New Game It Feels So Good To Be A Senpai

J-List is excited about Anime Expo, and will have a huge presence at the show. We’ll have a huge booth with hundreds of products, the lovely Kaho Shibuya as a guest of honor, and an awesome JAST USA panel where we’ll announce some great new titles. Our panel is on July 4, so make sure you’re there! Check our blog post for all the juicy details!

It Feels Good to be a Senpai

One observation I’ve heard from Japanese I’ve talked with is that, America is a “horizontal” country, where people are more likely to live side-by-side without much formal social hierarchy, while Japan is a “vertical” country, with a stricter up-down social system based on a person’s school year or number of years in a company. The way Japanese sort themselves by senpai and kohai is interesting to observe, with each underling adjusting their language to use formal verbs ending in –masu for kohai when speaking to senpai superiors, and informal verbs ending in –ru for the reverse direction. It’s not unlike TCP/IP packets finding their way around a network.

One show that teaches us a lot about this aspect of Japan is New Game!, an anime about lesbian female software developers working in a game company. Like how Yun seems obsessive about explaining the relationships of every other office member, whether they entered the company together, making them equals like Koh and Rin, or whether one member is in a senpai role to another. When Aoba joins the company, tomboy Hajime finally gets her first junior employee, and thinks to herself, “It feels good to be a senpai.”

But is it? To become a senpai sounds great, since you receive respect and deference automatically. But it’s also a big responsibility since you’re taking on the role of mentor, showing the new person the ropes and providing them with the guidance they’ll need to flourish. I remember as an ESL teacher, when a new hire came to work at our school from South Korea. As a senpai both in the school we were working together at as well as a fellow foreign resident of Japan, I felt obligated to teach my new kohai about his new country. I also had to pick up the tab for meals and drinks, another aspect of being in a mentor role you can’t get around.

When my son was in the third grade, an interesting opportunity opened up: a new international immersion school which was taking its first students, starting in the next school year. My son was interested in attending, but as parents we were worried about an odd thing: since my son would be in the first year of the new school, he’d go through most of his educational career without ever having a senpai above him, meaning that he wouldn’t learn some important aspects of Japanese life, namely how to manage relationships with coworkers in a superior role. We decided to take a chance on the school, and were very happy with the results. (He graduated from Waseda University with an engineering degree earlier this year.)

Do you think it feels good to be a senpai? Give us your feedback on Twitter!

Seishoujo hentai tapestries

It’s fun to find awesome things for your ultimate otaku room, and we’ve got new tapestries made by famed Japanese artist Sei Shoujo, creator of Starless and Bible Black as well as his original sexy works. The art is amazing of course, and the print quality unbelievably beautiful. Browse the new items now!

About the author

Peter Payne

I live in Japan and I run J-List, an anime shop famous for shimapan and Tentacle Grape. I love being able to bring Japanese culture to the world.