Whilst reading manga or watching anime you will eventually come across extra words added onto the end of a character’s name e.g. Lucy-chan, Milo-kun, Lexemon-sensei. But what on earth does it all mean?! Don’t Panic! This is very common in manga and sometimes anime. These add on words are honorifics, more precisely suffixes as they come after a name. But first let’s understand what honorific means.
An honorific is a title. They are usually used to show a person respect or acknowledge their social standing. In the western world honorifics are commonly things like Mrs, Mr, Miss, Captain, Doctor etc These are all prefixes, which means that they come before a name e.g. Professor Jones.
In Japan they use honorifics in several different ways (in addition to using westernised prefixes). I am going to explain the most commonly used ones in manga and anime to help you understand what it all means!
Many of the honorifics used in manga are suffixes as they come after a name. This can be confusing at first to a manga reader, I know since I was confused too at first. I didn’t know why it was there and what it meant. After a while I realised that it was to do with the relationship between characters. Here are the most frequently used suffixes in manga and anime.
-san is attached to the name of other people who are equal to yourself for example the same age, same job. It is a suffix which is polite and quite neutral.
-sama is attached when speaking to someone who is ranked higher than the speaker. They may have a slightly higher job position or role in school. Characters that attach -sama to their own name are seen as arrogant and obnoxious.
-chan is used to make something cute! Usually used when addressing a female, child or someone with whom you are close friends.
-kun is similar to -chan, it can be added onto a young man’s name and be used to show affection and familiarity towards a young male.
-senpai/Senpai is an upperclassman or someone who has been in a workplace longer than you. Senpai’s must be treated with the utmost respect.
-kouhai/Kouhai is a lowerclassman, the reverse of senpai. If you attach the -kouhai suffix to somebody’s name it means that you are often guiding and offering advice to the lowerclassman.
-sensei/Sensei means ‘teacher’ However this term isn’t just used in a school environment. It is often used to address anybody who has a learned profession such as doctors, sports instructors and writers.
The suffixes Senpai, Kouhai amd Sensei can also be used as pronouns in their own right. For example, ‘Sensei teach me everything you can!’
I hope this was useful, now you can start adding them into your own conversations! Thanks for reading Kouhai!
The image used for this blog is of Korosensei from Assassination Classroom. This is available as both a manga rated OT, Older Teen and anime rated 15 on DVD. However, it is available on some streaming platforms such as amazon prime, where it is rated a 12.