Bungou? Mango? On a Particular Pun in Kakushigoto

This season, it’s probably going to become apparent to anime fans that bungou means “literary master”.


Thanks to Scott and Voyager for feedback on this image. (Image sources: Kakushigoto key visual, Kafuu Nagai from Bungou to Alchemist, Dazai and Chuuya from Bungou Stray Dogs)

In Kakushigoto episode 1, the title character is called a “mango”, but to be honest it has almost nothing to do with fruit.

I revealed the first part of the mystery above the cut – bungou (文豪) means “literary master”. The bun = literature in this case and the gou = great (normally it’s the adjective, but in this case it’s a noun). This is why this season’s Bungou to Alchemist and its predecessor Bungou Stray Dogs have the names that they do – because they feature characters based on famous authors.

See, kanji are interesting because they can be really straightforward at times. For instance, sakubun (作文, meaning “essay”) is literally “craft[ing] sentences”…then there’s goushuu (豪州, meaning “Australia”). Gou can also mean “large” and shuu = state, province or continent…and that’s exactly what Australia is – a large continent. Funny thing is, according to this website, apparently goushuu came about because someone tried rendering “Australia” in weird kanji and then it just got simplified to goushuu, because “America”  the same way is mikoku/bikoku (美国), literally “beautiful country”…which is a heck of a lot more subjective. Blame the Chinese language for the mikoku/bikoku bit.

Sidebar: By the way, Fugou Keiji = “Great Fortune (as in, wealth) Detective” with the same kanji (富豪刑事), so you can make connections between lots of different anime with a single kanji!

The second part of this is that the word for “manga” can be written a few ways. If you were to grab the kanji for it, for instance, it would be 漫画. Again, blame the Chinese language for this.

…Now you can see where this is going, right? Using such logic, a master of manga would be a 漫豪 (mangou) in the same way a master of literature is a 文豪 (bungou). The word for mango – as in, the fruit – just happens to be マンゴー (note the line at the end!), which is homophonous to that. Ta-da!

Well, despite the 300-or-so words I spent explaining one joke and my usual craziness in that regard, I don’t know if I can catch all the jokes in Kakushigoto and explain them. 無職 (mushoku = jobless) vs. 無色 (mushoku = colourless) was a pretty easy one and it’s outright explained the monster Oshapi = Oshare (Fashionable) People, but I get the weird feeling lots of puns are going to be ones I can’t figure out…

(Note: After finishing this post, I checked the characters up on the official website because I suspected puns were there. Kakushi and Hime’s names both mean “secret”. Ami’s seems to mean “half-tone screening” (so a type of screentone), Aogu’s is something like “to seek instructions”, Sumita’s is actually getting angry whenever ink is spilt (sumi tara rasuna!) and Keshi’s is that thing kids do where they write words on their erasers and roll them, called keshi(gomu) kake. Tomaruin’s is actually meant to be a pun on tomaru insatsuki (stopped printing machine)…strangely, there seems to be no pun in Ichiko’s name…)

So do you like the misadventures of this mangaka and his daughter? From what I’ve seen, Kakushigoto is actually getting pretty good reviews…

Final fun fact: I seem to remember reading somewhere that Bungou Stray Dogs was deliberately a bit of a nonsense title, because whoever made it up wanted a name like a rock band – note in the original Japanese, the “bungou” is in kanji but the “stray dogs” is in katakana. (Katakana is normally used to make things more exotic or foreign due to its major usage in rendering loanwords, while kanji is meant to make things look more traditional or old-fashioned due to its history…and general grandiose-ness…in comparison to the other writing systems.) So if my memory is serving me correctly, the only title that’s stupid because of the language barrier is Bungo to Alchemist



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