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Alternate Character Reading

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Son Goku's name is mispronounced by the announcer. It's funnier if you speak Japanese.note 

The pronunciation of most Japanese words is not easily gleaned from how they are written. In the Japanese Writing System, words written in kanji often have multiple pronunciations depending on context. These alternate readings are often used for word plays in Japanese works, which can be extremely hard to translate into other languages.

Formal Japanese Readings

In Japanese, there are two main types of formal kanji readings, kun'yomi and on'yomi, and most kanji have one reading of each type. There are also two less common types of formal kanji readings, jukujikun and nanori.

  • Kun'yomi (Japanese: 訓読み) is a reading based on the pronunciation of the native Japanese word associated with a kanji's meaning. It usually consists of multiple syllables. Characters with kun'yomi usually only have one kun'yomi reading.
    • Usual occurrences: When a kanji appears singly (often with okurigananote ), kanji in people and place names
    • Example: 朝日 = asahi ("morning sun")

  • On'yomi (Japanese: 音読み) is a reading based on the Chinese pronunciation of the loaned Chinese character when it was incorporated as a kanji. It usually consists of single syllables, or at most two syllables. Characters with on'yomi may have multiple on'yomi readings, due to being borrowed into Japanese at different points in time.
    • Usual occurrences: When a kanji is used in mutli-kanji words.
    • Example: 日本 = nihon ("Japan")

  • Jukujikun (Japanese: 熟字訓) is a particular type of kun'yomi used in multi-kanji words where the reading for the whole word is not a composite of the individual readings of its constituent kanji.
    • Example: 明日 = ashita ("tomorrow")

  • Nanori (Japanese: 名乗り), also known as jinmeikun (Japanese: 人名訓) is a particular type of kun'yomi only used in Japanese names. In most such cases, the name is conceived with a kun'yomi-based Japanese word first, and then a kanji with a related meaning is attached to that word.
    • Example: 日 is sometimes read as aki in some names.

To abate this confusion, phonetic glosses called furigana are often provided in smaller characters next to the kanji. This invariably happens for names (whose pronunciations are notoriously idiosyncratic — see nanori) and terms with infrequently-used kanji. Publications for younger readers will often gloss common words as well.

Stylized Japanese Readings

In Japanese media, the furigana gloss may sometimes show a non-standard reading not found in any dictionary, for the sake of stylistic effect. This is known as gikun (Japanese: 義訓).

Gikun can be used in many different ways for many different reasons:

  • Intentionally using more complex readings/characters that still have the same meanings for the sake of fancyness. After all, why spell words like toki, kin or karada as single kanji like 時, 金 or 体, while fancier compounds such 時間, 黄金 or 身体 exist?
  • Making puns by giving the kanji for one word and a reading corresponding to a different one. This way of using gikun hits its peak if the spelling and the reading actually clash, for example 親友 ("friend") and raibaru ("rival"), because you can actually convey a complicated relationship without explicitly spelling it out in many words.
  • Glossing semantic compounds made from Chinese characters with a reading borrowed from another language. For example 氷島 means "ice island" and is pronounced "aisurando", even though normal rules say it should be pronounced either "korishima" or "hyoto". No points for guessing what it refers to.
  • Identifying a person or thing mentioned in dialog with the spelling while still maintaining the reading which is the actual thing that is said. For example, a character may say "he" or "here", but you will know exactly that they're talking about "my father" or "Tokyo" thanks to the spelling.
  • Sometimes the furigana will be an English word in katakana, most likely as Rule of Cool. (e.g. スマイル sumairu for 笑顔 egao), both meaning "smile". This example is often milked to hell and back in most shounen-based manga. This has a dual purpose — not only to just look cool, but also to allow Japanese readers understand the context of some strangely crafted English terms (akin to Buffy Speak) if their English knowledge is limited.

This technique dates back to the Man'yōshū and Kojiki, and was very common among Edo period writers (mixing and matching Chinese words to Japanese glosses) and Meiji writers (mixing and matching Sino-Japanese words to recently borrowed Western glosses).

The subtle nuances that can be achieved with the use of gikun are almost always Lost in Translation and will at worst end up being unfunny because detailed explanation is compulsory. On the flip side, gikun are frequently used when adapting something from English to Japanese in order to retain English names or puns.

A few instances of gikun have actually made their way into the mainstream and become evergreen standard, such as the name of the Asuka period, spelled 飛鳥 meaning "flying bird", but read as asuka meaning "scent of tomorrow".

Miscellaneous One note is that kanji characters, having Chinese roots, also have Chinese pronunciations, and one can go from there to other derived regional readings. These readings are rarely used for word plays.

A somewhat related though fundamentally different wordplay is ateji (当て字), where a word (usually one not written in kanji) is phonetically transcribed into kanji, which almost always apply on'yomi readings. For example, the kanji written form of sushi, 寿司 (su-shi) is an ateji, and literally means something like "lifespan-administrator". Ateji is usually used for some older Japanese loanwords and as a general wordplay trick. Ateji may either ignore kanji semantics completely or consider semantics to achieve phono-semantic matching.

Rough equivalents in English would be Pretentious Pronunciation, Steven Ulysses Perhero, and Louis Cypher, and this can lead to similar humor (Double Entendre, Heh Heh, You Said "X", Uranus Is Showing...), Foreshadowing and drama. Contrast Hollywood Spelling.

Not to be confused with Alternative Character Interpretation. See Goroawase Number for creative Japanese interpretation of numerals.


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  • Inverted in Air Gear: two characters are both named Sora Takeuchi, but one is written using the kanji for "sky" while the other is written using the kanji for "space".
  • Anime-Gataris has a character whose name is written down as Kouji, formally pronounced as Aurora. As you can imagine, Nakano is so embarrassed to have anyone know his true name he rewrites reality itself to get rid of it.
  • Aphorism uses this as a plot point. All the students at Naraka High have a Semantic Superpower based on a specific kanji, and one of the ways they can twist these powers is by alternate readings of that character.
  • Two major characters of the Area 88 TV series, Kazama Shin and Shinjo Makoto, have names written identically in kanji. They comment on this when they first meet.
  • In ARIA, all job titles that only exist on Aria (terraformed Mars) are spelled with kanji, but read with loanwords. For example, the title Undine is spelled with the word meaning "boat pilot", but still reads "Undine". The same goes with "Salamanader" ("fire guards"), "Gnome" ("gravity monitors") and "Sylph" ("wind-following deliveryman").
  • Assassination Classroom: Kimura's first name is written with the kanji for "Masayoshi" (正義), but it actually reads as the English translation of the word, "Justice" (Jasutisu), much to his embarrassment.
  • The Japanese word for asteroids, 小惑星, is usually pronounced shouwakusei through on-yomi, which it also how the term is pronounced in Asteroid in Love. For the purpose of the series's title, however, that phrase is glossed with the transliteration for "asteroid," thus the title is pronounced Koisuru Asteroid in Japanese.
  • Ayakashi Triangle:
    • Although "ayakashi" in Japanese is usually spelled in hiragana as "あやかし", the manga (outside of its own title) spells it with the kanji "妖" (whose closest standard pronunciation would be just "aya"). This allows for several bits of wordplay:
      • The kanji is also found in the standard spelling of "youkai (妖怪)", reflecting how ayakashi are based on traditional youkai.
      • "Ayakashi medium" is written "妖巫女 (ayakashi miko)". "妖" by itself can mean "attractive/enthralling" but also "disaster", reflecting the sway ayakashi mediums hold over weaker ayakashi and the more dangerous ones they attract.
      • Humanoid ayakashi are referred to as "jinyo (人妖)", an old Chinese term for monsters taking human form. Their earlier stages, which simply have some human features, are called "iyo (異妖)". By the series’ own use of the kanji, those can also be parsed as "human/strange ayakashi".
    • The word "omokage (image/vestage)" is normally written in kanji as "面影" or "俤". The in-series term "omokage", used for ayakashi doppelgangers of humans, varies between being written in just katakana or as an alternate pronunciation the word "bunshin (分身)" (lit. "alter ego", but often used in fiction to describe Self-Duplication powers).
    • Once when Suzu talks with her mouth full, the kanji are written properly, but the furigana indicates her mumbled pronunciation (e.g. Matsuri's name is given the pronunciation "Mafuri"). The English version leaves the latter out.
  • Azumanga Daioh:
    • One strip has a quick joke about Kagura misreading "Iriomote" as "Nishihyou"note . The Yen Press translation changes this to her mispronouncing it as "Irimotote".
    • During one scene in the anime the class remarks on the beauty of the "sea of clouds" ("kumo'umi") during a plane ride. Yukari tells them that phrase is usually pronounced "unkai" and promises to drill them on kanji reading after the trip.
  • In Bakuman。: The two protagonists get three of these between them:
    • Mashiro's classmates often call him "Saikō", which is an alternative reading of his name "Moritaka" (最高). His male classmates, including Takagi, also keep calling him that.note 
    • When Mashiro gets annoyed of Takagi calling him Saikō because it "sounds stupid" (it does sound like the English word "psycho"), he starts calling him "Shūjin", which is an alternative reading of Takagi's given name "Akito" (秋人). Some of Takagi's friends call him "Shūto", which is yet another way of reading Akito, but Mashiro refuses to do so because Shūto, reminiscent of the English word "shoot" as in "shoot a soccer ball", sounds cooler than Saikō, so he decides that if they both are gonna go by dumb nicknames, both of the names have to be equally dumb. "Shūjin" is dumber because it sounds like the word for "prisoner".
    • Handwaved for their meaningful pen name: you wouldn't usually pronounce "dream comes true", "夢叶", as "Muto". Miyoshi insists one of her relative's name is written with those kanji reversed, "叶夢", and pronounced "Tomu".note 
    • Inverted for Aoki Yuriko/Kou: Her real and pen names' pronunciation and meaning ("blue tree") are the same, but they are written with different kanji, "青木" and "蒼樹".
  • In Black★Rock Shooter, Mato reads Yomi's last name Takanashi (no hawks) as kotori-asobi (little birds playing) before Yomi corrects her.
  • Bleach,
    • Arrancar techniques and zanpakuto are given kanji spellings and Gratuitous Spanish readings. For a couple examples, we have Nnoitra's zanpakuto; kanji for "sacred crying mantis" are pronounced "Santateresa" (Spanish for Saint Teresa, also a term for mantises). Starrk's release is pronounced Los Lobos ("the wolves") and written with kanji meaning "wolf pack." Quincy terminology follows the same pattern with Gratuitous German.
      • While the majority of Arrancar zanpakuto kanji readings are simply loose equivalents to or extrapolations on the Spanish meanings, one exception can be found in Baraggan's release, Arrogante ("arrogant"), which has kanji that read as "skull emperor".
    • Uryuu's name (meaning "rain dragon") is a nonstandard reading; when Ichigo first saw it in writing, he pronounced it "Ametatsu". Before him, Yasutora Sado got his nickname "Chad" because of a kanji in his surname normally being read as cha when used for the word "tea".
    • Captain Unohana's shikai and bankai are both named Minazuki, but they each have nonstandard writing. The shikai is written as 肉雫唼, meaning "flesh-drops' gorge", which alludes to its healing use (her zanpakuto is transformed into a giant manta ray whose bodily fluids have healing properties). Her bankai is written as 皆尽, roughly "all-things' end", which alludes to the fact it releases a highly corrosive poison. Minazuki itself is normally written as 水無月, the name of the sixth month in the traditional Japanese calendar.
    • Mayuri Kurotsuchi's last name is written using kanji based on the meaning of the name, rather than how it's usually read. "Kurotsuchi" means "black soil" (kuro - black; tsuchi - soil), as does the kanji (涅). However, the kanji's reading (pronunciation) is "ne" or "so".
  • Canaan's episode titles use typical pronunciations, but are written with unusual kanji: one episode with a title pronounced "Friend" is written with the character for "light" in its place, while "Seasonal Train" uses kanji meaning approximately "mourning the murdered" instead of the normal one for "season." This even carries over to its sole English episode title — "Love & Piece" deliberately swaps out "peace" for a double meaning.
  • Case Closed. Heck, where to start? This kind of thing happens all the time, with clues and "dying messages" occasionally being misinterpreted when first encountered, or that these need to be read a different way to be fully understood, which is often intentional on the victims' (or even killers') part to keep others from figuring it out before hand. Not to mention that they usually have 2-3 puns per episode.
    • In Moonlight Sonata, Seiji Asai lived as a female doctor on the Tsukukage Island for two years and when Conan pulled the thread, locals were surprised about his actual sex. How could it be done? First, his feminine looks, and second, he didn't even need to change the papers but merely changed how the name 成実 is pronounced — he switched from the masculine on-yomi reading Seiji to the feminine kun-yomi reading Narumi.
    • There was a case when a Sonoko and Ran asked the name of a TV producer in person, the answer was the kana for Hozumi — that was because his actual surname was 八月一日, which is usually understood as "First of August" and would be hard to understand the reading that led to his naming.note 
    • When Shiho Miyano re-invented herself as Ai Haibara (sorta), she chose an alternate kanji for "Ai" that means "sorrow" instead of "love".
    • The title of Dr. (or Prof. if you will) Agasa (Agasa Hakase) is spelled exactly the same as his actual name, Agasa Hiroshi. In other words, if we're to ignore the alternate readings completely, his actual name would be "Dr. Agasa", and it'd be impossible to tell whether he's filled in his real name in a name field for his paperwork or he's just fooling around. Kinda phunny.
  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto, a manga set in the Italian Renaissance, gives Italian and Latin words as furigana on the kanji at times. For example, when Angelo apologizes to Cesare for arguing with him in class, Cesare tells him not to worry about it, as "it was just a little disputatio". This is not carried over into the stage musical — for example, he calls the debate a touron, the standard reading of the kanji, as there would not be the kanji to provide meaning, and the historical details are confusing enough as it is (on the other hand, the stage play lets us hear Draghignazzo's name spoken out loud quite a bit, which makes up for it).
  • The main character of The Day of Revolution goes from Kei to Megumi by reading his name differently. This is one of the clues his old buddies use to figure it out.
  • Death Note: The main character is called Light, in English, but the kanji is Tsuki (月), which means moon. Raito written with "moon" is actually a real name outside of the series, but it's rare, and feminine at that. But why the hell not, you get a Meaningful Name out of the deal, since the kanji for tsuki has four strokes and Light Is Not Good.
  • In Don't You Think Girls Who Talk in Hakata Dialect Are Cute?, the male lead's name Azuma Miyako is written with the exact same kanji as Tokyo (東京), but read separately as surname and given name.
  • Played with in Dragon Ball when the Tenkaichi Budokai announcer mispronounced Son Goku's name as "Mago Gosora" the first time he reads it. At the next tournament, he misreads Chiaotzu's name as "Gyoza". This gets Lost in Translation in the English dub of the anime, since rather than trying to explain character readings to the audience, the dialogue is changed so that it's made clear the announcer is struggling with reading some poor handwriting on the contestants' entry forms. This actually fits Goku's character as he's only just learned to read and write in the last few months before his first tournament.
    • In the anime, Pilaf also misreads Goku's name as "Mago Gosora" when reading a banner at Fire Mountain welcoming Goku for his presumed wedding with Chi-Chi.
    • Shenron's name is an example — the kanji mean "god dragon" and would normally be pronounced "shinryuu", however the furigana give it a Japanese approximation of the modern Chinese pronunciation (Shénlóng). This also later comes into play in the third tournament, in which Kami (AKA God) participates incognito by inhabiting a human named Shen. Goku figures out his real identity when he remembers that the kanji for "Kami" also has the reading "Shen" in its Chinese pronunciation, as in Shenron, the divine dragon. The titular Dragon Balls also use this, each one being named in Chinese.
  • Eyeshield 21:
    • The kanji for "kuso (crap)" has "fakkin (fucking)" as its furigana.
    • When Sena sees Taro Raimon's name on the roster for the baseball team (as "Raimon Taro"), he misreads it as "Kaminari Montaro", leading to his being nicknamed "Monta". To keep from ticking him off, Hiruma covers it up by claiming it comes from Joe Montana.
    • Another example has Natsuhiko Taki develop a special move with a kanji name accompanied by "clearly impossible furigana".
  • The title kanji for Full Moon, 満月, are pronounced as the English term "furu muun". While referring to Mitsuki's alter-ego, the same kanji are read as her first name and as "mangetsu", the Japanese term for a full moon.
  • In the Fist of the North Star manga, the kanji 強敵 (normally read as kyouteki or "fierce adversary") is given the reading tomo (とも), which the Japanese word for "friend", which serves to indicate that not all of Kenshiro's adversaries are bitter enemies, but more like equal rivals.
  • In Fly Me to the Moon, Nasa Yuzaki's given name uses the kanji 星空 (hoshizora, meaning "starry sky"), but the reading "Nasa" (after the American aerospace agency) made it an Embarrassing First Name. He ultimately used this to motivate his studies, hoping to be someone people said was more amazing than NASA, resulting in him becoming a Teen Genius by the start of the series.
  • In GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class, Miyabi Oomichi's name is pronounced "Masa" by Namiko. Additionally, when Tomokane is looking at the schedule for the next class, she reads "sobyou" (sketching) as "suneko". They soon discover Kisaragi spacing out, which Noda correctly guesses was the result of her imagining "suneko", interpreted as "fresh cat" or "raw cat". And thus begins the drawing of Suneko the cat... especially in Kisaragi's croquis book.
  • Gamaran, not only likes to use characters with unusual names and readings, but features this in regards of four of the Ogame School Five Elemental Forms, with the furigana reading (in katakana) having a different meaning from the two kanji used: we have, in order, Ikazuchi Katanote  with the Kanji for "Raiden" (Thunder and Lightning, also the thunder God Raiden), Kagutsuchi Katanote  with the Kanji for "En'netsu" (Scorching Flame), Oboro Katanote  with the Kanji for "Kyokuu" (Emptiness) and Mizuchi Katanote  written as "Suiryuu" (Water Dragon). The sole exception is the fifth style, the Dokou Kata(Earth Lord), whose furigana and kanji match.
  • This seems to be becoming a running gag in Gate 7 where Takamoto is concerned. Many names of places, organizations, are pronounced like already-familiar Japanese terms, but are spelled with completely different kanji (this is done by using alternate readings of said kanji). The comedy is that Takamoto keeps assuming that everyone is using the usual kanji for the pronunciation (even when it might imply something crude or dirty).
  • In Get Backers, The Professor mentions "time," foreshadowing the last arc, "Get Back the Lost Time". It was written with the kanji "engraved," with the "time" reading over it, meaning time that is engraved or fate. Both the English and French translations went with "time".
  • When Gohda gives Aramaki his business card in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, he emphasizes that his given name (一人) is pronounced "Kazundo" and not "Hitori" as Aramaki initially assumes. (Regardless of pronunciation, his name means "individual".)
  • Used to amusing effect in Katsuhiro Otomo's samurai manga Good Weather. When a group of bandits run into a bum and his young son on the road, the bum mentions he used to work as a translator for the Kougi clan, causing the bandits to run off in terror thinking the man and his son are actually Lone Wolf and Cub.note 
  • The "fireflies" (hotaru) part in Grave of the Fireflies is written as 火垂. Normally, hotaru is written as 蛍. 火垂 can be translated as "fire hanging down" or "droplets of fire", both of which fit the film's narrative surrounding the firebombing of Kobe or, alternatively, fruit drops that the protagonist's sister likes, which are stored in a tin can that later becomes a nest of fireflies.
  • In the original Grenadier manga, furigana are used constantly to give foreign pronunciations to given sets of kanji, despite the fact that this is (supposedly) set during the Japanese sengoku period.
  • Gundam loves doing this with its Super-Deformed Musha (samurai-themed) sub-series, especially when they have exhausted all sorts of ateji in earlier series and still need kanji in the names to convey a Jidaigeki feel. One specific example is Lady Kawaguchi's Gunpla from Gundam Build Fighters Try. Its name is written as 紅武者アメイジング (Kurenai Musha Amazing), but the kanji have the furigana レッドウォーリア (Red Warrior), with the full English name being "Kurenai Musha" Red Warrior Amazing.note  Even its weapons work like this; it has wheel-shaped shields on its forearms named 炎輪甲 (Enrinkou, literally "Fire Wheel Armor"), with the furigana ホイールアーマー ("Wheel Armor").
  • A central plot element in Haibane Renmei, coinciding with Meaningful Line-of-Sight Name.
  • In Haou Airen, Kurumi Akino is renamed as Qiuye Laishi, which is simply the Chinese reading of the kanji that form her name.
  • The title of the Harukanaru Toki no Naka de franchisenote  has the word "time" (toki, normally written as 時) rendered with two kanji that mean "time-space" (時空, normally read jikuu). This is because the plot Haruka is based around isn't strictly a Time Travel, but rather a Trapped in Another World scenario, where "another world" happens to resemble Heian-kyou,note  and explicit mention is made about "crossing time and space." The same trick with toki is occasionally used in the songs, though naturally you'll only realise it when you read the lyrics.
  • Heaven's Lost Property uses this tactic in its episode titles. A good example is episode two, which has the kanji for "rainbow-colored underwear" (it makes more sense in the episode) read as "romance".
  • In Hozuki's Coolheadedness, the title character takes the pseudonym "Kagachi" when he has to work on Earth for a week. When Maki asks why he chose it, he explains that it is a alternate reading of his name.
  • Hunter × Hunter: Many attack names are given separate names as alternate readings for certain purposes (such as "Bungee Gum" actually being the 'reading' for "Elastic Love", with the latter being meant to be only written down and not pronounced).
  • ID: Invaded pulls this off with a confusing logo — it's in all-caps, so the general assumption is that it's "ID: Invaded" ("identity: invaded"). If you read the provided katakana though, you'll get "Id: Invaded" (as in "Freud's concept of the id") and the all-caps is just there to give the title more symbolic significance, since both a character's identity and their id cause their Mental World to be what it is.
  • In Episode 15 of The Idolmaster, Yayoi mispronounces 行楽日和 (ideal weather for an outing), normally pronounced "kouraku biyori", as "gyouraku biwa", and 山間部 (mountainous region), normally pronounced "sankanbu", as "yamamabe". Iori has to correct her — during a live broadcast, no less.
  • In Iris Zero, the Magical Eyes are pronounced “Iris”, somebody without them “Iris Zero”, but the kanji used mean “pupil”note  and, roughly, “incomplete person” or “somebody that is missing something”.note 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Killer Queen has an attack written as 負けて死ね, which means "Lose and Die", but the furigana for it is バイツァ・ダスト, pronounced "Bites the Dust".
    • The two Josukes have first names that can also be read as "JoJo". In the former case, this is even lampshaded by a character reading his name and saying "I'll call you Jojo!".
      • Also, the fact that there are two Josukes to begin with, one who spells his name as "仗助", and one who spells his name as "定助".
    • Many chapter names have kanji spellings with furigana indicating English names.
    • When Stands are first introduced, the word is initially written as 幽波紋, which would be normally read "yūhamon", literally "ghostly Hamon", given the gloss "sutando" (Stand) — done to show a connection with the earlier Hamon ability, which is shortly dropped.
    • Most Stands in Part 3 and a fair amount introduced in later parts have kanji spellings given furigana showing their English-language names, typically used upon their introduction, after which they just use their regular katakana spelling (for example, Star Platinum is written as 星の白金, which would be normally read as "hoshi no hakkin").
    • Word of God is that Kakyoin's first name 典明 was originally meant to be read as "Tenmei", but Araki's editor misread it as "Noriaki", which became the character's official name.
      • Likewise, Kei (京) Nijimura was originally named Kyo until Araki clarified that "Kei" is the correct reading.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: An Alternate Character Reading of the kanji that make up Ryomen Sukuna is "Double-Faced Spectre"; Sukuna himself is a evil spirit Sharing a Body with a human, making he and Yuji metaphorically "double-faced".
  • Inverted in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War where a Flash Forward reveals that Kashiwagi and Tsubasa named their firstborn son after the former's best friend Maki, though they swappped out the kanji for something less feminine (as the older Maki's name contained the character for "princess", which would just be asking for a lifetime of bullying if given to a boy).
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Hermit's name is written as "haamitto" when written with katakana. When written with kanji characters, it's "inja" (which, of course, means "hermit"), but the furigana for these kanji is still "haamitto" in katakana.
  • Living Game has Hiyama Izumi, a young girl (around high school age) whose given name is written with kanji that can be read as Ikkaku, apparently a male-sounding name.
  • Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!:
    • The surname Takanashi discussed elsewhere on this page
    • Kumin Tsuyuri's surname is written as 五月七日 (May 7th) in kanji; Tsuyuri being a festival that falls on that day. In Episode 2, Yuuta did mispronunce that as Gogatsu-nanoka, and has to be corrected by Kumin.
    • Shinka's epithet "Mori Summer" comes from this (both with Japanese and English readings!): the first kanji is "shin" in on-yomi and "mori" in kun-yomi. The second kanji is "ka" in on-yomi, or "natsu" in kun'yomi, but it is also "summer" in English.
    • Quite a few of the members of the class have names with odd names. Of note is the girl with surname 子子子子, apparently read as Sunekoshi, of which, su is the infrequent "Tang on reading," ne is the infrequent "zodiac kun reading," ko is the regular "kun reading" and shi is the regular "on reading" of 子.
  • Love Me For Who I Am: Transgender girl Mei's deadname is "Akira" but she goes by "Mei", which is an alternative reading of the same kanji, at the cafe. She eventually begins using it full-time.
  • Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro does this an awful lot; for one, we've got episode names. They're all one kanji long, but have interesting readings — for example, the kanji for "hair" is read as "a long friend." There are also a few character names; for example, "X" being read as "Sai."
  • Something of an important plot point in Maze Megaburst Space regarding how the title character got his/her name. Mei's brother Akira has a name that can also be read as 'mei' Thus the two get the nickname Meis which after their Fusion Dance morphs into Maze (Meis).
  • Minami-ke uses Kana's misreading of the kanji for "underworld" as a harmless place name for a quick gag.
  • Moriarty the Patriot loves to play with this feature of the language to give words double meanings. You can see it in things like refering to "The Lord of Crime" with "Moriarty" in furigana.
  • Mr. Fullswing: Saruno Amakuni's family name is spelled 天国, but for some reason Kenbish Torii always calls him Tengoku instead of, because as a common noun, it is pronounced "tengoku" ("heaven"). Torii probably alludes to the Chinese "heaven" where the Monkey King wreaked havoc.
  • My Bride is a Mermaid uses this a lot, most notably accompanying the recurring quote "Written as Mermaid (Ningyo)... Read as Chivalry (Ninkyo)!"
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Izuku Midoriya's hero name, "Deku"(デク), comes from an alternate reading of "Izuku"(出久). It was initially given to him by Bakugo because "Deku"(木偶), means wooden figure or puppet, and is often used as an insult for someone who can't do or achieve anything. Later on, Uraraka started using it as an Affectionate Nickname thanks to a different meaning. In this case, Deku sounds like "Dekiru"(できる), meaning "to be able to do", which she says has a similar feeling to "Ganbaru"(頑張る), meaning "I can do it". Midoriya chooses to use the name thanks to the inspiration of the latter meaning.
    • The series features an inversion: a Class B student with a steel hardening Quirk has the name Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu, with each Kanji being fundamentally different. note 
  • Naruto:
    • Several techniques used by ninjas from the Land of Lightning are named in Gratuitous English, but written using kanji that could be read in a way that somewhat match the English name. For example: Lariat, written with the kanji for "Lightning Plough Hot Sword" (雷犂熱刀), usually read as "Rairi Nettō", and Laser Circus, written with the kanji for "Encouraging Crushing Chain Tormenting Principle" (励挫鎖苛素), usually read as "Reiza Sakaso".
    • Kakuzu's techniques are named in reference to Mobile Suit Gundam using kanji readings. For example, his main technique is named "Earth Grudge Fear", written as 地怨虞 and read "Jiongu" - a reference to Mobile Suit MSN-02 Zeong.
  • In the Negima! Magister Negi Magi manga, the spells are written in kanji, with the Latin pronunciation in furigana. The anime replicates this by usually having the characters say the Japanese reading while the foreign pronunciation is said simultaneously in an echoey and quieter back track.
    • The title which Negi is after is usually written with the kanji "great magic-user", but given the gloss "Magister Magi". The pronoun variant of the trope has also happened in the manga.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has the, uh, structure that gives Angels unlimited power, which due to the kanji used can be translated either as "S2 Engine" or "S2 Organ." The ambiguity helps to ramp up the Angels' weirdness levels.
  • Noragami makes plot points of this. The whole series runs on double meanings and pronouncing kanji one way or another to give them different meanings. Yato's name is even a different pronunciation of the same kanji for his "true" name.
  • One Piece makes frequent use of this for the sake of puns. Also, since Oda often uses uses multiple languages in characters' attack names, we'll often see the kanji for the attacks' meaning with katakana giving the foreign pronunciation.
  • In The Prince of Tennis, Kintarou calls Echizen "Koshimae" as that is the alternative reading for Echizen. Echizen always gets annoyed and ends up correcting him.
  • In Queen's Blade, Tomoe's country of origin, Hinimoto, is an alternate reading of the kanji for "Japan."
  • Sailor Moon:
    • The Sailor Moon manga was fond of this. Attack names would often be given in kanji but the furigana would be English words written in katakana.
    • Minako is a common name, but the kanji can be read as her Sailor Guardian name "Binasu (Venus)".
    • This is played in the live-action series as well. In an early episode, Usagi finds a card dropped by Mamoru Chiba and reads his name as "Ei Chijo" (she was reading the alternate pronounciation of each kanji). As we know, she only got the "Chi" right.
    • A common trait across adaptations is that Usagi is awful when it comes to kanji, whether reading or writing it. In episode 127 of the first anime written by her future self aka Neo Queen Serenity. Since the puns were obviously hard to translate, dubs tend to say that the letter has grammar/writing mistakes and/or bad handwriting.
    • The first anime's OP Moonlight Densetsu has the line "onaji kuni ni umareta no", meaning "(we're) born in the same country", and which would typically be written 同じ国に生まれたの. However, the written lyrics (e.g. the CD booklet and karaoke aid) write it as 同じ地球に生まれたの, that is, the word '国/kuni/country' is written as 地球 (Earth), which is normally read as 'chikyū'. The pun country/Earth probably brings the Usagi-Mamoru theme to a planetary level. It fits well.
    • A joke in SuperS has Tiger's Eye pretending to be a devotee of Miyamoto Musashi, but misreads the kanji as "Miyamoto Takezo" and improvises a made-up person "not in the history books because their names were too similar".
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei relies on alternate readings for many of its name puns. The title character's family suffers to a great extent of what happens when the characters for their surname are combined into a single character.
    • In "The Cat That Was Told a Million Times", one of the people he sympathizes with after his own name is made fun of is named Mitarai, which is written 御手洗, or the same as "toilet".
  • Sgt. Frog: In Japanese releases, the word 地球 (chikyuu, Earth) is accompanied by furigana reading ペコポン (Pekopon).
  • Shaman King: Anna's family name "Kyoyama" is an alternative reading of Mt. Osore, where the festival of spirit mediums is held.
  • Skip Beat! has the period drama The Lotus in the Mire, where Kyoko immediately reads part of the title as Hachisu. Kanae is surprised, as she read it as Hasu initially. Kyoko says that it's correct, but she just assumed it would be read as the more old-fashioned Hachisu because of the story being set in the time of feudal Japan.
  • In Slam Dunk, Sakuragi calls the Sannoh (山王) team "Yamaoh", partly to try and rile them up, partly just because he's Book Dumb. Also, some characters unfamiliar with Rukawa call him "Nagarekawa" because they don't know the first kanji of his name (流, which means "flow", discussed above) uses the on-yomi form ru.
  • A character in Sound! Euphonium has the name 緑輝, which is a "kira-kira name" pronounced differently than it appears; the kanji mean "green" and "shining", but the name is "Sapphire", pronounced in English. This causes confusion for other people, such as her teacher, who initially uses the on reading of "Ryokuki". Because of the embarrassment and her diminutive personality, she prefers that people call her "Midori", the kun reading of the first kanji.
  • In Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Akira Yamamoto's given name can also be read "Rei." She says, "Call me Rei, everyone else does," when one character misreads it. Any resemblance to the Evangelion character is of course entirely coincidental.
  • Spellbound! Magical Princess Lil'Pri: Natsuki's name is written with kanji that is usually read as meigetsu (harvest moon), a reference to her Fairytale Motif Kaguya-hime.
  • The Spiral manga plays with this and Gratuitous English, but only with characters who actually grew up in England, so it makes sense for them to speak English to each other. Eyes once calls Kanone "brother", using the Japanese kanji with furigana of the English pronunciation; and in the sequel Spiral Alive, Kanone says "Are you ready?" in English print with furigana giving the pronunciation, but not translating the meaning.
  • In Spirited Away, Yubaba changes Chihiro's name to "Sen" by taking its first kanji character (千) and changing its reading from the archaic kun'yomi "chi" to the common on'yomi "sen," thus emphasizing its numerical meaning of "thousand."
  • Early in Tales of Hearts, "kokoro" (heart) is identified once with furigana for "Spiria". Not to change the pronunciation of the kanji, as it's pronounced normally throughout the game otherwise, but to equate the two concepts. As a better example, the two planets (Serurando/Kuootia) and their races (Serureido/Kuooto) are written with the kanji for "simple world/people" and "crystal world/people".
  • Played in the opposite way by Osamu Tezuka's Reused Character Design. When his famous characters appeared in different works, he would often use names that were phoenetically identical to their previous incarnations, but using completely different kanji.
  • Urusei Yatsura: The monk 錯乱坊 insists his name be pronounced "Sakuranbo (Cherry)", rather than "Sakuranbou" (the kanji literally read as "deranged monk").
  • In Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid, the characters for Mamori's last name "Tokonome" can also be read as "Virgin". A lot of people make fun of her for that, while she desperately asserts that it is "Tokonome". The characters for her full name can be read as "Protect Virginity", which makes the teasing even worse.
  • In Wagnaria!!, Souta's last name is pronounced Takanashi (which can mean "no hawks"), but is written with the kanji for "little birds playing" (小鳥遊).
  • In Wasteful Days of High School Girls, Nozomu calls a classmate with the surname 一 "ichi", its most common reading. The classmate clarifies her surname is actually read "Ninomae", which means "[the number] before two", thus one, which is written as 一.
  • xxxHolic: Watanuki's name is based on an alternate reading of April 1. note 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL pull this off with at least one of the "Number" monsters, whose names and numbers tends to be a Hurricane of Puns on varying level. For this particular trope, No. 16 Ruler of Color — Shock Ruler, has the "Shock" written with the Japanese characters for the English word "Shock", but it is read similarly to "shokku", one of the Japanese words for "color".
  • Yuureitou: This is something of a major point in the series, as Tetsuo's birth name is Rei, but the orphanage workers and his adoptive mother called him Reiko, due to an error in the pronunciation. Later, when Tetsuo is having a personality crisis, Taichi reassures him of who he is by writing the kanji that was written in the box containing Tetsuo's umbilical cord; the kanji can be read as Rei, but it can also be read as Akira, and Taichi reads it as such.
  • Konjiki no Gash Bell plays with this from time to time. One episode had part of the title translating roughly to "Searching for the Light", but the kanji given for light was actually the word "shouki" which means "way to victory", with "hikari" (light) given in the furigana.
  • Zombie Land Saga: Saki prefers to write in showy kanji, though when she writes the girls' suggestions for the group's name, she gets the meanings a bit wrong. She writes "Jeanne d'Arc" as "Wicked Rage Void Slackers" (邪怒無怠佝) and "Franchouchou" as "Rotten Chaos Stank Gang" (腐乱臭衆), at which point the girls just ask her to stop using kanji.

    Fan Works 
Tweeny Witches
  • "The Reason He Lies": The kanji 理由 (normally read as riyū) in the original Japanese title of the fic is given the reading wake (normally spelled 訳).

  • Kamikishiro from Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh likes to do this with people's names and calls Touka "Fuji."
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Index and its spinoff series A Certain Scientific Railgun have alternate readings in their titles themselves — kanji that would normally be read "kinshomokuroku" and "choudenjihou" are given the pronunciations "index" and "railgun," respectively. This applies to many of Index's episode titles as well; for example, one episode has "Witch-Hunting King" in kanji and "Innocentius" in katakana.
    • Accelerator's name is written "一方通行" ("One-way Street") in the series. He gets this nickname because there's pretty much only one way a fight with him is going to end up. Accelerator himself even makes a pun out of it in one of his fights:
      Accelerator: Sorry, but from here on out it's a "one-way street"! You cannot advance, so just curl up and cower back in your nest!
    • The idol Hajime Hitotsui's name in kanji is 一一一 (the surname is 一一 while the given name is 一).
  • The Crest of the Stars novels and their sequels use this to give the artificial language Baronh. The meaning is given with the kanji and the Baronh pronunciation is given with the furigana. The English translations just had very large glossaries.
  • Ryuuko of Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl had her name (somehow) mis-read as "Ryuushi". It stuck, much to her chagrin.
  • In Haganai, Sena's father was landed with the name "Pegasus" by his own parents, written using the characters for "Heaven" and "horse" (天馬). He instead prefers going by the name Tenma, which is the more typical Japanese pronunciation of his name.
  • Furigana are used in the Japanese translation of Harry Potter in order to adapt the English puns, according to this site.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, the main character and narrator is only known as Kyon, which is a nickname his aunt gave him. Apparently it's based on an obscure reading of his real name, but we never get any detail on that.
  • In Is This A Zombie?, Orito reads Yuki Yoshida's name as Tomonori. No matter how many times she corrects him, he continues to call her that.
  • Japanese even approach Roman alphabets this way. In Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note, the first line of Aya Tachibana's Monologue puts it clear: "Write it 'KZ', read it 'Kazu'."

    Live-Action TV 

  • Mafumafu uses gikun in some of his songs. A recurring one is for the adjective 愛しい (itoshii, "beloved") which he pronounces kanashii ("sad; sorrowful").
  • Back in her Sakura Gakuin days, Moa Kikuchi's catchphrase was "Value love the most". This is a pun on her given name, since "Moa" is written with the kanji characters for "most" and "love". Following Babymetal's popularity, a brand of saké (Japanese rice wine) written with the same kanji but pronounced "Sai-ai" (the individual pronunciations of the kanji characters) got a surge of demand from fans wanting to have the "Moa saké".
  • The Japanese title for Pink Floyd's The Division Bell is the Kanji for "versus," 対. Normally, this is pronounced "tai," but the obi strip and Japanese-language liner notes clarify that it uses the reading "tsui."
  • STU48's Fu Yabushita's given name, written as 楓 ("maple"), is more commonly read as Kaede. Same with her sister's name, former NMB48 member Shu (柊, "holly olive"), more commonly read as Hīragi.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Along with Punny Names, alternative character readings (either ateji or gikun) are the bread-and-butter source of inspiration for card designs in Yu-Gi-Oh!, a card game originated in Japan. There are just too many examples to list, but for the sake of illustration, there's this card named 「鰤っ子姫」 which is read as "Burinsesu". The card depicts a cutesy girl (鰤っ子 burikko), who is literally an amberjack (鰤 buri), but also a princess (姫 and Burinsesu).

    Traditional Games 
  • One of the logic puzzles published by Nikoli (the same company that popularized Sudoku) is known as Masyu ("evil influence"). This originated from a misreading of the characters 真珠 (shinju, "pearls"), referring to what the circular symbols in the grid resemble.

    Video Games 
  • This the reason protagonist Syouko of Aoi Shiro calls Kaya "Natsu" (or "Natchan"). The first character for Kaya's name is the kanji for 'summer,' which when used on its own is pronounced Natsu. It's mentioned in passing that Syouko's grandmother did something similar with the kanji for spring in her name.
  • Azure Striker Gunvolt: A few names get this treatment in the Japanese version. E.g Carrera's title is Yokubukaki Jikai Ken (Greedy Deep-Magnetic Field Fist) but is read as Magnet Greed. Meanwhile Jota's power's name is Zankou (Afterglow) but is read as Lightspeed. Even the game's Japanese title is one, with Aoki Raitei (Azure Thunderclap) being read as Armed Blue.
  • The real name of Stork in The Caligula Effect Overdose is 'Sagan Masahiro', written with 目 大洋. The kanji respecitively read as 'Me' like 'eye' and 'Taiyou' like 'Sun'. There is no one kanji that can be read as Sagan, and Masahiro is usually written with different kanji.
  • The Japanese title of the game Cherry Tree High Comedy Club is "manken" (漫研), which is short for "manzai kenkyuubu" (漫才研究部, rough translation: "comedy research club"). From the shortened title alone, some Japanese readers may see the kanji and think that it's short for "manga kenkyuubu" (漫画研究部, "manga research club"). One of the jokes has one of the characters do just that — when the protagonist Mairu (Miley in the English version of the game) mentions that she's trying to start a club for comics, one of her friends assumes she's talking about "sit-down" comics and not "stand-up" comics.
  • Daikatana takes its name from 大刀, which native Japanese speakers would read as "daito" which literally means longsword. Considering that the game was made by a western developer this could be a case of Gratuitous Japanese and As Long as It Sounds Foreign.
  • In the Japanese version of Deltarune, the "Wreck" and "Pause" VCR icons that appear during Spamton NEO's ultimate attack in Chapter 2 are translated as "殺エイ中" and "テイ死", respectively incorporating alternate readings of the kanji for "kill" and "death," tying in with the character's habit of replacing instances of "dai" and "desu" with the English words "die" and "death."
  • From Ensemble Stars!, the first kanji in Tori's name can also be read as "momo", which is the basis for at least one of his nicknames. There's also an inversion with Yuuki Makoto, who occasionally makes puns about how he needs courage (yuuki written with different kanji).
  • Don Corneo's mansion in Final Fantasy VII has several ateji spellings of his name plastered on the walls, which directly translates to "old remaining root house".
  • The Famicom game Flying Hero writes the title's second word conventionally in katakana, but writes its first word as the kanji/rōmaji hybrid "飛ing."
  • Genshin Impact:
    • The word 原神note  is normally pronounced as "Yuánshén" in Chinese. However, the game officially uses its Japanese reading, "Genshin", in regions outside of China.
    • The characters from Liyue (a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to China) are all pronounced differently in the Japanese dub, i.e with onyomi. For example, Beidou is "Hokuto", Qiqi is "Nana" and so on. However, "Liyue" itself and Xianglingnote  are still pronounced that way, even in Japanese. Likewise, Inazuma (a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Japan) and its residents' names are pronounced in the Chinese way in the Chinese dub and the Japanese way in their dub. Most translations use the Chinese names for Liyue characters, and the Japanese names for Inazuma characters.
  • The Japanese version of Kirby Star Allies has an interesting way to refer to Another Dimension. The kanji used for it (異空間) can mean "a different space/sky," while the furigana used is "アナザーディメンション", which translates to "Another Dimension."
  • The Legend of Heroes - Trails has this both used straight and played with, as kanji is used to explain the katakana rather than the other way around.
  • In the Japanese version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, when Sheik is explaining the Boss Challenge mode to the player, she refers to the bosses as 強敵 ("powerful enemies") but pronounces it as "bosu" ("boss") rather than the usual "kyouteki".
  • The Miracle Girls Licensed Game for the Super Famicom has a subtitle in which for "Fushigi Sekai no Daibōken" has furigana indicating the Gratuitous English reading "Miracle World Adventure."
  • Onmyōji (2016) has the little Bird People siblings. The younger sister's name is Dōjo, which is the on'yomi of its kanji writing 童女. Her older brother, on the other hand, has his kanji name 童男 read "Oguna" rather than its on'yomi "Dōdan" like one would expect.
  • The Japanese title of Psycho Nics Oscar is written with kanji characters that might ordinarily be read seishimpeiki, but for furigana that gloss them as saikonikku.
  • The title of Salamander is written with ateji characters that can be interpreted as "sand gauze wide (or beautiful) snake." Likewise, the title for Contra is written the same way and can be interpreted as the less sensical "soul bucket net".
  • In Sengoku Basara, Chosokabe Motochika's shpiel when it comes to his attacks' names: each of them is composed of at least one numerical kanji and another one, so to spell out a concept while keeping a different Kanji set; for example, "Sabaki" (literally "Judgement") written with the kanji meaning Three (Sa), Conquering (Ha/Ba) and Ogre (Ki). The first and second games also do it in regards of Masamune, Nohime and Yukimura's top weapons, Alastor, Ebony&Ivory, Ifrit and Sparda, whose names aren't spelled in katakana but in kanji phonetically arranged to spell out their names.
  • The Bonus Dungeon of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, an alternate version of Tokyo overrun by demons, takes the names of its various areas from Tokyo's districts and landmarks, but all spelled using different kanji with a meaning relevant to the boss that dwells within. The dungeon itself, to give an example, is named 東狂 ("East Madness") rather than the normal 東京 ("East Capital"). Sadly, due to being nigh impossible to translate, this is lost entirely in the localization, which simply dubs the location "Twisted Tokyo".
  • Invoked in Syukusho Gakuen. The Big Bad is named Miku, which is an alternate reading for mirai (future). She's a time traveller.
  • Keine Kamishirasawa of the Touhou Project series has a name that can also be read as "Uwa-hakutaku", which is a pun of "were-hakutaku", which she is one of.
    • Reisen Udongein Inaba has spell cards which enforce this. Her spell cards have both a Kanji spelling, and a Katakana pronunciation given after the Kanji. These result in entirely different phrases. For example, her first spell can be read as either "Mind Shaker" or "Lunatic Red Eyes". Strangely, when you go to Hard and Lunatic mode, only the former changes its name. So in Lunatic mode, the same spell is called "Mind Blowing" or "Lunatic Red Eyes".
    • The series associates shikigami with computers. This tends to show up by having one term in kanji and the other in furigana. Sometimes related terms get the same treatment.
      • In a similar vein, Kasen Ibaraki's house is in an enchanted forest and the only way to get in is to follow a very specific path, which she changes every so often to keep people from figuring it out. Word of God compared this to changing one's computer password; the chapter of the official spin-off manga Wild and Horned Hermit which shows this even has Kasen saying "Gotta change the path regularly!" with the kanji for "path" having furigana reading "password" above it.
    • Utsuho's nickname Okuu comes from the alternate reading of her first name (Kuu).
    • Kaguya's name can be read as Teruyo, but it's mainly used in fanworks where Mokou is deliberately misreading her nemesis' name.
    • Even the series' name is an example of this, as the kanji for "Touhou" can also be pronounced "Higashikata" — as in Josuke Higashikata. Needless to say, ZUN is a huge JoJo fan.
  • XenoGears: The text system did not really support Furigana. For example, XenoSaga's did, and so used one term without brackets to show what the character saying this term is meaning, while using the brackets to designate how they were supposed to be spoken. Like so: Stand back, Surface Dweller<Lamb>. In keeping with traditional English syntax, the best way to designate this in the US version could have been something like this: Stand back, Lamb(Surface Dweller).
  • Yakuza: Series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, a man with Dragon motifs out the wazoo, makes a point of not spelling the "ryu" part of his name with the kanji meaning "dragon" (which is the most common way of doing it.)
  • In Pokémon, the reason why the electric sheep pokemon, Ampharos, is able to become a dragon type when it mega evolves in Gen VI, is because of an alternate reading of its name in Japanese. Its Japanese name is, Denryu (デンリュウ), which can also be alternatively read as either Denryu (電流) meaning electric current or Denryu (電竜) meaning electric dragon.
  • DonPachi: the series mascot and True Final Boss is always named "Hibachi", but different games have spelled its name using different kanji, resulting in different meanings like "Fire Bee", "Red Bee", or "Solar Bee".

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Case 1 in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All and Case 5 in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations used this as a plot device, the former because the criminal used the wrong kanji combination for the defendant's surname (defendant has a non-standard combo, criminal incorrectly assumed the standard one) and the latter because an eight-year-old misinterpreted Kanji written instructions. These were changed to spelling problems in the English version.
    • As part of Woolseyism, the localization team for Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, when translating the names of people from the fictional Asian country of Zheng Fa, simply used the Chinese readings of the kanji instead of the Japanese.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, this was used in localization with Bucky Whet; the characters on his outfit were changed from his Japanese surname (打ち立て Uchitate) to kanji (上戸) that can be pronounced "Ueto", a pun on his last name. This itself has a double meaning, as they can also be interpreted as the word "jougo", meaning "heavy drinker".
  • In Akatsuki no Goei Kaito calls Tominori "Son" because Tominori could be read as Songoku instead, which is how Kaito misread it before he educated himself. The name has stuck.
  • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, the Ultimate Botanist that made the giant composter plant is revealed to be named Santa Shikiba in bonus materials. His first name is written as "田田田" (Ta Ta Ta, "Rice Paddy Rice Paddy Rice Paddy"), but is meant to be pronounced as it looks: "3 (san) Ta(s)".
  • Kinoko Nasu loves this. Almost every single term in his stories is written with kanji and furigana to give a double meaning to every single thing. This even applies to the ending songs for the anime adaptation of the Garden of sinners, where non-standard kanji are given for lyrics in the liner notes.
    • Special attacks like Noble Phantasms have a descriptive name in kanji, with the name they were known by in legend given in furigana. E.g. Excalibur is written with the pronunciation "Excalibur" and the meaning "Sword of Promised Victory"note , the latter of which is also the name of its Leitmotif.
    • Lancer (Cu Chullain) has two Special Attacks he can perform with his spear Gae Bolg - a melee thrust which is normally impossible to dodge, and a throw which is normally impossible to block. Both involve calling the name "Gae Bolg", but written with different kanji (translating roughly as "Barbed Spear of Striking Death" and "Soaring Spear of Piercing Death" respectively).
    • All Assassins have a Noble Phantasm named Zabaniya. However, they all have different effects and different kanji spellings.
    • Being the oldest hero of mankind, Gilgamesh uses some archaic language with glosses. This includes how he refers to himself - spelled as the old-fashioned "ware" but pronounced as the more modern/macho "ore".
    • Archer's chant for Unlimited Blade Works gives one of two reasonably different speeches depending on whether one translates the kanji literally or using the furigana. For instance, translating the first line using the former results in 'My body is made out of swords', while using the latter gives us the famous 'I am the bone of my sword'.
    • Inverted in the other great Nasuverse VN, Tsukihime. The protagonist and his evil adopted brother are both called Shiki, but written with different kanji.
    • The background character of ORT had some in-universe confusion as to whether it was associated with the planet Mercury or the Oort Cloud. This because its title is "Suisei no Kumo", which can be written as "彗星の雲" ("cloud of comets", ie, the Oort Cloud) or as "水星のクモ" ("spider of Mercury"). Its name suggests the former, but its eight-limbed body shape suggests the latter.
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, Tohri Nishikikouji gets very annoyed with the heroine constantly forgetting and calling him Toshiki Watashouji.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: Used to horrifying effect; the town's annual Watanagashi Festival (translated normally as "Cotton Drifting") has an alternate reading; "Wata" (Cotton) also means "Entrails". Yes, someone in the story has noticed this. And yes, we get to see the bloody results.
  • In Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side 2, Mizushima Hisoka's given name is written with the character for "secret" (himitsu). Having the player character call her "Himitsu-chan" gets a displeased reaction.
  • All of the Ushiromiya family's given names in Umineko: When They Cry (not counting the spouses) have Western names written in Kanji. There are two variations on this. The first is picking meaningful kanji and then using its direct translation as its spoken form. An example of that would be "戦人" which becomes Battler (Batorā) rather than a Japanese reading such as Sento, which is lampshaded in the airport scene in the sound novel for EP 1. The second variation would be picking a desired Western name, and then finding whatever suitable kanji that fits the pronunciation; an example would be Jessica.
  • In Yo-Jin-Bo, Bo's nickname is based on an alternate reading of his proper name, Tainojo. He says in his introduction that the alternate reading annoys him, but never has any trouble with anyone else calling him "Bo", and in fact in a later conversation with him, he even tells you it's okay to continue calling him such.

    Web Animation 
  • hololive: A few of the idols have Stealth Puns hidden in their names via this method.
    • Kiara Takanashi's surname is written with the kanji 小鳥遊 (kotori asobe), which translates directly as "little birds playing". "Takanashi" can be written with the kanji 鷹無し, which means "there are no hawks", revealing the pun: the reason the little birds can play is because the hawks, their natural predators, aren't around to hunt them.
    • Ina’nis Ninomae's surname is written with the kanji 一 (ichi/hitotsu), which normally means "one". "Ni no mae" (二の前) means "before two", and one does indeed come before two.
    • The nickname of parent company Cover Corp's CEO, "Yagoo", is a result of this. His real name is Tanigou, but the kanji for it (谷郷) can also be read as "Yagoo". In one stream, Subaru kept misreading his name as "Yagoo" and it stuck.

    Real Life 
  • The name of Japan itself, 日本, can be read either Nihon or Nippon, the former being an irregular yet common reading and the latter being the regular, more formal or fancier reading. In certain old compounds, especially the names of deities or nobles, it can also be read as Yamato, the name of the ancestors of the Japanese.note  Thus, a still even fancier name, 大日本 ("Great Japan"), can be read as Dai Nihon, Dai Nippon or Ōyamato.
  • Old Japanese texts were more often than not written in Man'yōgana, an entirely phonetic writing system that made extensive use of different kanji readings. The names of deities and historical figures as recorded by the Kiki (a "ship name" of the Kojiki ("Records of Ancient Stories") and the Nihon Shoki ("Chronicles of Japan")) are great examples of utilizing different readings of kanji. For example, the word tachibana, spelled semantically with one kanji in modern Japanese as 橘, was spelled phonetically with four kanji in the Nihon Shoki as 多至波奈. As you can guess, the system was extremely inefficient because of the higher number of syllables in Japanese words compared to Chinese, not to mention unpredictable, because different people used different kanji to write the same syllable. Eventually, simplifications of these kanji would give birth to hiragana and katakana, which are also phonetic systems but much simpler to write and predictable to read.
  • Kabuki plays use a lot of gikun in their titles, probably just to be fancy or poetic, which is why you generally have to actually learn how to say them correctly because the reading is usually not evident in the spelling:
    • The play 「大杯觴酒戦強者」 is NOT read as *Daihaishō Shusen Kyōsha, but as Ōsakazuki Shusen no Tsuwamono (杯觴 read as sakazuki ("sake cup"), 強者 read as tsuwamono ("strongman"), and there's an extra no that's not even present in the written title).
    • It's notable that the possessive particles ga and no and the continuative verb endings -i and -e are frequently ignored in old texts, but kabuki play titles also frequently ignore other kinds of particles and endings. For example, in the title 「忍夜恋曲者」 (Shinobiyoru Koi wa Kusemono), there's a wa (topic particle) that's not present in it.
    • 「妹背山婦女庭訓」 (Imoseyama Onna Teikin) is an example of the spelling of a longer word being used as gikun for a shorter word: 婦女 (fujo "woman") is used to spell onna, instead of the usual 女.
    • On the other hand, a single kanji can be used to spell longer words or phrases. In 「天竺徳兵衛韓噺」 (Tenjiku Tokubee Ikokubanashi), 韓 (Kan "Korea", kara "foreign") is used to spell ikoku ("foreign country") instead of 異国; in 「閏月仁景清」 (Urūzuki Ninin Kagekiyo), 仁 (jin, nin; composed of the radicals 亻 ("person") and ⼆ ("two") is used for ninin ("two people") instead of 二人 (which can be read as either futari or ninin); or in 「鏡山旧錦絵」 (Kagamiyama Kokyō no Nishikie), 旧 (kyū, furu "old") is used to spell kokyō ("'old' hometown") instead of 故郷.
  • Courtesy of a major Japanese life insurer, the second most popular boy's name in 2014, as written, was 大翔. However, they also noted different parents gave the same name different pronunciations, including Hiroto, Haruto, Yamato, Taiga (Tiger),note  Sora,note  Taito, Daito, and Masato. See here.
    • Also because of this trope, the entire survey results has to be broken into "top names as written" and "top names as pronounced," and further broken down into "top names as written — how are they pronounced" and "top names as pronounced — how are they written"...
    • In fact, some kanji have multiple on'yomi (Chinese-borrowed) pronunciations, since the same character was borrowed from Chinese multiple times, hundreds of years apart. While this is a headache for anybody learning Japanese, it's extremely helpful for scholars of Middle Chinese, since a lot of its pronunciations are preserved in modern Japanese. Like a mosquito in amber, with dinosaur DNA inside its stomach.
  • Aki Toyosaki has a fairly unusual way to spell her first name (愛生), so she sometimes calls herself "Ainama" which are two of the most common readings of those two kanji.
  • Former Osaka mayor Tooru Hashimoto was born Tooru Hashishita. When he was seven, his parents divorced and he followed his mother. At that point his mother changed his surname to Hashimoto, written with the same kanji (橋下), mainly due to the former surname's common association with the burakumin.note 
  • There are a few characters that have multiple readings in Chinese itself. One example is 行, which has at least three different Mandarin pronunciations (xíng, háng, xìng) depending on its meaning, and at least four in Cantonese (hàhng/hang4, hàahng/haang4, hòhng/hong4, hahng/hang6). It is rare for these alternate pronunciations to be used for wordplays, however, and Chinese wordplays are more on the side of Fun with Homophones.
  • The Korean language, having borrowed much of its vocabulary from Chinese, could also theoretically generate similar wordplay from the many homophones and synonyms at their disposal. However, the dual-origin nature of Korean more often gets overlooked as a mundane feature of the language, and occasionally as a source of frustration among its newest learners.
  • Ancient Akkadian and its various regional dialects (such as Babylonian) had the same issue since the Akkadians adopted the Cuneiform writing system of the Sumerians. As such, cuneiform writing could be given either a Sumerian pronunciation or a native Akkadian one. This also applies to several other languages that had adopted Cuneiform writing such as Hittite, Elamite, and Old Persian.
  • Some Japanese voice actors use different readings for their given names professionally; for example, Hōchū Ōtsuka's real name, Yoshitada Otsuka, is written with the same kanji as his stage one.