-sama -- This honorific denotes the greatest level of respect or
submission on the part of the user. Seto is refered to as "Seto-sama" by
most people because she is very powerful. Washu is generally known as "Washu-sama"
because she's the greatest scientist ever known. Aeka refers to Tenchi as
"Tenchi-sama" because of him being Yosho's descendent. However, as she is
a woman of high upbringing who is in love with Tenchi, it is another
reason that she addresses Tenchi with the sama honorific.
-dono -- This
is a rarely used honorific in modern-day Japan. It has its roots in the
warring states days of Japan and apparently used to be the highest honorific
bestowed on a person (usually the samurai in charge of a village or town).
This honorific has two uses today.
- submissive -- The use of -dono in the
submissive sometimes sees the term translated to "Master." Yukinojo, Mihoshi's
nutty computer system, refers to Mihoshi as "Mihoshi-dono." That's
because Mihoshi is his owner, thus making it proper for him to address her as
- non-submissive -- This form of -dono is used
when a person of great importance addresses someone else of great importance
(in one way or another). It allows the addresser to show great respect
to the addressee without elevating them above the addresser. Washu and
Seto-sama are the chief users of this form of -dono. Thus when Washu
addresses Tenchi as "Tenchi-dono," she recognizes him as an important and
powerful person, and thus an equal of sorts.
-san -- This is the generic honorific in Japan. It is commonly
equated to the English Mr./Mrs./Miss honorific and is used for any situation
where politeness is required (which are many situations). This is
reflected in TM!R with Tenchi addressing Mihoshi, Aeka, Noike, and
other's he meets with the -san honorific.
-chan -- This is one of the more intimate honorifics in Japanese
society as it has a more feminine take. It is primarily used for young children, girls, and pets.
Girls will often address each other with the -chan honorific. It can be used to address males, but that is generally not appreciated.
Despite what you saw in Pioneer's translation of the series, -chan does not mean
"little." Washu made a big deal of getting people to address her (very
improperly so) as "Washu-chan" because she's trying to be cute and play up the
"young girl" aspect of her appearance. Sasami is referred to by nearly
everyone as "Sasami-chan" due to her age. Ryo-ohki is often refered to as
"Ryo-chan" because of her pet and young-girl appearances. Rea refers to
Tenchi as "Tenchi-chan" because she helped take care of him when he was little.
-kun -- This honorific is less formal than -san and has a more
masculine take. Of all honorifics, this one is the one most likely to be
ignored by translators because they can't come up with an appropriate
translation for it. There are two uses for this honorific.
- informal -- This form of -kun is used
primarily to address boys or young men. Thus you see girls in school almost
always refer to their male counter-parts with the -kun honorific.
Males also can address each other with the -kun honorific, but it depends on
the situation and relationship of the speakers.
- more formal -- This form of -kun is primarily
used in the work environment when a boss addresses his or her underlings, or
by a teacher when addressing students. As such, the honorific is used to
address both males AND females.
You may have noticed in episode 12 that Dr. Clay refers to Washu as
"Washu-kun," indicating that he considers himself to be superior to her.
-senpai -- Also spelled as "sempai" based on how it sounds to our
English-speaking ears, this honorific is used by one to address those of more
senior rank than themselves. It is mainly used in the school environment
(through college), but can also be used in the work environment. That's
why Seina addresses Tenchi as "Tenchi-senpai." The term can also be used
as a stand-alone title, so Seina could just address Tenchi as "Senpai" and that
would be fine too. If you've watched ADV anime titles, you'll know they
choose to use the cringe-worthy term "Senior" as a translation to this.
The reverse of this is "-kouhai" which is used by the senior ranking person to
address the lesser ranking person. However, this honorific is not required
and often the senpai will simply address the lesser by name with an honorific,
depending on how they view the person they are addressing.
This honorific is a title to denote someone as master in his or her field.
It can be used as an honorific or as a stand-alone title. ALL
teachers/educators are addressed with this honorific. Others who are
addressed with the sensei title/honorific are lawyers, doctors (all), authors
(including manga-ka), or other such masters. TM!R creator Kajishima Masaki (name Japanese style) is given the sensei honorific because he's an author (and for some, because of his wonderful creations).
no honorific -- The lack of the use of an honorific either indicates
rudeness or disrespect on the part of the addresser, or it indicates that the
addresser feels a sense of intimacy to the addressee. The degree of
intimacy is reflected on whether the addresser uses the addressee's family name
or given name. Ryoko addresses no one with an honorific, portraying the
rude gaijin (foreigner). Because Tenchi uses no honorific to address Ryoko,
it gives them a greater air of intimacy, even if Tenchi favors no one girl over
another (per 101 Secrets).
-nee -- This is the short term for
"older sister." While this form of the honorific isn't that common, it
is generally used by those addressing an older girl who is not the addresser's
actual sister, but for whom they look up to as a sister. Here are other
forms of the term:
- (o)neechan -- This is the least formal form
to address an older sister or sister-type. This can be used as an
honorific or as a stand-alone term. The "o" prefix honorific adds more
respect to the honorific. "Neechan" is also used sometimes to address
a waitress. Kids will often address an older girl (through their 20's)
as "oneechan" even if that girl is a stranger. Sasami-chan addresses
Ryoko as "Ryoko-neechan" or "Ryoko-oneechan" even through Ryoko isn't her
- (o)neesan -- Same as above, only more
formal. Generally, one sees this used for actual family members.
- (o)neesama -- Same as above, but it is the
most formal use for "older sister." Sometimes this form is used by younger
girls in lieu of "senpai" to address an older girl they admire or to address
a mentor. Sasami-chan has addressed her older sister Aeka as "Oneesama."
-nii -- This is the short term for "older brother." While this
form of the honorific isn't that common, it is generally used by those
addressing an older boy who is not the addresser's actual brother, but for whom
they look up to as a brother. Here are other forms of the term:
- (o)niichan -- This is the least formal
form to address an older brother or brother-type. This can be used
as an honorific or as a stand-alone term. The "o" prefix honorific
adds more respect to the honorific. This term is used a lot by
younger girls to address older males up through their 20's. It is
also a term favored by those otaku into lolicon or have a little sister
complex. Sasami-chan refers to Tenchi as "Tenchi-niichan" or "Tenchi-oniichan."
- (o)niisan -- Same as above, only more
formal. Generally, one sees this used for actual family members.
- (o)niisama -- Same as above, but it is
the most formal use for "older brother." Aeka addressed Yosho as
"Yosho-niisama" or "Oniisama."
Note: There are other terms for older brother and sister which are not
other honorifics -- There are a few other honorifics of
interest to bring to your attention. There are actually many more
than I list here.
- (o)jou(chan/san/sama) -- This is a
title/honorific used to address a girl or young woman of someone
important and rich, but who's NOT a member of the royalty. "Ojouchan" can be used to address a young girl, but is
often seen used in a rude way by thugs to a young woman they've eyed.
"Ojousama" is used by the household staff of the young woman's family to
- -hime -- This is a title/honorific for
princess. Kagato refered to both Aeka and Sasami-chan with this
honorific. To add more respect to the title, the sama honorific is
attached to it ("himesama").
- -han -- This is an honorific of the
same level as -san, but seems to only be used by those speaking with a
- -tan -- A cutesy form of the -chan
honorific. I had thought it to be a cutesy form of -san but have
been informed this is not correct.
- -chii -- A cutesy, highly informal
pseudo honorific. Ironically, this will often show up in translations,
but not denoted as an honorific by using the dash. Instead, it
will often be appended to the end of someone's name, often as "tchi."
- -chama -- A cutesy, childish form of
the -sama honorific.
- -chin -- Another cutesy, childish form
of the -chan honorific.
- -tama -- Another cutesy, childish form
of the -sama honorific.
- -rin -- Not really an honorific,
but rather a cutesy modification to the end of name. This is often
seen as similar to giving someone a nickname. So "Ryoko" might
become "Ryorin." "Sasami" might become "Sasamirin."