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A new anime started this week called, in English, Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun. I thought the first episode was pretty good, but the title was kind of a turn off. If I hadn't seen reviews saying it was good, I probably would have skipped it due to the title alone.

Later I found out the title is actually mistranslated. It should be "Earth-bound" not "toilet-bound". Yes, the ghost being contacted at a certain toilet stall is part of his backstory, but that is a relatively minor point that didn't need to be in the title, especially if they have to mistranslate it to do so.

Why would the translators of both the manga and anime do this?

  • i think it might have something to do with the Japanese Urban Legend of Hanako-san who is a spirit who haunts school bathrooms. atleast when i saw "Toilet-Bound" and "Hanako" i right away thought of Hanako-san – Memor-X Jan 11 at 11:33
  • @Memor-X You are correct, but that urban legend is little known in the West. Throwing the word "toilet" in the title does not inform us that this story is based on that legend. It just implies bodily functions that a large number of folks would not want in their entertainment. – RichF Jan 11 at 12:14
  • @AkiTanaka I'm not questioning their motives or ethics, just their understanding of western (or at least North American) culture. Plus, calling him "toilet-bound" is incorrect because we see him follow Yashiro around the school. "Toilet based" would be factually correct, but still a mistranslation. – RichF Jan 11 at 13:30
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While translating 地縛 (jibaku) literally means "earthbound" (land + bind), the 地縛 in the official Japanese title 地縛少年花子くん refers to 地縛霊 (jibakurei), which means "ghost bound to a specific physical location (usu. where death occurred)".

The definition of 地縛霊 from Daijisen (a general-purpose Japanese dictionary) used by Japanese Wikipedia is

自分が死んだことを受け入れられなかったり、自分が死んだことを理解できなかったりして、死亡した時にいた土地や建物などから離れずにいるとされる霊のこと。

A ghost whose exists on a place (e.g. a land, building, etc.) at the time of their death and cannot wander off from there because they do not accept their death or understand why they died.

(Emphasis mine)

As an aside, the English term is "residual haunting" or Stone Tape.

The Japanese title replaced the kanji 霊 (ghost) to 少年 (boy). Thus, the literal translation of it is "Hanako-kun, the boy who is bound (to a certain place)". It actually does not refer to any place at all.

Regarding the official English localization by Yen Press, this is just a guess, but they possibly chose "toilet-bound" due to the origin of the tale and the character's in-universe background. Regarding if "bound" is correct or not (in refer to the anime), the official Japanese title refers to "bound" though.

*地縛 can also be read as jishibari, though it is unrelated to "earthbound" at all. On the other hand, the Japanese never uses 地縛 for "earthbound".

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