Watashi (私・わたし・ワタシ) is traditionally the gender neutral first person singular pronoun and as such preserves this distinction in polite discourse, whereas in informal speech you are more likely to encounter it used by female speakers of all ages. Regardless of this, however, you will in fiction encounter male speakers use it as a pronoun of being aloof, noble or mock-polite.

The focus of this article is to take a look at prominent male speakers or at least some fitting examples from Japanese comics to illustrate the breadth of this pronouns usage within modern Japanese media.

In the second part of this article we shall be looking at characters from media of other languages that have been given watashi as their pronoun to convey their personality.

Part I - Japanese Comics:

Byakuya Kuchiki - Very much a man with a stick up his noble posterior, but his does have some rather fashionable if ludicrous hair accessorises.

Byakuya Kuchiki from Bleach, a series drawn and written by Tite Kubo, is a staunch aristocrat and member of the Thirteen Court Guards of the afterlife. His manner of speaking befits his station, not only does he use the pronoun, but his speech is archaic and - depending on whom - he refers to other people with the second person pronouns kisama (貴様) and kei (兄), the former extremely insulting and the latter a more cordial if refined spelling variant of 卿, literally meaning "lord" or "sir," where his preferred 兄 means "brother" referring to his sense of camaraderie.

In the picture above Byakuya says:

Watashi ni
kisama gotoki no suki o tsuke to iu no ka?
"So you are saying that are cur like you shall be striking my weakspot?"

To things are worth noting, in the picture above watashi ni "of me; to me" is in a separate speech bubble quickly followed by the one containing the second person pronoun, thus in a very visual manner depicting his aloofness, distancing himself to his interlocutor and attacker, a member of a lower nobility. gotoki is an archaic manner of saying "like", "kind of" or "appertaining to", whereas a more modern word is (no) you ni (の様に), to create comparisons between people, objects and so on.

"Your fangs, churl,
Cannot reach me."

You will notice that Kubo is quite fond of Byakuya expressing his first person pronoun in one speech bubble and then that of the other in a separate one to illustrate his lofty pride.

"If you were to defeat me... Then shall I gladly answer your question."

Once he does have respect for his foe he shifts it to the same, thus equating the two. It is rather regular in the earlier portions, but less so as the series goes on, presumably because Byakuya becomes less standoffish.

Shen Long from Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama represents a case of the pronoun used to a divine or mystical being, such in this case a dragon that can grant wishes, albeit ones that do not surpass the might of his creator.

More or less coming with the grand old "What I cannot grant" genie of the lamp disclaimer.


Sore wa muri na negai da...
Watashi wa kami ni yotte umidasareta
Shitagatte kami no chikara o koeru negai wa kanaeraren

"That is an impossible wish...
As I cannot grant wishes that surpass the power of the God, who did create me."

Foremost watashi is rendered in hiragana versus that of Byakuya's kanji, Chinese character, presumably due to the format and demography being young teens, and secondly, his speech is rather formal towards the God of Earth, who created him: Namely, umidasareta being the passive respectful past tense of umedasu "to beget, to bring forth, to create" thus showing respect for his creator. His speech is also of the masculine variety with the -n negative ending versus that of the archaic -nu and the modern -nai, as in kanaeraren (I am not able to grant).


Sonna koto wa mondai ni naranu
Watashi mo Daryûn mo chichiue ni kawarete oru

Such a thing need not be an issue
Myself, Darune and my Lord Father hate that.

Crown Prince Arslan from Hiromu Arakwa's comic-adaptation of Yoshiki Tanaka's The Heroic Legend of Arslan novels, which feature the prince in his fight to reclaim the throne from a traitorous relative in a realm of fantasy and fights very much in the sweeping style of Lord of the Rings. His Highness displays all manner of archaic traits:
~ni naranu ("must not, ought not, shall not") - Naranu versus the less old fashioned naranai.
chichiue (My lord Father, honourable father") - A term used by aristocratic children to refer to their father.
oru ("to be") versus iru, where the former is usually used by older, more ancient speakers, but here fits with Arslan's royal upbringing and the rest of the cast talking in a Elizabethan kind of way.

Part II - In Translation

We have thus seen its association with noble, ancient and aloof persons, but what of when it is applied to translations of other works?


Yokuzo mairareta. Watashi wa shinsei Rôma koutei Furîdorihi. Doitsu, Itaria, Burugunto. Sono hoka atama no kuniguni mo suberu ou. Kikou mo amaneku hiroku no tochi o suberu shukun to omiukesuru. Muron, chikara ni yoru shihai dena.

"Welcome hither. I am Frederick, Holy Roman Emperor of Germany, Italy and Burgundy.
I am king of a multitude of other realms. Judging from your august appearance you too, my fellow noble, appear to be a regent of a wide area. Verily, thanks to the power of ruling."

Civilization 6 boasts a wide gallery of world leaders from across all of history and one pronoun that is popular amongst all of them is watashi. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarosa has it here paired with a host of archaic features, namely the respectful passive form mairareta (to arrive) - prefixed with yokuzo (well done), kikou (formal second person singular, lit. "honourable duke") and adding to that omiukesuru (to politely assume, to politely suppose) that gives off an aura of a courteous and formal monarch. The monarch himself speaks in an archaic register of Old High German.

Kratos from the God of War series is also a user of watashi, as he makes known in the very first words of the game's introduction:

Oryunposu no kamigami wa watashi o misuteta
The Gods of Olympos have foresaken me

Moving onwards to the third game in the series:

Angry as always.

真の戦士は隠れぬものだポセイドン 海を離れて いざ向き合え!

Shin no senshi wa kagurenu mono da Poseidon. Umi o hanarete iza mukiae!

A true warrior is he who hideth not himself away! Leave those oceans, face me and have at thee!

Kratos is fighting Poseidon in the opening segment of the third game and his lines are filled with archaic features, the negative particle nu, iza as a call to arms or shout of challenge, it is hard to translate directly, but equivalents in English would be "have at thee, have at you, give it your best." Iza in particular is very much a thing uttered by samurai and martial artists when wanting to challenge an opponent.

Fleet Commander Orthopox 13, the Conqueror of Zargon 5 and so on, from Destroy All Humans works as the alien senior commander and talking guide-book for the pugnacious Cryptosporidium, the main diminutive protagonist of the games, which fittingly are about an alien invasion on the planet Earth.

Here appearing in hologram form as he cannot be bothered with interacting with his lowly footmen.


Hiniku wa ii. Watashi wa juukuu, omae wa chijou, sore ga arubeki sugata toiu mono da.

"How very sarcastic. I am in the sky, you are on the ground, that is indeed what is the ideal status quo."

He also uses the formal arubeki ("how it ought to be; ideal situation") construction amongst other things giving him the aura of a mad scientist and highly intellectual if obstreperous curmudgeon.

One of the help-screens.


Wareware Furon wa, kyouiteki na saikokineshisu (PK) nouryoku o shinka sarete kita. Kuriputo yo, buttai mata wa seibutsu o hyouteki ni shi, sore o kuuchuu ni ufukabasete miro.

"We, the Furons, have through evolution attained the marvellous ability of psychokinesis (PK). Crypto, you shall target either an object or a living being and then suspend it in midair."

Wareware is a highly formal way of expressing the first person plural pronoun, the rest of his vocabulary, as said, is highly formal and gives off an impression of standoffish gloating.

As we thus have seen watashi encompasses quite the range of characters and archetypes in Japanese fiction and media, be they noble gods, annoyed scientists or wish-granting dragons.