Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Idea Light Bulb

In manga and anime, a "light bulb," denkyuu 電球, is sometimes used as a symbol when a character has an idea, an epiphany. In some cases, other sorts of lamps and electric lights are also used in parody.

Toshinou Kyouko 歳納京子, example of an idea "light bulb," denkyuu 電球.
Character: Toshinou Kyouko 歳納京子
Anime: Yuru Yuri ゆるゆり (Episode 8)


The idea light bulb it typically used when a character has an idea, but it can also be used when a character suddenly understands something.

  • aidea
    Idea. (katakanization.)
  • hirameki
    A revelation. A flash of inspiration. An epiphany.
    • hirameku
      To flash.
      To inspire.
あ! そうか!! きっと驚き過ぎて声も出なかったのね! じゃないと あの反応は説明がつかないもの!
Manga: Saiki Kusuo no Psi-Nan, 斉木楠雄のΨ難 (Chapter 13, Ψ色兼備!照橋心美)
  • Context: Teruhashi Kokomi 照橋心美, a bishoujo 美少女, tries to figure out why Saiki Kusuo 斉木楠雄 didn't react to her angelic beauty.
  • a! sou ka!!
    Ah! [I see]!!
    • I get it!! I figured it out!!
  • kitto odoroki-sugite koe mo denakatta no ne!
    [I'm sure that] [he was] so surprised that [he couldn't even say anything], [wasn't it?]!
    • odoroki-sugiru
      To be very surprised. To be extremely surprised. (compound verb.)
    • koe ga denai
      Voice can't leave [his mouth].
      [His] voice doesn't come out.
      [He] can't say anything.
      [He] was speechless.
  • janai to, ano han'nou wa setsumei ga tsukanai mono!
    じゃないと あの反応は説明がつかないもの!
    Otherwise, that reaction can't be explained!
    • janai to
      If not that. (conditional to)
    • ____ wa setsumei ga tsuku
      The explanation of [something] is settled. (double subject construction.)
      [Something] is explained.
    • mono
      Thing. (noun.)
      As a sentence ending particle, denotes the current sentence is a rationale. In this case, "the reaction can't be explained" is the reason why Teruhashi believes "he was so surprised he couldn't even say anything."

Different series with different art styles end up having all sorts of different light bulbs. Some examples:

Minami Kana 南夏奈, example of idea light bulb.
Character: Minami Kana 南夏奈
Anime: Minami-ke みなみけ (Episode 1)
Yoshida Ryouko 吉田良子 has an idea, example of idea light bulb.
Left: Yoshida Ryouko 吉田良子
Right: Yoshida Yuuko 吉田優子
Anime: Machikado Mazoku まちカドまぞく (Episode 1)
The head of Kurata Tome 暗田トメ turning into an idea "light bulb," denkyuu 電球.
Character: Kurata Tome 暗田トメ
Anime: Mob Psycho 100, Mobu Saiko Hyaku モブサイコ100 (Episode 3)

Sound Effect

Sometimes, an idea light bulb is accompanied by a sound effect starting in pi ピ. This effect isn't for the light bulb appearing, but a mimetic word for the light turning on.

Character: Nitta Akari 新田明
Anime: Jujutsu Kaisen 呪術廻戦 (Episode 22)
  • pikoon
    *sound effect of light turning on.*
細くて硬いから指切っちゃいそう ピーン
Manga: K-On!, Keion! けいおん! (Volume 1, Page 30)
  • Context: Hirasawa Yui 平沢唯, who started learning to play the guitar, tells her impressions about the guitar strings to Tainaka Ritsu 田井中律.
  • {hosokute katai kara} yubi φ kichaisou
    {Because [they] are thin and hard}, [it feels like] [it] will cut [my] fingers.
  • piin
    *sound effect of light turning on*

Idea Hand Gesture

A Japanese expression common when someone figures something out something or has an idea is the gesture of opening your palm facing up in front of you and then hitting with the other hand closed. For example:

Lubbock ラバック, , example of an idea "light bulb," denkyuu 電球.
Character: Lubbock ラバック,
Anime: Akame ga Kill!, アカメが斬る! (Episode 12)
  • te wo pon to tataku
    To hit [one's] hand with a "pon."
    • pon - the sound effect for this.

It's worth noting that, as an expression, the idea light bulb is considered to be quite old.

ピコーン ポン ひらめき方が古いな・・・
Manga: Barakamon ばらかもん (Chapter 1, ばらかこどん)
  • Context: Kotoishi Naru 琴石なる has an idea.
  • pikoon
    *light turning on*
  • pon
    *hand hitting other hand*
  • hirameki-kata ga furui na...
    [Your] way of [having ideas] is old, huh...

Other Idea Lamps

Using light bulbs as a symbol is a rather old expression, most people already know about it, so even if you don't use that type of light bulb specifically, the audience will know what you're referencing to.

To begin with, the icon used is specifically the incandescent light bulb, which is extremely inefficient at converting electric energy to light compared to other, more modern types of lamps.

Some vocabulary:

  • denkyuu
    "Electric ball." (literally.)
    Light bulb.
    • denki
  • hakunetsu denkyuu
    White heat light bulb. (literally.)
    Incandescent light bulb.
    • hakunetsu-kyuu
      (same meaning.)
  • mame-denkyuu
    Bean light bulb. (literally.)
    Miniature light bulb. Midget lamp
    • mame

      Bean. Pea.
      As a prefix: means something is small, miniature.
  • dentou
    Electric lights. (includes light bulbs.)
    • hi

      A light. A lamp.
      • chouchin
        A portable light. (literally.)
        Paper lamp. Chinese lamp.
      • keikoutou
        Fluorescent lamp.
        • keikoukyuu
          Fluorescent light bulb.
      • hi

        A fire.
        • hi

          The Sun. (which is made out of fire.)
          A day.
  • hikari

    Light. Illumination.
    • yami

      • hikari-mahou to yami-mahou
        Light magic and dark magic.
    • hikari wo hanatsu
      To emit light.

Nowadays we use this:

Aioi Yuuko 相生祐子, example of an idea "light bulb," denkyuu 電球, except it's a LED, light-emitting diode.
Character: Aioi Yuuko 相生祐子
Manga: Nichijou 日常 (Episode 1)
  • hakkou dioodo
    Light-emitting diode. LED.
    • hakkou
      Light emission.
    • hikari wo hassuru
      To let out light.

In fact, incandescent light bulbs are being phased out worldwide, so maybe there are generations of people that won't really know this sort of lamp. Some of the modern ones do have a similar design, though.

Going back in time, it was Thomas Edison that made incandescent light bulbs a reality.[Early Light Bulbs - ethw.org, accessed 2020-04-01.]

Although he didn't really invent them, the designs that existed previously were impractical due to various reasons. For example, using platinum as filament made it too expensive. One of Edison's attempts, using carbonized cotton filament, lasted only 13.5 hours.

The first practical light bulb, known as the Edison's light bulb, was made using a filament of Japanese bamboo, and lasted up to 1200 hours.

Chrome クロム, example of an idea "Edison's light bulb," Ejison no denkyuu エジソンの電球.
Anime: Dr. Stone, ドクターストーン (Episode 20)
  • {Nihon no take kara tsukutta} Ejison no denkyuu
    The Edison's light bulb, [which] {[he] created from Japanese bamboo}.

Just in case you're wondering how did people have ideas before the lamp was invented: they used torches, like the cavemen they were.

Manga: Dr. Stone, ドクターストーン (Chapter 35, 仮面の戦士)
  • Context: Suika スイカ has an idea.
  • piin!!
    *[torch] lighting up*
    • taimatsu

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