As the ‘sub-watchers’ develop an ear for the Japanese language, certain words and phrases start being noticed more frequently. In addition to the names shared among a plethora of characters from different franchises, it is always intriguing to decipher the hidden meanings which may hint at their personality, or end up being a puzzle piece that was right in front of our noses from the very beginning. On that note, what does ‘hitori bocchi’ mean?
‘Hitori bocchi’ translates to ‘all alone.’ The term is a romanization (use of the Latin script to write the Japanese language) of a Japanese expression ‘一人ぼっち,’ which can be seen in different spellings: hitoribotchi, hitoribocchi, or hitori bocchi. The expression generally conveys the meaning of loneliness, as it is translated to ‘all alone,’ ‘lonely,’ ‘solitude,’ or simply ‘loneliness,’ (depending on the source). The term ‘bocchi’ can be heard in isolation and is considered an abbreviated form of the phrase, which can be heard in conversational language.
The phrase has drawn more attention once it started to be noticed more frequently in anime. From having it as part of the title, to casually assigned nicknames given by characters at some point in the show, we’ve analysed some contexts in which the line has been spotted!
How is ‘hitoribocchi’ reflected in anime?
One of the best-known uses of the phrase is in Hitoribocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu. In this anime, one of the main characters is Hitori Bocchi – a young girl who has just started middle school, but her only friend enrolled in a different one. To make matters even worse, she suffers from severe social anxiety, due to which she faints and vomits from the unnerving feelings caused by stressful situations. These circumstances paint a picture in which making friends is a true feat.
Knowing that ‘bocchi’ is often used in conversational Japanese as an abbreviated form of ‘hitoribocchi’, her name depicts her as a loner. The wordplay here is descriptive of both her situation and her personality, as she finds making friends incredibly difficult due to her having social anxiety. Therefore, Hitori Bocchi is quite literally ‘hitoribocchi’, which is the main premise in the series.
Moreover, most other names here are the results of wordplay. To back up this thesis, we could mention Honshou Aru, whose name is derived from the expression ‘honshō aru’ (本性ある), which would translate to ‘having a true nature.’ We wouldn’t call this a naming convention per se by any means, but it does add an additional layer to storytelling, since hidden or underlying meanings in each character’s name could hint at certain conclusions very early in a story, or merely be an additional puzzle piece in terms of character creation.
Take, for example, the Japanese word for rabbit – ‘usagi’. In Sailor Moon, the leading heroine’s name (Usagi Tsukino) would literally translate to ‘Rabbit of the Moon,’ referencing a Japanese folktale, while the name Usagi in Juuni Taisen merely ‘describes’ the character’s appearance and the role they play – aka ‘Warrior of the Rabbit.’
This line of thinking is, in fact, pretty common when it comes to anime. It could even be said that a majority of characters have meaningful names in terms of the story. For instance, in Bleach, ‘Ichigo’ is derived from a Japanese word that means ‘one protector’ or ‘guardian’ (among other possible contexts), while ‘Aika,’ one of the leading heroines in Zetsuen no Tempest, means ‘love song’ in Japanese.
In addition to names, the wordplay can also encompass nicknames or remarks made in jest, in which case it would be with an intention to point out that someone is a loner or prefers solitude. The term ‘hitoribocchi’ can be heard during a Hashira meeting in Kimetsu no Yaiba, when Giyu Tomioka was referred to as a ‘hitoribocchi’.
One more example is Hitori Gotoh from Bocchi the Rock! anime series. She is an introverted soul who prefers to spend her time playing the guitar and shies away from encounters, as she struggles when it comes to socializing. Because interpersonal relationships pose a challenge for her, she was given the nickname ‘Bocchi-chan,’ reflecting her lonesome nature.
Analyzing the context in which the term can be heard, it mostly refers to someone preferring or finding themselves in a state of social isolation. Be it due to social anxiety, quiet personality, or introverted personality, the characters who act independently and keep themselves at a distance from others are usually given this nickname.