Why Do Engrish Titles Only Sometimes Get Corrected For America?

by Justin Sevakis,

Ben asks:

My question is why are some Engrish titles in anime like "Still world is Beautiful" (changed to "The World Is Still Beautiful") and "Break Blade" (changed to Broken Blade) altered for their official English releases, while other titles like "Blast of Tempest" and "Riddle Story of Devil" kept for theirs? Doesn't anyone who work with the production committee mention to them that the title is not proper English?

Stuff like this always amuses me, because it's one of the times where I can picture the exact same thing happening if the languages and countries were swapped.

Let's pretend there's a giant manga otaku who also writes his or her own manga series, but is American. Let's call that series, "Kumiko's Blade." It's popular enough that it gets picked up by a Japanese manga magazine. Of course, that magazine is happy to do its own promotion, suggest a Japanese title, and all that good stuff, but the otaku took like three whole college Japanese courses while pursuing their art degree, and they already gave the manga a Japanese name. In fact, they used it all over their American release artwork. The phrase "久美子の葉身" is everywhere on all of the promotional art.

There's only one problem. The otaku meant to write, "久美子の剣". 剣 means "sword". But instead of using a dictionary, the otaku used an online translator to translate the word "blade" and instead it gave them the kanji for a blade of grass (葉身). Since the manga is entirely about sword fighting, it's really obvious that this is a translation mistake, and the Japanese publisher tries to politely suggest the correct spelling.

Now, depending on the personality of the artist, they can do one of three things. If they're a stubborn or defensive sort of person, they can say, "NO, THAT WAS TOTALLY INTENTIONAL. Do it the way I wrote it! I know the Japanese!" Or if they're a little more humble but just too busy to deal with what will doubtlessly be a big pain in the butt, they might say, "Oops. Yeah, that was obviously a mistake, but it's too late now. It's not that bad, right? I mean, 'Kumiko's Blade of Grass' is kind of a pretty image."

Or, they can own up to it and go, "dammit, you're totally right. I should've asked someone who actually knows Japanese. Go ahead and change it." The latter is clearly the expected course of action, but we are talking about creative people here. Not all of them qualify as such. Or perhaps they took the initiative and already applied for trademark protection for the old name.

From the level-headed ones, we were spared such titles in North America as "Erementar Gerard," "Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere," "Merchant Meats Spicy Wolf," and a handful of others. (Okay, that last one was a tag line, but it's too funny not to include.) But we still got such gems as, "Mirage of Blaze," "Show By Rock!!," "She, The Ultimate Weapon," "Hi sCool! SeHa Girls," and -- yes -- "Attack on Titan."

What are some of your favorite awkward English titles, either ones that made it out here, or the ones that stayed in Japan? Let us know in the forums!

Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!)

Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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