I have some untranslated mangas that come in pairs of two, and each of them is labeled with 上 or 下 to denote which is the first volume and which is the second. I'm wondering if these labels are only used for pairs of two or can also be used for trilogies, maybe in the order of 上 - 中 - 下 perhaps, but I don't have access to library or bookstore for Japanese books to verify.

So, are the usage 上 and 下 as labels only limited to books/movies/etc that come in pairs of two?

p/s: On related note, in ダンゴ3兄弟, the eldest dango is 長男, the second is 次男 and the youngest is 三男. If they were actually ダンゴ二兄弟 instead, would they be labelled with 上 and 下 instead? I think I've heard "上の子" or "下の子" being said but I'm not sure if they are referring to the order of siblings or something else.


3 Answers 3


As Axioplase and rdb said, it is common to label a three-volume book as 上巻, 中巻, and 下巻, or simply 上, 中, and 下.

As for your second question, 上の子 (うえのこ; the older child) and 下の子 (したのこ; the younger child) can be used to distinguish two children (usually siblings) in informal context. If there are many children to talk about, you can even say 上から2番目の子 (うえからにばんめのこ; the second oldest child) and so on.

  • Minor question: in your second paragraph, 上 is うえ and 下 is した, right? (I might ask a separate question later about かみ and しも.)
    – Zhen Lin
    Sep 9, 2011 at 15:39
  • @Zhen: Yes, they are うえ and した. I added the readings in the answer. Sep 9, 2011 at 15:41

上 - 中 - 下 is common for trilogies, yes.

Then, no the nouns 長男、 次男、 三男 are fixed and show the rank. Unlike a story which comes in two parts, and where you (as the author) know that there will two or three parts, you don't know how may children you'll have. Moreover, it would be quite a pain for an absolute naming/ranking convention to be relative!

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    Tell that to Douglas Adams... Sep 9, 2011 at 7:39
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    I think I've heard "上の子" or "下の子" but not sure if they are referring to siblings or not ..
    – Lukman
    Sep 9, 2011 at 7:56

上巻, 中巻, 下巻, are all used. 中巻 is probably rarer because it's harder to write a trilogy than a two-parter. I don't really understand your second question. There's no 上 or 下 involved here. It's eldest son, second son, third son. 

  • He saw each of the sons as a part of a "trilogy" and probably thought that it meant "1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3". He thus wondered whether, like books, he could use 上下 for "1 of 2, 2 of 2".
    – Axioplase
    Sep 9, 2011 at 6:41
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    Oh, I see. Thanks. 上男, 下男. Übermensch und Untermensch. Ungeheimlich, そんなの.
    – rdb
    Sep 9, 2011 at 6:54
  • As well as trilogies, Japanese novels are very often, possibly typically, published in parts. For instance, Haruki Murakami's works were mostly published one part or two parts but ねじまき鳥クロニクル (The Wind-up Bird Chronicle) was published in three parts and was my first Japanese book with 上, 中, and 下. Sep 11, 2011 at 9:13

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