season off (e.g., it airs in the Spring and the Fall), then we refer to that as a split-cour series. Sometimes the studio will advertise this second half as “Season 2,” but other times it’s just considered a continuation of the first season. Again, the term “season” can get kinda murky, which is why “cour” is such a helpful word to know.

(Linguistic nerds – and hey, I’m one of you – can also check out this nifty post for details and speculation on the unofficial etymology of “cour.”)

It’s worth noting that if a show has been running continuously for more than a year (e.g, Hunter x Hunter), people tend to stop keeping track of cours or seasons and just describe the different major storylines as arcs. Some shows fit this model really well (again, HxH), others less so (FMA: Brotherhood). 

So, to summarize:

  • Series – Entire run of a show

  • Season (broadcast) – The calendar season (Winter, Spring, Fall, and Summer) in which a show is scheduled to air

  • Season (series) – A set of episodes defined by the studio/marketers, often based on how long the show ran without taking a break

  • Cour – The length of a broadcast season (about three months, or 10-13 episodes)

  • Arc – A major overarching storyline, usually united by a common plot, location, or antagonist

And that’s pretty much it! Hopefully that cleared up any confusion you might have had when touring anime forums. If you feel like I missed something or if you have questions about a particular show, feel free to hit that Ask button or sound off in the comments. Happy viewing!

The Sensei Next Door: Local Lingo Edition

Every once in a while I’ll introduce you to some “local” otaku terminology, as I’m going to be using them in my posts and it’s probably a good idea that you know what they mean. These aren’t officially part of the anime lexicon, but I kinda think they should be. ^_^

And, since I’ve been talking about this in a few posts this past week, I should probably explain it:


proper noun.
Shorthand for the anime series Samurai Flamenco, which spent 6.75 episodes as a series about people trying to be superheroes in the “real world,” and then suddenly became a show populated with actual supervillains, robot monsters, and doomsday devices.

Personally, the series’ sudden shift to frenetic absurdity didn’t work for me at all (I actually dropped it at Episode 13 and am still kind of upset about it). Others thought it made the show more entertaining. The point is, the first 6.75 episodes were a VERY different beast from what followed.

verb. (slang)
When a show starts as one thing and then suddenly and inexplicably becomes something else. Mind you, this is no gradual process – a Flamenco is a “blink and you miss it” situation, when a series pulls a 180 so fast that it gives you story whiplash. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to the story – and the viewer, of course.

Uses: This term works as a noun with a verb (“pulling a Flamenco”) or as a straight verb (“unless this show Flamencoes, it should be really good”). Alternate versions include “Flamencoing out,” “Going full Flamenco,” or whatever else your little heart desires. Yay language!

The Sensei Next Door: Give a Show a Shot

The Three-Episode Rule

This rule exists somewhere in the Big Book of Anime Laws (probably under “T” – I suspect we’re smart enough to alphabetize this thing), and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

Now I’ve seen some people argue that you should do this for every show, but I wouldn’t go quite that far. I think the “Was the premiere so bad it made you want to punch a baby?“ Rule takes precedence. Still, the general agreement among the anime community is that, if the premiere caught your interest even a little bit, then you should stick around for at least two more episodes before you decide to drop the series.

It’s a good rule for most TV, really (anime or otherwise), and one I like to follow as well. Usually by Episode Three you have a pretty good idea of a show’s trends – its strengths, its weaknesses, and where it tends to land on the spectrum between the two. Granted, there’s always the chance the show could pull a Samurai Flamenco and force you to abandon ship (I’ll always love you, Episodes 1-6.75!), but percentage-wise this happens fairly infrequently. Plus three episodes gives you time to get invested in the characters, pulled into the story, and really just to see where the whole mad adventure is going.

I’m explaining all this now because later today I’ll be launching into my “Rule of Three Reviews” (yay new segments!) for all the summer shows that made it out of Premiere Week. I’ll blog shows either individually or in groups of two, let you know how they progressed and where they stand, and how I’ll be blogging them (or not) from here on out.

Oh – and I’ll be pushing the really good ones at you like an Adderall dealer during finals week. Here’s hoping we can find you a new favorite this summer season!

The Sensei Next Door

Now that the madness of Premiere Week has subsided, I have some time to throw down a little Anime 101 again. And seeing as how I recently(ish – it’s been a busy month) defined shoujo, it only seems fair that I should define its genre counterpart:

Shounen [shoh-nen]


(1)  A boy or young man, usually used on juveniles (“19 and under” in Japan).

(2) A genre of anime or manga primarily targeted towards preteen and younger teenage boys. I was going to try to explain this genre on my own, but Enzo, who runs theLost in America anime blog, did it first and better, so let’s start with this, from his Hunter x Hunter Episode 61 post,where he lists the “things great shounen can be about” as:

  • Friendship
  • Adventure
  • Growing stronger
  • Fighting evil
  • “Where are you, Dad?”

These topics, Enzo continues, are often infused with “martial spirit” (武 – bu), which “encompasses the notions of training and discipline, and courage, and friendship… It’s most obviously the first part of the term ‘martial arts,’ but it’s often used in reference to the education of boys […]. It’s tempting to hear the English term and think it’s about war and fighting, but it’s not about that at all – as anyone who’s practiced a martial art can tell you.”

In other words, bu is more about self control and clarity – about knowing when to fight and when to stay your hand (both in and out of physical battles) – than it is about beating up the bad guys. And this is often a major theme in the shounen genre.

It’s worth noting that a shounen doesn’t HAVE to be an action/adventure infused with “martial spirit” (Nisekoi, for instance, is a romantic comedy shounen series), but what Enzo describes is by far the most common (and probably my favorite) form of the genre.

A few other points worth mentioning: Like shoujo, shounen is generally targeted at a younger YA audience, and as such limits its mature themes somewhat (although what’s considered “mature” content in Japan can vary significantly from the U.S.). And while shounen can get surprisingly dark, it tends to have more optimistic and hopeful undertones than its older-audience version, the seinen (“young man” – basically the male equivalent of the josei) genre.

And, as with shoujo, the lines between genres can get pretty blurry because, well, genres are mostly about target audiences and marketing strategies. But if you specifically want to find a good shounen to watch, then the qualities above are a good starting point.

Also, gravity-defying hair. It’s just not a proper shounen without a little gravity-defying hair.


Just look at these magnificently coiffed bastards.

You May Have Heard Of…

  • Dragonball
  • Rurouni Kenshin
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Naruto
  • One Piece
  • Hunter x Hunter

The Sensei Next Door

I used this during the Weekly Roundup, so in case you were curious:

osananajimi [oh-saw-nah-nah-jee-me]
幼馴染 (sometimes spelled 幼なじみ)
(1) A childhood friend

(2) An annoyingly difficult word to say and spell.  It has the same number of “na"s as "banana,” but like banana, you’ll never quite know where to end it. 

(3) The right angle of a love triangle, and/or one half of an unrequited love story, and/or wuv, twoo wuv, which wiw fowwow you fowevah!

Simply put, in anime, if an osanajimi osananajimi shows up, there’s a 98% chance things are ‘bout to get RULL shippy. (This is slightly less true if the osanananajimi is the same sex as the main character, but only slightly.) 

Sometimes they are the main character’s old crush and this is their second chance at romance. Sometimes they’re the platonic bestie who just can’t seem to get the MC to notice them. And sometimes they just drop in for a couple episodes to make life hard on the MC and his/her new OTP.

Whatever the case, adding an osananajimi is an effective (and sometimes lazy) way to inject some backstory and conflict into a series… er, assuming the MC doesn’t just trail off into the old Batman theme song whenever s/he tries to talk about them.

Osanananananananana JIMI! 

(Yep. That’s in your head now. You’re welcome.)

The Sensei Next Door

I keep dropping this one when I talk about Sailor Moon, so it almost certainly deserves a longer explanation.

Shoujo [shoh-joh]

(1) A girl or young woman, usually used on minors (“19 and under” in Japan).

(2) A genre of anime or manga that focuses on character emotions and interpersonal relationships (family, friends, etc.). They often feature a female protagonist and a romantic (sub)plot, though this isn’t always the case.

The themes and content tend to be geared towards a teen or preteen audience, with MCs that are usually 16-and-under, so there’s little in the way of “mature” content (i.e., it’s heavy on the hand-holding and light on the bow-chicka-wow-wow). If you find yourself watching a shoujo and suddenly characters be all up in each other’s area codes, then you’re probably watching a josei, which have a similar “character-driven” focus but are intended for slightly older audiences.

Beyond that, though, a shoujo can be about pretty much anything – they run the gamut from drama to comedy, slice of life to high fantasy – and they can have plenty of action or intrigue thrown in the mix, too (see: Escaflowne, Vision of, a “shojo” that took about 12 genres, tossed them in a blender, and made a damn fine smoothie out of ‘em).

To be honest, the dividing line between a shoujo and, say, a shounen (“boys”) or josei (you know that one already!) series can be a rather blurry one and, like most genres, is largely a matter of marketing strategies.

…Well, marketing strategies, AND the amount of bubbles, sparkles, and/or flowers the series can fit into a single soft-touched screenshot.

Never question a shoujo’s commitment to sparkle motion.

You May Have Heard Of…

  • Sailor Moon
  • Cardcaptor Sakura
  • Fushigi Yuugi: The Mysterious Play*
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena*
  • Escaflowne
  • Fruits Basket
  • Ouran High School Host Club

*These both venture into what I would call “older teen” territory as their stories progress, but they’re always categorized as shojo, and I did watch them both with I was in middle school and I don’t seem to be permanently scarred, so… *shrug* Like I said. Marketing.

The Sensei Next Door

Anime [ah-knee-may]
Japanese Animation. The term technically began its life as the English word “animation,” which Walt Disney Studios probably copyrighted around the time they were making Donald Duck cartoon war propaganda.1

When the Japanese were making their own cartoon war propaganda,2 they needed a way to describe the process, so they borrowed the word “animation” from us in the same way we borrowed the word “karaoke” from them, which is to say it was butchered almost beyond recognition (much like the act of karaoke itself, actually). It was later shortened to “anime” and used as a blanket term to describe all animated projects.

Eventually English speakers picked up the term, this time using it to refer specifically to Japanese animation. These days the linguistic lines are growing fuzzy again, as American animators are beginning to create works influenced by the Japanese animation style (such as the excellent Avatar series), and fans can’t agree on whether this counts as “anime” or not. One of these days someone will probably come up with a new term to describe this sub(-sub?)-genre, and a whole new group of nerds will be created and subsequently mocked. And thus the circle of life continues.

1 YouTube: “In Der Fuhrer’s Face.”

2 YouTube: “Evil Mickey attacks Japan.” What, you think I could make this shit up?

The Sensei Next Door

Sensei [sen-say]
Teacher, master, or doctor.

“The Sensei Next Door” is looking to be a recurring segment where I give you a brief (and slightly silly) explanation of a term or concept. Eventually I suspect I’ll start including tiny history and culture lessons. (The fun kind, I swear. The kind where you get to put on plays about the French Revolution and build Roman cities out of food.) For now, though, I’ll just focus on vocab.

Whenever I catch myself using (or wanting to use) some “otaku jargon,” I’ll post a little explanation of it. Of course, if you stumble across a term somewhere and want to know more about it, feel free to Ask me, too. Anime 101, as promised!

And now that I’ve used the word otaku, I guess I’d better explain it:

Otaku [oh-tah-koo]
In America, this term has come to refer (rather positively) to someone with a love of Japanese animation (anime) and comics (manga). 

In Japan, it refers (rather less positively) to That Guy living in a poorly-lit room at his parents’ house, playing erotic video games and painting figurines of cat girls.

As my apartment is free of parents, erotic video games, and cat girl figurines (three for three!), I use the American definition to refer to myself, but not the Japanese one. I’ll do the same here at JND, using “otaku” as a friendly shorthand to describe anime and manga fans. Feel free to do the same.

(And if you really want to paint a cat girl figurine while you’re at it, well, that’s fine, too. ^^ )