anime for beginners

4 Anime Shows to Get Beginners Totally Hooked on Japanese

Have you ever wished you could watch anime without subtitles?

Have you daydreamed about being able to understand the nuances of every line of dialogue?

Given thought to learning Japanese from anime?

Wait, what? You can’t learn Japanese from anime! Everyone says that the language used is different than normal—too informal and too childish, perhaps, or too made-up and imaginative.

Well, with the right approach, you can learn Japanese from anything that hails from Japan, including anime! But where do you start? Will you be stuck watching kids’ shows until you can quote “Doraemon” episodes by heart? Or can you watch anime you’ll actually like and learn something from it at the same time?

Fear not, beginners. I’ve got the perfect programming block lined up just for you.

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Tips for Watching Anime as a Beginner Learner

Before we dive in, let’s go over a few things.

First off, don’t be too alarmed if even these few shows reveal some gaps in your knowledge and understanding. You’re just starting out, so it’s totally normal to grapple with even the seemingly easiest shows. No one’s a complete whiz when they first start out.

Plus, those very same gaps can prove to be learning opportunities. When you’re watching a program, you can simply rewind to review any parts you don’t understand, listen hard and look up anything you’re curious about. Eventually, you’ll be striding through programs with minimal stumbles in your comprehension.

Keep in mind that it’s not always your fault if you’re having trouble understanding. Some anime characters sound weird when they talk just because they’re supposed to. Some are supposed to sound silly or strange, and some characters might just be on the mumbly side.

Just be sure to have this handy FluentU guide by your side while you watch. It’ll teach you some of the best possible ways to use anime as a study tool, and may even guide you toward some good shows I didn’t recommend in this list.

You can also find plenty of anime clips—and other authentic videos like news, songs, movie trailers and more—on FluentU. FluentU is about so much more than videos: You also get access to interactive flashcards and vocab lists, annotated subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn.

If you’re looking for a method to familiarize yourself with Japanese as well as deepen your knowledge of the culture, FluentU is the best way to go!

Don’t worry if you need to pop on the English or Japanese subtitles from time to time. Think of them like your Japanese training wheels. Many Japanese-language cartoons, TV series and movies are available with English titles—all for purchase and play within the US, which is a huge plus—from Right Stuf Anime.

Last but not least, if there’s a certain genre or subject matter you like in anime, pursue it to the ends of the earth. Go for any anime you can find that even remotely relates to it. Regardless of level, something that piques your interest will be much more engaging and a much bigger motivator than something that doesn’t.

So next time your friend recommends slow-paced, slice of life anime even though you know you’re much more interested in action-packed, in-your-face shows, remember that what you like is probably more beneficial for you in the long run.

Alright, now that we’ve gotten all that stuff out of the way, let’s get right to it!

4 Anime Shows to Get Beginners Hooked on Japanese

「チーズスイートホーム」(ちーず すいーと ほーむ – Chi’s Sweet Home)

Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy

Premise

anime for beginners

“Chi’s Sweet Home” is a story about how a kitten named Chi winds up with a human family and the everyday adventures that take place thereafter.

This show illustrates rather well how a cat sees the world and how this leads to chasms of misunderstanding between humans and their feline pets. This is executed without demonizing either side and with a lot of heart.

Given the cuteness and simplicity of the show, you’d think its target audience would be children. But it’s not. Surprisingly, this show actually originated from a seinen manga of the same name. Yes, a story like this is in a manga magazine aimed toward adult men! Unexpected, huh? Especially since the manga is just as simple, innocent and cute as its anime adaptation.

On top of the original manga, you can also check out the video game for Nintendo DS, the official Twitter profile, the official Tumblr blog and the manga artist/author’s official Twitter profile.

If you’re feeling extra curious, you can read the first chapter of the manga in Japanese here. If you liked that, then you’ll love the show!

Reasons to Watch

There are two big reasons this show is good for beginners.

1. It uses really simple, short sentences a majority of the time.

2. The episodes themselves are really, really short.

Being that two of the main characters are very young (Yohei the human boy and Chi the kitten), it makes sense that the language used would be limited to something they could understand. Interestingly, however, when adults are talking amongst themselves, sentences continue to stay relatively simple in structure, even if the conversation is a little more involved or polite. It’s all simple Japanese, all the time!

As for the episode length, every episode is only about three minutes long. So if you’re looking for something quick to watch as a study break, this is absolutely perfect. There generally isn’t a ton of dialogue packed into one episode either (unlike the slightly longer “Hetalia”), so it’s a show where you probably won’t get very overwhelmed and you can take it a little easy.

Another good thing is, because Chi has to stay inside most of the time, mainly domestic situations are covered in the show. Home-related vocabulary and pet-related vocabulary will come up a lot.

Examples of the Show’s Dialogue

「ママどっち?うちどっち?」
「まま どっち?うち どっち?」
“Where’s mommy? Where’s my house?”

「お腹すいてるんじゃないかと思って。」
「おなか すいてるんじゃないかと おもって。」
“I thought she might be hungry.”

「猫たんお外に出たいの?」
「ねこたん おそとに でたいの?」
“Does kitty want to go outside?”

Where to Watch

Good ol’ Crunchyroll has the second show, “Chi’s Sweet Home: Chi’s New Address” available to stream for free. You can also buy both the first and second shows on DVD through Amazon.com. If you love it, buy it from Right Stuf Anime!

「いとしのムーコ(いとしの むーこ – Lovely Muuuuuuuco!)

Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life

Premise

anime for beginners

Muco the shiba inu really loves her owner, a struggling glassblower named Komatsu. He’s just trying to get his business off the ground while keeping her from stretching out all of his towels. Along the way they meet old friends and (as far as Muco is concerned) new enemies.

Similar to the previous show, “Lovely Muuuuuuuco!” shows the discrepancies between how Muco sees things and how the humans around her see things. A good example from the show of how this happens is a moment in which Komatsu presents three glass items and asks Muco which she likes best. Muco decides she prefers Komatsu over any of them and runs around him to demonstrate this. Komatsu, meanwhile, thinks she doesn’t understand the situation.

Like the previous show, “Lovely Muuuuuuuco!” originates from a seinen manga of the same name. You can check out the manga artist/author’s website here, a few chapters of the manga here and the TV Tokyo website for the show here.

Best of all? Apparently Muco and Komatsu are real! Don’t believe me? Take a gander at this website. Komatsu, Muco and another dog named Poko each have a picture on this page. A clear picture of the same studio that’s in the show and manga can be viewed here. It’s pretty cool to see!

Reasons to Watch

Although not nearly as short as “Chi’s Sweet Home,” the episodes in this show are still shorter than average. Each episode is at least 12 minutes long, making for another quick listening practice and study break option. The slightly longer length means there’s also more material to learn from in each episode.

For instance, there’s a lot of variety to be found in the way characters speak. You’ll see plenty of examples of childlike ways of speaking, casual speech, polite speech and so on. The best part is it’s all simply stated. Even if the language gets rougher or the grammar is a little different than your standard textbook Japanese, the sentences generally have a simple structure.

If that didn’t sound great enough, there’s a bonus here for beginners. When Muco speaks aloud, her dialogue shows up in hiragana on the screen. This can come in handy if you ever need help making out her dialogue or just want some extra reading practice. You could also play a little game with yourself by seeing how much you can read before it leaves the screen!

Another fun thing about the show is that onomatopoeia and written/spoken sound effects tend to be used a lot. So if you’re interested in that part of Japanese, this show will be great for you!

Examples of the Show’s Dialogue

「わーい!ひも!ひも!」
“Yaaaay! Rope! Rope!”

「うしこうさんは、いつもおいしそうなごはんのにおいがしますよね!」
“Ushicou always smells like a delicious meal!”

「ムーコ撮るか。」
「むーこ とるか。」
“Why don’t we take a picture of Muco?”

「え?こいつはホームページに関係ないだろう。」
「え?こいつは ほーむぺーじに かんけいないだろう。」
“What? She’s got nothing to do with my homepage.”

「ムーコのこと呼びましたか?」
「むーこのこと よびましたか?」
“Did you call me?”

(Note: The last line is Muco. She speaks in the third person like a Japanese child, but tends to use standard polite speech.)

Where to Watch

Recently the show has been simulcast to Crunchyroll, where it’s available for free viewing.

「しろくまカフェ(しろくま かふぇ – Polar Bear Café )

Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life

Premise

anime for beginners

One day, an out-of-work panda (named Panda), urged by his mother to find something to do with his life, stumbles upon a little café run by a polar bear (named Polar Bear). From here, many day-to-day adventures and silly conversations take place among the cast of non-human animals and Japanese humans alike.

One of the most interesting things about this show’s universe is that non-human animals live freely as their own people among humans in an integrated society. They have jobs, use transit, speak fluent Japanese, live in their own houses and some even wear clothes and makeup! At the same time, they still have their unique attributes, which tend to show up in the form of food they favor most or specific behaviors (like the sloth character moving and speaking slowly). It’s truly something to behold!

As is often the case, “Polar Bear Cafe” originated from a manga. This one however, was for the josei demographic of adult women. The manga has fun things like recipes, visual gags and background notes, which makes for a fun read. It also has furigana, which should help with any kanji you don’t know yet!

You can read a preview of the manga on Amazon.co.jp. Click on なか見!検索 (なかみ!けんさく), or literally “Look Inside! Search,” above the cover art thumbnail and proceed to do as you would on your English-language Amazon page to view a sample.

Aside from that, there’s plenty more awesome stuff to find online related to “Polar Bear Cafe.” There’s the official anime Twitter account, the manga artist/author’s official Twitter profilethe same artist’s Ameba blog, the manga’s profile on manga magazine Cocohana‘s website and TV Tokyo’s website for the show.

There’s also a real life Polar Bear Cafe! If you want to keep up with daily specials and happenings, check out their Twitter or their Facebook.

Reasons to Watch

For a start, there are so many vocabulary learning opportunities in this show:

  • Polar Bear is really fond of puns and will parade out several at a time, which is great for learning new words that sound similar to other words.
  • The aforementioned presence of non-human animals means that there will always be related vocabulary, including specific types of food and anatomy.
  • Lastly, the show is highly dependent on situational humor and conversations, meaning there’s always a different topic coming up in which you can learn relevant words and/or phrases.

Another thing that makes this show really great for beginners is its use of visual cues. These typically appear in the middle of conversations and when Polar Bear is demonstrating puns. So for example, there’s a scene where a few customers have a conversation about what kind of café they all would like best. While everyone gives their own ideas, a visual accompaniment of their concepts are on-screen.

Similarly, Polar Bear’s gags tend to have visual accompaniments, while someone (like Mr. Penguin) says the puns aloud.

There’s also a variety of situations that take place: work situations, home/domestic situations and various types of interpersonal situations. So with all this variety in the show, there’s no doubt it’ll help diversify your knowledge.

Examples of the Show’s Dialogue

「どうするの?あなた将来は。」
「どうするの?あなた しょうらいは。」
“What will you do about your future?”

「もう...ごろごろしてる時に将来の話なんかしないでよ…」
「もう...ごろごろしてるときに しょうらいの はなしなんか しないでよ…」
“Jeez… don’t talk to me about my future when I’m relaxing…”

「ご注文は?」
「ごちゅうもんは?」
“What is your order?”

「ええと!竹はありますか?」
「ええと!たけは ありますか?」
“Umm! Do you have bamboo?”

「竹はないです。」
「たけは ないです。」
“We have no bamboo.”

Where to Watch

Crunchyroll has the entire show available to stream for free.

つり球」(つりたま – Fishing Ball)

(Note: I gave a rough translation for the title here, but the show is mainly known to English-speaking viewers as “Tsuritama.”)

Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Sci-Fi, Sports

Premise

anime for beginners

Four very different young men unite over an unlikely activity: fishing. After the four of them connect, bigger problems than moving to a new town and making friends begin to shake up their lives. And ironically, fishing may just be the key to solving not only their problems, but the fate of the world.

This show is an interesting beast. It has disparate tones of slice of life, drama, sports, action and fantasy/sci-fi, yet somehow they all work together to form one coherent story with a steady buildup of excitement.

The core of the show is definitely fishing, but it’s clear that friendship, teamwork and the trials of growing up are other key elements at play. It’s certainly the kind of nuanced show that’s easy to overlook at first, so be sure to give it a real chance!

This is the only show on the list that didn’t originate from a previously popular manga. But that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in more stuff you can look at!

Apart from the main show, there’s a Twitter profilea Facebook pagea plethora of bonus content on the website and, of course, books you can read! (Don’t worry, you can find imports of most of them on Amazon.)

Reasons to Watch

The main reason this show is on the list is because of how simple its Japanese often is. Much like in “Lovely Muuuuuuuco!” the Japanese in “Tsuritama” always has a simple structure, regardless of politeness level and even if the grammar is irregular or slang terms are introduced. There’s one character in particular, Haru, whose Japanese is absolutely perfect for beginner level learners.

Even when the show starts to get a little heavier with its storyline, the interactions and language remain simple and straightforward in structure and comprehension level.

Some of the situations in the show are also pretty straightforward and relatable. Yuki, one of the main characters, is an anxious young man who’s new in town. Throughout the course of the show, he’s having to learn how to make friends, try new things and be more at ease with himself and other people. Family related storylines come into play as well.

Clearly, you’ll also learn some fishing related vocabulary from this show. Mainly in explanations from character Natsuki who teaches Yuki and Haru how to fish. Names of fish that are to be caught or eaten also come up.

Examples of the Show’s Dialogue

学校、本当に行くの?明日からでもいいのよ!」
「がっこう、ほんとうにいくの?あしたからでも いいのよ!」
“Are you really going to school? Starting tomorrow would be okay too!”

「ううん、今日でも明日でも一緒だし。」
「ううん、きょうでも あしたでも いっしょだし。」
“Eh, today or tomorrow, it’s the same.”

「そう?お友達たくさんできるといいわね。」
「そう?おともだち たくさんできると いいわね。」
“Is that so? It’ll be nice if you make lots of friends!”

「大丈夫。もう転校ベタランだし。」
「だいじょうぶ。もう てんこう べたらんだし。」
“I’ll be okay. I’m a school transfer veteran.”

「また会えたね!ねえ、つり教えてよ、王子!」
「またあえたね!ねえ、つり おしえてよ、おうじ!」
“We meet again! Hey, teach us how to fish, prince!”

「お前、今度それ言ったらマジで殺す。」
「おまえ、こんどそれいったら まじで ころす。」
“Call me that again and I’ll seriously kill you.”

Where to Watch

Crunchyroll, of course! Where all 12 episodes are free to stream. You can also buy the DVD set on Amazon.com.

And, well, there you have it. Four anime shows you can watch as you get started on your journey to Japanese proficiency.

What are you waiting for? Head over to Crunchyroll and hop to that studying!

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