If you’ve ever browsed for manga, you may have noticed that a lot of them come with titles that are weird, long, or weird and long. Case in point: as I open the main manga page on Amazon right this moment, without even navigating to other pages or expanding for more results I am seeing titles like The Ideal Sponger Life (?) and I Was Reincarnated as the 7th Prince So I Can Take My Time Perfecting My Magical Ability (??).
So where do these wackadoo titles come from? First off, let’s talk about titles in general. In Japanese popular culture, it’s fairly common practice for titles and names to be quite long, basically a full sentence in some cases. Not just limited to manga, you’ll see this for anything from movies and TV shows to song titles and even band names. You might be thinking, how does one remember any of this, then? Well, the nature of the Japanese language makes it extremely easy to abbreviate anything, usually down to two to four syllables. Not just for all the examples I’ve already listed, but for literally everything, like companies and universities, government policies, celebrity names, whatever else you can think of. It’s so ingrained into the language that in Japanese, we’re often speaking in mostly abbreviations without even noticing.
So back to the topic at hand: I’ve found that many bizarre manga titles are a result of this trend in Japanese culture. Although those long Japanese titles would be abbreviated into something concise and catchy in the native language, translating over to English inevitably creates this phenomenon — one that has always given me much amusement. Combine this with cultural references or colloquialisms that don’t quite transfer when translated, and now we find ourselves scrolling through all kinds of funky titles on manga sites.
So just for funsies, I decided to grab a random sampling of some of these funkily-titled manga and read them with minimal additional knowledge about them. Here’s how it went!
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime by Fuse and Taiki Kawakami
If you want to find as many ridiculous manga titles as quickly as you can, look no further than the isekai genre, home of all the weird titles — and weird plots, too. From As a Reincarnated Aristocrat, I’ll Use My Appraisal Skill to Rise in the World to Drugstore in Another World: The Slow Life of a Cheat Pharmacist to The Other World’s Books Depend on the Bean Counter and countless others, there is no shortage of wild picks. I’ll admit I’m not the biggest isekai fan, so I decided to go with something fairly well-known and popular and chose That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. It’s the story of a salaryman who is killed in a random attack and then reincarnated into a fantasy world as a slime, where he develops myriad magical abilities and eventually unites various other creatures to build a new nation.
You could not get a title more self explanatory than this. I got exactly what I was told I would get, and there’s certainly something to be said about that. As I mentioned before, I’m not too into isekai generally, so the title alone wasn’t necessarily compelling enough to get me to read the manga without the fact that I was doing this particular project, but I imagine it could be if one had more interest in the genre. Once I picked it up, it was a quick read and I definitely caught myself giggling at some of the humor and witty quips, but in terms of personal preference, I don’t think I’d pick up Volume 2.
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas by Yoru Sumino and Idumi Kirihara
Don’t even try to tell me this title does not forcefully seize your attention and continue to live in your brain forever rent-free. Or is that just me? I first heard of this manga five years ago when the live action movie adaptation was coming out, and the title has had a hold on me for that entire time. Yes, I have found out little bits about the story (particularly the fact that it is not about cannibalism) over the years, but this was finally my opportunity to get the full picture and figure out why in the heck this is the title.
Originally, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas was published as a serialized web novel, and the story spawned various popular adaptations, including the manga. It follows a quiet, loner high school boy who accidentally finds out his classmate, Yamauchi Sakura, has a terminal pancreatic disease and is keeping it a secret from everyone in school. The phrase “I want to eat your pancreas” comes up within the first few pages, with Sakura playfully saying it to our protagonist, explaining that ancient peoples with diseased organs would eat the corresponding organs of animals, believing it would heal them. After a few interactions, the boy is inexplicably drawn to Sakura’s vibrant, bubbly personality that is so different from his own, and Sakura finds it freeing to spend time with someone who knows her secret. And thus an unlikely friendship develops. Turns out, I’m a sucker for unlikely friendships (and emotions!), so I devoured the entire manga and frankly regret not investigating it sooner.
Y’all, I hate this title. It just sucks so bad. But I figured a title that made me react so horribly would probably be a great addition to this little experiment (because science!!), so here we are.
Adachi is an awkward, unassuming salaryman who hasn’t had any experience in the romance department. In this world, if you’ve never had sex by the time you turn 30, you gain the magical ability to read the mind of anyone you come into physical contact with. Through this newfound gift/curse, Adachi finds out that his super popular and handsome coworker Kurosawa has a huge crush on him! Despite my initial feelings about the title, I found the manga itself to be a fairly cute BL story, and would definitely be open to picking up the second volume to see how things progress.
I Am a Cat Barista by Hiro Maijima
I first saw this manga title without the cover for reference, and it had my mind racing for a hot moment about what it means to be a barista for cats. When I caught a glance at the cover five seconds later, things were definitely cleared up, but I was already on board. A special cafe run by a human-like cat helps to heal and recharge people’s weary souls. Akin to Cat Massage Therapy, also about cats rejuvenating people, this is a light and cozy read.
Yet again, this is a title that, though somewhat odd and clunky, does tell you basically everything you need to know from the getgo. An additional fun dimension to it, though, is that it is a play on the Natsume Sōseki novel I Am a Cat. It’s particularly obvious in the original Japanese, where the title uses the same formalized variation of “I” and everything.
I Want to Be a Wall by Honami Shirono
An asexual woman whose interest in romance only extends to her passion for BL manga and a closeted gay man who has been in love with his childhood friend for years get married to each other in a marriage of convenience. Both have always felt too different from the people around them and believed they had to hide their true selves to be accepted. What unfolds as they begin their life together is a beautiful, supportive friendship between two people who have finally found someone who will be in their corner no matter what.
Let me start out by saying I was completely charmed by both main characters and absolutely adored the relationship between them portrayed in this manga. I definitely found the title to be bizarre at first, and though it wasn’t explained in the manga itself, further investigation led me to find that in Japanese, “I want to be a wall” is a common phrase used by fujoshi (people like our female protagonist) to express their relationship to BL. BL is a form of media that allows them to look at a love story from the point of view of an inanimate object (like a wall), as opposed to projecting themselves onto a character. And that’s enough for them. In fact, that’s all they want — to be a witness to a story, but not part of it.
So what did I learn from my little experiment? To be honest, I was mostly just reminded of how fun it is to pick something up and read it without thinking too much or knowing a whole lot about it going in. And in regards to the manga themselves, when I started out on this reading adventure, I initially thought of it as more of a silly game and was judging the titles on how strange and clunky they were. But what I had been overlooking is how all of these titles, like the titles of any books or other media, are chosen because they do have meaning. Though many of these titles could definitely be snappier, it turns out that in the end they all did make a whole lot of sense, and I think I’d like to continue experimenting with random titles just as a fun reading exercise in my everyday reading life (and I encourage you to try it out as well!).
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