Representation of Japanese dialects in manga

While most manga are simply written in standard Japanese, it is no exception for there to be manga written in a certain Japanese dialect as well. Most of the time it is just a specific character that speaks this dialect due to his or her origin, but there are also manga completely written in a certain dialect, however rare this is. Since the Kansai dialect is the most widely known nonstandard dialect of Japanese, it has become a favorite with Japanese authors, manga and anime artists, and the like, as the choice for representing a somewhat "different" character from the norm. The use of the Kansai dialect is closely associated with manzai (a traditional style of stand-up comedy in Japanese culture) and comedy in general throughout most of non-Kansai Japan. This is due both to the prevalence of comedians from Osaka in Japanese media as compared to people from other cities and regions, and to the willingness of Osaka comedians to use their own dialect while on stage. Because of this association, speakers of the Kansai dialect are often viewed as being more humorous or wittier than average.

The focus in this article is not on the occasional usage of dialects in manga, but on manga that are almost exclusively written in a certain dialect. As mentioned before, the Kansai dialect is one of the most widely known nonstandard Japanese dialect, thus finding a manga in this dialect is not too difficult. One of those manga is_ ラブ★コン _(Love Com). Love Com is a love story between a boy and a girl in Sakai, Osaka. The notable thing about this manga is that it is almost exclusively written in the Kansai dialect. A few examples that are typical to the dialect are shown in the following examples: *  リサに彼女になってもらってラブラブな高校生活送るのが夢やねん。 Risa ni kanojo ni nattemoratte raburabu koukouseikatsu okuru no ga yume ya nen. It is my dream to have you as my girlfriend and spend a lovey-dovey life together in high school.

Judging from the beginning of each sentence, it might as well be standard Japanese, but at the end of each sentence something peculiar occurs. Those are not normal ways to end a sentence in standard Japanese, but are very typical ways in the Kansai dialect. Ya nen corresponds to nan da, seehen would be shinai, and ya de being da yo.

Sentences like these are prominent on every single page, and it is clear that this manga is written completely in the Kansai dialect. This is an accurate depiction of how it is spoken in the region, and it is safe to assume that most individuals that know standard Japanese are also capable to understand this variant of the Japanese language, or are especially used to it due to media exposure.

However, besides Kansai dialect, it is hard to come across manga written in another dialect, or at least completely in that specific dialect. This of course makes sense because the autor of a manga would want to target as large an audience as possible. But, that does not mean there are no manga written in another dialect. The manga Barakamon is one that comes somewhat close to this. The manga is about Seishu Handa, a professional calligrapher, despite his young age. When the elderly curator of an exhibition criticizes his calligraphy for being too unoriginal ("like a textbook"), Seishu gets angry and punches him. Because of this, his father sends him off for a retreat on Gotô Island, near Kyushu. There, he meets the colorful villagers, interacts with them, and begins to find his own style.

The title itself is already in the regional dialect, meaning energetic/cheerful one. While the Kansai dialect is popular and somewhat intelligible to a speaker of Japanese, the Gotô dialect can be much more different in some aspects. Most sentences in this manga are quite intelligible, but some sentences that are heavier on the Gotô dialect, can be quite puzzling at first sight when not familiar with dialects from this region. For example: *  オイが通らんかったら 七ッ岳郷まで 半日以上かかっぞ。 Oi ga toorankattara nanatsutakegou made hannichi ijou kakazzo. If ah hadn’t come by, might could take ya more’n half a day get ta Nanatsutake village!

When taking a look at this sentence alone, there are oddities left and right. The noun oi which would be ore and slight differences in conjugations that are specific to this dialect. Yet, it remains quite intelligible to the average Japanese speaker.

Most sentences in the manga in the Gotô dialect look pretty much the same as the sentence above, likely done on purpose by the author to not go too heavy on the dialect as that would make it harsh on the average Japanese speaker. So, in this case, while the sentences that show signs of the Gotô dialect do accurately represent the dialect as it is spoken in that region, the manga is not a great representation of it due to the restraint on the usage of the dialect.