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I've been wondering for quite a while. Each time I have questions about either anime or manga, someone always refers to the word "canon", or "non-canon".

I've searched up what the word means on Google to help expand my understanding on it, and many answers that differ very much show up. It's helped me in no way at all.

What does the word canon mean and how does it refer to anime or manga?

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    Hmm, perhaps the title of the question doesn't really look related, but the answers there explore more about how "canon" being defined for multiple media works (e.g. anime original, compared to manga-to-anime adaptation), because official works can also be considered as non-canon (mostly anime movies that don't affect the official storyline).
    – Aki Tanaka
    Apr 25 at 16:53
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Something being canon essentially means it's true to the primary1 storyline. A good example of this would be when talking about fanfiction - if a fanfiction has two people dating in it, it would be canon if those two characters are actually dating in the storyline of whatever the fan-made work is based on. It would be non-canon if that's not true.

This isn't just limited to anime or manga; this refers to any fictional story when talking about artwork, literature, discussions, etc produced by fans or non-official sources.

For example, when talking about "ships" between characters, it's canon if they are actually in a relationship. If they aren't and it's just what fans like to speculate about, it's non-canonical. Of course, it's not always this binary; some things are heavily based on real parts of the story but the speculation itself is either false or might be unconfirmed.

1As Pablo pointed out in the comments, I originally had "official" here, but there is an important distinction to make - a company that owns the rights to this media may produce official additional media that may not canon because the author of the original work didn't have any contribution or say in it, but it is still official because it is produced by the company with the copyright.

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    I would change the word "official" by "primary". A work can be official but non canon. Examples of this is when a company which owns the rights to a work does versions of this work without having the original author involved. Or when an american company which created a movie or series franchise licenses to a third company for it to make comics of it, with authors who had nothing to with the original work involved. Those works are official but usually considered non canon, because what happened in those stories arent taking into account when writing stories for the main continuity
    – Pablo
    May 24 at 14:50
  • Dragon Ball GT for example is official but non canon. Or the Dragon Ball movies of the 90's
    – Pablo
    May 24 at 14:52
  • @Pablo Very good point. I'll change the wording - thanks. May 24 at 14:56

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