We know 話 can be used as a counter for, including but not limited to, anime franchise episodes. But if I understand it right, 話 refers to an episode as a completed, ready-for-consumption work.

That doesn't seem to be the exact same case with 本 though, which, apparently, can be also used for similar purpose. In this interview they refer to episodes with 本 (random quotes):

中村 そうですね。『エヴァンゲリオン』でやったのは、その2本だけですね。


中村 多分、シリーズの最後の方だったら、3人3ヶ月で1本出来たかもしれないですけれどね。

But they also use 話 when they refer not specifically to a number of episodes that Nakamura's got to work on, but to an episode itself which is a part of a completed franchise:

小黒 もう1参加した弐拾四「最後のシ者」はどこを?

At the same time, we know that 本 is usually used in regards to movies, computer software, and video games. And here someone suggested an interesting theory as to why. If we were to base off of that theory, any episode is a collection of cuts, which in turn are compilations of cels with drawings (not really true these days, but whatever), and any episode also consists of lots of writing (including writing that precedes the drawings itself and sets the way they are going to be, essentially being the ソース), hence 本.

So my question is – am I right assuming that 本 is the counter that should be used specifically in the context of an episode production, but not when it's finished? If so, how come it is that way, providing the theory above is wrong.

Thank you.

3 Answers 3


You're on the whole right about 話, that it can be straightforwardly translated as "episode", which means, the counter represents the viewpoint of audience who enjoy the content of the work through the media regardless of its production form.

As for 本, it's difficult to give a generic explanation because it's a highly abstract word nowadays, but roughly has nuance to emphasize physical and tangible aspects when referring to an intangible work; somewhat similar to saying "a piece of work". In this sense:

一話見た ~ "watched an episode" ←→ 一本見た ~ "watched a video"

In this interview, I can easily imagine they use 本 visualizing their deliverable product to the TV station: an episode's worth of master film (or tape, or data on disk, or whatever). Though less probable here, 本 also can stand for a defined chunk of task or job, so some usages in the interview might be able to be interpreted in this way.


I might be wrong, but it seems that 話 is used for tv series mostly. 本 is for movies and stand alone/special episodes. As for why 本 is used as such, I can only guess, but maybe it originally came from the meaning of script(kind of book).

  • Wouldn't scripts be counted with 部?
    – Avery
    Oct 17, 2016 at 0:53
  • Not sure where you read that, but as far as I know 本 IS used for scripts and 部 can be used for newspaper and magazine copies. My knowledge is far from perfect, so if you read somewhere that 部 can also be used for script then maybe it's possible. Oct 17, 2016 at 1:07
  • They bring up a number of shows in that interview, most of them (if not all, didn't thoroughly read it) are TV series.
    – tereya
    Oct 17, 2016 at 1:10
  • Also, mind the quote with both counters being applied to essentially one and the same episode within the single sentence.
    – tereya
    Oct 17, 2016 at 1:14
  • I can't watch videos right now so I can't tell, but the line between script and episode is very thin. Like in 1 sentence the creator could say something like "it took me quite some time to create the 2(scripts) but the resulting 2(episodes) where quite nice". Since the words scripts and episodes are not used, it's hard to tell just from the counter what the real meaning is. Also the 2 evangelion episodes were special episodes not part of the main series so it would make sense they used 本. Oct 17, 2016 at 1:23
  • One stand-alone movie would be 一本 for sure.

  • 話 is for TV series episode, for sure.

According to the following samples, 1 DVD is sometimes (or often) counted as 一本, or 1巻.

(They are asking, [How many episodes in 1 DVD ?] )

  • detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp › ... › アニメ、コミック › アニメ 2011/05/28 - テレビアニメAirのDVDは一本に何話入っていて、何本ありますか? 二話ずつ入って六本だったと思います。

  • 銀魂のdvdって、一本に何話収録されていますか?今から全話レンタル ... detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp › ... › アニメ、コミック › アニメ
    基本1巻に4話収録されています。 ... シーズンその壱1巻は2話ですし、15分で1話の場合もあるので巻によって違います。 初めの頃の話は ...

  • detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp › ... › アニメ、コミック › アニメ 2016/04/08 - アニメ「氷菓」のレンタルDVDは1本辺りに何話収録されていますか??調べたら収録時間80分とあったので3話ずつでしょうか??? 各巻2話収録の全11巻です(全22話)収録時間の80分は映像特典を含めた物になります...

DVDって1枚、2枚と数えるのかと思ったが、商品になったら、 1本、2本、…  1巻、2巻、…  が多いのかもしれん。 

(Volume 1, 2)1巻、2巻、… というのは漫画コミック本の影響か?

  • Again, doesn't strike me as being either of the cases. Although all of that is true, yeah. The 本 for disk releases is touched upon in that yahoo question.
    – tereya
    Oct 17, 2016 at 2:15

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