For those of you learning Japanese like me, hopefully this will be helpful.
Here is the first post in a series that will teach the basics of the Japanese language.
This character is part of the hiragana syllabary in the Japanese language, and is written in the same manner at which it is animated.
Meaning: "a", but pronounced "ah"
In the Japanese language, the writing consists of hiragana, katakana, and kanji, as well as English-familiar characters such as the Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3) and even the Latin alphabet (A, B, C), which would be referred to as romaji. Hiragana is like katakana, but different than kanji. Hiragana/kanji represent sound, much like the Latin alphabet does.
Hiragana is used mainly for words that originate from Japan, and katakana is for foreign words. Kanji on the other hand are symbols that represent meaning, as opposed to sound.
That is a very brief intro to the Japanese language, and here is a chart for the entire hiragana syllabary, with あ highlighted (click to enlarge):
Direct link to .gif, and original hiragana chart [via Pmx]