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Justified Title

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Superman: The only way for me to solve this crisis is to be Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
Peter Griffin: Ah, so that's why they called it that.

A strange title naming trope where a title that obviously refers to one thing — the general idea of a work, or something about its format — is contrived so as to refer to something specific in the story.

This means more than just that the title refers to something in the work — it means that the title so obviously refers to something else that the fact that it does mean something in the work comes across as pretty farfetched. It's as if Star Wars: Episode IV had taken place on the fourth moon around a gas giant named "Episode", and the viewers were supposed to believe that that's what "Episode IV" really refers to.


Compare Title Drop and Epunymous Title. I Am Not Shazam is what happens when the title has one meaning but fans assume a different meaning. If the title refers to more than one concept within the work, it's a Double-Meaning Title. See also Self-Referential Track Placement.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The voiceover for the Virtua Fighter anime doesn't claim it has anything to do with a video game; rather, it says that the main character Akira is named the Virtua Fighter. Needless to say, this is referenced nowhere else. The Latin American Dub tried to make up by translating "Virtua" as "Virtuous".
  • The Wild ARMs: TV series claims that the TV stands for "Twilight Venom", not "television".
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is something of a fake-out. "Tengen Toppa" means approximately "Heaven Breakthrough", and "Gurren Lagann" is the name of the main Humongous Mecha used throughout the series, so you might think it's a typical "descriptive-phrase main-vehicle-name" title such as Martian Successor Nadesico... but no. There's actually a machine used near the end called, in full, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. And it's even more impressive than the name implies.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, rather than being simply an Oddly Named Sequel refers to both the Midseason Upgrade, the Destiny Gundam, but also to the main villain's sinister, Brave New World-esque "Destiny Plan".
  • The Japanese name of Zatch Bell!, Konjiki no Gash Bell, means "Golden Gash Bell". You could think that "Golden" refers to his blond hair, but in the final storylines of the manga and anime, Gash's spellbook actually becomes golden after he unlocks its true powers.
  • Paradise Kiss doesn't refer to mindblowing smooching; it's the brand name the heroine's Love Interest uses on the clothes he designs.
  • SD has been known for some time to stand for Super-Deformed especially in the Gundam franchise; but SD Gundam Force has it stand for Superior Defender, referring to the heroic Gundam protectors.
  • The title of Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- refers to two characters named Tsubasa and the reservoir in Acid Tokyo / Clow Country.
  • The title of the Natsume Ono manga Not Simple is not only fitting due to the complex method of anachronic order that the story is told in, but also references the title of an in-universe novel written by a freelance journalist which is used as a framing device for the story overall.

    Comic Books 
  • The DC Comics mini-series 52 was 52 issues long, one per week for a year; within the story, the title refers to the characters' discovery of 52 universes in The Multiverse. Additionally, the number "52" appeared whenever it was even remotely possible to do so — everything from numbers on football players to clocks set to "5:02". Plus, the final issue of the series came out on 5/2/2007, though DC comics says this was a coincidence.
  • Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D is a 3D comic that involves Superman entering the "Bleed" between universes; going "beyond" three-dimensional space.
  • Marvel Team-Up Vol 3 #19 (June 2006) is a Flash Back story teaming-up the early '90s versions of Wolverine and Cable. It's called "1991", because that's the identification number of the HYDRA base they're raiding.

  • In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the title is obviously a reference to the retro-futuristic nature of the movie, but "Sky Captain" is the nickname of the main character, and the villain calls his little plan (intending to leaving the earth on a rocketship with two of every animal, destroying the Earth) the "World of Tomorrow".
  • The Martian Successor Nadesico movie introduced a new group of adversaries actually named the "Martian Successors".
  • The title of Spy Kids refers both to the fact that the Kid Heroes are spies and to the name given to the evil robotic children created by the villains. The OSS gets a Spy Kids Division, so it's also justified in the sequels.
  • RoboCop 2 actually involves an evil cyborg known as, you guessed it, RoboCop 2.
  • The masks in Halloween III: Season of the Witch come in exactly three styles, and are subsequently called the "Halloween three."
  • Inglourious Basterds makes a minor attempt to justify the misspelling of its title by having it appear misspelled on the rifle-butt of the group's under-educated leader.
  • Enemy Mine started out as a sci-fi flick about cooperation and brotherhood... then executives decided that the title was too confusing, so they decided to add an actual mine, run by enemies. As opposed to simply...changing the title.
  • The movie Event Horizon may be about its namesake given fantastic elements, or at least the title may be referring to it as an analogy to what is going on in the movie. Whatever the case may be the story revolves around a spaceship named Event Horizon.
  • The film adaptation of Watchmen makes it into one. In the comic it refers to the nature of superheroes in general, and quotes from "Who watches the Watchmen?" (Lat. Quis custodiet ipso custodes?), but in the film the abortive team formed by Ozymandias is called the "Watchmen" instead of the "Crimebusters".
  • Misery refers to the misery that novelist Paul Sheldon experiences, but also to the "Misery" series of novels that he wrote... which in turn actually refer to their improbably-named protagonist Misery Chastain, making this a recursive example.
  • The protagonists of The Fall fall both literally and metaphorically.
  • The title of The Manchurian Candidate makes perfect sense, as a key part of the film (and the novel it's based on) takes place in Manchuria. The remake, however, trades the Korean War for Desert Storm and contrives a corporation called Manchurian Global so they could keep the title.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises the title can be seen as Batman's metaphorical rise to being more than just a man... or maybe it's about him literally rising from the pit he was thrown in.
  • Dr. Terror's House of Horrors: And you can see them straining to justify it with a contrived conversation about the meaning of Dr. Schreck's name and him saying of his tarot deck in passing that "I call it my house of horrors". Sure you do...

  • The title of the novel The Big Clock was just a metaphor—until the creators of The Film of the Book, apparently thinking the metaphor was too subtle, decided to throw an actual giant clock into the story.
  • The Burglar in the Rye by Lawrence Block is so named because it concerns the theft of the personal correspondence of a disguised J. D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye. Since the story renames the author and the book respectively as Gulliver Fairborn and Nobody's Baby, there's a subplot involving Bernie starting a trend of drinking rye whiskey.
  • Holding the Man is a form of infringement in Australian football. It was made into a title of the memoir by its author Tim in honor of his lover John, who was the captain of their high school football team and an avid supporter of Essendon Football Club. The movie then adds a scene where said infringement happens in one football game scene.
  • The novel 24: Deadline is set just after season 8. Its title is time-related, since 24 is depicted in Real Time, but it features a town named Deadline in the story.
  • Middlesex refers not only to Cal's intersex condition, but also to the street where she spent her late childhood and adolescence.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Though the trio figure out the "half-blood" part quickly, it takes them until the epilogue to find out that "Prince" doesn't refer to an actual prince. It is the pen name of Severus Snape, son of Tobias and Eileen Snape (née Prince).

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 200th episode of Stargate SG-1 is titled "200". In an obvious bit of Leaning on the Fourth Wall, Mitchell makes a big deal about it being his 200th trip through the gate.
  • TV shows with the naming version of trope go back at least as far as The Wild Wild West (subverted in the hilarious derivative Brisco County Jr.). There are numerous famous examples, such as Knight Rider.
  • On Bones, the main character works with bones, but her partner nicknames her "Bones," making the title important to both the subject of the story and also the main character.
  • The TV show One Tree Hill is named after a U2 song, which in turn is named after a hill in New Zealand. The fictional town the show is set in is called Tree Hill, and the season one finale has Karen remind Lucas that 'there is only one Tree Hill'.
  • Grey's Anatomy refers both to protagonist Meredith Grey and a well-known medical text. Although that is spelled "Gray's Anatomy."
  • Quatermass II is obviously named that because it's a sequel to The Quatermass Experiment. But essential to the plot is a rocketship actually called the "Quatermass II".
  • Doctor Who:
    War Doctor: What I did, I did without choice.
    11th Doctor : I know.
    War Doctor: In the name of peace and sanity.
    11th Doctor : But not in the Name of the Doctor.
  • Midnight Caller: The title of the Grand Finale, "City of Lost Souls," sounds like it refers to San Francisco. It's actually the name of a homeless camp.

  • Many assumed (and still do) that the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is about LSD, given the initials, the trippy lyrics and the fact that the Beatles openly admitted to experimenting with drugs, which would make it an instance of this trope. That notwithstanding, John Lennon (who wrote it) has made it quite plausible that it's a complete coincidence, and that it's about a character in a drawing his son made, which was really called Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
    • That really is true; her name was Lucy Richardson and she died in 2005 at 47, after having a brilliant career as an art director in film.
    • The band's openness about drugs makes the alternate explanation more credible—after all, if it were a drug reference, they wouldn't be shy about saying so, or at least they wouldn't concoct a cover story.
    • A lesser known example: Initially the BBC wouldn't allow Paul's "Fixing A Hole" be played on air, convinced that the title referred to injecting heroin, known as a "fix". In reality the song was just inspired by Paul doing weekend maintenance on his roof one day.

    Video Games 
  • Many Nintendo DS games justify the usage of Super Title 64 Advance by making the DS mean something other than the name of the system:
  • Metroid:
    • The "Prime" in Metroid Prime is meant to denote it as a side series to the main Metroid games. The final boss is called the Metroid Prime even though its relationship with Metroids is rather vague.
    • There is also an actual "Super Metroid" in Super Metroid.
  • The Dead or Alive series takes its name from how the game was expected to either sink or save the floundering company TECMO, thus the "Dead or Alive Tournament" is an attempt to justify the title. This makes sense when one considers that "Dead or Alive" is a rather strange name for a tournament in which nobody dies.
  • The original Marathon game was so named early on because the creators pictured the player running a "Marathon" of endless fighting throughout the game. The title is justified fairly well in-game by calling the colony ship The Marathon, which is ostensibly running a "marathon" from Earth to Tau Ceti, however the making-of book confirms that the project was named first, and the colony ship is therefore a justification.
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days is named for the fact that it takes place between the numbered games, and one week shy of a year (358 days) is the amount of time that elapses between them, and, hence, is the period in which Roxas was part of Organization XIII. (For those curious, the remaining seven days of that year comprise the prologue of KHII, where a mind-wiped Roxas is placed inside a virtual Twilight Town.) The 2 symbolizes his relationship with Sora and also symbolizes the fact that the 358 days are shared by both Roxas and Xion, both of whom are part of Sora (in a sense).
  • The Xenoblade Chronicles series:
    • Xenoblade Chronicles: The main character wields a single weapon for the majority of the game: a plot-centric blade that's specialized against the mechanical invaders that come from the other (xeno) of the two giants that constitute the game world. It is also a "xeno" blade in the sense that it is responsible for the creation of everything.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles X does it even more egregiously, especially considering how as a Non-Linear Sequel it shouldn't really need any justification for the title: In this game, the focus is around the conflict between the military organization Blade and their various encounters with aliens, which in this universe are referred to as Xenos. One of the main characters is secretly a Xeno and also a member of Blade, which technically justifies the title.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 refers to the Aegis, an atypical Blade. Said Blade is related to the Monado, meaning that it is literally Xeno Blade 2.
  • The title in each X-Universe game is justified. X: Beyond the Frontier is about the XPerimental shuttle going beyond the frontier of the solar system. X: Tension is an extension pack to X:BTF. X2: The Threat refers to the Kha'ak invasion and their tendency to shoot anything in sight. X3: Reunion reunites Earth with the X-Universe. X3: Terran Conflict shows rise of the Terran Conflict. X3: Albion Prelude starts the train-wreck of catastrophes that leads to the portal network being shut down, leading to X Rebirth which takes place a thousand years later, hence the "prelude"; The ship in X: Rebirth is the Albion Skunk.
  • Rockstar's Bully turns the implied belligerence of the title into a nickname for Bullworth Academy, the school where much of the game is set.
  • Bonk's original Japanese name was PC Genjin, which sounds like PC Engine aka TurboGrafx-16, the console he originally appeared on. As for the name, "genjin" means "caveman" in Japanese, and PC was his humorous definition Pitecanthropus Computerusus.

    Visual Novels 

  • Bob and George meant the original, handdrawn comic the author intended. When the Sprite Comic Filler Strips overtook the main plot, he introduced two new sprites to justify it.
  • Crystal Heart The title of the comic, as well as the titles of the individual chapters each have "heart" in the title, and the theme of (crystal) hearts features majorly in the story. In the case of the chapters, the names are proverbs, such as "Heart of Stone" "Wild at Heart", or Heartless" - all refering to something that happens in the chapter, such as a crystal heart that can literally turn people to stone.
  • Raven Wolf: The main plot revolves around the Raven Wolf tribe of wolves.
  • The eponymous group in The Order of the Stick (which is a Stick-Figure Comic) is named for a stick which lies on the ground when they name it.
  • Spacetrawler wasn't this initially, as the title came from the universe's Faster-Than-Light Travel technology. But by the end of the first series, all spacetrawler drives were both outlawed and replaced by newer, faster tech. So with no spacetrawlers in the sequel series, the protagonists' spaceship I.A. Starbanger abruptly gets renamed to G.O.B. Spacetrawler.

    Western Animation 
  • In Kubo and the Two Strings the titular protagonist carries a powerful magical instrument with three strings for most of the movie's length. Only at the climax, when his instrument's strings are broken, does the title come into play: he re-strings his instrument with a strand of his mother's hair, his father's bowstring, and a strand of his own hair, as well. With the memory of his parents' sacrifices and his own resolve, he is able to wield an instrument that is, literally, 'Kubo and the two strings'.
  • Batman Beyond obviously refers to how it's about a Batman both beyond the time of the previous series and Bruce's use of the title. Years after the show ended, its Fully Absorbed Finale in Justice League Unlimited gives a literal meaning to "Batman Beyond": it's the name of the project Amanda Waller instituted to make sure there would be a new Batman.
  • Parodied in Family Guy with a cutaway montage of Peter hearing title drops in movies and finishing with an example that could go on this page if only it were true:
    Superman: If I'm going to solve this, I'm going to have to be Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
    Peter Griffin: Ah, so that's why they called it that.
  • The main character of Disney's Goliath II is actually an elephant. Goliath I is actually his father.
  • The title of Over the Garden Wall references how the series is about Wirt and Greg visiting the other, mysterious world that is the Unknown. However, the penultimate episode reveals a much more literal meaning: The brothers went to a cemetery called the "Eternal Garden", climbed over a wall when they thought the police were after them, almost got hit by a train, and then fell into a freezing pond. That is how they got into the Unknown.