Boss Subtitles

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Bosses have a number of ways to announce their presence, but nothing quite says "Boss Battle" like splashing a banner across the screen to say:

Descriptive sentence

Boss Name

This is very, very popular in Japanese media, and found in most 3D Console RPGs, as well as in certain anime and manga (where it's a handy way to introduce new characters), it has been parodied from time to time. Despite the name, this is not limited to video game bosses. It often accompanies a Mook Debut Cutscene.

See also Dramatis Personae, and Adjective Noun Fred.

Examples of Boss Subtitles include:

Anime and Manga

  • Putting onscreen the name of the Robeast during its first appearance used to be very popular in the Super Robot Genre. Noteworthy examples are:
  • Yu Yu Hakusho did this even with special attacks. Practically every new character introduced was given a name in this fashion, even Yusuke himself.
  • The Law of Ueki does this with opponents, detailing their powers, number of talents, and miscellaneous information such as hobbies and such.
  • Samurai Girl Real Bout High School did this in the final volume (descriptive sentences and everything) as a sendoff to all the characters, handily inverting the common usage of this trope.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann applies this to both the Quirky Miniboss Squad as well as its leader and whenever the heroes combine into a new and bigger kind of Humongous Mecha, the name of the new form is displayed onscreen.
    • Used gloriously in the last episode to make the Title Drop, just before the Final Battle. The subtitle is even in the same font as the main title.
    • In first movie, it also happens after the three Generals and Viral combine their Dai-Guns (Dai-Gunkai, Dai-Gunten, Dai-Gundo and Dai-Gunzan II). The name-tag says "Dai-Gun Doten Kaizan".
    • In the second movie's final battle, we get Tengen Toppa Solvernia (Nia), Tengen Toppa Enkidulga (Viral), Tengen Toppa Yoko W Tank (Yoko), Tengen Toppa Twin Vulcan (Jorgun & Balinbow), Tengen Toppa Kidd Knuckle (Kidd), Tengen Toppa Ainzaurus (Iraak), Tengen Toppa Sozoshin (Zorthy), Tengen Toppa Moshogun (Makken), Tengen Toppa Grapearl (Gimmy and Darry) and finally Tengen Toppa Dai-Gurren (everyone else) all get epic entrances complete with their own respective subtitles. And then they combine to form Super Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. He gets a subtitle too, of course. There are two mecha in the final battle without Boss Subtitles, the regular old Lazengann and the curiously unnamed Tengen Toppa Lagann.
  • One Piece. Tends to be a necessity when characters are being introduced in rapid succession, and is almost always used when a major character is introduced (in the format of Epithet - Name - Bounty).
    • This also applies to characters important enough that their name is a chapter name. In fact, this is necessary for some undubbed characters, as it is the only way to spell their name correctly when it is written in English. As an example of both variations: Great Whirlpool Spider Squad.
  • The early episodes of Digimon Savers did this with newly-encountered Mons instead of the usual Digimon Analyzer scene. Tradition prevailed and the analyzer scenes were back by episode eight or so. Digimon Xros Wars did it near-constantly with every Mon instead of anything resembling a Digimon Analyzer; it even repeated the subtitles for characters outside Xros Heart / Blue Flare whenever they showed up in multiple episodes, the practical upshot being that they were displayed almost ever time repeat villains like Lilithmon, Tuwarmon and DarkKnightmon showed up.
  • Eyeshield 21. Practically every new character introduced.
  • Vampire Princess Miyu TV series. Every single episode.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka slipped in and out of this depending on how many new characters were being introduced. The manga also had more detailed versions for primary antagonists like Principal Uchiyamada and Teshigawara.
  • All characters in Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo receive a captioned name when they first appear, no matter how irrelevant they are to the plot. One character in the American dub lampshades this. "Get those Japanese words off of me!"
  • Mahou Sensei Negima occasionally made use of this trope. It's even lampshaded at one point when Misora is trying to maintain a secret identity... a task which might've been easier if a caption displaying her full name and even her seat number hadn't shown up. An annoyed Misora immediately asks what it's doing there and tries to shoo it away.
    • Done to much greater effect in Chapter 300, where everyone gets their own subtitle—some 28 characters in all.
  • Tentai Senshi Sunred, being a parody of Sentai shows, has these for everybody—hero, villain and human alike. They're accurate, but goofy considering the creatures they're describing are just going about their daily lives.
  • The Prince of Tennis manga does this whenever new players are shown. Not that it helps, considering there's Loads and Loads of Characters.
  • Rosario + Vampire has these for new species of monster.
  • The first episode of Hayate the Combat Butler's second season uses these to get the audience up to speed with the rather large cast, all of whom appear.
  • Lampshaded in Cromartie High School, where all the main characters and bosses are introduced with subtitles in every single segment.
  • The Monster of the Week's name is displayed in the original Japanese version of Samurai Pizza Cats.
  • All the suspects, their ages, and occupations are displayed in this manner for Detective Conan, which has obvious character-recognition applications, especially when you need to introduce 2-5 characters a week for a fresh mystery.
  • Record of Lodoss War introduces every character with a speaking role like this.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes also does this for every character, even the major ones at least once per season. The format is usually the former, with the 'Descriptive Sentence' denoting military rank as well as position within government (i.e. Chief Minister Of Internal Affairs, Fleet Admiral William Von Ribbentrop. Note: This is not an actual character, in order not to spoil). This is a courtesy extended by the producers to the viewers, as it's another case of Loads and Loads of Characters.
  • In Shakugan no Shana, it's standard practice for both Flame Hazes and the Crimson Lords they hunt to have titles like this, such as "Margery Daw: Chanter of Elegies", or "Supreme Throne: Hecate".
  • Starting from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's the Belkan Knights looks to be akin to this with all the Wolkenritter's having subtitles like Shamal's "Knight of the Lake", Vita's "Knight of the Iron Hamer" and Zafira's "Beast of Shield". Their leader Signum even have two in "Blazing General" and "Knight of the Sword". Their weapons and unison devices also have their own names and subtitles but that will deserve it's own list.
  • Madoka Magica: Each witch gets their name displayed in runes.
  • In Bleach, whenever a new captain or lieutenant was introduced during the Soul Society arc, a small panel appeared on screen: [Name of character] [Captain/lieutenant of division [insert number here]]

Comic Books

  • Happens in Scott Pilgrim, with "bosses" like The Evil League of Ramona's Ex-Boyfriends, since the book's plot is halfway between a romance manga and an old-school Beat'Em Up. The other characters get these as well, with one of the running gags being "Knives Chau: 17 Years Old".
    • The characters are also able to read them, as Roxie objects to her caption classifying her as Ramona's fifth Evil Ex Boyfriend.
      • Scott is shocked when Knives' subtitle finally changes to "18 years old". He comments on Ramona's age being listed as "Unknown," and he reads "Knows everybody" off of Comeau's box.
  • Protagonist example, The Authority are introduced using a mix of these and a Batman Cold Open. Midnighter's subtitle ("Night's Bringer of War") is probably the best of the lot.
  • The X-Men and The Avengers loves this too. Usually they go "Name, Codename, power, short description". The description can often be completely tangential, odd, or just funny. Examples:
    • "Scott Summers, Cyclops, Optic Blasts, leader of the X-men. Owns a jetpack."
    • "Kurt Wagner, Nightcrawler, Teleportation, fan of Errol Flynn movies."
    • Marvel does this with all their team books.


  • The Losers introduces the main characters by freeze framing before shifting to the comic book art's style, showing their name and military specialty.
  • This apparently is (or perhaps used to be) fairly common in Japanese films. In a broadcast of The World Is Not Enough on Japanese TV, the character names and actors displayed with each character's first appearance.
  • In The Good the Bad And The Ugly, the three titular characters are introduced by this as well as a freeze frame, and Leitmotif.
    • And at the end, too.
  • Done in the opening scenes of Zoolander with the main characters. Played with later on when David Bowie (playing himself) also gets a subtitle despite being little more than a cameo.
  • Hugo Stiglitz from Inglourious Basterds randomly gets some, just to show how Badass he is. Later in the film, some important Nazi figures are pointed out, but in a much more subdued way.
  • Done in Kill Bill, with the accompanying code name for the assassin.
  • As in the comic book example above, the film of Scott Pilgrim has freeze frame names and descriptions for new characters.
  • An unusual "serious literature"-type movie example: The Merchant-Ivory film The Golden Bowl (adapted from a Henry James novel) had a caption: "The London home of ADAM VERVER" followed by "America's first billionaire."
  • In Smokin Aces and its sequel introduction of all principal characters includes a still frame with a name tag.
  • In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, The Cock Blocker's introduction includes a freezeframe with the caption: "Hey kids! It's Mark Hamill!"

Live Action TV

  • Every Super Sentai series between Choudenshi Bioman and Go Go Sentai Boukenger did this for every villain, from Monster of the Week up to Big Bad. The same goes for the heroes' and villains' Humongous Mecha, and sometimes important locations when first introduced.
  • Burn Notice does this every episode with the client and the antagonist, and frequently plays with it. For instance, if Michael is reluctant to take on a client, the subtitle "Character Name: The Client" will show up when he finally gives in. The antagonist will also sometimes have their job title slide off the screen to be replaced with a comment another character has made about them.
    • Small Crowning Moments of Funny can come of these. Two in particular I remember are "Undead Spy" and "Probably Not An Alien".
      • Another one comes from an episode where Michael and a gang member are on the run from a russian criminal. The gangster comments that the russian is a hardass, and wonders aloud what hardass is in russian. The subtitle then shows up for the russian, with some Cyrillic characters followed by "(hardass)".
    • And who can forget Fiona's jewel, "Forget that, anyone who messes with a fifteen year old girl is nothing more than a bloody pervert!" Cue recycled subtitle: "Felix Cole: Pervert"
    • It's also used to dramatic effect at two points. The subtitle for Simon is simply "?" and Management gets no subtitle at all.
  • Elliot Reed: Moment Killer
  • The first episode of the Gokusen live-action drama introduces the major characters this way.
  • Super Robot Red Baron did this much like the Super Robot Genre examples above, with the Iron Alliance robots and later with the Space Iron Alliance robots.

New Media

  • Red vs. Blue does this when the character Doc is introduced.
    • Church even subtly lampshades it.
    • They did this in the trailer for RvB, so it would appear that they didn't want to leave Doc out (the only soldier not to make an appearance in the trailer).

Video Games

Action Adventure

  • The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time (the picture is taken from a Fan Game tribute) is possibly the Trope Codifier. Every 3D Zelda game except The Wind Waker has used it. Sometimes, a common adjective appears in each of the standard bosses' descriptions. In Majora, it is "Masked". In Twilight Princess it is "Twilit".
  • Seen with the bosses in Brave Fencer Musashi and its sequel Musashi: Samurai Legend.
  • Beyond Good and Evil, too, since it's inspired by the Zelda series.
    • This only happens with Jade and Pey'j, though.
  • Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon makes good use of this. A personal favorite is "Wartime Kabuki Robot KASHIWAGI." The final boss is "The Fairy of Love and Dreams D'ETOILE."
    • From Goemon's Great Adventure there's "Ukulele Hawaiian GODS OF WIND AND THUNDER." What else would you expect from a series like Ganbare Goemon?
  • Okami has Boss Scrolls, with a illustration of each enemy (including bosses) when fighting them for the first time along with their name in Japanese (regardless of whether the game is the English version), right when Boss Subtitles would normally occur. It also has this for many characters when you first meet them. Including a slip of paper.
  • When someone important shows up in Killer7, they get one of these. Even if they're scheduled to die in a few moments (take a bow, Toru Fukashima and Trevor Pearlharbor). This also happens when a new version of a Heaven's Smile appears for the first time.
  • The Yakuza games do this almost every time an important character is introduced, boss fight or otherwise. Of course, this being a series set in modern-day Japan, most of the subtitles are fairly mundane, which sort of makes it funnier.
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Action Game

  • Diablo III has gotten into the act. Random unique enemies will have a title under their health bar in place of attributes like most special enemies. For example, in Act II you can run into "High Cultist Murdos, Cruel and Powerful Cult Acolyte" or "Ashek, Diminutive Fallen Fighter"
  • Asura's Wrath has these. As well as one for every form each boss has, apparently (As can be seen by the E3 demo).

Beat'Em Up

  • Viewtiful Joe
  • The Warriors introduces each new gang with a quick shot of the gang and their tag.
  • Pokémon Rumble has a basic one for its bosses (class, then the name). The Battle Royales give a hint of what Pokemon it is beforehand with a silhouette, almost meaningless stats (as you progress in the game they'll always be Legendaries), and the typing.
  • Every time a new type of enemy appears in Bayonetta, it's accompanied with a short cut scene and a Pastel-Chalked Freeze-Frame that gives the name and class of the enemy. Is also used to remind the player to put on an appropriate Oh Crap face when Umbra Witch: Jeanne finally appears after fighting her at least three times prior, and Dea: Jubileus
    • The Infinite One: Father Rodin
  • Spyborgs is one of the cases where they do it to introduce new regular enemies.
  • The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile has one for every boss save the last. It's pretty much always played seriously, though a couple are a little snarky.

Fighting Game

  • The first Darkstalkers did this with each character and their monster template/inspiration (e.g. Anakaris—Mummy). The sequels didn't.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Brawl's Subspace Emissary, characters that appear for the first time get their name to appear onscreen, probably referencing the first trailer.
    • Mr. Game and Watch doesn't get one for some reason.
    • The only other non-playable characters who get one are Master Hand and Tabuu, both of whom are featured in boss fights.

First-Person Shooter

9 Toes. (Also, he has 3 balls)
Sledge. PS. You aren't friends.
Undead Dr. Ned. HOLY F*** ING SHIT!!!!!!
Knoxx: Doesn't like Mondays

Hack and Slash

  • No More Heroes did this (with the exception of the first boss) when ever you entered a boss fight. Starting with a digitize voice announcing the boss's name and a quote from them. The sequel uses a different approach, in reverse; The boss' name gets revealed after the battle is won, along with the subtitle stating that they are defeated.
  • The Sengoku Basara series does this with stage bosses, examples include Motonari Mori: Terrifying Tactician and Kojuro Katakura: Doing Work.

Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game

  • Throughout one of the bonus mission pack missions in Guild Wars, which was a pastiche of kung-fu movies, every boss character is introduced in this way.
  • The MMORPG Mabinogi does this when you reach the boss of an instanced dungeon. As does its Darker and Edgier prequel Vindictus.
  • Not typical in World of Warcraft, but happens sometimes. Mainly, Illidan Stormrage, "The Betrayer". Also, Kael'thas Sunstrider, "Lord of the Blood Elves" or Kil'jaeden "The Deceiver".
  • In Aeria Games' Grand Fantasia, this happens frequently, no matter what part of the world you are in and no matter where the boss monster appears. It also occasionally has a WARNING tacked onto the front (to let you know that a monster on the other side of the continent is coming to get you), accompanied by an ominous bell chime. More often than not, five minutes later there will be another message popping up to let you know that the monster has been defeated.

Platform Game

Be carefull !
"(Boss's name)" is coming
(Line of proverbial advice)

Racing Game

  • Many racing games do this with each course.
  • Colin McRae: DiRT (video game) 2 uses a variation of this as its 'One To Watch' feature: Immediately before each individual race, the game shows you the name and vehicle of whichever participating racer the game has chosen as most likely to win, making him/her your primary challenger for the rest of the race. There's even a chance that the game can pick you as the One To Watch, letting you know just how much of a speed demon you are.

Real Time Strategy

Role-Playing Game

  • Dark Cloud aka Dark Chronicle also does this. Both games have stuff like "Divine Beast Dran", "Ice queen La Saia", "eater of memories, Memo-Eater" or "Dark Ruler Emperor Griffon."
  • Done for party members in Final Fantasy VI, except it only shows the description. You get to name the characters yourself.
    • Similarly, the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV does it for all party members the first time you meet them, while the boss encounters show the name of the boss at the beginning.
  • Wild ARMs 2, with a silhouette against a blood-red screen and an ominous intro theme to go with them.
  • The .hack videogames show special animations before you fight the eight phases, the first of which is Skeith: The Terror of Death.
  • Fable II introduces new enemies using little cutscenes, going from standard "Bandits" when the hero is young and "Commandants" when things get tough.
  • Every boss in From the Abyss. Most of them will also have a pre-fight taunt after the subtitles fade, the only exception being the penultimate boss, the Abyss Cocoon (which is a giant beating heart).
  • Every boss encounter in Avalon Code.
  • Skies of Arcadia does this for the Valuan admirals... and their ships. And the Gigas.
  • The later Ys games all do this.
  • Live a Live has enemy subtitles. At the beginning of every battle, the game introduces each enemy by showing their name at the top of the screen.
  • Used for each boss in the freeware RPG A Home Far Away

Shoot'Em Up

  • Every normal stage in the Mega Man and Mega Man X series opens like this, with just the boss name. Later installments in the X series add a descriptive subtitle.
  • The Touhou games do this whenever the protagonist reaches the boss battle at the end of a given stage. Mid-bosses usually do not get subtitle introductions (unless they're also the main boss of a stage). Because of the format of the games, pretty much every character has at least one of these.
  • Taito's widescreen shooter Darius (and its sequels) introduces the stage's boss with this: "WARNING! A HUGE BATTLESHIP (boss's name) IS APPROACHING FAST."
  • Before a boss appears in Gunstar Heroes, you're given a warning that names the boss and their attacks. A lot of them tend to have silly names and attacks, but that won't stop them from beating the crap out of you if you don't know what you're doing.
  • Ikaruga: Before encountering a stage end boss, a red warning is displayed on the screen stating "The big enemy is approaching at full throttle. According to the data, it is identified as Butsutekkai. NO REFUGE"
    • I Wanna Be the Guy does a parody of an Ikaruga boss fight with Mecha-Birdo, complete with the same warning screen and BGM.
  • Thunder Force V and VI.
    • For Thunder Force V: "ALERT! The enemy is dead ahead! Area Guard Name: _____", and a small description (like "It died three times a and was reborn twice" for Armament Armed Arm) and for the final boss: ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! with the voice-over devolving into static, repeatedly saying "caution."
  • Radiant Silvergun has boss battle complete with message "Be attitude for gains:" followed by 3 tips which don't, for the most part, seem to make any sense.
    • For shmups, the trope might as well be called the "Warning screen", though not all warnings give a title for the boss.
    • A variation of this is played in Touhou 11, where Okuu's nuclear-themed spellcards are preceded with two scrolling strips that say "CAUTION".
  • Star Fox for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System has an unusual example of this. Every major boss is given a subtitle in the manual, such as "Advance Scout Mother Ship: Attack Carrier", and "Special Close Orbit Robot: Phantron". There are no names or subtitles given during gameplay, but instead features an elaborate ending sequence that shows each of the bosses faced during the course which gives just the name and some meaningless stats.
    • The 3DS remake of Star Fox 64 adds these, using the first format. The only exception being Sector X's boss which only shows the Boss Name. It averts the All There in the Manual that the original had where most boss names were concerned.
  • Magical Doropie has Boss Intertitles. After the Red Alert sounds and the boss appears, the game cuts to a screen with the heading "ALERT!! Big Enemy!!" Underneath this is shown a short data file on the boss. Concluding this screen is a "message for you from your friends."
  • As a romhack of Mega Man 6, Rockman 6: Unique Harassment displays this under the Robot Master's name if they're selected.

Simulation Game

  • Ace Combat Zero: Starting with the player's Galm team, whenever a new boss-level squadron appears, their name and emblem appears on the screen during the introductory cutscene. This is also the case with the interviews, showing the character's callsign, their full name, and their squadron's name.
  • Trauma Center borrowed the descriptive sentence/boss name format for the bonus X missions of Under the Knife, which featured each of its seven GUILT strains in isolation and in their hardest form.

Stealth Based Game

  • Metal Gear Solid loves this to bits, following the 'Character Name' - 'Voice Actor' format. Main characters like Snake or Raiden even get big music stings to go with them. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: Substance parodied it with the more standard boss variation and 'The Monster From Another Dimension - Gurlugon'.
    • Holding a button when this occurs will display the character's motion-capture actor instead of the voice actor.
    • Apparently Kojima took this concept from the Japanese dubs of many mainstream Hollywood films, which would often show the name of every main actor whenever they first appeared next to the name of the Seiyu voicing them.
    • Peace Walker also features the more traditional variant. Compulsory bosses and the Monster Hunter creatures get one on a red-tinted screen with a special font while the Extra-Ops vehicles have no screen tinting and use a larger version of the subtitle font.

Survival Horror

  • Every installment in the House of the Dead series does this with its bosses, having a name (Until Overkill, taken from Tarot cards.) and picture of the boss come up, with its weak points helpfully pointed out. Justified in the first two games as being a file collected at the beginning of the game, and even shown as opening the file or book to the relevant entry. In The House of the Dead 4, James stores boss data in a sleek PDA.
  • Clock Tower 3 has this. First, it shows the title of the boss, then underneath, a count of their victims shows. The count disappears and is replaced with their extremely exaggerated prison sentence in years, which then reduces to 0 as the bosses health meter fills up. The bigger a sentence, the more health the boss will have.

Third-Person Shooter

Web Original

aki may have been on to something


  • Chapter 12 of Drowtales used this during a fight when over a dozen new characters were introduced.
  • Spoofed like so many other things in Girly.
  • Every villain in Titanzer gets introduced with subtitles, like so.
  • Pages in Bibliography get a short message indicating their name and codex if they haven't introduced themselves yet.
  • The Spanish webcomic 5 Elementos does this with every "boss" of each arc story, as a reference to Zelda, of which the author has said he is a fan.

Western Animation

  • Road Runner "Acceleratii incredibus" and Wile E. Coyote "Carnivorous vulgaris" etc.
    • Parodied at least once when the subtitles actually were the actual scientific names for roadrunner and coyote.
      • Not to mention Bart and Homer being defined as Brat'us Don'thaveacow'us and Homo Neanderthel'us, respectively.