and the fact that the right choice is sometimes (often?) to drop any "title" at all and account for the familiarity via voice and tone would undermine an auto-replace system from the start.
Yeah if the title is dropped, I think it kills most automated approaches.
But to reiterate, I think the age when J>E translators felt compelled to make a 1:1 correspondence between -san and Mr. (etc.) is dead, and good riddance to it.
That is interesting. I don't disagree with the point. I guess I just consume more subbed anime than light novels and assume too much of the awkward translation stuck. I do see how light novel have more freedom in translation to actually use tone/voice to convey the intent.
I think it's interesting that you recognize that the honorifics don't add anything in certain contexts. I would push you to see that, in terms of the English translation, they don't (or shouldn't) add much in any context.
Perhaps there was too much emphasize on the benefit of the honorifics. Sometimes the English version just feels wrong. Let me try to purge any anime from my mind and focus on just the limited novels I've sampled here... Things like "Brother dearest" break the flow for me. Honestly anything different name or name + title that differs from the anime (or whatever form I consumed the source from first) just feels off. I acknowledge this is completely subjective and comes down to personal taste.
Trying to take my arbitrary bias out of the matter, adding back in honorifics seemed like the most general solution. (It seemed to be a superset of the problem of name/term conversion) Clearly I was underestimating the diligence of the translators in their efforts to convey the similar meaning.
So it was less of honorifics are "correct" or "always better" but more of just what I am used to and would prefer to see.
I'll concede automatic honorifics don't seem to be generally practical at the moment because of how works are currently translated and there isn't a desire to change how things are translated.
I personally still feel like it still has some merit in many cases that are annoying to me (straight name/term changes for example), but doesn't look like this would have general appeal. Probably just build that functionality into my custom app/reader.
Would again like to thank everyone for their input.