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There have been quite a number of series whose English titles use peculiar forms of Re. I don't mean normal usages like Rebirth or Requiem. Here's some I chose from an alphabetical listing at MAL:

  1. Re Boot
  2. Re-Kan
  3. Re: Cutie Honey
  4. Re:_Hamatora
  5. Re:Creators
  6. RE:Map
  7. Re:Zero (and several spin-off series)
  8. ReLIFE
  9. Rewrite (although normal, seems to conceptually fit here)
  10. Re:Monster
  11. Tokyo Ghoul:re

It is likely that some of these are just using the prefix "re" as often done in English, to mean either "again" or "concerning". What makes these seem odd to me is the variety of ways they use off-kilter orthography. Is it done as a marketing ploy to attract attention? Or is there some underlying Japanese concept that maps particularly well to English "Re"?

A Japanese student grows up learning three alphabets (two Japanese and the Latin one) plus Kanji. I wonder sometimes if this variety can lead them to think flexibly in how they choose to build titles in English.

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    "Re-Kan" is just a playful romanization of 霊感 reikan, meaning something like "supernatural sense". It's not related to the "Re:" in Re:Zero, etc. – senshin May 28 '17 at 5:56
  • In Hamatora's case, it's explicitly "Re:" as in the thing you prefix to an email subject when replying. You can tell because the recap movie is called... "Fw:Hamatora". I'm pretty sure the same is true for Re: Cutie Honey (it's also a sequel), though I have no direct evidence and am not familiar with this franchise. – senshin May 28 '17 at 6:00
  • ReLIFE is transparently in the sense of "life again", given that's what the premise of the narrative is. Rewrite is also just the English word "rewrite" (a key element of the plot is a certain variety of "rewriting"). – senshin May 28 '17 at 6:10
  • @senshin What I find most odd is the number of times a title has used "re" recently. Also the variety of ways it is done. Note the underscore character in Re:_Hamatora, the capitalization of "life" in ReLIFE, and sometimes following "Re:" they include a space and sometimes not. Maybe they are all just random choices, but maybe there was a reason for each of the choices. – RichF May 28 '17 at 15:43
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    "The Re: in Re:Monster is a uniquely used abbreviation of Reincarnated or just the English prefix re-,[1] meaning again, or one more time, as to refer to the protagonist’s reincarnation to a magic world as a “monster”. In the same fashion, Re:Zero and Re:Life also use the one-more time element, when Re:Zero involves a protagonist who is revived more than once, and Re:Life involves a protagonist who has his life reset. Perhaps Japanese authors just love this re- trend so that at least three of them use it in the titles of their works." – Marcio.Rezende Aug 31 '17 at 14:48
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For the meaning of the word "Re:" in the title, depends on the Anime

(there seems to be a lot of explanation in the comment section of your answer).

But the reason on why there's an influx of it being used is the fact that it currently sells when used in a light novel, manga, or anime title.

It's like how in gaming after DayZ was out, there was an influx of zombie survival games. or if you want an Anime comparison, it's like how after Sword Art Online, "Trapped in another world" anime popped up each season (starting the 'isekai' genre craze).

I'm not saying that everything with the word "Re:" in it is a cash grab, it's not; but it's more of a marketing strategy.

The earliest usage (that I can find) of this is in Re: Cutie Honey (2004) and later Re: Hamatora (2014) which is an OVA, and a second season respectively. The most impactful usage of "Re:" though is in Re:Zero.

  • SAO didn't spark the iSekai genre. It had been around for 3~4 decades before that. – Mindwin Oct 13 '17 at 11:27
  • @Mindwin but Isekai does increase in popularity after SAO, although I don't think it is because of SAO nor do I have any evidence of SAO directly influencing the popularity of Isekai genre. – 絢瀬絵里 Apr 25 '18 at 9:44
  • @Mindwin yeah, I just edited my answer; what I meant is that SAO started the isekai genre craze; not sparking it in the anime industry. Thanks for the suggestion. – Kevin fu Apr 26 '18 at 1:51

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