Watashi and anata
The formal pronouns ‘watashi’ (I) and ‘anata’ (you) do not show up in animes and Japanese dramas as often as we would expect because in animes, where casual language dominates, the preference is to use other ways to say ‘I’ and ‘you’, each one with its own nuance. In this clip from ‘Your name’ (kimi no na wa), a girl that unwillingly has exchanged bodies with a boy named Taki, is talking to his friends for the first time; not knowing how Taki addresses himself, she tries different ways to say ‘I’ until she hits the right one:
Taki: aa… eeto…
The most common words for ‘I’ that appear in animes and manga are:
- 私 – watakushi – very formal
- 私 – watashi – formal, business-like, gender neutral
- あたし – atashi – feminine, semi-formal
- 僕 – boku – young, respectful, non-confrontational, male
- 内, 中 – uchi – children and women, Kansai dialect
- 俺 – ore – confrontational, confident, tough, male
Japanese avoid saying ‘you’, and instead use the name of the person, so all of these forms of ‘you’ are mainly relevant in pop culture:
- あなた – anata – formal, business-like, neutral; it is also a way for a wife to address her husband, meaning ‘dear’ or ‘darling’
- 君 – kimi – affectionate, friendly
- あんた – anta – rude, confrontational, despective
- お前 – omae – rude, confrontational, tough; the kanji means ‘respected front’ but this meaning no longer applies
In some animes, people that are portrayed as fairly polite might use ‘anta’, ‘ore’, or ‘omae’, but my Japanese teacher frowns at all of these; Japanese people do not speak like characters of TV shows. There are many more ways of saying ‘I’ and ‘you’, depending on the character’s trade – a samurai, a farmer, a servant; location – Tokyo, Kansai, Okinawa, Hokkaido; and mood – irritated, pretentious, humble.
watashi, desu/da, ne/na Ep. 1
Eng: I’m a violinist
lit: Me? I am a violinist!
watashi wa baiorinisuto desu ne
わたしは バイオリニスト ですね
watashi baiorinisuto da na
わたし バイオリニスト だな
- Kawori is talking casually, so she drops the ‘wa’ particle, and uses ‘da’ and ‘na’ instead of ‘desu’ and ‘ne’
- ‘baiorinisuto’ is the gai-rai-go for ‘violinist’, i.e., it’s a word borrowed from a foreign language.
Jyaa, ne, hana, ‘o’ prefix, arigatou, san/chan Ep.2
Eng: Kao! Tsubaki!
Then… see ya. Thank you for the flowers.
lit: Kao! Tsubaki!
Then… right? Thank you for the respectable flowers.
Ja ne. o-hana arigatou
- ‘hana’ is flower(s)
- Kawori is talking respectfully of the flowers so she adds the ‘o-‘ prefix
- ‘chan’ is a casual form of the ‘san’ honorific
o-hayou gozai-masu (casual) Ep.6
Eng: hey. ‘sup.
lit: Good morning. Good morning.
- ‘o(s)su’ is a very casual shortening of ‘o-hayou gozai-masu’.
- Even though ‘o-hayou gozai-masu’ means ‘good morning’, in certain contexts, like here, it simply means ‘hey’, or ‘sup’ (what’s-up).
- Since the encounter between Kousei and Tsubaki happens at night, a formal greeting would have been ‘kon-ban-wa’.
watashi/boku, desu/da (casual) Ep.15
Eng: I’m a fool. meow.
lit: Me? I’m a fool. meow.
watashi wa baka desu. nyaa.
わたしは ばか です。にゃあ。
boku wa baka da. nyaa.
ぼくは ばか だ。にゃあ。
- ‘baka’ is ‘fool’ or ‘idiot’
- ‘boku’ is a casual way to say ‘watashi’.
- ‘da’ is the casual way to say ‘desu’.
- American cats say ‘meow’, Japanese ones say ‘nyaa’.
anata/kimi, no, wa Ep.16
Eng: What the…? where’s your bag?
lit: What the…? your bag?
anata no kaban wa doko desu ka?
あなたの カバンは どこ ですか。
are! kimi kaban wa?
あれ！きみ カバン は？
- Kousei is talking casually so he drops the ‘no’ particle
- ‘kaban’ is bag or briefcase
- ‘kimi’ is a casual form of ‘anata’; it has a connotation of familiarity and affection
- ‘are!’ is an exclamation that means ‘What the…?’ or ‘Oh my!’ [slang]
watashi/kimi, desu/da, na-adjective Ep.18
Eng: You are being cruel! / You are so cruel!
lit: You? You are cruel!
anata wa zankoku desu ne
あなたは ざんこく です ね。
kimi wa zankoku da ne
きみは ざんこく だね。
- ‘kimi’ is a casual form of anata
- Kawori is talking casually, so she uses ‘da’ instead of ‘desu’
- ‘zankoku-na’ (i.e., cruel) is a na-adjective. The ‘na’ particle is appended when the adjective is applied to a noun, e.g., ‘zankoku-na hito’, but is not added when the adjective is alone, e.g., ‘zankoku desu’.