LOST (and FOUND) in TRANSLATION #016 – “MEGANEKKO”
After living here for many years, I can conclude that Japan is a country… where people have bad eyesight!
I’m just joking, but actually, the percentage of people who wear glasses here is relatively high! Maybe this is the result of a society that emphasizes book-learning? Or perhaps people here just watch too much anime? I don’t know the reason, but one thing is certain: characters with glasses are very well established in Japan!
Today’s word: メガネっ子 (Meganekko)
“Megane” means “glasses” in Japanese. A meganekko is a bespectacled girl. Originally, this was a gender neutral term that could refer to either a boy or girl, but nowadays it mainly refers to females.
Some suggested male equivalents are メガネ君 (megane-kun) or メガネ男子 (megane-danshi)
Meganekko have a long and illustrious history in manga. Long before Akira Toriyama created Dragonball, he drew a manga called Dr. Slump (1980). The protagonist of this manga was the incredibly strong, but very nearsighted Arale-chan… one of the earliest and most famous meganekko! Her glasses were originally included just for gag value, and Toriyama-sensei wanted to rid of them after a while (supposedly, they were a pain to draw) but they were so popular with the fans, that they stayed, and became Arale-chan’s trademark!
Arale-chan is a cute, clumsy character, and her glasses help emphasis this. On the other hand, glasses also represent intelligence, and cold, intellectual characters tend to wear them as well. Think of Gendo Ikari, a character well known as the puppet-master behind the events of Evangelion. For most of the series, he hides behind his silver spectacles (occasionally adjusting them by pushing them up at the bridge with two fingers!) and contemplates his Machiavellian schemes to change the world. Even if you don’t go as far as Gendo, your classes genius character should probably come equipped with megane.
In the west, characters wearing glasses are often considered “dorky” or “ugly ducklings” (think of shows like Ugly Betty) a less than positive image. However, there is one western character that is popular all over the world (including Japan) and is easily recognized by his glasses. Can you guess who is it? Of course: Harry Potter! I’m glad that magic can’t cure near-nearsightedness, because Harry would be a much poorer character without this trademark round glasses!
Meganekko are a staple of anime & manga, and they’re here to stay. Why are they popular? Well, maybe because many manga-reading otaku are nerdy bookworms themselves, they feel a certain kinship towards them. Or perhaps they just seem more “pure” and approachable than other types. Not to mention smarter!
What about you? Do you like meganekko? Who is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
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