There are many things to like about anime girls. The way they can be violent one minute then shy and vulnerable the next. The cute forefinger touching thing they do when they get shy. That kawaii “shooting you with an imaginary gun” gesture that never fails to make us feel cheerful, or the way they knock themselves on the head in a self-effacing gesture meaning “I’m such a baka.” If you think these outlandish gestures are only part of anime and not something actual Japanese people would ever do, you’re right…but only a little. While anime always shows us a stylized world with stylized characters, it’s grounded in real life, and back when I was teaching high school and university age students, I’d regularly be surprised at the cute body language they were capable of, holding on to the sleeve of their shirt to make their hands seem smaller and cuter, or falling flat on the floor in an exaggerated gesture of comedy after a joke, just like in a gag anime. One student I had would sit on another girl’s lap and pretend to be a ventriloquist dummy for the whole class, trying to distract my lesson and make me laugh. It usually worked.
Each language has different features that make it unique. European languages have gender for nouns, which can be quite confusing if you don’t already know those languages — for example, a knife, a fork, and a spoon all have different gender in German. English has always been heavily influenced by the vocabulary and grammar of other languages that it’s terribly hard to learn for ESL students, so if English is your native language, thank your parents. Some unique features of Japanese include that the subject and object can be left off sentences as long as the meaning is clear, and the passive voice is used a lot, as it’s more socially acceptable to say “it has been decided” rather than say “that guy Takeshi decided it, it’s his fault.” One phonetic feature of Japanese is that there is big difference between long and short vowels, so that the family names 小野 Ono (“small field”) and 大野 Ohno (“big field”) are as separate from each other as . When the anime Yuri!!! on Ice came along, there was more than a little confusion because there was no yuri (delicate anime lesbians in love) but plenty of yaoi (beautiful ice skaters in love). The reason, of course, is that Yuri!!! on Ice is really Yuuri!!! on Ice, with a long vowel, which is totally separate as far as the Japanese are concerned. The biggest problem is that Google isn’t smart enough to know which . (Fanart link.)
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