Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Musical Note

In manga and anime, a musical note symbol, or onpu 音符, literally "sound symbol," is sometimes used when there's music in the air. That is, when someone is playing an instrument, or when they're whistling.

Example of smoke or dust coming out of a character steps, showing they're walking.
Manga: Ashita no Joe あしたのジョー (Volume 1, Page 109)


Musical notes aren't really common as a manga symbol. Often, the sound of musical instruments can be represented by onomatopoeia in manga, and in anime you can just literally play the musical sounds.

A case they may still be used nevertheless is when a character is whistling, which can mean they're feigning ignorance or pretending not to know or care about something.

Tenma Gabriel White 天真=ガヴリール=ホワイト, whistling, with musical notes drawn away from her mouth.
Character: Tenma Gabriel White 天真=ガヴリール=ホワイト
Anime: Gabriel DropOut, ガヴリールドロップアウト (Episode 3)
  • Context: Gabriel, after repeatedly trying to turn the air conditioner on and failing, now pretends she doesn't care about it. Instants later, she would attempt to ambush the air conditioner by suddenly pressing the remote control button.
  • A 3-shaped mouth is typically used when a character is whistling, by the way.


For reference, some vocabulary:

  • oto

  • ongaku
    Music. (the art form.)
  • kyoku

    A music. A song. A melody.

Terms for lengths of musical notes use the counter for "parts," bu 分. For example:

  • zen'onpu
    Whole note. Semibreve.
  • ni-bu onpu
    Half note. Minim.
  • yon-bu onpu
    Quarter note. Crotchet.
  • hachi-bu onpu
    Eighth note. Quaver.
  • juu-roku-bu onpu
    Sixteenth note. Semiquaver.

To say "whistling" in Japanese:

  • kuchi-bue
    Whistling. (using the mouth.)
    • kuchi

    • fue

    • fu ふ turns into bu ぶ due to rendaku 連濁.
  • fuku
    To blow air. To whistle


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