Why Are So Many Anime's English Titles Total Nonsense?

by Justin Sevakis,

Yen asks:

What group usually originates a show's English title? Some shows seem to have indecipherable word salad titles that almost too obviously come from the original Japanese team. And while truly graceful titles sound like they're the product of native English speakers (Kids on the Slope, Sunday Without God), I'm definitely willing to believe that quite a few come from Japanese writers as well.

Your sense is pretty much on the money. The official English names for anime tend to be something of an afterthought during the production process. At some point while the international sales offices are preparing to simulcast the show overseas, someone will inevitably ask what the English title will be. A few people might come up with a list of suggestions based on the Japanese title, and ideally somebody at some point will ask a more marketing-savvy native English speaker for their thoughts. Of course, this is all assuming the originally intended title wasn't already in English, however wonky it might be.

Ultimately the question gets punted back to the original creator, or "gensakusha." This person may or may not actually have a decent grasp of English, but often they think they do, and they might ignore everybody's advice and come up with something that's basically the grammatical equivalent of a 3-year-old pounding on a QWERTY keyboard. There's a chance that, later, somebody might be able to persuade them to change their minds, or point out obvious errors. (Anybody remember Elemental Gelade? It's original English title was "Erementar Gerad"! I love trying to say that out loud.)

People who grew up used to Japanese seem to be much more comfortable with using language in unconventional, playful ways than native English speakers. That's why you get weird things like periods in titles (Kobato., The "Hentai" Prince and the Stony Cat.), uncommon punctuation (Tokyo Ghoul √A, _summer, ∀ Gundam), weird outdated slang (Bodacious Space Pirates) and just plain gibberish (Cool Cool Bye). Checking the internet, it looks like the general favorite nonsense English anime title is "Bleach," a cleaning agent that has absolutely nothing to do with the show or its subject matter. Definitely head on over to the forum to tell us your favorites!

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Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for nearly 20 years. He's 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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