And kanji with manga
Sunday, February 18, 2018

ネカマ, Nekama - Meaning in Japanese

In Japanese, nekama ネカマ is an abbreviation of netto okama ネットオカマ, literally "internet okama," and refers to someone who passes a different gender online than they're in real life, specifically, a guy who plays as a female character in an online game or MMORPG, or pretends to be a girl in forums. (the word nenabe ネナベ refers to the opposite)

Character Kazuto Kirigaya from Sword Art Online II and his girl-looking Gun Gale Online avatar Kiriko

Note that despite the seemingly clear-cut definition of the word, there is some controversy to what is a nekama and what is not, and there's also the question of whether nekama counts as gender-bender or not.

Nenabe ネナベ

The word nenabe ネナベ, from netto onabe ネットオナベ, "internet onabe," would refer to someone who is a girl in real life, but plays a male character online. Note that, sometimes, the term nekama is used to refer to nenabe too. (the same way okama sometimes refers to onabe, too).

Character Moriko from Net-Juu no Susume and her male avatar Hayashi


Disregarding the inherent controversy of "why the fuck are these old men pretend to be little girls in an online game?!"(as seen in Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko Janai to Omotta ネトゲの嫁は女の子じゃないと思った?), there are still some controversial points regarding what counts as a nekama and what does not. I'll list them below.

Playing as a Girl vs. Nekama

In some games, female characters have different stats from male characters, which makes the gender choice a strategic choice instead of a cosmetic one. There are also cases of female characters just having more cosmetic items available than male characters. Basically, sometimes playing as a girl is just more fun by design, which is a bit weird, but begs the question: does playing a female character automatically makes you a nekama?

Some people argue that if you play as a female character but you don't pretend to be a cute girl, you are not a nekama. That is, a nekama is someone who pretends to be a girl online, not literally someone who plays as a female character. This is specially obvious to notice in Japanese, where certain words are used mostly by women. (see onee-kotoba for examples used by okama.)

However, on the other side, if you're playing as a female character, and you start acting like a man, then that would be even more weird. After all, whatever happened to role-playing?

Trap vs. Nekama

Another question is whether you need or not to have a virtually biologically female character in order to be a nekama. That is, whether a guy, playing as a guy character, pretending to be a girl, counts as nekama or not.

This would be the case, for example, of Kirito in Sword Art Online II. The player, Kirigaya, is a guy, but in the MMO Gun Gale Online the appearance of his character was chosen randomly. It ended up being "physically" male but female-looking. In order words: a "trap" character.

Until then, you could say it was simply an otokonoko 男の娘 character, which is a different kind of thing, not nekama. However, the other players started assuming Kirito is a girl due to his appearance, and Kirigaya, instead of denying it, played along, pretending to be a girl online (nekama) and at times even offering some fanservice to his fans.

Some (real life) fans of SAO, started called this nekama version of Kirito キリト by the name of Kiriko キリ子. (ko is a common suffix in female names.) [キリ子 -, 2019-02-19]

Others refer to the character as "trap Kirito," otokonoko Kirito 男の娘キリト. [男の娘キリト -, 2019-02-19]

Gender-Bender vs. Nekama

Another question is whether nekama counts as gender-bender or not.

Technically speaking, nekama and nenabe characters are merely character who play virtual avatars of a different gender, that is, they don't physically transform into another gender, no gender-bending, they're simply pretending, acting. If this counted as gender-bender, then crossdressing would count as gender-bender too.

Which means that, technically, nekama and nenabe aren't the same thing as nyotaika 女体化 and nantaika 男体化, which refer to literally transforming into a "female body" and a "male body" respectively.

However, more technically yet, there are two situations where it gets increasingly difficult to tell apart these two TSF situations.

In-Game Gender-Bending

First, if a guy is playing a male avatar, he isn't a nekama, obviously, since the gender matches. But what if his avatar gets transformed into a girl in the game? Does this count as nekama, nyotaika, or both?!

Nekama 4 Lyfe

Second, there cases of anime where players become lost in the virtual world for kamisama-knows-how-long, specially in the case of virtual-reality MMORPGs. In a sense, they become their avatars. If the avatar of a guy is female, the guy becomes a girl. Does this count as nyotaika?

Some say it does, some say it does not. Who knows.

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