Furigana in mangas

I started reading the manga Bakuman. Below is a screenshot of the page

The first word of the first line and the last on the second line would be read according to jisho as

  • 社会「しゃかい」but is written as 「そこ」
  • 人間「にんげん」but is written as「やつ」

and in a panel above it says 画面, which was written in the furigana as 「モニター」 but I learned as「 がめん」. This last one ‘gave it away’ in the sense that it seems the furigana is trying to convey the meaning in the shape of a word (anglicism) that the shounen reader might already know, since the kanji are maybe above their pay grade? Not sure at all.

So my question is whether these are indeed correct furigana but somehow non-standard (but not sure how 人 could ever become や as written in the furigana) or what the heck is going on here.

P.S.: What’s the わかで at the end of the last line?

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It’s an often used style element in Japanese. You will find it not only in manga but in novels and books as well. Since there’s a standard with furigana to show a reading for a word you can have “double” meanings.

Normally you can imagine the character “saying” the furigana and the word under the furigana giving aditional meaning to the word.
It can be a bit disorienting when one is a beginner. The readings you found for the words are the actual readings of these words.

For example そこ is what he is thinking (I think thats a thinking bubble at least?) and 社会 is to make sure the reader is understanding what is meant. In english you would probably achieve a similar result by writing something in braces “There (in society) …”

It’s 訳(わけ) . A word that means something along the lines of reason Jisho.org: Japanese Dictionary but is hard to translate. The sentence ends in で without a proper ending, possibly connecting this sentence to the next one or leaving a thought half completed.


Thanks for the reply! I’m afraid I don’t fully understand. Are you saying ましろ says

そこでもトップに躍り出るのは …
Even there jumping to the top …

and by そこ he means

社会でもトップに躍り出るのは …
Even in society jumping to the top …

This is completey new to me! It seems very strange to me because I always thought the furigana are trying to ‘help’ or ‘teach’ you what the kanji meant? In advanced texts, this could convey a whole textual layer of irony or double entendres or what not? Or is it less used as a stylistic device and more as actualy proper explanation, like the parenthetical you mentioned?

TIL, jesus, man. Mind blown, haha!

I’ve even seen furigana used on a hiragana word for this effect.


That’s only for beginners. If you get more advanced the furigana are exactly used for these kind of purposes you mentioned. (I have to mention if they use super rare words even japanese aren’t used to, they might use the furigana in an advanced text to show the normal reading, too!)

Or sometimes in “period” dramas they use old chinese words for the Kanji and have the english or Japanese modern word for the same thing in the furigana. 薬屋のひとりごと had lots of words like that. It drove me crazy. 巧克力 the chinese word for chocolate with チョコレート as furigana -.-


Indeed, here’s another example (from はたらく細胞):


「世界」 would be normally read 「せかい」、but here the furigana says「からだ」, because they are cells and their world is the human body in which they live.


In the manga Aria, set on a terraformed Mars in the twenty-fourth century, Earth is always referred to as 地球マンホーム. The vernacular has changed, see, so the manga needs to tell the modern-day reader that when they say “Manhome”, what they mean is “Earth”. Also the boats they use are always referred to as ゴンドラ, which can get a bit squishy when that’s used in a sentence. :slightly_smiling_face:


in a boxing manga i read recently, when they’re counting out a fighter who’s gone down, the kanji read 一、二、三 etc., but the furigana are ワン、ツー、スリー, and also 王者 with チャンピオン.

i get the strong impression that the kanji reflect the meaning, while the furigana reflect the words the speakers are actually using.

and with this, suddenly furigana become an awesome linguistic tool, i love it! :smiley:


That’s exactly it - and when you think about it, that’s exactly what furigana are, not so much “this is the reading for these kanji”, but “here’s how you say this thing”. What’s said is often the “proper” reading, but not always.

I recently shared an example of this from 極主夫道 too, which is where I first encountered it. That manga is full of things like that, because the main character speaks like a yakuza trying to rob you but is actually just trying to buy a rice ball, so the normal writing reflects his intent while the furigana are full of yakuza slang. It’s used for others with double meanings too, like a salesman talking about elderly people but meaning easy marks (as in gullible people who will buy whatever he’s selling them if he’s pushy enough).


Thanks for all the great examples. This is really surprising to me, haha!

Counting 一、二 as ワン、ツー etc makes sense or the example with earth being ‘manhome’. It tries to convey some subtlety or quirk. The ‘world’ (世界) being the ‘body’ (からだ) is functionally a bit unclear to me, why they would it put that way. I wanna say it almost feels a bit patronizing, as if I wouldn’t get that they are talking about their world when they say ‘body’. Not trying to harp on a specific example, but I’m curious to what I will encounter in my journy!

Musing on this, I feel it’s a gold mine for postmodern literature. If you think about (anglophone) works like The Tunnel by William Gass or House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, they abuse notation, fonts, or page real estate to make a point, subvert, or tell alternative stories. Furigana are literally free real estate. Nothing would stop me to literally write a parallel story in the furigana line of a text or invert every yes with a no, like はいいいえ. Obviously this would be an abuse of notation but artistically I think there could be a lot going in there. If anybody knows of a more literary/literary theory angle about this, let me know~


Fantastic example!

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BTW, are those your handwriting / note-taking? They look nice, I think.


Just to add onto what downtimes said, わけ in this case draws a conclusion to what was just said. It’s not immediately clear, but there are two complete thoughts in the text: the first is「社会でもトップに躍り出るのは今から高い成績を取ってる人間」which roughly translates to “The people who shoot to the top of society are the ones who get good grades now”, and the second one is「もうランク付けはされているわけで」which roughly translates to “Hence why we’re already being ranked”.


Thanks, it’s far from the best, the pencil was pretty weak and hence it doesn’t look as sharp. I like to do excessive annotations in books (and mangas for that matter), but it took me a while to get over the fact that you ‘defile’ a sacred thing like a book with my own peasant hands, haha.

Thanks for the further clarification and translation, it makes a lot of sense now~


Getting “gondola” took a while :smiley: Good thing you mentioned the “boats”.

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Would it have helped if I’d mentioned it’s primarily set in a reconstruction of Venice called Neo-Venezia? :slightly_smiling_face:


Nah, that would be super easy mode, it was a nice guessing game like this :smiley:


It’s called 義訓 and it’s pretty cool. Gikun (義訓) - Morg Systems This guy made a good article about it


In one episode of Saiki K, I remember they used this exact thing for comedic effect to show how ridiculous things had gotten that people considered cigarette butts as diamonds.

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Mind. Blown. I am sooo glad I stumbled upon this post. Thanks everyone above for highlighting and explaining this!