Friday, February 2, 2018

Otokonoko 男の娘

In Japanese, the word otokonoko 男の子 means "boy," literally "male child." This post, however, is about the anime-related slang otokonoko 男の娘, a homonym written with a different kanji.


In Japanese, an otokonoko 男の娘 is a "boy who looks like a girl," that is, it's the word for "trap" in Japanese. Note that, normally, the word otokonoko 男の子 means any "boy," and it only means "boy who looks like a girl" when written with the kanji for the word "daughter," musume 娘.

The word otokonoko 男の娘, "traps," as shown in the anime Outbreak Company, in the classroom

Generally speaking, an otokonoko character looks like a girl because of his mannerisms, voice and general physiognomy, not because of anything else.

An otokonoko doesn't necessarily crossdress. The term for wearing "female clothes" in Japanese is josou 女装, and while some otokonoko characters may do it, not all of them are crossdressers, or end up crossdressing at some point of the series.

On the other hand, some characters who do crossdress are not considered otokonoko. In particular, a middle-aged crossdresser probably is not an otokonoko purely due to his age. (otokonoko 男の子 means "boy," not "old man.")

An otokonoko doesn't necessarily identify as a girl, or is transgender. In fact, two phrases commonly associated with otokonoko characters are: "but he is a guy," and: "but I'm a boy."

Phrase daga otoko da だが男だ, "but he is a guy" from Steins;Gate used about Ruka Urushibara and boku, otoko nanda kedo na 僕、男なんだけどな, "but I'm a guy," used by Saika Totsuka from Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. やはり俺の青春ラブコメはまちがっている。

Note that some say for a "trap" to be a "trap" in English the "trap" must actively try to pass as the opposite gender. Clearly, this isn't the case with the word otokonoko in Japanese, as such characters will actively deny being the opposite gender. In which case the meaning of otokonoko is closer to "femboy" in English.

Despite all of this, it's a trope for an otokonoko character to be regarded as more feminine than the average female character. He just naturally becomes the most girly character around because... well, because anime.
  • onna yori onna rashii bishoujo 女より女らしい美少女
    A bishoujo more woman-like than a woman.
  • daga otoko da だが男だ
    But he is a guy.

Do Traps Have Boobs?

One of the most philosophical questions of our times is whether or not traps have boobs. That is, whether a character, or a person, who has undergone a hormone therapy of sorts, or surgery, and does have boobs, is still considered a trap, or labelled by a different transgender term.

The reason for this question is pretty simple: in anime, traps, otokonoko, do not have boobs, hence you'd think they shouldn't have them. But the word "trap" only implies you have to mistakenly guess the wrong sex. Certainly, a trap with boobs is easier to mistake for a woman than one without, so boobs couldn't be forbidden things for traps to have, could them?

The answer to this lies in statistics.

In anime, most characters are in school, they are young, sometimes middle or elementary school children. It wouldn't make any damn sense for any of these characters to have a huge pair of...


...actually that does happen... so... *ahem*. Anyway, it wouldn't make sense for a male character to have boobs in this case, given that there's no way they'd have undergone any boob-growing procedure.

The average otokonoko character constantly denies he is a girl, reaffirming every day he is actually (identifies as) a boy, so there's little chance he would even be willing to become a girl in first place. There are even cases of otokonoko characters who have done the impossible to get rid of their natural femininity and become manly men. So there's no way a booby trap would ever happen in anime.

So that's why traps do not have boobs, in anime. Due to coincidence. There's nothing that says traps can not have boobs, ergo traps can have boobs, it just doesn't happen, in anime.

Are Traps Gay?

Are traps gay? That's an over-generalization. Traps are not gay, wait, that's an over-generalization, too. Okay, some traps are gay, some traps are not gay. It varies. It depends on the trap in question.

How to Tell if a Trap is Gay

Is the trap in an yaoi / BL doujinshi or fanfic made by a fujoshi? Then he's probably gay. A fish would be a gay fish if it were featured in one of those.

Is the trap in an anime airing on TV? Then he's probably not gay. According to Japanese anime, homosexuality doesn't even exist. I can't recall a single character in a gay or lesbian relationship in anime (except for shounen-ai and shoujo-ai anime, but those don't count since the homosexual relationship is literally the main point of the story). To begin with, characters in a heterosexual relationship are already pretty uncommon. Since there are no gay characters in your average anime, the average trap of the average anime is averagely not gay.



I totally forgot about it, but the so-called math genius Enshuu Ritsu 円修 律 from the anime R-15 is probably gay. So, fine, geez, there's, like, one, single, (maybe) gay character, in the entirety of the average anime universe. But that hardly means anything.

Also, there seems to be a gay character in Cardcaptor Sakura, but that still doesn't mean anything.

Anyway, it'd be wrong to assume a character is gay just because he looks like a girl, or just because, for some reason, he frequently ends up in queer situations where he has to crossdress. There are cases of characters in anime, like Kuranosuke, from Kuragehime, whose hobby is literally crossdressing, and yet they aren't gay. So one thing doesn't equal the other.

Otoko no Musume

The word otokonoko 男の娘 is written with the kanji for the words "man," otoko 男, and "daughter," musume 娘. So one might mistakenly guess it means "man's daughter," otoko no musume 男の娘, when the slang has nothing to do with that.

The word otokonoko 男の子, this time written with the kanji for "child," ko 子, instead, does not mean a "man's child" either, it means a "boy," an young man, someone's son. Conversely, onnanoko 女の子 means "girl," and not "woman's child."

In some words, like oyako 親子, "parent and child," the kanji for "daughter," musume 娘, may replace the kanji for "child" to indicate it's a female child we're talking about. Since we're only replacing the kanji, the word remains the same, see: oyako, "parent and daughter."

Following this same idea, it's become a naming pattern for anime tropes in Japanese to name terms for girl characters after their moe attributes added to the kanji for "daughter" read as kko っこ.

For example: megane 眼鏡 means "glasses," so a meganekko 眼鏡っ娘 is a girl that wears glasses. The word futanari ふたなり means "hermaphrodite," so a futanarikko ふたなりっ娘 is a girl who's a futanari.

So an otokonoko 男の娘 is like a "girl" whose attribute is that she's a "boy," otokonoko 男の子. This follows the pattern that in manga, anime, visual novels, etc. the otokonoko characters are usually part of a cast that includes a dozen of girl characters, each with a different moe attribute.

The otokonoko attribute is super-effective on Spider Guildy from the anime Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu.

That is: they're the token trap character. Just like a token tsundere character, there's never more than one of them, but you just know they're going to show up somewhere eventually. So you start doubting the gender of every character that doesn't have boobs. And the worst thing is when they don't clearly state it in the anime or in the manga the gender of the character. Is that character a girl? Or a boy? Is he? Or is she?! The doubt lingers on forever. You never know the truth. The author never tells. The fanbase discusses, argues and eventually start killing each-other in a cannibalistic rampage over this simple question. The world as we know it collapses, reality is bent and banished. It's chaos! CHAOS!!!


By the way, since "trap" otokonoko 男の娘 is literally pronounced the same way as "boy" otokonoko 男の子, it can be confusing to use it in a conversation, so sometimes people pronounce it (out loud) as otokonomusume 男の娘 instead to disambiguate. In writing the kanji is different so it doesn't matter if you read them the same.

Reverse-Trap in Japanese

The word for reverse-trap in Japanese is onnnanoko 雄んなの子. A reverse-trap would be a "girl who looks like a boy" instead of a "boy who looks like a girl."

This term, onnanoko, was created as an antonym for otokonoko. Another term, onnanomusuko 女の息子, literally "woman's son," was also created to be "reverse-trap," but it's less used.

Like a common trap, a reverse-trap doesn't need to crossdress, or, in this case, to wear "male clothes," dansou 男装. She doesn't necessarily identify as a man, etc. either. And just naturally has more masculinity than the average male character.

Onnanoko 雄んなの子

The word onnanoko 雄んなの子, "reverse-trap,"or, rather, "tomboy," was created in similar fashion as otokonoko 男の娘, "trap." Normally, otokonoko 男の子 means "boy," and onnanoko 女の子 means "girl." But the kanji were changed to create slangs.

In the case of onnanoko, the okanji is usually found in the word osu 雄, which normally refers to a "male" animal (dogs, cats, etc. not a person's gender).

Note that, normally, a girl that's merely "boyish" is called that, booisshu ボーイッシュ. To match the meaning of otokonoko, this onnanoko word means a character, even featuring boobs, even not wearing female clothes, still somehow looks so much like a guy you could mistake her for one.

Generally speaking, a combination of short hair, lower-pitched voice, boy-like mannerisms,  and clothing that's not too revealing makes an onnanoko an onnanoko.

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