Exploring the World of Anime

Riddle me this: Japanese title vs English title

Does it matter? Why or why not? Recently, I read an angry blog post (not on WordPress) regarding popular sites such as Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu using the English titles of anime over the Japanese titles. The poster opined that this made things confusing for people if they looked up a show. The poster believed that using English titles took away some of the authenticity of anime. He/she was perturbed that this was being done and felt that there was no need to use the English alternative titles.

I’m not a purist so I use the titles interchangeably. I may use a Japanese title such as Mirai Nikki over its English title; The Future Diary. The Japanese title sounds better and rolls easily off the tongue. To further my point, it looks prettier to me; simplistic reasoning, I know. Another example, I will refer to Kuragehime as Princess Jellyfish for the most part. Why? I stumble over the word Kuragehime so to avoid looking silly (in my head), I say Princess Jellyfish. I prefer the English title, it’s humorous to me and it makes a lot of sense after watching the show. I can understand wanting to respect the Japanese title. However, many anime watchers speak English and find it simpler to remember the title of an anime if they know the English title. It is beneficial to know the Japanese title because on many occasions I have encountered anime fans/otakus who give you the stare of death if you don’t know what they’re talking about. I am a bit reluctant to use a Japanese title in person because I am unsure if I am saying it correctly. Exhibit A: For years, I was saying Naruto incorrectly. I said it with my Southern drawl, Nah-ra-toe, dragging out that first part.  After being corrected several times politely at anime conventions, I finally realized that I was wrong. These people weren’t rude in correcting me, they would just repeat the word but say it differently. I had an “aha” moment when I noticed that these different people were saying it the same way; just not how I was pronouncing it.

Is it really that big of a deal?

And here is the post I was referring to which really seemed to be directed at ANN:


  1. Not a big deal, I would say…I usually use the Japanese title if I know it or remember it, but I don’t really care either way. It would be nice to have a consistency, though…sometimes you have no idea what show someone’s talking about if you don’t know the Japanese or English title. Either way, Hangyaku no Lelouch and Lelouch of the Rebellion sound equally cool to me.

    • “Either way, Hangyaku no Lelouch and Lelouch of the Rebellion sound equally cool to me.”

      That they do. Cool titles to match a cool show.

      • On the other hand, I didn’t realize that Gosick was supposed to be “Gothic” for the longest time.

      • Oh, man, Victorique (Victorica), the spelling of her name drives me crazy was the quintessential gothic lolita. What did you think it was supposed to be?

  2. There are those who will adamantly demand “authenticity,” and will make it an obsession. We like to refer to them as “crazy people.” 😉

    I want to say that it’s not wrong to use the English titles — I understand the reasoning – convenience, ease. But why not at least feature both titles?

    I have the new Sailor Moon translations and they’ve made a point of using the original Japanese names. The girls are also watching the US Sailor Moon, so I have to explain why there is a difference why Sailor Moon is Usagi here and Serena there. When I was heavily into anime, I generally always knew both versions of the title and characters.

    As for pronunciation … if you are going to use the Japanese, then yes, an attempt should be made to pronounce it properly out of respect for the culture it comes from. It’s not easy for everyone, but the important thing is to try.

    • Pronunciation is important. On the other hand, if a person is making an attempt to pronounce it when they have never heard anyone else say it, it is to be expected that they may or may not bungle it. When that happens, the person who knows the correct pronunciation should inform the “wrongdoer” the proper way in a respectful manner.

      • Yup. And that person shouldn’t be considered a “wrongdoer” in the first place. :-/

        Personally, I just prefer the Japanese. Anime is what inspired me to take Japanese in uni, afterall 😀

        It does bug me a little when the English name translates as something (completely) different. “Hana to Yume” -> “Please Save My Earth” remains one of my great life mysteries.

      • Absolutely not but that is how people make you feel when you don’t pronounce the title or a certain word correctly. You’re scoffed at and heads are tossed. Just tell the person the correct way gently.

        Some translations are horrible such as “Please Save My Earth” and you won’t see me using it. Some titles are too long in Japanese and in English. “Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai” = “We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw that Day.” Really?

  3. I almost always use the Japanese titles, though with some exceptions (I’ve actually NEVER come across anyone who calls Fullmetal Alchemist ‘Hagane no Renkinjutsushi’, for example). I’m fine with English names, so long as they’re fairly good translations of the original name. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien’s English title ‘Rumbling Hearts’ is an example of one title that makes me cringe a little inside, though. 😛

    • I’ve actually NEVER come across anyone who calls Fullmetal Alchemist ‘Hagane no Renkinjutsushi’

      You know what? Neither have I! That’s a good one. What does ‘Rumbling Hearts’ even mean? Sometimes there just cannot be a good direct translation.

  4. allamagoosa

    For me it seems to depend on which title I hear first. I don’t really care which title other people use, since I’m normally aware of both titles. I’m much more of a stickler about the pronunciation of character names, since to me those shouldn’t change based on language. Because no translation needs to happen there.

    • That’s a good point. I wonder if that is how it goes for a lot of people. Speaking of character names, I was a bit bummed with Disney changing Sho’s name to Shawn for the US adaptation of Arrietty. Sho is one of the simplest Japanese names I have come across.

  5. I do the same as you do but I also abbreviate some titles, for example, oreimo.

    I was unaware this was even a thing people got upset over. I can understand when they start changing up plot elements and such for the purpose of localization that people would get upset but throwing a fit over them using a title in english seems crazy to me.

  6. I have to agree with Allamagoosa: it all comes down to what I heard first. The biggest example of this I can think of is Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler. Because I was introduced to it well before it was officially localized into English, I learned how to pronounce and got comfortable with the tongue-twisting Japanese title. But because I work in a bookstore, and because the people I recommend manga to aren’t usually intimately familiar with Japanese, I pretty much always call it Black Butler. Now, things get a little different if the English name changes the meaning of the original Japanese, but even there it’s rarely something that I rage over.

    • Kuroshitsuji makes me laugh and I’m pretty sure its obvious why. I also prefer that Japanese title over the English title for a pretty shallow reason. Black Butler just sounds boring to me. I find it perturbing that there are so many raging over what I consider trivial matters. No need to rage, just enjoy these “Japanese cartoons”!

  7. Personally I think that sites like Crunchyroll and Hulu *really* need to make it so that people can search for either title. You have no idea how many times I’ve typed Nichijou into Crunchyroll’s search, only for it to go “Huh? What’s that? Oh… Don’t you mean ‘My Ordinary Life’?” I don’t care what they call it officially, but I’d like to be able to type the name that *everyone* on the internet uses for this show, so that I can quickly find and watch it. (Personally I think “Everyday Life” would have been a better English title anyways, but whatever.)
    Same with MyAnimeList. Several times, I wanted to look up some things for Polar Bear Cafe. But they don’t have it listed as that… Only Shirokuma Cafe. x_x This becomes extra-problematic if the Japanese title is really long and difficult for people to remember.

    I think English publishers need to be intelligent with these things. Looking on my shelf, I see Tokyopop’s (poor) release of volume one of “Kino no Tabi.” Why didn’t they call it Kino’s Journey? If your goal is to draw in more than a niche audience, don’t you need an English title? You got rid of the really nice Japanese cover art and replaced it with trendy-looking randomness, but you kept the Japanese title? x_x Guess that’s why they didn’t do well enough to make any more volumes. (SIGH.) Tokyopop also made the bizarre decision to change Hatenkou Yuugi (The Unprecdented Game) manga to the very silly title “Dazzle.” I doubt I’ll ever figure that one out. They did a great job with the dialogue though, so I can’t be too mad.
    The Bungaku Shoujo series was interestingly translated by Yen Press to “Book Girl”, which I think is probably a smart choice. (Yen Press in general does rather well with its translation work, I’ve noticed.) I think “Literature Girl” would have reminded teenagers of their English classes at school, which would be unappealing for most. Books are cool though, right? Well, at least to those visiting the book store. (And Yen Press did well with its covers too, I might add. They kept the original drawings, but created a new trendy design to fit in better on Western bookshelves.)

    I do wonder how it’s decided what title to be used. Did Funimation consider calling Mushishi “Mushi Master,” for example? And what possibilities were considered for something like Azumanga Daioh, I wonder? XD

    • “Literature Girl”? Haha. You’re right, I’m not sure people would have been attracted to that, either. “Book Girl” does sound more appealing. I’ve also wondered how they decide on some English titles. And how long does it take for them to come up with the title?

      I have noticed that CR and MAL switch titles like that. I am unsure of who is doing that. However, with MAL, I’ve found that the main title is the Japanese title and they have the alternative titles underneath the main image.

  8. This has never really been an issue to me, personally. Although I will admit that MAL constantly switching between the English and Japanese names on their database is a little annoying because it moves around where the manga/anime appears on my list and if I’m trying to find it (to check out if there are new recommendations or see a character relation or add a character relation or write a review), I have to go through my whole list looking for the new name (usually it’s the one I’m less familiar with). Although, MAL is better than Crunchyroll in that regardless of which title you search, it will bring you to the anime/manga.

    Naming convention-wise, I think it’s good that publishers translate the name. Outside of people with extensive Japanese knowledge, no one is going to know what “Kuroshitsuji” means (I didn’t. Well I knew it was black-something, but that’s not much help). “Black Butler” is a lot more welcoming to the regular person in that they get what the title means and it’s name that can catch their eye. (Obviously not everything can be translated, for example “Saiunkoku Monogatari” cannot be fully translated because Saiunkoku is a fictional name, so leaving that in the title is necessary a la “The Tale of Saiunkoku”).

    I find the authentic argument kind of weird. I mean, just by translating the actual manga, it’s no longer “authentic” as translation usually requires adaptation to the new language (Japanese grammar is different from English grammar, for example). So people getting angry that titles are also translated, are, kind of hypocritical no? If it’s a “I’m used to the Japanese title” thing, I can understand, but let’s not hide our preference behind arguments for “authenticity” right? 🙂

    • I hadn’t realized that it was an issue until I read the blog post. I have added a link to the blog in my initial post. I like to know the names of both and I prefer to be able to pronounce the Japanese title correctly. I have a preference for subs but I don’t fault anyone who has a preference for dubs. To each his or her own.

  9. I never really thought about it until you mentioned it. For me personally I don’t really care if the English title is used versus the Japanese one. I usually reference both interchangeably as well. I always thought the biggest issue for most anime viewers was the subs vs. dubs war. This is the first time I’ve heard of people getting annoyed with the use of the English translation title for an anime series instead of keeping the Japanese one.

    • I hadn’t heard it either until I read the blog post which I have now included in the post. I knew about the sub vs. dub wars and I do have a preference. However, I feel that it is all about personal preference because it is for enjoyment. The format in which a person enjoys it shouldn’t matter except to that person.

  10. I just use the one that I remember.

  11. The Cajun Samurai

    Personally, it doesn’t really matter to me which title is used, though I tend to use the English titles by default. My Co-Writer goes for the Japanese titles which sometimes throw me off. When I’m writing my reviews, I sometimes write the Japanese title with the English title in brackets; kinda like how I have my anime music organized on my computer. I have the Original Name (English Translation).

    • I think its good to be acquainted with both. Sometimes I have been confused by titles especially if I never heard the Japanese title. There are people who only use the Japanese titles. I’ve run into them at cons. It’s really just a matter of preference for me. Whatever works for you.

      • The Cajun Samurai

        That’s something I’m going to try and work on–using the original Japanese title more instead of the English one. Admittedly, CrunchyRoll isn’t helping me too much with that regard as all their titles are in English. For example, if you were to ask me “So, Josh, have you seen this weeks “Sakamichi no Apollon?” I would give you a perplexed look for a minute because I’ve been so used to reading the name of the show as “Kids of the Slope”. I’ll make that a mid-years resolution. 😛

      • Haha. Good luck. I’ve been making it a point to learn the Japanese names of shows. Not out of elitism but out of respect to the content.


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