This mini-guide details the various first-person pronouns (一人称; ichininshō in Japanese) used throughout Dragon Ball, meaning this guide is essentially how different Dragon Ball characters say “I”. One of the differences between English and Japanese is that Japanese has all sorts of different ways to say “I”, while English of course has pretty much just one. In Japanese each form of “I” has a different connotation, and which form a character uses says something about them. The same character might also use different forms of “I” depending on the situation, or change to a different one as they grow older or transform. This is an aspect of the dialog that is basically impossible to translate, so this guide was crated so that those who read/watch the series in English can be aware of these distinctions.
How To Say “I”
Wikipedia has a specific page about the different forms of “I” in Japanese, but we will summarize the ones most commonly seen in Dragon Ball.
私 (わたくし) / Watakushi
Even more polite than “Watashi”; gender-neutral. You do not see it too much in Dragon Ball, though.
Example: “Dai-sābisu de goran ni iremashō!! Watakushi no saigo no henshin wo…” – Freeza
Translation:“As a grand service, I shall show you!! My final transformation…”
儂 (わし) / Washi
Informal form of “Watashi” used by old men.
Example: “Washi ga uwasa no Kame-Sen’nin, idaina Muten Rōshi ja.” – Kame-Sen’nin
Translation: “I am the Kame-Sen’nin heard of in rumors, the great Muten Rōshi.”
僕 (ぼく) / Boku
Informal and generally used by young males.
Example: “Demo Boku… budōka ni nanka naritakunai… erai gakusha-san ni naritai…” – Son Gohan
Translation: “But I… don’t want to be a martial artist… I want to be a great scholar…”
あたし / Atashi
Informal and used by young women.
Example: “Atashi Irēza. Yoroshiku ne. Tsuide ni kocchi no ko wa Bīderu…” – Erasa
Translation: “I’m Erasa, nice to meet you. And this girl here is Videl…”
おれ / Ore
Informal, generally used by men, and gives a sense of masculinity.
(Most of the male characters in Dragon Ball use this.)
Example: “Ore wa Gokū demo Bejīta demo nai. Ore wa kisama wo taosu mono da!” – Gogeta
Translation: “I am neither Goku nor Vegeta. I am the one who shall defeat you!”
おいら / Oira
Another hick form of “Ore”.
Example: “Mura de wa tobikiri tsuyoku tatte… Oira yori tsuyoi hito wa kitto ippai iru zo.” – Oob
Translation: “I may be the strongest in my village, but… there are definitely people stronger than me out there.”
Very childish, but may be considered cute.
Example: “Popo erai.” – Mister Popo
Translation: “Popo is great.”
Goku usually uses “Ora”, the hick form of “Ore”. However, when he first transforms into a Super Saiyan he switches to using “Ore”. Super Saiyan Goku again uses “Ore” when he fights No. 19, but after training in the Room of Spirit and Time he uses “Ora” even as a Super Saiyan, perhaps because he got used to the form. As Vegetto he uses “Ore”, probably due to Vegeta’s influence and the same is true of Gogeta.
Gohan first uses “Boku”. He keeps on using it as a 16-year old, but as Ultimate Gohan he uses “Ore”. However, by the time of the 28th Tenka’ichi Budōkai he has switched back to “Boku”. In Trunks’ future he uses “Ore”.
As a seven-year old he uses “Boku” and as Gotenks he uses “Ore”.
Chi-Chi & Gyūmaō
Both use “Ora”, like Goku, but when they say “Ora” it is written in hiragana, whereas with Goku it is written in katakana. However, at some point in the series Chi-Chi’s “Ora” starts getting written in katakana.
“Oira”, another hick form of “Ore”.
He uses “Ore” during most of the series, but has switched to “Watashi” by the time of the 28th Tenka’ichi Budōkai.
Uses “Boku” as a kid but switches to “Ore” at the 22nd Tenka’ichi Budōkai. When talking to Kame-Sen’nin he uses “Watashi” or “Watakushi” to show his respect.
Normally uses “Ore”, but when transformed as an Oni, telling the villager’s daughter that he is really nice, he uses “Boku-chan”, possibly to seem cute.
Uses “Boku”, which as already mentioned is almost always used by males, giving us the only indication of his gender (other than a response by Toriyama noting “I thought of him as a male when I was drawing him.”)
Uses “Watashi” in her calm form and “Ore” in her violent form.
Usually “Ore”, but during his ego-maniacal villain phase he sometimes uses “Ore-sama”, like most of the villains do at some point. In the anime, during his fight with Freeza after merging with Nail, he uses “Ore-tachi”, the plural form of “Ore”.
Starts out using “Watashi” but switches to “Atashi” at some point during the Freeza arc. She uses “Ore” when trying to convince General Blue that she is actually a man.
Usually “Ore”, but in his more maniacal phases he uses “Ore-sama”.
Future Trunks generally uses “Ore”, but as a kid during the “Trunks the Story” he uses “Boku”. There is at least one instance of grown-up Future Trunks using “Boku”; when telling Freeza that he is not as soft as Son Goku. Chibi Trunks uses “Boku”, and Gotenks uses “Ore”.
She usually uses “Washi”, but goes with “Watashi” in that horrible song she sings to distract Yamcha when he is fighting the invisible man, perhaps to seem less old.
Mister Popo does not use any personal pronoun, but rather always refers to himself as “Mister Popo”. AnimeNation’s John wrote an “Ask John” article
explaining this sort of practice, but the short version is that it is a childish way to talk.
Uses “Watashi” but refers to himself as “kono Tao Pai Pai” half the time (literally “this Tao Pai Pai”; it is hard to translate but it is basically a self-important way of referring to yourself). Most of the villains and other arrogant people do this at some point. For full effect, the honorific “sama” is added onto the end.
Uses “Washi” when he is still old, but uses “Watashi” when actually making his wish to Shenlong, perhaps to be more polite when making his wish. Immediately after having his youth restored he still uses “Washi”, but he soon switches to “Watashi”.
Freeza runs the whole spectrum. In his first form, he usually uses “Watashi”, but he uses “Watakushi”, the more formal form of “Watashi”, when first explaining his transformations to Vegeta and the others. In his second form he switches to “Ore”. In his third form he uses “Watashi” once but then switches to “Watakushi” when announcing his final transformation. In his final form, he starts using “Boku”, like a child, but after coming back from being hit with the Genki-Dama he switches to “Ore”. As Mecha Freeza he goes back to using “Boku”, which again gives him a very childish feel to him, especially since he calls King Cold “papa”.
Uses “Washi”, but it is written in katakana rather than hiragana, unlike most of the Dragon Ball characters who use that personal pronoun.
“Ore”, but uses “Watashi” when first talking to Dr. Gero.
Normally uses “Watashi”. However, he uses “Ore” the very first time he uses a pronoun to refer to himself (when telling Piccolo “I am your brother”), and also during his self-destruction sequence. He also uses “Ore” when using No. 17’s voice to trick No. 18.
Very early on he uses “Washi”, but he soon switches to “Boku”, a rather childish way to talk for someone who is millions of years old (and similar to Mecha Freeza, he refers to Bibbidi as “papa”). In the Japanese manga he also talks in a different font than the other characters, a thinner, more scratchier-looking one. That has nothing to do with personal pronouns, but is a speech quirk worth mentioning.
Fat Boo and Super Boo use “Ore”, but Super Boo starts using “Watashi” after absorbing Gotenks and Piccolo, which is kind of odd since neither of them use that personal pronoun. It be an instance of Freeza-like mock politeness. After absorbing Gohan, he keeps on using “Watashi” while he has the upper hand, but when Vegetto starts making him mad he switches to “Ore”. Skinny Boo does not talk in the manga, but he uses Fat Boo’s voice in the anime, using “Ore” in the process. Muscley Boo and Kid Boo do not talk, of course.