And kanji with manga
Thursday, February 21, 2019

kakkou 格好

In Japanese, kakkou 格好 means the "appearance" of something, but in the sense of "how it looks" to you or to other people. In anime, it's often used to talk about how someone is dressed, specially if it's a weird outfit.

The word kakkou can also mean the "state," "situation" something is in when qualified by an adjective, and it can mean "suitable" when turned into an adjective. Sometimes, it's abbreviated to kakko カッコ.

う・・・私はなんでこんな格好を・・・!! quote from manga Gabriel DropOut ガヴリールドロップアウト (Chapter 20)
Manga: Gabriel DropOut, Gavuriiru Doroppuauto ガヴリールドロップアウト (Chapter 20)


The most common usage of kakkou 格好 is to talk about someone's appearance. Note, however, that kakkou isn't used to talk about their physical appearance, or their sudden appearance (or disappearance).

The word kakkou is used to talk about how their "external appearance," gaiken 外見, more specifically, the "form," sugata 姿, that they look at the moment. So it's used to talk about what they're wearing, for example.
  • hade-na kakkou de dekakeru
    To leave [home] with a showy appearance.
    • To leave home dressed in a flashy outfit. Gaudy.

In anime kakkou is usually used in a bad sense, like:

う・・・私はなんでこんな格好を・・・!! quote from manga Gabriel DropOut ガヴリールドロップアウト (Chapter 20)
Manga: Gabriel DropOut, Gavuriiru Doroppuauto ガヴリールドロップアウト (Chapter 20)
  • Context: a girl suddenly finds herself in a reindeer costume.
  • u...
  • watashi wa nande
    konna kakkou wo...!!

    Why I, this sort of appearance...!!
    • Why am I [dressed] like this...!!
    • konna kakkou wo suru こんな格好をする
      To make this sort of appearance.
      To dress up like this.

But the word kakkou isn't limited to outfits.

A difference between sugata 姿 and kakkou 格好 is that when sugata is used toward people, it normally refers to their outfit or how they look in the outfit they're wearing, but kakkou just means how someone looks in general.

So, for example, if a bucket of paint fell on you, nobody would call that a sugata, but they would say "what's up with that kakkou?" Why do you look like that, with paint all over you?

Furthermore, kakkou 格好 can be used toward things, too, to talk about the appearance of an object. Or even to talk about actions, how it looks when someone does something.
  • kami no kakkou wo naosu
    To fix the appearance of the hair.
    To fix the shape of the hair.
    To fix the hair. (so it looks the way it was before.)
  • hen-na kakkou no boushi
    A hat of weird appearance.
    A weird-looking hat.
  • aruku kakkou ga omoshiroi
    The appearance of walking is funny.
    The way [he] walks is funny.

Kakkou wo Suru 格好をする

When kakkou 格好 comes before the verb suru する, it means "to make one's appearance [like this]" where "like this" is the adjective coming before kakkou. This often means "to dress up like" or "to put on an outfit," thereby changing your appearance. For example:
  • naguru kakkou wo suru
    To make it the appearance of hitting.
    • To make yourself look like you're going to hit someone.
    • To make a hitting pose. Like with your fists up and going to strike.
    • But not to actually hit anybody, just look like you're going to hit.
    • naguru 殴る
      To hit.
  • dansei ga josei no kakkou wo suru
    Men make it a woman's appearance. (literally.)
    • Men dressing up like women. (what it means in English.)
    • josei no kakkou 女性の格好
      A woman's appearance.
      Which looks like a woman.
    • Men will make it so that their kakkou is a josei no kakkou, i.e. that their appearance is a woman's appearance, that they look like a woman. This is also known as:
    • josou 女装
      Crossdressing. (wearing "female clothes," literally.)

Kono Kakkou, Sono Kakkou, Ano Kakkou この格好, その格好, あの格好

When the noun kakkou 格好 is used with the pronouns kono, sono, ano この, その, あの, it refers to a certain, specific kakkou. The exact way someone is looking.
  • kono kakkou この格好
    This appearance.
    This way how [it] looks. The way [I'm] looking.
  • sono kakkou その格好
    That appearance. (near.)
    The way how [you're] looking.
  • ano kakkou あの格好
    That appearance. (not near.)
    The way how [I] looked in the past.
    The way how [you] looked the other day.
    The way how [he's] looking.
  • dono kakkou? どの格好?
    Which appearance?
    Which way of looking?

A few examples:
  • kono kakkou wa hazukashii
    This appearance is embarrassing.
    This [outfit] is embarrassing.
    • Who would wear this?
  • sono kakkou de deru
    To leave in that [outfit].
    To enter the stage in that [outfit].
    • This could mean to leave home, etc. in that outfit.
    • Or to enter a stage, like in theater, in that outfit.
    • Or maybe even to enter a stage in the sense of going to fight monsters in that outfit.
    • Because deru 出る means a lot of things.

Konna Kakkou, Sonna Kakkou, Anna Kakkou こんな格好, そんな格好, あんな格好

When kakkou 格好 comes after konna, sonna, anna こんな, そんな, あんな, it refers to the general way someone is looking. The sort of way they look like.

That is, the difference between kono kakkou この格好 and konna kakkou こんな格好 is that kono kakkou refers to the exact look—"with this kakkou I'm wearing right now nobody will notice I'm an elf"—while konna kakkou means "this sort of" or "like this," it means there's something about the look, that another look would also have, for example: "why do I look like this? Wearing this weird outfit." Any weird outfit would be equally problematic.
  • konna kakkou こんな格好
    This kind of appearance.
    Looking like this. This way. Which is [bad]. (or good, maybe.)
  • sonna kakkou そんな格好
    That kind of appearance. (near)
    Looking like that. That way.
    The way you're looking like.
  • anna kakkou あんな格好
    That kind of appearance. (not ear.)
    Looking like that. That way.
    The way he's looking like.
    The way it looked like (in the past).
  • donna kakkou? どんな格好?
    What kind of appearance?
    What sort of look?

An example:
  • sonna kakkou de samukunai no?
    With that sort of appearance, isn't it cold?
    • Aren't you cold in that sort of outfit?
    • Aren't you cold wearing something like that?
    • The "sort of" refers to the fact the outfit doesn't seem warm. Any non-warm-looking outfit would raise the same question.

Kakkou-ii 格好いい, Kakkou-warui 格好悪い

When kakkou 格好 comes before the i-adjectives for "good," ii いい, and "bad," warui 悪い, it refers to the "impression" the appearance of someone, or something, leaves. Normally, kakkou 格好 is abbreviated to kakko カッコ in these words:
  • kakkou-ii 格好いい (格好良い)
    kakkou-yoi 格好よい
    kakko-ii かっこいい (カッコいい)
    kakko-yoi かっこよい
    Leaving a good impression.
  • kakkou-warui 格好悪い
    kakko-warui かっこ悪い (カッコ悪い)
    kakko-warii かっこ悪ぃ
    Leaving a bad impression.


The word kakkou 格好 can also mean "situation," the "state" or "condition" in which something is in. This is similar to the word joutai 状態, except that kakkou is used when things end up in a certain way, in a certain form, in a certain state, and when this happens it comes after an adjective or relative clause.
  • kaigi wa chuudan sareta kakkou ni natteiru
    It's becoming so [it's] a state [in which] the conference was suspended.
    • The conference was suspended, is the situation it became.
    • The conference was suspended, is how it turned out.
    • kaigi wa chuudan sareta
      The conference was suspended.
    • The phrase above was a relative clause qualifying kakkou:
    • kaigi wa chuudan sareta kakkou
    • A state [in which] the conference was suspended.


Another way kakkou 格好 is used is to say "suitable." This happens when kakkou is used as a na-adjective, or, more commonly, as a no-adjective. Synonyms include tekitou 適当 and fusawashii 相応しい.
  • kakkou-na nedan 格好の場所
    kakkou-na basho 格好な場所
    tekitou-na basho 適当な場所
    fusawashii basho 相応しい場所
    Suitable place.
    A good place (for doing something).

The difference between kakkou-na and tekitou-na is that tekitou can mean "anything that's good enough." In other words, tekitou usually means "suitable" in the sense of "whatever. It works," The bare minimum. While kakkou means one suitable, proper place. In the good sense.
  • tekitou-na basho 適当な場所
    Whatever place you think is good. (do it there.)
    • Just park it wherever. So long as you can park it it's good.
  • kakkou-na basho 格好な場所
    This is a good place for doing it.
    • This is a great place to park. It's under a shade. It's close. Nobody else is parked around. Good place to park, I say.

The difference between kakkou-na and fusawashii is that fusawashii usually means something is "suitable" in the sense that it's worthy of something else. Sometimes this can mean that the something else is very good, like a king, for example, and it requires something as good and magnanimous as it. Other times it means it's bad, and fusawashii is something as bad as it.
  • fusawashii basho 相応しい場所
    A place that suits what we're going to do.
    A place that suits him.
    A place that suits him, the king. A very good place.
    A place that suits him, that scum. A very bad place.

恰好 vs. 格好

The word kakkou 恰好 is the same thing as kakkou 格好. It's just the same word written with a different kanji. The meaning is literally the same. There's no nuance or anything.

The reason this happens is because kakkou 格好 was originally written as kakkou 恰好, it started being written as kakkou 格好 instead after the Japanese language reform which occurred after the war.

For context: in the reform, the Japanese government chose around 2000 common kanji which it deemed essential, called the Touyou Kanji 当用漢字, "present-use kanji."

Such kanji would be learned and taught in school, and everybody—journals, books, manga, TV, etc.—would have to refrain from using less common kanji which weren't included in those 2000.

恰 was one of those uncommon kanji.

Since the media couldn't write 恰 anymore, they had to write kakkou as either kakkou かっ好, mixing hiragana and kanji, which looks like an orthographic aberration, or they'd have to replace 恰 with a touyou kanji, which is easier.

They replaced 恰 with 格, and that's why kakkou can be written in two ways:
  1. 格好
    The modern way.
  2. 恰好
    The original way.

Since 格 was chosen because it sounded like 恰, that makes kakkou an ateji 当て字 word, I guess.

Furthermore, the Touyou Kanji was replaced by the more modern Jouyou Kanji 常用漢字, "normal use kanji." But 恰 isn't in a Jouyou Kanji either so it's really not used anymore.

For reference, some other words that had 恰:
  • choudo 丁度 (恰度)
    Exactly. Precisely. Perfectly.
    • Just what I needed!
  • atakamo あたかも (恰も)
    As if.
    • Just like if.

As you can see, the meaning of the kanji was "just."

Indeed, the original meaning of kakkou 恰好 was the "suitable" one. The meanings regarding appearance of things came later.
  • atakamo yoshi
    As if good.
    • 好し instead of 良し means it's "good" in the sense of "preferable."
  • choudo yoi
    Precisely good.
    • Just the way I want.

Further Reading


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