Matt Treyvaud examines the increasingly eccentric ways that anime studios use titles to differentiate seasons.
For a four-panel moeblob manga/late-night anime in the character-driven genre known only half ironically as “cute girls doing cute things”, Gochūmon wa usagi desu ka? is pretty standard fare. But its title is another story. The fact that the four-mora abbreviation of its title is Gochi-usa rather than, say, Gochūsa will surely play a significant role in future scholarship on the morphology of Japanese fanbbreviation. And the (official!) English title, Is the order a rabbit?, is the greatest use to which English has been put since that Peter Frampton talk box guitar solo. But what I really want to talk about is the punctuation.
You see, the first 12-episode season of the anime adaptation was just called Gochūmon wa usagi desu ka? But the second season, which began airing October 10, is called Gochūmon wa usagi desu ka??, with two question marks. Presumably the English version will follow suit: Is the order a rabbit?? Same content, but with a hint of hysteria creeping in at the edges — like a Hitchcock zoom.
This isn’t the first time that an anime production company has used this technique. The earliest example I am aware of is K-On! (2009) and its second season K-On!! (2010). Dog Days (2011) was followed by two more seasons, Dog Days’ (2012) and Dog Days” (2015). (These are pronounced “Dog Days Dash” and “Dog Days Double Dash” respectively, but a natural English translation would use “Prime” instead of “Dash.”) Working!! (2010) had two followup seasons combining these conventions: Working’!! (2011) and Working!!! (2015).
There are more cryptic examples too: Nisekoi (2014) and Nisekoi: (2015), Seitōkai Yakuindomo (2010) and Seitōkai Yakuindomo*, and Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (2010) and Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai. (2013). Oreimo also deserves some recognition for its mildly Beckettian video game title scheme: in translation, the first is My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute Portable, and the second “My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute Portable” Can’t Go On.
On one level, this is just a trend. Production companies have decided (or, perhaps, learned) that they need some way to signal to consumers that the current self-contained batch (“season”) is connected to but different from the previous one, and punctuation is in right now. In the past, other methods have been used — OG fans will recall that Sailor Moon was followed by no less than four variations: Sailor Moon R, S, Super S, and Sailor Stars.
But is it a meaningless trend? You can’t discount the influence of K-On!, I suppose — it was huge — but I think something deeper is at work. Differentiating seasons by punctuation alone is a way for anime studios to modulate their signals for fans alone, since anyone liable to notice an extra colon here or there is, pretty much by definition, a nerd. The form of the signal also sends its own message: this season is just like the last one, only more so.
The order can’t be a rabbit, it must be a rabbit, it is a rabbit.