累 vs 細 - the Movie Method

After Anki, the best thing to happen to my Japanese is the Movie Method. Once kanji stopped being intimidating and began to feel like a tool, Japanese really started to “click.” But as much as I love the Movie Method, it does have its occasional quirks.

Yesterday I was reading something and saw this character: 累. I thought, “okay, brain and camera (these are my components for 田 and 糸 respectively)… That gives me ‘dainty’ (duly remembering the scene I chose from 花より団子).” Great! Except… I was completely wrong! I had confused 細 for 累.

So how do you handle this situation with the Movie Method?

I already have a scene for 細, so now I want to learn 累. The natural thing to do is to build on what I already know. The natural thing is wrong! If I create a scene with, say, a brain on top of a camera, I will get confused. A month from now when I see the character, I’ll only remember brain and camera, and I won’t remember the nuanced difference between a “brain and camera” vs. a “brain on camera.” Instead, I’m going to choose a completely different component to use to remember this new kanji. Brain on camera kind of makes me think of one of those War of the Worlds machines, so I’m going to choose this as my component for 累.

Okay, so now you’re probably thinking this is dumb because I’ve just created a new component which is the same as the whole kanji anyway. This is true, but it is worth it! It’ll be easier for me to keep these 2 similar-looking kanji separate (this is especially true when I’m trying to write the character from memory). And if there’s ever another kanji that uses this new component (and there always is!) then I’ve already done the ground work and it’ll be easy to learn. It scales.

This is a long post about something that feels quite pedantic, even to me. But I think it’s something which is both unintuitive and critical to making heisig/movie method work.