What does seinen mean in anime? That’s the topic for today’s post and there are a couple of different answers depending on the situation.
The first one is just the meaning of the word in Japanese. That’s going to be explained in the first section of this article and will lay the foundation for the rest of it.
Then we’ll talk about the word’s specific meaning when it is applied to both anime and manga. Get ready to learn all about the meaning of the word seinen!
The Japanese Word Seinen
The Japanese word seinen is spelled in Japanese as 青年 and translated into English as “youth” but really only applies to men.
Furthermore, when it talks about a “young man” it is typically someone who is in their 20s. The age range can of course extend higher than that, I’ve heard as high as the 50s, but generally it’s about that early adulthood age.
For those wondering, the age that someone becomes an adult in Japan is 20, which of course it a bit higher than it is in America where 18 is the legal cutoff.
When watching anime in Japanese, you will sometimes here a character call someone a “seinen” which is kind of similar to calling them a “lad” or “young man” in an English show.
Usually something like this generally happens when the person who is talking is addressing a young male character whose name is unknown.
However, it could also be a stylistic choice for addressing him even when he does know his name.
Seinen In Anime
We already know what the word means when a person uses it inside of an anime, so now let’s turn our attention to how the word applied in regard to the genres of anime.
As I’m sure you know, there is a lot of anime out there. But most of it gets separated into different categories depending on what kind of a show it is.
One specific type of genre is called “seinen” and that title is really used to describe the target audience that the anime is designed to appeal to.
That means that this type of anime is going to be more mature in both its visual content, things like nudity and gore, and also in its thematic content.
To give you a good example of this, let’s take a look at an anime that falls into this category.
The anime Berserk focuses on dark themes such as revenge, betrayal, sacrifice, and the evils of both demons and of man.
The main character’s name is Guts and we follow his story as many terrible things happen to both himself, and the people that he cares about.
These are the kinds of deep, and generally speaking “darker” types of stories that people tend to crave as they get older and the younger, more simplistic stuff just doesn’t satisfy anymore.
These also tend to appeal to men as there is a lot of action, a lot of killing, and female nudity (sometimes male nudity as well).
Not all seinen manga are as heavy as Berserk is, but generally speaking they are the types of shows that you either wouldn’t allow your seven-year old son to watch, or the kinds that focus more on intellectual stimulation which would bore young children.
Seinen In Manga
For the most part, seinen means the same thing in manga as it does in anime. Of course there are going to be some differences since the two mediums are expressed differently.
For example, things like gore will be more prominent in anime than in manga due to the fact that anime is colored while most manga is black and white.
An anime show may also aim to stimulate darker themes through audio cues like the soundtrack, people streaming, and anything else that you would hear in an anime that manga can’t express.
That being said, manga not only has a wider variety of stories to pick from, but can generally be more liberal on certain aspects that don’t tend to make much of an appearance on national TV such as nudity.
Something else that I didn’t mention in the anime section is that the struggles the main character faces will typically be different from those found in shounen manga (aimed at middle school or high school boys).
Rather than going through a journey of growing up, the seinen stories will typically focus on something that an adult might better relate to such as facing unfair odds in society, or the responsibilities of day to day life as an adult (job, bills, family life, etc.).
Looking For Example Shows?
If you would like to find some good examples of both anime and manga that fall into this seinen genre, then you’ve got a couple of options that you can use.
What I have typically done in the past is check out the section of My Anime List that has the manga organized by the seinen genre.
Then it’s pretty simple to look for an anime counter part if you would rather watch the story instead of reading it.
Like I mentioned before, there are a lot more manga options than anime ones, but it’s a good list so I think you should be able to find a show that you like from it.
Which Seinen Shows Do You Like?
If there is a seinen show or book that you know of and would recommend that other people check out, then please feel free to share information about it in the comments section below.
I’ve given my best explanation on the meaning of the word seinen and how it applies in both the Japanese language and more broadly to the genres of both anime and manga.
I’m sure there are some of the finer points that I have missed, so if you know of any then please let me know and I will update the information in this article.
Thanks for reading!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: