Why Katakana (manga)

I’m reading 名探偵コナン1、and for many parts some spoke dialogue is in katakana, like 本当に or ダメダメ.
Any idea why?


There’s no single reason as to why a particular word might be written in katakana. There are many uses for katakana beyond loanwords (emphasis, expressing a foreign accent, etc), but it doesn’t have to necessarily fall into any of those. Sometimes Japanese people just use katakana for no particular reason.


To elaborate a bit, here are some common reasons katakana is used for non-loanwords, especially in dialogue or other informal contexts:

  • Emphasis (similar to bolding or italics)

  • It’s a word normally written in hiragana (often times due to having kanji that are more difficult to recognize or write than the word’s frequency makes practical), and falls in a spot where it would be surrounded by other hiragana, which makes the sentence difficult to read. Some native Japanese words (well … “native,” as in not contemporary loan words) have come to be popularly written in katakana this way, and some may just be rendered that way based on author choice or context. If there would be a long stretch of hiragana, chances are the author will pick one word to flip to katakana to give the reader a visual foothold. (Especially common with onomatopoeia adverbs, and not just in comics, but narrative prose as well.)

  • The author wants to show that the speaker is uncomfortable with the word’s meaning or pronunciation. It can be a flag for just “repeating the sounds,” without it really being part of the speaker’s natural vocabulary, the way, say, an incorrect but phonetically identifiable spelling might be used in English. Sometimes this is used for foreign accents, sometimes to show native Japanese speakers are just learning or have misheard a word. (I can think of recent examples I’ve read for each use.) Hiragana doesn’t convey the same feeling.

  • Any other reason at all/just because the author thought it looked neat.


With 本当に I’ll often see it as ホントに, probably to emphasize that it’s the spoken casual short variant.


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