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The line I first saw it in is:

大げさなジェスチャーは小さいころからのクセだ。見てるぶんには面白いので俺はあえて注意しない。

A few other examples I've found:

"遠目で見ている分にはいいけれど"

"見てるぶんには可愛いけど…こびとづかんになりたくはない。"

"Paris Photo [caption on photo of antiques on display]: 見てる分にはかわいい"

What does this construction (見ている分には) mean exactly? In a dictionary I've read, 分 has as one of its meanings "just as much as" and "in proportion to". So would 見ている分には mean "as much as (I'm) seeing" or something along those lines? Would "見てるぶんには面白いので" mean "It's interesting as much as I'm seeing it,so..."? That doesn't make much sense, though. Can someone enlighten me? [Edit:On second thought, maybe it's more something like: "To the degree that I'm watching, because it's interesting, I don't go so far as to pay attention" or "I don't at all pay attention to the degree that I'm watching because it's amusing."]

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As long as I am / If I was seeing (as an observer)...? Meaning #6 ぶんgoo辞書 maybe? –  Chocolate Dec 9 '13 at 11:41
    
That seems to fit best. I hadn't been aware of that usage. Thanks. –  ElSigh Dec 9 '13 at 12:16
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

This [分]{ぶん} expresses "one's intended or hypothetical partial involvement with something" in my own words.

見てる分にはいいけれど = (something) is good to look at but ~~

見てる分にはかわいいけど = (something) looks cute and all that but ~~

What these phrases imply is that the speaker is not willing to take further actions other than just watching the object. A must word for natural Japanese, really.

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Would a literal transalation of this 見ているぶんには equate to something along the lines of "as for the bit/part/thing that I am looking at” ? I have never studied the use of this word but that is the meaning I have always naturally inferred. –  Tim Dec 10 '13 at 13:50
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Not really. In your TL, it is the object that is being emphasized, isn't it? 見ている分には emphasizes the action -- the seeing. "It is ok for me to just see/watch/look at it, but I would rather not (further action) it." This is why the ~~分には form is almost always followed by けど、けれど、が、etc. and a phrase describing what it is that you would not like to do besides just watching it. This is what I mean by "partial involvement". You are speaking well of an aspect of something instead of totally denying it. A finicky eater might say 「日本料理は見てる分にはきれいだけど、食べるのはちょっと・・・。」. –  Tokyo Nagoya Dec 10 '13 at 14:30
    
It's difficult to feel that I intuitively understand how this usage of 分 relates to 分 meaning "part" and such, but in any case I now know how to interpret it, so thanks. –  ElSigh Dec 11 '13 at 6:49
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