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I came across the term “漫画研究会” in one short story, and I have been trying to figure out a good way to translate it.

“漫画” (manga) is not too difficult to translate. I simply translate it as “comic books”. Why? Because the short story takes place in a Japanese high school and it means “comics” in the Japanese language. Not to mention that “comic books” is often implied in the term.

“研究会” (kenkyuukai) is a term that is challenging to translate. Why? Well, here is the Japanese Wikipedia article on 研究会. The article may be missing sources, but it shows the various ways you can use the term.

  1. Learned societies (also called learned academies, scholarly societies or academic associations)
  2. Meetings of intellectuals that have been set up by administrative organs.
  3. Groups of professional Game of Generals (Shougi) players.
  4. Specialized training colleges (also called vocational schools, technical schools, professional schools, special schools, trade schools and so on).
  5. The names of Public Interest Incorporated Associations and Public Interest Incorporated Foundations.
  6. Policy organizations and political groups (6 people or more).
  7. The names of parliamentary associations, groups (2-5 people) and factions in political parties.
  8. Groups that engage in club activities (also called extracurricular activities or circle activities).

According to Weblio, 研究会 has the following translations: “workshop”, “society for the study of X”, “research society”, “study class”, “study group”, “seminar”, “scientific meeting”, “research meeting” and so on.

The short story that I mentioned at the beginning takes place in a high school. I think that “research meeting”, “scientific meeting”, “seminar” and “workshop” are not the right terms in this context, because those terms make more sense in a university as opposed to a high school. The terms “society for the study of X” and “research society” sound like groups that would have adult members, not high school students. The term “study class” makes it sound like it teaches about a subject for a period of time before giving an examination at the end of it. I think “study group” might fit the bill.

Moreover, in the story, it talks about the Culture Clubs and the Sports Clubs. Apparently, the 漫画研究会 is considered one of the Culture Clubs.

I think 漫画研究会 is translated as “The Comic Book Study Group” or “The Comic Book Club”.

Am I on the right track with this? I would greatly appreciate your feedback on this matter.

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You're on the right track. 研究会 is commonly used as the name of a culture (文化系) club at high school, and no one thinks 漫画研究会 (or 漫研 for short) refers to a serious academic society. Usually "Comic Book Club" should be enough.

However, there's one catch; depending on the school, the name 研究会 (or 同好会, 愛好会, etc) may be used to refer to a smaller group which is not large enough to qualify as a "proper 部" with a financial support from the school. For example, please read chiebukuro questions like this and this. You said this 漫画研究会 is one of the (proper) culture clubs, so this distinction may not be important in your story. If the difference is important, perhaps "circle" is a good candidate as the translation of 研究会 (see this for example).

僕の学校では
研究会⇒同好会⇒部活動 と昇格する形です
研究会は出来たばかりの団体です。
実際の違いは部費が出るかどうかです。
(typo corrected by me)

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  • Thank you very much for your answer! It took a while, but I managed to read the questions and answers in the links. It was quite educational. So it looks like 研究会 are newly formed groups. They have fewer members, are unofficial, and members pay out of their pockets. Yes, I think I have a better understanding of the term in a high school setting. – Micheal Gignac Jan 31 '20 at 23:44
  • @MichealGignac Please note there are also many schools that do not have such a distinction. You said 漫画研究会 in your story may be a legitimate (文化系の)部, and that is also perfectly understandable. – naruto Feb 1 '20 at 2:42
  • That is true, and it is fascinating to see the difference between how things work in fiction and how things work in reality. – Micheal Gignac Feb 1 '20 at 21:52
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Actually you're right From my understanding 漫画 refers to "manga", 研究 refers to "laboratory", the prefix "会" means "gathering" or "meeting" (of a group with very few members, not big enough to be called "Club") but when used after 研究 you could literary translate it as "Manga laboratory group" or "gathering of Manga appreciation" Japanese schools use "部" as suffix to refer to an activity club i.e. 古典部 ("Kotenbu" , classic literature club).

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  • Thank you very much for your answer! I think I understand the difference between 研究会 and 部 better now. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but are you sure “部” is not a suffix? – Micheal Gignac Jan 31 '20 at 23:48
  • You're correct, updated my answer. I mentioned "部" as prefix, when it's actually suffix just like "会" – MJShinichi Feb 3 '20 at 6:15

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