Different characters speak differently in anime, and the most recognisable ones are the differences between men and women. We will discuss the full extent men and women are characterised to speak differently in Japanese in a later lesson, but one of the most noticeable differences in anime is the way people refer to themselves and others.
Below is a chart of how some of these words are divided up. It’s important to remember though, that although some are more feminine/masculine than others, personal pronouns used in anime are interchangeable depending on the character type (i.e a masculine girl or feminine boy). Some of these words, although common in anime, are not appropriate to use in everyday Japanese.
WATAKUSHI – Is an extremely formal, feminine and polite way of saying “I”. Often used with OJOSAN (rich girl) type characters. When you normally say “I” you would use WATASHI, but an extra KU is added to make it sound more feminine.
ATASHI – Is an extremely cute way of saying “I”.
ORE & BOKU – These are pretty interchangeable impolite ways for masculine characters to say “I”
ORESAMA – This is an incredibly rude way for saying “I”. In Japanese SAMA is used as a suffix to elevate people above you (i.e god – KAMISAMA). Using SAMA on yourself elevates yourself above everyone else and is therefore used by extremely arrogant characters. Normally bad guys, because they’re bad guys who think they’re better than everyone else. [DO NOT USE IRL!]
In real life it’s more polite to use someone’s name, but as anime works on very casual Japanese other people’s names often dropped and swapped for just “you”.
ANATA / ANTA – ANATA is probably the most polite way of saying “you” but often in anime characters get lazy or if they want to be impolite they drop the A in the middle and change it to ANTA.
KIMI – This word for you is more informal and like ANATA is interchangeable between men and women.
Notice how anything masculine is considered impolite? Well the masculine uses for “you” are the worst. The following 3 often get translated to “bastard” but in fact the Japanese don’t have swear words like that, and instead use very, very informal ways of referring to others.
OMAE – This is similar to ANTA in terms of politeness and is used by people who are higher than the speaker. Often husbands will say OMAE to their wives while the wives use ANATA (which often gets translated as “darling” in those situations).
KISAMA – Extremely rude. It uses the elevated SAMA again but almost in an ironic way to say “how dare you try to be higher than me”. Very hostile.
TEMEE – Extremely rude and hostile, on the same level of rudeness as KISAMA.
Masculine “they/that person”
Again, rather than saying someone’s name characters will often refer to them by the following. They don’t call them this to their faces but uses them when they’re talking about a person to someone else or when talking to themselves. Often implying contempt for that person.
AITSU – Addresses the person as far below the speaker.
YATSU – Almost literally “that thing” but used with people or animals.
The above are the most common words I’ve found in anime but for a full list of personal pronouns in Japanese and further explanation see this Wikipedia page on Japanese Pronouns.
Watch the following video and see if you can pick out the uses of pronouns. There are 4 and one repeats. The clips are fast you might need to watch them more than once. Click on the CC button to view the answers on the subtitles.