To my understanding, 副 can be used "before a rank or title to indicate a slightly different or lower rank or title." so would I be correct in 副主人公 meaning either deuteragonist or secondary protagonist?

Basically I'm wondering what 副主人公 means, if I'm on the right track here or if it's a different term from those two.

  • When talking about written Japanese words in English, "reading" usually refers to the 読み【よみ】 or "pronunciation". But it sounds like you're asking about the meaning instead. Could you clarify what you want? Jul 22, 2022 at 5:03
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    I meant meaning, yes. My apologies, I'll edit. Jul 22, 2022 at 5:04

1 Answer 1


You are basically right, 副主人公 is close to deuteragonist although what exactly makes a character a 副主人公 is a little fuzzy.

All the characters listed in the link (like Doc in Back to the Future) should certainly be able to be called 副主人公.

  • I appreciate the informative response. A quick follow up question: As you say close, are there any qualities that differ between a 副主人公 and a deuteragonist or does the fuzziness come from some stories not having a clear choice for the role? Jul 22, 2022 at 7:28
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    @RelapsingOCDNut It is more about my understanding of deuteragonist, but if that means a role in a play that follows a strict protocol (like Greek drama), then 副主人公 can be more broad. It can simply refer to secondary characters who play important roles. One example I'd be unsure which is 副主人公 is (if you know) Death note: choice would be L or Luke, but it should be a matter of opinion.
    – sundowner
    Jul 22, 2022 at 7:34
  • The broadness perfectly explains the difference, thank you. Jul 22, 2022 at 7:35

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