10 Great Onomatopoeia to Enhance Your Anime & Manga Experience!

Have you ever been reading a manga translated into your native language, but notice that in some of the panels, there are still some short Japanese phrases? Or maybe you’re watching an anime, and you hear the same sort of short, catchy phrases repeated often? Usually, they’re in the place of a sound like something dropping, or perhaps a short noise that someone has made; sometimes, they’re used to express a feeling. Unless you can read and understand Japanese, these little additions are easy to skip over. Sure, you don’t necessarily need them to enjoy the story, and sometimes you can guess them by the font choice (for manga) and context anyway. But we are here to help you get just a little bit more out of your manga reading and anime watching experience!

These little sounds are onomatopoeia, which are an extremely important part of the Japanese language. English has onomatopoeia words too, usually to imitate sounds (think about the rain going ‘drip-drop’ or air going ‘swoosh’). Japanese uses these kinds of words and phrases even more, and they’re especially common in manga to give more flavour to the scene and help the reader really feel like they’re there. Not only do they illustrate sounds, they often help illustrate feelings or emotions. While there are thousands of onomatopoeia out there, we are going to have a look at 10 of the most common ones used in manga and anime.
Hopefully this will help you get a little something special out of your next manga and anime experience!

10. ドキドキ

  • Pronunciation: Doki Doki

What does it mean?
“Doki Doki” is meant to imitate the sound of a heartbeat, specifically one that is fluttering in excitement, love, or nerves. It's usually used in a positive way, for example when a character sees their crush. It can also be used negatively, though, if a character is experiencing some anxiety! Basically, Doki Doki is for anything that makes your heart beat a little faster.

9. どんどん

  • Pronunciation: Don Don

What does it mean?
“Don Don” is used to mean that many things are happening very quickly, and there’s no pause before the next action being taken. It’s often used in scenes where someone is eating very fast, or in fight scenes. It can also be used for a knocking sound!

8. チュー

  • Pronunciation: Chuu

What does it mean?
“Chuu” is onomatopoeia for both an action and a phrase. It means kissing, usually in a cute way (we aren’t talking about hentai here). It may be used in a romantic context, but it might also be used for kissing a younger sibling on the cheek, or even for kissing a pet. Chuu is an innocent and cute kiss, and it’s a cute word to say, too.

7. サクサク

  • Pronunciation: Saku Saku

What does it mean?
“Saku Saku” stands in for the sound of crunching, and it actually does sound like a crunching noise when you say it. While most often used for describing a food like potato chips, it can also be used to give depth to a scene like walking over autumn leaves.

6. わくわく

  • Pronunciation: Waku Waku

What does it mean?
“Waku Waku” is used to express excitement, specifically for something good! When a character is really looking forward to something, you might see or hear “Waku Waku” being used.

5. あははは

  • Pronunciation: Ahahaha

What does it mean?
Ahahaha is the easiest onomatopoeia on our list to remember because it’s exactly the same as English! Ahahaha is used for laughing, especially if the laughing is out of control or goes on for a long time. Just like “haha” is onomatopoeia in English, “Ahahaha” is the same in Japanese.

4. ニコニコ

  • Pronunciation: Nico Nico

What does it mean?
“Nico Nico” is an action onomatopoeia that means “smile!” Characters often say it when they’re posing for pictures, or trying to make another character happy. Sometimes it’s just used alongside a picture of someone who is happy to emphasise their feeling rather than actually said in dialogue.

3. ハラハラ

  • Pronunciation: Hara Hara

What does it mean?
“Hara Hara” illustrates a feeling of apprehension and anxiety. When a character is really dreading something or is worried about how something is going to turn out, Hara Hara is used to show that feeling.

2. ラブラブ

  • Pronunciation: Rabu Rabu

What does it mean?
Rabu Rabu is a unique onomatopoeia in that it actually is the katakana spelling of an English word—did you guess it? It means “love love!” Rabu Rabu is used to mean a fairytale kind of love, usually a little bit cheesy, and comes up often in romance and slice of life anime and manga. It’s used as both a feeling and a spoken phrase.

1. コロコロ

  • Pronunciation: Koro Koro

What does it mean?
“Koro Koro” is actually an onomatopoeia phrase for an action rather than a feeling or sound. It’s used when something is rolling, or going around in a circle over and over again. Koro Koro is a common phrase and often shows up especially in comedy stories when someone or something falls down.

Final Thoughts

We hope with this guide, you can start to tackle some of the fun onomatopoeia that you encounter in your next manga or anime! Not only can you learn a little Japanese (and maybe impress your friends), but your experience can have more depth than ever before. Onomatopoeia is such an important part of the Japanese language, so understanding even a little bit of it is very meaningful.

Did you find this guide to onomatopoeia helpful? Will you be looking for some of these phrases in your next manga? Did you recognise some of them and wonder what the meaning was before? Do you have any questions about onomatopoeia in manga and/or anime? We would love to hear your comments and questions!

048 10 Great Onomatopoeia to Enhance Your Anime & Manga Experience!


Author: Jet Nebula

Living the dream in Tokyo, where you can find me working at a theme café catered towards women. When I’m not writing for Honey’s, I’m working on original dystopian science fiction or blogging about Tokyo’s trendy coffee scene. I spend my free time in Harajuku and Shibuya wearing alternative Japanese street fashion. I love video games, J-rock, tattoos, and Star Wars.

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