Here you will find honest, intelligent manga reviews for shojo fans of all ages.

Jun 23, 2009

Shōjo Sensei: Senpai and Kōhai

If you've watched anime or read manga long enough you've undoubtedly come across the term senpai. Even without a dictionary it was pretty easy to figure out that a senpai was someone with more experience and was looked up to. In shōjo manga it is most commonly seen in a school setting, when an underclassman refers to an upperclassman, however it can also be seen in work settings when a new hire refers to a co-worker with more experience. Senpai and kōhai have a reciprocal relationship in that the senpai are obligated to lead and train the kōhai, while the kōhai help the senpai with their tasks in order to learn from them.

For a long time I knew the honorific of senpai, but didn't realize that the "underclassman" also has the honorific of kōhai. There's only been one instance in which I've seen kōhai used, and it was in a scanlation. This made me wonder why the English publishing companies don't keep ALL the honorifics. You see senpai commonly enough, so why not kōhai? Usually it's replaced with the term freshman or first year.

Senpai and kōhai relationships are very common in shōjo manga since many are in a school setting. Some examples are Haruna and Yoh from High School Debut, Chiaki and Nodame in Nodame Cantabile, Ren and Kyoko from Skip Beat, and Mayama and Takemoto in Honey and Clover.

If you want to add any more senpai-kōhai relationships to the list, please feel free to comment.

Until next time - Arigatō!


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