And kanji with manga
Friday, February 2, 2018

otokonoko 男の娘

In Japanese, otokonoko 男の子 means "boy," literally "male child." This post, however, is about otokonoko 男の娘, a homonym and anime-related slang meaning literally a "male girl," or a "boy that looks like a girl," in other words: a "trap."

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。


The word otokonoko 男の娘 translates literally to "male girl," however, due to the awfully complicated nature of the word, you may encounter it mistranslated somewhere as:
  • Daughter of a man.
  • Man's daughter.
  • Male daughter.

To understand why this happens: the term is composed of three words: otoko 男, which means "man," the no の particle, which creates no-adjectives, and musume, which means "daughter."

It's a pretty obvious wordplay on the word otoko no ko 男の子, which means "boy." The only difference between "boy" and "trap" is whether it's spelled with the kanji for ko 子, "child," or musume 娘, "daughter."

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

Due to this, sometimes the word is read out loud as otoko no musume to disambiguate. On the other hand, sometimes it's misread as otoko no musume. That's because, at the end of the day, it's supposed to be read as ko 娘, not as musume 娘.

The reason for this is that words that containing the ko 子, "child," morpheme, like oyako 親子, "parent-and-child," are sometimes spelled with ko 娘 instead to emphasize the gender of the child: oyako 親娘, "parent-and-daughter."

The pronunciation stays the same, but the spelling changes.

The term musume 娘 can also refer to any "young girl," rather than the "daughter" of someone in specific. Similarly, ~kko ~っ娘 ends up being to refer to a girl of a given attribute. For example:
  • bokukko
    A girl who uses boku 僕 as first person pronoun, like Hestia, from DanMachi.
  • meganekko眼鏡っ娘
    A girl who wears "glasses," megane 眼鏡.
  • futanarikko
    An anime girl who is a hermaphrodite, futanari ふたなり.

Consequently, otokonoko 男の娘 is a girl whose attribute is that she is a man, otoko 男. Just like some people like anime girls who wear glasses, some like anime girls who are actually guys. That's why there are so many of such characters.

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

The confusion regarding the translation is also partially syntactical: no-adjectives are often possessives, however, sometimes they are not, like when you have the no の attributive copula. Observe:
  • Tarou no ko
    Tarou's child. (possessive.)
    The child of Tarou.
  • {futsuu no} ko
    A child [that] {is normal}.
    A {normal} child.
  • otoko no ko

    A man's child. (this makes no sense.)
    A child of a man.
  • {otoko no} ko

    A child [that] {is a man}.
    A {male} child.
    A boy.
  • otoko no musume

    A man's daughter.
    A daughter of a man.
  • {otoko no} musume

    A girl [who] {is a man}.
    A {male} girl.

Now that you know what the word actually means in Japanese, let's see what does it refer to.


In Japanese, an otokonoko 男の娘 character is a "boy who looks like a girl," that is, it's the word for "trap" in Japanese.

Generally speaking, an otokonoko character looks like a girl because of his mannerisms, voice and androgynous 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."

In English, some people say for a "trap" to be a "trap" 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.

Therefore, maybe the meaning of otokonoko is closer to "femboy" than "trap."

Despite all of this, it's a trope for an otokonoko character to be regarded as more feminine than the average female character. He's just naturally the most feminine character around, despite not even trying to be feminine.
  • onna yori onna-rashii bishoujo
    A bishoujo more woman-like than a woman.
  • daga otoko da
    But he is a guy.

This trope brings with itself a dozen of other tropes and memes.

Like this sentence, often repeated by anime characters oblivious of traps:
  • konnna kawaii ko ga otokonoko no hazu ga nai!
    Such cute person can't possibly be a boy!
    There's no way a girl this cute is a guy!

And this sentence, often repeated by anime watchers savvy of traps:
  • konna kawaii ko ga onna no ko no hazu ga nai!
    Such cute person can't possibly be a girl!
    There's no way a girl this cute exists!

And the general concept that "boys make the best girls," according to memes spanning multiple languages, countries, anime forums on the internet, and other media.

Uzume うずめ (female), versus Veronica Vasilyevna Vonitsky ヴェロニカ・ワシーリエヴナ・ヴォイニーツカヤ (male), in a reference to the reaction guys meme, known in Japan as gaijin yonkoma 外人四コマ.
Anime: Onigiri 鬼斬 (Episode 4)
  • Context: Uzume うずめ (female), versus Veronica Vasilyevna Vonitsky ヴェロニカ・ワシーリエヴナ・ヴォイニーツカヤ (male), in a reaction guys meme. The meme is part of the anime, by the way. These images weren't altered.

I'm adamant that a lot of otokonoko characters that fans like to say are "trans" are not really trans. In the sense their feminine mannerisms and looks are due to reasons out of their control: plot, trope, the author, and the identity that's under their control stays masculine. This contrasts with okama characters, which will consciously express themselves femininely through female language.

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!!!


"Trap" Offensiveness

Some transgender people and supporters don't like the English term "trap" because of what it insinuates: that they're trying to deceive, "trap" somebody by presenting as female. This isn't the case with otokonoko: the term doesn't insinuate any "trapping" is happening.

So you may want to call the characters otokonoko instead of "trap" if you want to sound like a weeb avoid offending people.

Personally, although I agree that calling a transgender person a "trap" is normally offensive and you shouldn't do that, I don't think there's any problem with calling otokonoko characters "traps." There's a clear distinction between reality and fiction here: fiction is made up by somebody: the author.

Most manga artists, light novel writers, etc. aren't adding transgender characters to their works. They're adding the "trap" trope to their works.

They're like "I'm going to draw a girl, but say it's a guy," knowing fully well that somebody out there will fall for the "trap" they so cleverly designed. And when people fall for it, they'll call it what it is: a "trap."

Bridget, from Guilty Gear XX.
Character: Bridget, Burijitto ブリジット
Game: Guilty Gear XX

Not to mention it's basically a meme at this point.

You're really into those anime girls, huh? Girls? Eh...? A comic about traps by Paxiti.
Character on phone: Astolfo, from the Fate franchise
Source: @paxiti on Twitter

In other words: usually, when authors, readers, watchers, etc. talk about traps in anime, the very concept of transgender people in real life doesn't even cross their minds.

They don't really associate one thing with the other. Whatever they say about traps won't necessarily reflect their opinion on LGBT, because all they're thinking about is an anime trope, not real people.

I mean, if the memes are true, people talking about anime traps on the internet don't even talk with real people in first place, so they've probably met fewer trans women in real life than traps in anime life. Why would they even be talking about the thing they know the least about?

Kusunoki Yukimura 楠幸村 wearing a maid uniform from anime Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai 僕は友達が少ない
Anime: Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai 僕は友達が少ない (episode 4)
  • Yukimura wanted to stop being so feminine and become a "true man."
  • Somehow, training to become a "true man" involves wearing a maid uniform.
  • After all, a true man is a true man even if he wears a maid uniform.
  • That makes total sense.
  • I'm not even joking.
  • That's the plot of the anime. Someone wrote this.
  • If this isn't the author blatantly adding the "trap" trope to the work then I don't know what is.

Are Traps Gay?

One of the greatest and most philosophical questions of all anime is: "are traps gay?"

Countless theories have been formulated to determine this truth of the universe. Some say traps are definitely not gay, some say they are. But it's 2018, so let's not over-generalize sexuality based on somebody's looks. Why not just ask the trap himself? "Are you gay?"

Proof traps are not gay: "Unlike you, I'm not gay" - Lin Xianming, crossdresser, from Hataka Tonkotsu Ramens 博多豚骨ラーメンズ, episode 11, has said this himself.

Okay, that didn't work.

There's also the question about whether liking traps makes you gay, but, again, let's not over-generalize.

なっ なんだろう この胸のときめきは… 相手は男なのに目が離せない よかった…ときめているのは僕だけじゃなかった よし着替え終ったぞい quote from manga Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu バカとテストと召喚獣
Manga: Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu バカとテストと召喚獣
  • Context: Hideyoshi is changing clothes.
  • na' nandarou
    kono mune no tokimeki wa...

    なっ なんだろう
    W-what is it
    this throbbing in my chest...
  • aite wa otoko nanoni
    me ga hanasenai...!!

    Even though [the one I'm looking at] is a guy
    [I can't take my eyes off him]
  • yokatta...
    [That's a relief...]
  • tokimeiteiru nowa
    boku dake janakatta

    [It] was not just me [whose chest was] throbbing.
  • yoshi kigae-owatta zoi
    Okay, I finished changing [clothes].

Anyway, to seriously answer the question "are traps gay?" I'll say they're very likely not. At least not the otokonoko 男の娘 characters in anime.

Real-life people who call themselves "traps" in English, or otokonoko in Japanese, are a different matter, though, you can just go ask them their sexuality yourself.

The reason I say traps are not gay is because they're characters in manga and anime airing on TV.

With the exception of shounen-ai and shoujo-ai anime, where homosexuality is the point of the story, there are hardly any gay characters in anime as a whole. If gay characters are rare, then gay traps are rare too. So we can safely assume that, in general, traps are not gay.

I mean, even if there's a gay character how would we know? Are you just going to ASSUME it? What awkward circumstance must happen for a character to proclaim "actually, I'm gay." It's not gonna happen. Or what? He'll just show up with a boyfriend? Don't be ridiculous.

If you've seen anime you should know it's already hard enough for a straight couple to happen. Main characters spend 3 years in high-school without getting a girlfriend. Some spend 30 years of their life virgin and end up becoming wizards.

They're so unbelievably dense their thick skull can't be penetrated no matter how many girls your shoot at it, or how much ammunition (harem) you got. The only thing rarer than a girlfriend in anime is a parent.

So yeah, traps are not gay.

However, if the trap in an yaoi / BL doujinshi or fanfic made by a fujoshi then he's gay. Definitely gay. Like 120% gay. A fish would be a gay fish if it were featured in one of those, it could even turn the frogs gay.

But He Dresses Up Like a Girl!

Although it's easy to assume so, a crossdresser isn't automatically gay.

In anime there are many situations where an otokonoko 男の娘 ends up crossdressing for some queer reason (i.e. fanservice), but you can't decide someone else's sexuality on some coincidence, specially given so many times they'll be complaining like "why on Earth do I have to dress up like a girl" or something like that.

Daimon Kaito crossdressing.
Anime: Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle ファイ・ブレイン 神のパズル (Episode 9)
  • In anime, sometimes during a school culture festival male characters end up having to crossdress against their will for an event like a crossdressing maid cafe, or crossdressing beauty contest, or something like that.
  • Needless to say, that doesn't make them gay.

Furthermore, there's a few characters that crossdress as a hobby. Like Kuranosuke, from Kuragehime. And are not gay. So despite dressing up as a girl, they won't necessarily be interested in men.

なじみ!俺と付き合ってく ムリ。ボク、男だし。 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。
  • Context: a guy confesses to his skirt-wearing friend.
  • Najimi! なじみ!
    (name of the character.)
  • ore to tsukiatteku
    Will you date wi
  • muri. ムリ。
    [No way.] (literary "impossible.")
  • boku, otoko dashi.
    I'm a guy.

In some cases the character is crossdressing because of some disturbing gender problems going on, and the plot leads up to a scenario where the problems are solved and the crossdressing thing stops (or doesn't.) This is also obviously not gay, it's just the author using gender as basis for issues to be resolved.

Reverse-Trap in Japanese

The word for reverse-trap in Japanese is onnanoko 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.

Reverse-Trap vs. Transgender

It's important to note that, in anime, reverse-traps that deliberately try to pass as a guy are often not transgender in the normal sense.

It's a recurring theme that society doesn't respect women, so a female character has to pretend to be a guy to be respected, and will stop pretending after they find someone that respects them in spite of being female. That is, they don't try to look male because they identify with the male gender, they do it because the environment forces them to.

So unless you think being transgender when it's convenient for you makes sense, and you can just un-transgender when it's not convenient anymore, you must agree that N**** is actually cisgender, despite what the fanbase may say.


The word onnanoko 雄んなの子, "reverse-trap," 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, which normally refers to "male" animals. (dogs, cats, etc. not a person's gender).


The term booisshu ボーイッシュ, a katakanization of the English word "boyish," means basically "tomboy" in Japanese. It's used toward female characters that, literally, are boy-ish. They look and act a bit like boys.

The term booisshu ボーイッシュ is more popular than onnanoko 雄んなの子. That is, there are more characters in anime that are tomboy girls than characters that are reverse-traps.

Generally, both types of characters have short hair, flatter chest, or don't wear girls' clothing (skirts, etc.), which is why they look boys.

The difference between these two terms is pretty simple:
  • An onnanoko is pretty much "draw a guy, say it's a girl." If she wore a skirt, you'd probably think it's a guy crossdressing.
  • A booisshu character can be "boy-ish" for a number of reasons: clothes, hairstyle, attitude, hobbies, etc. However, it isn't necessarily the case she looks so "boy-ish" you'd end up mistaking her for a boy like you'd with onnanoko.
A boy-ish, but clearly girl, girl.

A boy wearing a sk—girl. It's a girl.

Since onnanoko and otokonoko characters tend to be "naturals"—they're designed to look like the other gender whether they want it or not—onnanoko characters may avoid using male pronouns just like an usual girl-looking girl would, whereas booisshu characters may deliberately use male pronouns because being a "tomboy" is more of a personality thing.

Because of this, the booisshu trait often overlaps with the bokukko ボクっ娘 and orekko 俺っ娘 traits (girls who use the male pronouns boku and ore respectively.) Note that there are tomboys who use watashi 私 or other pronouns girls would use. Conversely, merely using the male pronouns doesn't make a girl a tomboy. These things just happen to overlap a lot.

There's also no rule against an onnanoko character being also a tomboy. That is, on top of looking just like a guy, they also deliberately try to act just like a guy, using male pronouns, etc.

Souseiseki is a girl who uses boku.

Wriggle Nightbug is a girl who uses watashi.


The term manisshu マニッシュ, "man-ish" also exists, but it's not really common at all. It would refer to a woman who's man-like. That is, "draw a woman like she's a man" or something along those lines.

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  1. Okabe is insensitive and everyone knows it. Okabe is the one who said "daga otoko da" when referring to Luka. Mayuri always calls Luka Lukako. always. Okabe deserved the book smacking he got from Kurisu.