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Weblio gives both the meaning of role or part (duty is there too as a less used meaning), so I assume the difference is on the nuances. In addition, 役割 seems to be much more used by Japanese natives than 役回り. The few examples I could find of 役回り carried negative connotations, either regarding duties or when it came to acting, it was used to refer to playing a villainous character. Does 役回り always have a negative meaning?

https://ejje.weblio.jp/content/%E5%BD%B9%E5%9B%9E%E3%82%8A

https://ejje.weblio.jp/content/%E5%BD%B9%E5%89%B2

1 Answer 1

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役回り is not necessarily negative, but it's something passive. 明鏡国語辞典 defines 役回り as:

やく‐まわり【役回り】

役の回りあわせ。割り当てられた役目。

(※回り合わせ = twist of fortune)

That is, you don't actively take some 役回り, but you passively (or sometimes randomly) end up being assigned to some 役回り. No one wants to actively take a bad role, so it is true that 役回り tends to refer to negative roles. But 役回り can also refer to a good role assigned to someone, as you can see in the following examples in BCCWJ.

  • 各人が適材適所の役回りで対応している。
  • 各キャラが良い役回りを貰ってて楽しめますしね。
  • 色紙を仕上げる役を引き受けた訳だけど、とても幸福な役回りをもらったように思う。

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