Fall is almost here, but it’s still grotesquely hot and humid in Japan. We’re still seeing the same pattern in our writer poll – shows tend to be all or nothing (either listed as #1 or not at all). Does that mean it’s a more divisive season than normal in terms of opinion? Could be – but to sneak preview the sneak preview, I suspect fall is going to be a very different season, with votes spread out much more widely.

“Ask the Writers” is back with a straightforward (seeming) question – “What’s your Japanese personal pronoun of choice, and why?” It’s the nature of the language that this is both a personal and sometimes rather difficult decision, and once you make it, it’s awfully hard to shake it…


Weekly Staff Poll

Enen no Shouboutai – 19 points, 2 first-place votes
Vinland Saga – 15, 3
Kimetsu no Yaiba – 12
Kanata no Astra – 9
Fruits Basket 2019 – 7


Ask The Writers

What’s your Japanese personal pronoun of choice – and why?

  • Zaiden: I would choose Boku. But Boku no Pico has ruined that for me. So I’ll settle for ore, in the sense of ‘Ore wa oppai ga suki’.
  • Takaii: Pronoun: 私 (Watashi). I unfortunately have never used any other ones in real life but if I were to pick one I’d definitely lean toward 僕 (Boku) since I’m not really a 俺 (Ore) kind of guy. (Editor’s note: D’aww)
  • Choya: I have been partial to “Ore” for the superficial reason of having the pronoun associated with the old “Ore wa Jack Bauer” commercials that aired ages ago, in which Koyama Rikiya sings a ballad in homage to 24‘s main protagonist. “Boku” is pretty easy to say as well so I’m not too picky about which one I go with. I guess it’ll be whichever I end up picking up when I brush up on basic conversational Japanese.
  • Pancakes: As for pronouns my Canadian sensibility demands boku because polite Canadian eh! Also because I look too damn young to be slinging ore around in a professional environment and sound convincing in the process.
  • Stars: As far as pronouns go, I distinctly remember testing out ‘ore’ and ‘boku’ during Japanese lessons, but ended up sticking with ‘watashi’ since it was the most neutral pronoun to use. Even now, I think I’d default to ‘watashi.’ No one has anything to say about ‘watashi’ but strut around with ‘ore-sama’ on your lips and you best be some kind of larger-than-life trickster god.
  • Stilts: Ore-sama, because I’m a larger-than-life trickster god. (Post author’s note: applying our own honorifics are we – and “-sama” to boot?) (Stilts bonus note: Ya damn right.)
  • Passerby: If we’re talking about favourite pronoun, mine is probably ‘jibun’. In a language filled with layers of purposeful ambiguity and ritualised semantics ‘jibun’ is singularly unique in grammatical function (but even then, serves two. Why, Japan?) and has the highest probability of actually being correct without getting the side-eye for being a dirty gaijin.
  • Guardian Enzo: This one is, to me, a lot harder than it sounds. I started out with “Watashi” but for a guy, that’s just too “foreign student” in my mind. So I was faced with the eternal dude dilemma – “Boku” or “Ore”? Honesty compels me to answer this way – part of me wants to be an “Ore” but the truth is I’m a “Boku”. (Posited: every boku wishes they were an ore at some point, but very few ores ever think about being anything else.)


    1. It’s okay — I vote for Dr. STONE every time. Don’t forget that the list is an aggregate from all the writers who participate.

      Here’s what my votes were (since I’m not watching a ton of things):

      1. Fire Force
      2. Dr. Stone
      3. Kimetsu
      4. Fruits Basket
      5. UchiMusume

  1. Interesting answers…
    Now, unless i have gotten rusty at my pronouns, Ore is used by the male when the adressee is of lower standing right?
    And passerby using a military one at that?!

    1. No, personal pronouns (referencing yourself) are not directly related to anyone else’s relative social standing (though like everything in Japanese it’s complicated). Ore and Boku are simply two different ways for men/boys (and occasionally women/girls, especially with “Boku”) to say “I”, and each has certain shadings which reflect how the person views themselves. In a more formal situation a guy might not use either (especially “Ore”) but that opens up a whole new vein of complications and subtleties.

    1. If I’m joking around with friends I’d try to drop something crazy like that but in practice I can’t even picture myself using something besides watashi.

      You know, if anything, I’m probably like Tohru since I think I stick with polite-form 99% of the time (except when I forget to conjugate a verb and then fix it asap).

  2. This must be a very bad season if EnS is taking the first place so many weeks.
    I’m watching it and I think it is good, But good god is it tropey! everything other than the main mystery is just taken out of a template

    1. I’ve not been exercising my democratic right, since I’d fallen behind on everything that’s not what I’m covering. But I’ve done a lot of catching up, so you’ll be seeing Vinland Saga back on top next week. Tabun.

      1. In fairness 90 percent of anime in most seasons will be forgotten about in five years time as they’re nothing remarkable. Only a handful of shows each season really stand the test of time.

      2. I get your point, but I don’t think rewatch value is a useful measure. Anime, like TV shows in general, is a kind of disposable thing, and very rarely do you get something that qualifies as “art” or even is worthy of a second look.

        I’ve watched getting on for 1,000 anime but I’ve only rewatched maybe 20 or so, and of those I’m just as likely to have rewatched them for the fanservice rather than their overall quality.

  3. All of this pronoun discussion is meaningless, meaningless I say,
    without its corresponding definite article! So for me, it’s always been –>

    Watashi ga

    which always makes Japanese people notice and provides me the attention I truly deserve!

    (got that from watching “The Ballad of Narayama” :))


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