Ways to describe style in Japanese

By | July 5, 2016

When studying a foreign language, just because you can understand something doesn’t mean you have the requisite vocabulary and grammar knowledge in order to summarize it and talk about it’s content critically. In my Japanese studies, I’ve found that it can be frustrating to describe in any amount of detail something I’ve just read (novel, manga) or watched (anime, movie). It’s easy to start out with something like “とても面白かったです” but then it can be hard to figure out what to say next.

Over time, I’ve discovered some words that are valuable when you want to talk about the style of a work of art or other media. Here are a few of them:

世界観 (sekaikan)

This is one of my favorites, and comes from a compound of the word for “world” (世界) plus the character 観 which is used in the word 観る (miru), one way to say “to see” or “to view” when referring to things like movies or other entertainment.

One way to think about this term is “how one views the world” or “one’s outlook on the world”, but in the context of talking about some form of media, it can refer to the style of their works. After all, how the author views the world effects how they create and produce things.

  • これはデヴィッド・リンチの独特な世界観をみることが出来る作品です。
  • This is a work where you can see David Lynch’s unique style.

作風 (sakufuu)

This word is made from the character 作 which has a connotation of “create”, and from 風 which has a connotation of “style” (ex: インド風). The latter character also can refer to “wind” but that isn’t relevant here.

This word talks about the style of a work more concretely than 世界観.

  • その漫画家の作風は最近変わった。
  • That Manga artist’s style has recently changed.

文体 (buntai)

This word also means “style”, but as you might guess from the first character used, it refers more to style at the sentence level. A specific example of where 文体 could be used is talking about some written work that uses long sentences, or uncommon words.

  • この小説の文体が結構好き。
  • I really like the style of this novel.

絵柄 (egara)

This word, whose first character means “picture” and second “pattern” or “design” (among other things), is used to describe visual style.

  • この漫画の雑な絵柄は苦手。
  • I’m not a big fan of this manga’s rough art style.

表現力 (hyougenryoku)

This term is another one of my favorites, and comes from the noun 表現 (“express”, which can also be used as a verb with する) plus 力 which means “power” or “ability”. This can be used for nearly any type of art or media, from writing to music.

  • その画家は表現力が豊かですね。
  • That painter is very expressive.

描写 (byousha)

This word simply means “description” and can also be used as a noun with “する” to mean “to describe”.

  • 描写が 細かくてイメージしやすい。
  • The descriptions are very detailed and easy to imagine.


This term is a loanword from the English “real” and is used to mean “realistic”.

  • あの画像はライルで怖かった。
  • That picture was so realistic it was scary  (literally: “That picture was realistic and scary”)


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