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The word メカ and how it's used by Japanese, genre definition

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The word メカ and how it's used by Japanese, genre definition

Postby Dimension » Thu 09.11.2008 4:30 pm

I had a discussion today with a guy on the net who claimed that in Japan the Japanese use the word メカ (Mecha) as a substitute for the word sci-fi and that they don't have a word for sci-fi (at least that's what I presume he meant), and his source is apparently a swedish translator of manga who's lived in Japan for a few years. I do agree with that Mecha in the way we use it is certainly a part of the broad genre of science fiction, but I find his claim unlikely, seeing as the word is normally used for huge robots (here in the west) or anything mechanical (esp. highly advanced). Doing some of my own research I found that the japanese do (surprisingly not) have a word for sci-fi , サイエンス・フィクション, the abbreviation SF (エスエフ) and 空想科学小説 (くうそうかがくしょうせつ), but I still haven't found anything on whether they use メカ for all things sci-fi like he said.

I couldn't find the word メカ written even once on the japanese wiki for SF, which I find quite peculiar if the word supposedly is used as much as he claims.

http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%82%B5% ... 7%E3%83%B3

I still believe that it's only a sub genre of sci-fi, even in Japan, but I could agree with that maybe it is used differently and is less specific than our use of the word for "anime with big robots". But until I know for sure from a reliable source I can't say. So please enlighten me :)
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Re: The word メカ and how it's used by Japanese, genre definition

Postby vkladchik » Thu 09.11.2008 5:43 pm

Dimension wrote:I had a discussion today with a guy on the net who claimed that in Japan the Japanese use the word メカ (Mecha) as a substitute for the word sci-fi

To say that the Japanese don't have a word for science fiction is like saying that Americans don't have a word for déjà vu. Of course we do. The word is déjà vu. In the same way, the Japanese have a word for science fiction, which is the English word. Just because it's a borrowing doesn't mean that it isn't a word in that language.

Theoretical considerations aside, though, the word メカ comes from the word "mechanical," so it might be used to mean robotics or some other aspect of science fiction. In other words, it might be the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts aspect of science fiction, as opposed to the more anthropological aspect of science fiction you see in writers like Asimov or Ray Bradbury.

That said, however, I've never seen science fiction referred to as anything other than "SF," so I don't know where your friend is getting his information, but it doesn't sound very reliable to me.
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Re: The word メカ and how it's used by Japanese, genre definition

Postby hungryhotei » Thu 09.11.2008 5:58 pm

Dimension wrote:I couldn't find the word メカ written even once on the japanese wiki for SF, which I find quite peculiar if the word supposedly is used as much as he claims.


You might have had more luck on thispage.

メカとは、メカニズムの略語であるが、フィクションの分野(アニメやライトノベル、SF映画など)においては特に「空想的な'機械装置」を指す用語であり、しばしば「巨大ロボット」の類を指す。
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Re: The word メカ and how it's used by Japanese, genre definition

Postby Dimension » Thu 09.11.2008 6:37 pm

vkladchik wrote:Theoretical considerations aside, though, the word メカ comes from the word "mechanical," so it might be used to mean robotics or some other aspect of science fiction. In other words, it might be the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts aspect of science fiction, as opposed to the more anthropological aspect of science fiction you see in writers like Asimov or Ray Bradbury.

That said, however, I've never seen science fiction referred to as anything other than "SF," so I don't know where your friend is getting his information, but it doesn't sound very reliable to me.


That's what I thought too.

And yes, I certainly don't believe him now. Actually when I look back at our convo I see what he tried to say is that メカ is used instead of sci-fi as the word for it. That's totally ridiculous. He must have misunderstood whatever he heard completely.
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Re: The word メカ and how it's used by Japanese, genre definition

Postby Harisenbon » Thu 09.11.2008 10:24 pm

Dimension wrote:And yes, I certainly don't believe him now. Actually when I look back at our convo I see what he tried to say is that メカ is used instead of sci-fi as the word for it. That's totally ridiculous. He must have misunderstood whatever he heard completely.


Yet another case of never believing what a foreigner tells you about Japanese. ;)

I remember that the big thing when I started studying Japanese was that people were trying to "figure out" what the kanji for Nintendo and Ranma were. They apparently were "never" written in Kanji, and there were all these theories as to how to write them, with people bickering about what was the "true" way to refer to them. (Some guy told me that the kanji for nintendo hadn't been used since the meiji era when they stopped making playing cards.)

Ironically, neither of these kanji names are rare, and the whole thing was just the blown-up self importance of a bunch of know-nothings who wanted to prove that they knew more about Japan than the others.

Did I just get on a tangential rant?
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Re: The word メカ and how it's used by Japanese, genre definition

Postby becki_kanou » Thu 09.11.2008 10:28 pm

Harisenbon wrote:Did I just get on a tangential rant?


I believe you did. You're right though. And that's why I almost never read novels set in Japan by non-Japanese authors.
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Re: The word メカ and how it's used by Japanese, genre definition

Postby ryuubu » Sun 09.14.2008 2:15 am

Harisenbon wrote:
Dimension wrote:They apparently were "never" written in Kanji, and there were all these theories as to how to write them, with people bickering about what was the "true" way to refer to them. (Some guy told me that the kanji for nintendo hadn't been used since the meiji era when they stopped making playing cards.)


I was under the impression Nintendo still made hanafuda cards...?
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Re: The word メカ and how it's used by Japanese, genre definition

Postby Harisenbon » Mon 09.15.2008 8:09 pm

ryuubu wrote:I was under the impression Nintendo still made hanafuda cards...?


They do indeed. As well as normal playing cards.

I also have a set of mario-themed Hanafuda cards that I got from Nintendo club last year.
They're really cute, but because all the special cards have mario images on them instead of the actual animals/flowers, it's hard to remember which cards are which. Apparently Yoshi is a crane. Go fig. ;)
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Re: The word メカ and how it's used by Japanese, genre definition

Postby two_heads_talking » Tue 09.16.2008 9:17 am

I picked up a set of Hanafuda cards while still in the military. I think I bought them in Hokkaido. Somewhere along the line, the instructions got lost, then in the last move, the cards disappeared.. Now, after reading this part of the thread, I am a bit sad..
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