If you say you’re studying Japanese, the first question you might hear is “Oh, do you like anime and manga?”
Anime, derived from the English word “animation” and written in katakana as アニメ, is usually one of the first things people think of when Japan is mentioned. That’s because many people who aren’t necessarily interested in the country or language might still enjoy watching anime.
Even people with little or no interest in Japan will probably have seen or heard of at least one dubbed anime at some point, such as “Sailor Moon” or “Pokémon,” which were very popular in countries around the world in the 1990s. Whether you like to watch anime or not, it’s a big part of Japanese culture and, due to the vast range of genres, everyone has at least one kind of anime they’d probably like.
As well as watching anime shows in Japanese with subtitles for extra listening, how can studying anime lyrics help improve your Japanese?
First, let’s talk about what you can expect to learn while watching anime.
The Total Walkthrough of Anime Song Lyrics for Japanese Learners
A Quick Intro to Anime for Japanese Learners
- There’s an insanely vast array of genres, beyond the usual selection of horror, comedy and romance. Check out this fantastic blog post for examples.
- There’s a large selection of anime for adults as well as for children. Although children’s anime does, of course, exist, lots of genres are for adults only; there’s even some anime that’s strictly 18+. This can be because of violence or sexual content.
- Video games are included in the anime genre with their own sets of lyrics, such as “素敵だね” (すてき だね) (“Isn’t it beautiful”) and “千の言葉” (せんのことば) (“1000 words”) from the “Final Fantasy” series, and “Passion” by Utada Hikaru from “Kingdom Hearts.”
- Most anime shows have theme songs or songs included in them that are as popular as any pop song on Japan’s Top 40. They often become popular outside their anime shows as well. For example, Japanese versions of songs from the Disney movie “Frozen” are often played in shops and department stores, having grown to be as popular as stand-alone pop songs.
- Almost every anime show has at least one theme song with lyrics, the most popular ones—such as “Bleach” and “One Piece”—being instantly recognizable in Japan. Some anime shows have a theme song for each series or season, as do “Death Note” and “Pokémon.”
Anime song lyrics can help you better understand anime shows and, even better, learning the song lyrics can be a huge help in learning Japanese. Here are a few reasons why.
6 Things You’ll Learn from Anime Song Lyrics
1. You’ll pick up lots of useful vocabulary in context.
Popular words that appear often in anime include things like:
愛 (あい) — love
覚える (おぼえる) — remember
夢 (ゆめ) — dream
ありがとう — thank you
頑張る (がんばる) — try, work hard, do one’s best
Depending on the anime you’re watching, you can pick up vocabulary and even full phrases from a song that’s describing the plot or characters you enjoy watching.
2. If you’re an audio learner, you’re especially lucky.
Learning a song packed with useful vocabulary can be just as useful for you as studying the traditional way with textbooks.
3. You can learn new kanji from songs.
With new vocabulary comes new kanji, as a lot of song videos include the lyrics below. If there are new words that interest you, the kanji is available for you to research and learn.
4. Learning Japanese anime songs can help your pronunciation.
Have you ever heard a non-native English speaker sing an English song? Even if they have a foreign accent when they speak normally, their pronunciation is often perfect when they sing. They can usually pronounce it well because they listened to or practiced singing the song many times, using drilling and repetition.
5. You’ll hear your favorite anime songs every time you watch an episode.
Whether you watch one episode a week or marathon the whole series in two days (Netflix and chill, anyone?) you’ll hear the song multiple times, and will probably recognize the tune, and perhaps some of the lyrics, after a couple of episodes.
6. If you learn to sing the song at a fast pace, this will help you with your pronunciation and intonation.
As you get used to speaking Japanese quickly and fluently, this will help prevent you tripping up next time you have a conversation.
Anime Song Lyrics to Get You Started
In addition, don’t forget that if you go to Japan, you can also sing the anime songs you know at karaoke and impress your Japanese friends!
- Ayana — “Last Regrets” (“Kanon 2006”) — Beautiful, slow paced and easy to listen to. The anime itself is a 24-episode drama, recommended if you’re looking for something sad and sweet that won’t take too long to watch. Click here for the full lyrics.
- Nightmare — “The World” (“Death Note”) — This is a catchy J-rock song performed by Japanese rock band Nightmare. “Death Note” is an extremely popular anime about the battle of wits between a genius detective and a student with the power to kill anyone by writing their name in a notebook. For mature audiences. Lyrics here.
- Ai Otsuka — “Planetarium” (“Hana Yori Dango”) — Gentle, easygoing song from the fantastic romance anime “Hana Yori Dango.” Actually, the song is from the live-action drama based from the anime, but as it’s such a great song it seemed a crime not to include it. The lyrics are included in the video.
- Kumiko Endo — “Getto Daze!” (“Pokémon”) — It’s very different from the English version! And who doesn’t love “Pokémon?” Lyrics here.
- Hound Dog – “R★O★C★K★S” (“Naruto”) — “Naruto” is one of the most popular anime shows in Japan, and well-known outside Japan as well. Good if you love exciting action. Click here for the lyrics in romaji and kanji.
- Utada Hikaru — “Passion” (“Kingdom Hearts”) — “Kingdom Hearts” is a widely known video game featuring different Disney characters. Click here for the lyrics.
- Maximum the Hormone — “F” (“Dragonball Resurrection F”) — Good if you enjoy exciting Japanese metal music. I’ve heard this at karaoke a few times and it really gets everyone riled up. Here are the lyrics.
You can find more anime songs on FluentU.
As a bonus, you also get access to interactive flashcards and vocab lists, annotated subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn.
It’s an entertaining method to immerse yourself in Japanese the way native speakers really use it, while actively building your vocabulary.
Found an anime you love? Great! Here’s how to study using anime lyrics.
5 Superbly Simple Steps to Learn Japanese from Anime Song Lyrics
- Figure out what your favorite anime song is. My personal favorite is 1000 words from “Final Fantasy X-2,” which is available in both Japanese and English. You might choose your favorite song because it’s catchy, or simply because it reminds you of your favorite show.
- Enjoy listening to it often and learn the lyrics. This will be easy if there are a lot of episodes—you’ll hear it every time you watch the show! There’s usually an extended version of the song available too, so make sure you check.
- For words you don’t know, research the meaning, and the kanji too if you’re feeling up to it.
- Practice the song, focusing on pronunciation and intonation. See if there’s an acapella version on YouTube so that you can practice singing it alone. Your aim is for your pronunciation to sound as close to the original as possible.
- When you’ve learned it well, sing it at karaoke when you’re in Japan!
You’ll often find that you come across the new words the next time you have a conversation in Japanese. For example, I recently heard 幻 (まぼろし) which is “illusion” or “phantom,” which I had already learned from “素敵だね” from the video game “Final Fantasy X.”
Anime song lyrics really do help you pick up new Japanese phrases and vocabulary, as well as reinforcing the words you already know and giving them some context. Not to mention that you get to enjoy some fantastic anime shows whilst you’re learning! It’s a win-win situation.
With a large array of anime songs in your music library, you can enjoy picking up more Japanese than ever, as well as possibly introducing yourself to your new favorite TV show or video game. Good luck, and have fun exploring the fantastic world of anime!
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