Friday, July 29, 2016

bishoujo 美少女

In anime, a bishoujo 美少女 is, literally, a "beautiful girl," or less literally, a "pretty girl." Characters called bishoujo or introduced as bishoujo are supposedly more beautiful than the average anime girl.

A bishoujo anime girl.
Character: Teruhashi Kokomi 照橋心美
Anime: Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan 斉木楠雄のΨ難


The word bishoujo 美少女 is written with the kanji for "beautiful," utsukushii 美, and the word "girl," shoujo 少女. The word "girl" is written with "small," chiisai 小さい, and "woman," onna 女.


Given that a bishoujo is literally a "beautiful girl," we have to ask ourselves: what is beauty?

Is it a pretty face? Proportions? Mannerisms? Charm? Elegance? What is it??!??

Beautiful doesn't mean "cute" or "sexy." Beautiful just means beautiful. Pretty just means pretty. So a bishoujo isn't necessarily cute: she can be someone cold, cruel, nasty. She's not necessarily sexy either.

A bishoujo could be either a girl in her twenties with a model body and hourglass shape touring around in her idol group or a girl in her teens that's just slightly more popular than the average girl of her high school.

Basically, bishoujo and similar terms we'll see below don't really mean a lot. They just mean somebody looks good. Is pretty. Etc.

美少女 類い稀なるルックスを持つ少女の事 transcript from manga Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan 斉木楠雄のΨ難
Manga: Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan 斉木楠雄のΨ難
  • bishoujo 美少女
    Beautiful girl.
  • taguimare naru
    rukkusu wo motsu
    shoujo no koto

    類い稀なる ルックスを持つ 少女の事
    [It's about] a girl who has exceptional looks.
    • taguimare 類い稀
      Rare. Exceptional.
      (na-adjective, so it can come before naru instead of na.)
    • ____ wo motsu shoujo ◯を持つ少女
      Girl [who] has ___.
      (noun after relative clause.)

How to Tell if a Character is a Bishoujo?

Given that in the world of anime most of the time basically everybody is pretty, because, I mean, why would they draw ugly characters, anyway? Is it even possible to tell a bishoujo character from any random girl character? What if all 2D girls are bishoujo?

Are there bishoujo characters in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, that cartoon-ish anime? What about Kara no Kyoukai 空の境界? That anime looks gorgeous, so are all girls in that anime bishoujo, as they're all gorgeous-looking?

Some husbands will say "my wife is the most beautiful woman in the whole world." By extension, is your waifu a bishoujo?

How do you tell if a character is a bishoujo???

Anime: Taiyou no Yuusha Fighbird 太陽の勇者ファイバード,
Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu バカとテストと召喚獣

Anyway, it's actually very easy to tell when a character is a bishoujo: somebody will tell you.

I mean it.

It could be the narrator, it could be the main character, it could be a faceless, nameless, background character, part of the mob talking about how beautiful the bishoujo is as she walks down the corridor of the high school like these guys don't have anything better to do than stand by the sides chit-chatting about girls. THIS IS WHY NONE OF YOU ARE PROTAGONISTS!!! It could even be the girl herself. It could be anyone. Anything.

私の名前は照橋心美 自分で言うのもなんだけど 完全に美少女だと思う transcript from manga Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan 斉木楠雄のΨ難
Manga: Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan 斉木楠雄のΨ難
  • watashi no namae wa
    My name [is]...
  • Teruhashi Kokomi
  • jibun de
    iu no mo

    自分で 言うのも なんだけど
    [I know] saying [it] myself [is weird] but...
    • jibun de iu 自分で言う
      To say oneself. To say myself. To say yourself.
    • nandakedo なんだけど
      are dakedo あれだけど
      Is "that" but...
    • "That" in the sense of: "that" is weird, frowned upon, etc.
    • I'd say it myself, but you know, it's... "that," you know? "That."
    • Except with this phrase she's acknowledging "that" is frowned upon but is going to say it anyway.
  • kanzen-ni
    bishoujo dato omou

    完全に 美少女だと思う
    [I] think [I'm] a completely beautiful girl.
    • Yeah... "that" sounds narcissistic. Normally you wouldn't say that. People would think you're full of yourself.

The point is, in anime and manga the bishoujo isn't bishoujo because she's pretty. She's the bishoujo because that's her character, it's part of her setting, her trope, it's how she's been introduced.

Some girls are rich, others are poor, some have good luck, others are orphans, and some are bishoujo.

In fact, as far as anime is concerned, the bishoujo doesn't even need to be girl.

Anime: Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu バカとテストと召喚獣
(Episode 5)
  • kono gakuen no densetsu no kinoshita to-ieba
    In this academy [the phrase] "legendary Kinoshita"
  • densetsu-teki na bishoujo
    Kinoshita Hideyoshi no koto wo sasu!

    Refers to Kinoshita Hideyoshi,
    the legendary-like bishoujo!
  • Despite not being a girl, Hideyoshi is thought to be a bishoujo by other characters of the anime. Note that, normally, bishounen 美少年 would be the word to refer to a "pretty boy."


Besides being beautiful by definition, bishoujo characters often carry some other trope with them.
The most common trope of a bishoujo character is being "popular", motemote モテモテ.

They receive dozens of love letters from nameless background characters, get confessed to weekly, reject broken hearts back into the unknown, and so on. All this stuff basically says: this character is a bishoujo. Even if they have pretty much the same face as every other girl in the series.

Because of this, guys, or rather, one guy, the main character, ends up in that clichéd situation of "welp, she's a girl that has literally the entire school falling in love with her and mysteriously still has no boyfriend, my chances with her are zero given my blank self-insert (lack of) personality."

The extreme opposite "I don't like her even though everybody else loves her" also happens with certain frequency.

Perfect Girl

Another common bishojo trope is the "perfect girl" or "ideal girl" bishoujo character. A girl who, somehow, is:
  1. Very cute.
  2. Very smart.
  3. Very athletic.
  4. Very popular.
  5. Very much doesn't seem to have any real accomplishments despite her excelling excellence, like, you'd expect her to be a chess or shogi champion or inter-school volleyball or softball champion or aspiring model or something by now but no it's like the best she can do is become student council president, tops, nothing more.

Within the Japanese fandom, such characters without faults are sometimes referred to as kanpeki choujin 完璧超人, "perfect super-human," a reference to characters from the manga kin'niku man キン肉マン who have surpassed their emotions and weaknesses and are the super-humans closest to the power of a divine existence.

Rich Girl

Some bishoujo characters aren't just pretty, they're rich, full of money. Such characters are normally called "rich girls," ojousama お嬢様. So bishoujo ojousama are characters who are pretty and rich, they're cheating winners of the genetic lottery.

Honestly, it's not that pretty characters can be rich, it's that rich characters are often pretty. Probably because, being rich, they can afford can afford proper hair-care and avoid ahoge アホ毛, or just buy and wear different clothes instead of wearing the same outfit every single episode for years.

Neck Turner

Even when the bishoujo isn't in her popular habitat, even when she's walking around nearby strangers who have no idea who she is, it's possible that the bishoujo character is so beautiful everybody will stop what they're doing to look at her.

Which is, of course, a ridiculous concept. But in anime that's normal.

Everybody on the street looking at a bishoujo: Teruhashi Kokomi 照橋心美, from anime Saiki Kusuo no Sainan 斉木楠雄のΨ難.
Anime: Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan 斉木楠雄のΨ難

Orientation Turner

In some cases, the bishoujo's popularity and beauty surpasses genders: she doesn't have only guys interested in her, she also has girls interested in her. Such is the power of a bishoujo.

Bishounen 美少年

In Japanese, bishounen means "beautiful boy." It's literally the male version of bishoujo 美少女.

The kanji of bishounen 美少年 are also the same thing: the one for "beautiful," utsukushii 美しい, followed by the word shounen 少年, that means "boy," and written with "few," sukunai 少ない, and "years," nen 年.

Note that literally shounen 少年 means "minor" or "underage." But it's rarely used in that gender-neutral meaning. Normally it means "boy."

Bishounen Trope

The bishounen tropes are literally the same thing as bishoujo. They just change genders.

The male counterpart of ojousama is called bocchan 坊っちゃん, by the way.

Bijin 美人

In Japanese, bijin means literally "beautiful person." It's written with the kanji for the word hito 人, which means "person."

Note, however, that bijin is practically always used to refer to a "beautiful women" or "beautiful girl" in Japanese. Simply because it's more common to call women beautiful than it is to call men beautiful.

Some ways to actually say "beautiful person" using adjectives would be:
  • utsukushii hito 美しい人
    Beautiful person.
  • kirei na hito 綺麗な人
    Pretty person.

古見さんは、…美しい。僕が見たことのある人間の中で、まず間違いなく一番の美人だ。 quote from manga Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。
Manga: Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。
  • Komi-san wa,

    Komi-san is beautiful.
  • boku ga mita koto no aru ningen no naka de,
    Among the humans [whom] I have seen.
    • mita koto no aru 見たことある
      (a relative clause variant of)
    • mita koto ga aru 見たことある
      To have seen.
  • mazu machigainaku
    ichiban no bijin da.

    First off without doubt [she's] the number one bijin.

As far as tropes are concerned, there's virtually no difference between a character being called bishoujo versus a character being called a bijin.

Manga: Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。 (Chapter 14, あがり症です)
  • bijin dashi,
    [She's] a bijin,
  • atama mo ii shi,
    [She's] also [smart].
  • ninkimono dashi,
    [she's] a popular person,

Bijo 美女

In Japanese, bijo means "beautiful woman." Since bishoujo 美少女 means "beautiful girl," it may be used toward younger women. The word bijo 美女 would then be used toward adult-ier women.

Unlike bijin, bijo puts more emphasis on womanly attributes, e.g. oppai.

Matsubara Rumiko

One funny story about these bijin and bijo words happened around 1980. There was an model campaign called Roppongi bijin 六本木美人, which was mean to have prettiest women around Roppongi, but ended up having a transgender too!

In response, the transgender in question, Matsubara Rumiko 松原留美子, said: if the campaign was called Roppongi bijo 六本木美 (implying pretty women only) then they wouldn't have entered, but since it was Roppongi bijin 六本木美 (pretty people), they thought they had a chance.

(they can be seen in this video on Youtube.)

Bimajo 美魔女

This word is like bijo, but comes from the word majo 魔女 instead of onna 女, which means "witch" in Japanese.

This isn't used for beautiful witches, which by the way don't exist, but, instead, for older women who look too young for their age and are as beautiful as your usual bijo.

(do not mistake mahou 魔法, "magic," with keisei shujutsu 形成手術 that means "plastic surgery" in Japanese)

Beautiful Men

Some words used for men that mean beautiful are:
  • bidanshi 美男子
    Beautiful young man.
  • binan 美男
    Beautiful man.
  • biseinen 美青年
    Beautiful adult man
  • bichuunen 美中年
    Beautiful middle-aged man.
    (i.e. despite being of certain age, 40 and above, he still looks in his 30's, etc.)
  • ikemen イケメン
    Hot guy. (slang regarding his face, though.)

1 comment:

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  1. Can I use this when want to address it to somebody or it's only for description? (ex. おはよびしょうじょ)