Japanese

What Does seinen Mean in Anime? Learn Anime-Speak

Anime has tons of words and terms that the regular, English speaking person knows nothing about.

If you’re new to anime and you listen in on some die-hard fans talking about they favorite genres or tropes in anime, you’d probably have no idea what they are talking about. Anime-speak, really is a different language!

But I’m going to help you to learn this new, mysterious language one word at a time!

Today’s new word is seinen. What does seinen mean in anime? It’s a pretty interesting one and you will definitely come across it at some point. Let’s find out now!

The Word and the Kanji

The word seinen means “youth” just like the way that we would use the word in English to say something like, “the youth of today are really tech-savvy.” It’s generally used to describe people of a certain age. Although there is a tendency for it to mean “young man” as well.

Take a look at the kanji that is used for the word seinen: 青年

As you can see, it is a compound word that is created by combining the kanji for “blue/green” which is  and the kanji for “year” which is

Related: Learn the Colors in Japanese.

So in Japanese, a youth is a “green-year” which is actually the same thing that we tend to say in English when we call someone a “green horn” or we say that they are “green behind the ears.” You know, it means that they are new, young, or inexperienced at something.

A lot of phrases like that are identical in both English and Japanese, which is pretty cool! It makes it easier to learn and understand.

But the Japanese word seinen actually has bigger meaning than just youth when it comes to anime. It is also used to describe a genre, or type of anime. It is basically used for anime that is aimed at (or made for) young adults. Not kids in their teens, but more along the lines of 18-28 years old and such.

There’s actually a pretty good video (3 minutes long) that was created by Crunchyroll that goes over this exact topic. I’ve included it below and I highly recommend it, if you want an even more in depth understanding of seinen and which particular anime are considered a part of that genre.

Pretty great, right? I’m actually pretty impressed with Crunchyroll’s entire Anime Academy series. It’s really good!

Further Examples of seinen

Yes, seinen is a type of anime, but it’s still a word that gets used in real life. You’ll probably hear it used occasionally when listening to Japanese people talk, or when watching anime in Japanese. Here’s some example sentences that use it:

  • あの長髪の青年は粗野だ。
    (ano chouhatsu no seinen wa soya da)
    That long-haired youth is rude.
  • 青年は失恋した。
    (seinen wa shitsuren shita)
    The young man was disappointed in love.
  • その青年は急に笑い出した。
    (sono seinen wa kyuu ni warai dashita)
    That young man burst into laughter.
  • 彼は有望な青年です。
    (kare wa yuubouna seinen desu)
    He is a promising youth.
  • 青年 (seinen) = youth, young man
  • 青年時代 (seinen jidai) = one’s youth, one’s younger days
  • 青年期 (seinen ki) = adolescence
  • 青年輩 (seinen hai) = young people

What seinen anime do you like to watch? Let me know your favorite with a comment below!

6 Comments

  • Craig

    That’s really cool.

    I have always loved languages. Having been born in Quebec, it was a given that I’d speak at least English and French, but by my teens I was interested in others, and took courses in Spanish and Russian. In my late teens, I got into anime (I’d always liked things like Gatchaman/ Battle of the Planets and Robotech, but got much more into it late in high school) and this resulted in an interest in Japanese.

    At that time, there were fewer resources for learning Japanese, and anime and manga were not nearly so popular as they are now.

    In my early 20’s I was presented with the opportunity to go live in Nagano to teach English, but like an idiot, was too nervous about leaving home and family to make that kind of commitment. Not long after that, I turned to a number of other interests and basically stopped trying to learn Japanese and other languages.

    These days, with the availability of so much anime and live-action shows, as well as apps like Duolingo and others, I have found that my interest has been rekindled, but what I especially like is something like this page, which gives interesting tidbits like explaining how languages that seem so different can actually be quite similar (IE the “green behind the ears” equating to “green youth”).

    I’m very pleased to have come across this site. After a quick scan of your other pages, I’ll be adding this to my list of learning resources.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Craig, I’m glad that you enjoyed the site. I am always trying to make it useful and interesting for my viewers. 

      You’ve studied quite a few languages! That’s pretty awesome considering the time and effort that you have to put in for each one. And you’re right, most of the great language learning resources that we take for granted today, didn’t even exist 10 or 20  years ago. 

      When you also consider how easy it is to connect with people all over the world, I believe that there’s never been a better or easier time to learn a new language than nowadays. 

      • Craig

        Absolutely. I’d even go a bit further and say that it’s never been more important to learn other languages than it is today. Learning another language is a great way to gain understanding into aspects of another culture that you normally wouldn’t encounter. That in turn can only lead to better relations between people.

        There are still more languages I would love to learn, like my wife’s language (Tagalog) and both Irish and Welsh, due to family history.

        • Nick Hoyt

          That so true. Learning languages in order to talk to other’s in their native tongue reminds me of the famous quote:

          “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela.

          Talking to someone in their own first language, when they know that it’s not yours, really makes a good impression on people and is a great way to build rapport with them.

          Sounds like you’ve got quite a language list! That’s pretty cool!

  • MarieG

    Oh interesting, that same word appears in other languages too, but of course with a different meaning. I read it as the German “seinen” (psy-nen, psychology not physics). 😀 Although it is the accusative form of the singular masculine of the possessive pronoun.

    I haven’t taken notice of the seinen until now (mostly watch dubs), thanks for the new lesson…I know of Ikemen though…lol. 😀 Learned something new today. Thanks!

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I’m not too familiar with German so that’s pretty cool that those words are pronounced the same way. 

      The word “ikemen” which means “good looking man” is also pretty interesting as it is one of those words that only came into existence recently – around the year 2,000 I believe. 

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