4 Unforgettable Anime Shows & Movies to Learn Japanese

In Japan, the word “anime” refers to animated motion pictures, regardless of where they come from or what kind of storytelling devices they use. However, for the rest of the world, the term has become a synonym for “Japanese animation”.

This is because the pioneers of animation from Japan have created such a unique way of telling stories, both from a visual and narrative perspective, that their art seems to be in a different league and thus needs a name all of its own.

Photo of Hayao Miyazaki via Wikimedia.

Think of Hayao Miyazaki, for example. This Japanese author, filmmaker, and manga artist is the founder and mastermind behind the legendary Studio Ghibli, one of the most prestigious film production companies in the world.

His movies present themes such as the relationship between human beings and the world of nature, the wholesomeness of living a quiet, rural life, and the difficulties of being a peacemaker in a world dominated by war.

As you can imagine from this description, anime films have great quotes that leave you thinking long after you’ve turned off the TV. Actually, Japanese screenplay writers are so good with words that, no matter how you’re feeling today, there must be a perfect quote for you out there.

Today, we have compiled our favorite Japanese phrases from anime films and shows in the hope they will inspire you to seek out the films that introduced them to the world.


Grave of the Fireflies (1988)


“Why must fireflies die so young?”

 (Hotaru wa naze son’nani wakakushite shinanakereba naranai nodesu ka?)


In the acclaimed Grave of the Fireflies (1988), a war tragedy inspired by a true story, Miyazaki follows the (mis)adventures of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, and their desperate struggle to survive during the Second World War. Featuring one of the most tragic endings in cinema history, this anime film is full of sad but beautiful phrases that linger on in one’s memory like a sorrowful song.

When the little Setsuko asks her brother why fireflies must die so young, we cannot help but think she must be talking about something deeper than beautiful insects. She’s talking about all the innocent souls, hers included, that depart just when they were starting to live. This movie is proof enough that watching anime to learn Japanese is much more engaging than you might have thought.

Perfect Blue (1997)


“Illusions can’t come to life.”

 (Gensō wa ikikaerenai)


Perfect Blue (1997) directed by Satoshi Kon, tells the story of a pop singer who leaves aside her singing career to become a film actress. Desperate to be noticed, she climbs up the slippery ladder to success by doing things like posing as a rape victim for a controversial magazine. However, she starts to slowly lose her mind when an obsessed fan who looks just like her starts to stalk her.

A disturbing and thought-provoking film, Perfect Blue is a rumination on the dangers of trying to build a future by burying the past. The phrase “Illusions can’t come to life” means that no matter how hard you try, you cannot create a new life by lying to yourself, because distorted memories of who you really are will always come back to haunt you. If you’re looking for adult anime to learn Japanese, you can’t do much better than the amazing Perfect Blue.

Naruto (1999-2014)

“No single thing is perfect by itself. That’s why we’re born to attract other things to make up for what we lack.”

 (Sore dakede kanpekina mono wa arimasen. Dakarakoso, watashitachi ga fusoku shite iru mono o oginau tame ni hoka no mono o hikitsukeru tame ni uma reta nodesu.)


Japan not only has some of the best animated films ever made; it also has some of the greatest shows. From Heidi to Dragon Ball Z, Japanese animators are just the best at creating quality content for young viewers who like being challenged when they sit in front of a screen. Naruto is a Japanese animated series developed by Masashi Kishimoto. It follows the story of Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja who seeks acceptance from his peers and dreams of becoming the Hokage, the commander of his village.

Itachi Uchiha, a controversial but endearing character, says this phrase to Naruto near the end of the series. This quote shows why it’s so interesting and engaging to use anime to learn Japanese. It contains a valuable lesson about how we have to work hard to attain what we want in life. It reminds us that nobody is perfectly happy, but that seeking happiness is what makes us feel alive.

Attack on Titan (2013)


“People, who can’t throw something important away, can never hope to change anything.”

 (Jūyōna mono o suteru koto ga dekinai hitobito wa, nanika o kaeru koto o kesshite nozonde imasen.)


Speaking about wonderful Japanese shows, this 2013 television series called Attack on Titan is one of the most beloved stories in recent times.  After his village is destroyed and his mother is murdered, young Eren Jaeger decides to cleanse the earth of the evil humanoid Titans that have brought humankind to the brink of extinction. But in order to bring justice to his world, he will need to make huge sacrifices. The phrase above teaches us that, if we want to achieve something big, sometimes we need to leave behind things and people we hold dear.

Have you ever watched anime to learn Japanese? If there is any quote you think should be in this post, feel free to share it in the comment box.


As you can see, language learning is much more inspiring and motivating when learning through Japanese phrases. Anime is not only a beautiful form of art and entertainment. For people who love Japanese, it’s also a great source of learning.


However, once you feel ready to put all your knowledge into practice, why not do it through conversation with native tutors? With our personalized online lessons, you will boost your level much faster than you would with traditional courses. Take a trial one-to-one lesson right now and see what your current skills are!