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In cases such as [第二次全世界戦争]{だいにじぜんせかいせんそう} or [第二次]{だいにじ}スーパーロボット[大戦]{たいせん}, is [次]{じ} effectively just acting the way a number followed by st/nd/rd/th would in English?

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Yes, it is and and it is always preceded by both a 「[第]{だい}」 and a number.

In my own words, 「第N[次]{じ}」 is used to describe the ordinality of an unpredictable event of the same kind like a war or a boom.

We use 「第N[回]{かい}」 to describe the ordinality of a planned event of the same kind, such as an annual event.

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    二次会 does not have . Is that due to its somewhat informality? Also, for planned events, what about compared to like 第10周年記念日 or something? – istrasci Mar 17 '14 at 22:21
  • @istrasci Thinking about your question there a bit more, my guess would be that 周年 functions in a similar manner to "annual" in English (e.g. "10th annual spelling bee") – Kaji Jun 1 '14 at 8:31

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