Part of the Weebing 101 Series
“I’m new to this, how do I play?”
Alright, so while there is a common thread of animation style across all anime, they vary widely in vibe and feel, as do all TV shows, so let’s break it down into common genres that you might not be familiar with. If you want links to my reviews by category, click here.
Shonen – Arguably the most prominent and successful genre, Shonen literally means “young boys” after the demographic that these shows/manga generally target. It has since evolved (at least in western culture) to primarily represent “battle anime,” where the protagonist has various battles against other characters, frequently with some kind of supernatural powers (though not always). Large titles in this genre include DragonBall, Bleach, One Piece, Naruto, Fairy Tail, My Hero Academia, Soul Eater, Toriko, etc. What separates Shonen from action (IMO) is that it’s often accompanied with campy humor, tends to drag out battles, and abuse cliff hangers. BUT, they’re also practically the only genre to consistently have shows that last more than 4 seasons, so a lot of people like it. Shonen shows tend to be overly dramatic (e.g. YuGiOh) and are usually what people think of when they think Anime.
Shojo – The flipside of Shonen, Shojo targets young girls as the demographic. Like Shonen, it shares common themes such as the importance of Friendship and loyalty, etc. Shojo generally tends to be more romance themed, deal with interpersonal relationships, and have happy endings. Shows such as Sailor Moon and Ouran High School Host Club fall in this category.
Seinen – Includes anime that have adults as their target audience. NOTE: This does not mean they all have “adult content.” One Punch Man and Aggretsuko are Seinen simply because the humor is relatable for those who have kids, work 9 to 5 jobs, etc. The grittier, gorier shows will often end up in this category as well, including most of the Fate Series.
Slice of Life – Basically a sitcom or romcom in which many of the episodes deal with how characters react and behave in every-day situations. Good for de-stressing as there are rarely any stakes. (Wagnaria, Tanaka-kun is Always Listless, Laid-Back Camp).
School – A lot of anime/manga takes place at a school, frequently a very special/unique school. Common tropes in school anime are the dreaded student council that for some reason has way more power than they should, and usually have some nefarious plan. Or sometimes school is just where most of the scenes take place (Kakegurui, Teasing Master Takagi-san, Ouran High School Host Club).
Isekai – Literally means “other world.” This genre has been on the rise in popularity of late. In Isekai anime, the protagonist finds themselves in a different world -be it virtual, parallel dimension, afterlife, what have you- but retain memories from their original world. More often than not, protagonist is a gifted (by powers or by knowledge of said world) young male with many of the new world’s girls throwing themselves at his feet for no good reason (Sword Art Online, Overlord, Re:Zero), but other shows will take it in a different direction (Konosuba, Saga of Tanya the Evil).
BL/Yaoi/Yuri – BL = Boy Love. In BL anime/manga, a lot of the plot revolves around the relationship shared between two boys, in which it’s pretty clear that the relationship is romantic, but not often explicitly stated or graphically portrayed (Yuri on Ice!!!). Yaoi is the extreme end of that spectrum, usually containing spicy, sometimes graphic scenes. The specification for Yuri is loose, however, as a lot of perfectly innocent shows that don’t even have any romance element whatsoever, just a predominantly girl cast, will be classified as Yuri, such as Girls und Panzer, while others will be pretty dang spicy, so it depends who you’re talking to. Despite sounding similar, Yuri isn’t just Yaoi but for girls, but covers the entire spectrum of interpersonal relationships between girls, from pure friends to full on lovers.
Ecchi – The term “ecchi” comes from the way you would say the letter “H” in Japanese. Saying “Ecchi” is code for the H in Hentai, which means strange or pervert. Ecchi anime/manga tends to be sexually flirtatious, not shying away from plenty of boob jokes or fan-service, usually in the form of revealing outfits, hot-spring scenes, shower scenes, etc. Ecchi anime/manga usually doesn’t show anything explicit, and isn’t the “point” of the show, as opposed to Hentai which is explicit and that explicit content is the whole point, rather than just something on the side. Prominent Ecchi anime include Food Wars, the Monogatari Series, and the “Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?” series.
Mecha – Essentially just Sci-Fi where people pilot giant robots (Neon Geneseis Evangelion is to thank for this genre’s prominence, as is Gundam). Similarly to how almost all High Fantasy is based off of Tolkien, almost all modern Mecha has a lot of similarities to Evangelion.
Past this, anime/manga shares genres with every other medium, such as Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Psychological, Thriller, etc.