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Sort of hinted by a recent question How would one express an opinion from the perspective of an inclusive group? .

Japanese titles in books, songs, shows, etc. are accompanied with a title (status) or an apposition when there is a name. It happens so often, as if it is a rule.


Sometimes, it is accompanied with an onomatopoeia, an interjection, or some short word.


Why did it happen to be like this?

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Dr.スランプアラレちゃん is different from the other titles listed, because Dr.スランプ (a nickname for 則巻千兵衛) and アラレちゃん are two different people. – Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 9 '12 at 23:54
@TsuyoshiIto That is right. Thanks for pointing it out. – user458 Jun 10 '12 at 3:49
It happens in other languages as well, though, right? For example, these type of titles can be found in English... often used when trying to honor (or criticize) a certain person. It seems to be something that is used for some sort of humorous effect. – summea Jun 10 '12 at 6:00
@summea I don't see any honor, criticism, or humour in these titles. – user458 Jun 11 '12 at 1:45
@sawa Maybe we will agree on something, someday. – summea Jun 11 '12 at 3:29
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think there is some truth in your assertion. However, I do think that the answer is not simple as there are many factors involved:

  1. I know for a fact that Japanese titles strive to be easily understandable and try to help give the reader hints about what the story is about. It is true that you can see examples in other languages also, however I would argue that there is a greater tendency to do this in Japanese culture. For example, there was a Disney film titled Up in English. When this was localized in Japan, the title was changed to カールじいさんの空飛ぶ家. In English, you can maybe guess a little bit about the movie, but the Japanese title definitely gives you a much clearer picture. I also guess that in English, there is greater tendency to leave the reader to guess what the story is about to make them curious, whereas in Japanese culture, people may be more inclined to ignore something if they don't know what it is about right away.

  2. Also, another cultural phenomenon is Japanese culture tends to focus more on individuals more than other cultures. For example, even to this day Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu, etc. are very popular historical figures, and there are countless moves, books, video games about them. Now, it is true that all cultures have a notion of this, however, I would argue that this is more prevalent in Japanese culture. I realize that all the examples do not fit this pattern, but most of the titles have a name of a person in them which I think shows that the stories often focus on individuals.

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I would go further: if it's been done like that until now, then don't do it differently. As for why it started, I guess it's because of the importance the Japanese culture seems to attach to specialisation (i.e. status, group membership, etc). – Axioplase Jun 25 '12 at 2:33
I agree that Japanese titles tend to be explanatory and descriptive and to have a kind of proper noun. However, actually, I couldn't find enough examples starting a title (status) of a person or group, except for anime/manga and kids stuffs. How many adult novels do you find that follow this rule? – Gradius Jun 25 '12 at 6:35
カールじいさんの空飛ぶ家 is work for children. That is a point. Here is a listing of famous Japanese movies. This is another. I can hardly see such a rule. Can you? – Gradius Jun 25 '12 at 16:49
@Gradius: I agree with you that there is no rule. Rather, on a very deep level, Japanese titles tend to be more easily understandable and also focus on individuals more. Also, you are right in that I don't see this trend in adult novels, perhaps because they are directed towards a more sophisticated audience. – Jesse Good Jun 25 '12 at 21:13

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