Japanese word for one's aunt or, by extension, any middle-aged woman. Can also have honorifics
other than -san, though -san is by far the most common. When a character in her late 20s or early 30s is called oba-san, she is likely to become flustered or smack the person who referred to her as such, depending on temperament (c.f. Ma'am Shock
). She may ask to be called by her name instead, or to be called onee-san (meaning older sister, or a woman who is older than oneself but younger than middle age). The male version is oji-san
("uncle"), whilst oyaji
is used for significantly older males and is considered somewhat rude (like calling a middle-aged man "gramps").
Occasionally a little kid will call a teenage girl Oba-san, much to the girl's consternation.
Minor side note: The term is also used in Taiwan for middle-aged and older women, though not for relatives. May or may not have anything to do with the Japanese occupation of the island. The rough Korean equivalent would be "ajumma".
Not to be confused with "Obaa
-san", which can mean "grandmother" or "old woman."
Contrast Honorary Uncle
, which generally indicates a closer relationship.
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Anime & Manga
- In Love Hina anime, Urashima Keitaro calls his cousin Haruka "oba-san" and gets smacked each time he does so, with an admonition to call her "Haruka-san". Information external to the program indicates that Haruka was formally adopted by Hina Obaachan, and thus in a legal sense is technically Keitaro's aunt, though she is biologically his cousin. Note that the smacking doesn't occurs in the manga; Haruka accepts and explains this to the other ladies, who eventually come to call her "Auntie" as well.
- Meemu from UFO Princess Valkyrie is called oba-san by Tokino Rika a few times, and each time says that it's fine for Rika to call her onee-san.
- In Magic Knight Rayearth, Umi refers to Alcyone as an Oba-san, which infuriates the sorceress.
- In Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer, Shoko objects when Misaki calls her "auntie", requesting that her niece call her "Miss Shoko". She seems to take on the role of a Cool Big Sis.
- The Fan Nickname of Karen from Yes! Pretty Cure 5 is "Babaa-sama", a contraction of "oba-obaa-sama", obaa-sama meaning grandmother.
- Monster did it with Eva, nee-san request and all. (Dieter did switch to nee-san... for all of five seconds.) Fridge Logic kicks in when you remember the characters are German, but a good translation can get around this. The best English translation would make her look excessively vain for taking offense at being called "Ma'am", or "Frau" rather than "Fraulein". The best English (or German) translation might be if she asked him to call her Eva instead of Ms. (Frau) Heinemann. It changes the context a bit, but it is close enough. Fraeulein would be old-fashioned beyond belief.
- Tenchi Muyo! / Tenchi Muyo! GXP
- Airi Masaki's Berserk Button is pressed whenever someone calls her "grandmother"/"obaa-san" — even though she is literally Tenchi's grandmother (and Yosho's wife). Even Tenchi himself, as much as Airi adores him, can't call her by this.
- In the OVA, Sasami asks Tenchi who the "oba-san" with him is. Ryoko... gently corrects her.
- In Air, Misuzu calls her mother Haruko this after losing her memory. The reaction is negative, but not violent, since Haruko really is Misuzu's aunt who adopted after her real mother died. She really wants to be called "mother" though, which is the basic point of the last few episodes.
- In the original Japanese version of Zoids: New Century, Wild Eagle, cocky alter-ego of mild-mannered teenager Jamie Hemeros, addresses his rival Pierce as oba-san, much to her annoyance. In the English dub he calls her "little lady," which, while still patronizing, carries a somewhat different connotation.
- In a flashback in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Rei's first clone calls Naoko Akagi, the Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter's mother, "ba-san", which is translated by ADV as "hag". This, among other other things, prompted Naoko to brutally murder Rei.
- In one of the tracks on a Gintama drama CD, snack shop owner Otose throws Katsura into the back of a train hard when he unknowingly addresses her as oba-san. And then she intimidates him into calling himself 'wig-man'. Yeah.
- Bleach: A filler episode makes being called this a Berserk Button of Rangiku's, and inverts the trope to make being called the male equivalent ("o(ji)-san") the Berserk Button of Yumichika. This is solely to use the filler character (a small rude boy) to set up an ongoing Marshmallow Hell joke due to him persistently calling Rangiku this. It's also to set up a joke whereby he can press Rangiku and Yumichika's buttons in the same breath. In the manga, neither care about this.
- In One Piece, Dr. Kureha, the oldest living female character, hates being called this, as she states that she is "only 139 years old". Kokoro is often referred to as "Kokoro-baa-san", although some characters like Nami and Robin call her "Kokoro-san".
- In YuYu Hakusho Yusuke and Kuwabara often call Genkai "Baa-san".
- In the first episode of Bubblegum Crisis, a little girl calls Priss some variation on Oba-san. Priss's face contorts into something like a pretzel. Quite understandable since she's in her early twenties.
- Tsugumi calls Hone-Onna this when they first meet in Hell Girl, and she takes great umbrage. Kikuri does the same thing specifically to annoy her. (She also calls Wanyuudou "baldy".)
- Fullmetal Alchemist has the Elrics call Izumi "obaa-san" when seeking a teacher. She quickly smacks them with a chair (or in the manga, a bed), prompting them to hastily say "Oneesan" instead. Later, of course, she agrees to teach them and they call her "sensei".
- In Keroro Gunsou, Pururu's "trauma switch" is to be called oba-san.
- GaoGaiGar: Cut it out with the "oji-san", Guy Shishioh is only 20 years old!
- Bunny Drop plays with this at the end of the first chapter: her first morning with Daikichi, six-year-old Rin hasn't learned his name and wakes him by calling him "oji-san", which flusters him not only because he's only 30 but because she is technically his aunt, and he should be calling her "oba".
- In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Nia always calls Old Coco oji-san, until his name is revealed mid-series. Kamina, on the other hand, averts Never Speak Ill of the Dead and always refers to his father as oyaji, even directly addressing his skeleton as such.
- Super Dimension Fortress Macross has Hikaru repeatedly calling Misa "oba-san", a fact she takes offense for (she's barely older that him — he's 17 in the original series, she's only 19...). What makes it funny is that he keeps doing it until after he realizes he's insulting a superior officer by doing so.
- In Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi, Yorozu Senka becomes greatly offended when Kazuma calls her "oba-san", insisting upon the less-ageist "nee-san".
- In Daa! Daa! Daa!, a three-year-old girl refers to a fourteen-year-old girl as "oba-san". This isn't an innocent mistake, but an insult, since the three-year-old considers teenagers to be over-the-hill.
- In GunBuster, Noriko is surprised to hear herself addressed as this by her best friend's very young daughter. She immediately requests to be called "onee-san" instead. But by the final episode, she seems to have accepted the oba-san title.
- Oku-sama wa Mahou Shoujo has Cruje using "oba-sama" to Ureshiko as an insult, as the latter is still a Magical Girl by the tender age of 26.
- Used in Pokémon when Misty calls Jessie oba-san. Jessie is canonically 17, which does not make her happy at all. The dub has her called an "old bat" for a similar effect.
- Done as a running gag to Ursala in Dinosaur King, usually by Zoe. She was so sensitive about it that she could even pick it up from halfway around the world. In the American dub, it's translated loosely to "old lady."
- Played with in Yes! Pretty Cure 5 in the first movie. The character Karen Minazuki often got the Fan Nickname "Baa-baa", which is this trope because she looks a bit too older than the rest. In the movie, Karen and two more girls (Urara and Komachi) try to play princess by doing a lot of Noblewoman's Laugh. Her rival, Rin, jokes on how Karen tried to sound like a princess, but ending up sounding like a queen instead, infuriating Karen.
- In Strike The Blood Kojou's daughter from the future calls Nagisa Oba-san. Nagisa, being 15, is greatly upset.
- In one episode of Gensoumaden Saiyuki Goyjo freaks out when a little girl addresses him as "oji-san", because he is only 22... and single. He asks her to call him "onii-san" instead.
- The novel Obasan, by Joy Kogawa. A story about a Japanese family in Canada during WWII.
- It's common for Super Sentai to have a Christmas Cake villainess be taunted as "oba-san" by the young female Rangers. Tsuetsue in Gaoranger and Kegalesia in Go-onger are just two examples. The former made it into Power Rangers Wild Force - Toxica was very sensitive about being called a "grandma".
- Moune from Goseiger addresses Hyde as "ossan" (old man), more in response to his treating her like a child than his actual age (Word of God states he is 24 years old.)
- Inverted in an episode of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger where Basco makes a point of mockingly addressing Matsuri Tatsumi as "onee-san" rather than "oba-san" though he doesn't know she's Ahim in disguise.
- Once-off examples also happen, such as the episode of Kamen Rider Kiva where a woman who's somewhere above thirty (she appears about 10 in flashbacks 22 years ago) gets called this.
- Male version: Anji Mito from Guilty Gear hates being called "oji-san", which means "uncle". He hates it to the point of physically attacking people who call him that. Well, it's a fighting game — he would probably attack them anyway. He didn't really get mad at May when she called him that, and instead asks if he could be called "Onii-san". Too bad May's policy is "Older than her + not Johnny = 'Oji-san'".
- In BlazBlue, during Rachel's Gag Reel, Noel flings this insult towards her rivals for Ragna's attention. It worked for Litchi and Kokonoe, but not on Nirvana and Lambda.
- Dan Hibiki from the Street Fighter Alpha series is fond of screaming "oyaji" before his fights begin. In this case, he's referring to his dead father.
- Mistel is very much Not Pleased with Milanor continuing to call her this in Yggdra Union even after she insists, repeatedly, that everyone refer to her by name.
- In Harvest Moon DS Cute, there's a scene where Popuri gets mad at the local kids for referring to her as Oba-san, and even requests to be called Onee-san instead. They then fight and blame one another for picking the wrong thing to call her, and who called her that first—Popuri gets so upset she runs off crying.
- In a Tales of Hearts sidequest, a little girl finds out that Richea is Really 2,000 Years Old and calls her a chou-oba-san. This elicits such shock that the screen freezes and turns greyscale for a moment — an effect previously used to punctuate the death of an important side character.
- Western example: This appears in Dragon Age: Origins if you are playing a Human Noble. When your nephew Owen calls you Auntie (Uncle for a male character), you can respond that you wish he wouldn't call you that. His mother explains to him that this is probably because it makes you feel old.
Owen: But she is old! Not as old as you though, mother.
Oriana: This is your doing Fergus.
Fergus: *genuinely confused* What? I didn't say anything.
- "Baa-baa" ("grandma", more often "old hag") is a running gag among fans when it comes to Yukari Yakumo and Kanako Yasaka, two of the most physically mature (and oldest) members of a cast made up predominately of young girls. A recent Touhou M-1 Grand Prix skit between Kanako and her partner-goddess Suwako Moriya plays this up, with Suwako calling Kanako "baa-baa" several times during the routine. Kanako initially requests to be called onee-san, but eventually resorts to pointing out that she's younger than Suwako is.
- Yagokoro Eirin, Saigyouji Yuyuko and (most recently) Hijiri Byakuren have joined what is now dubbed by fans as the "Old Maids' Alliance".
- In Lightning Legend: Daigo no Daibouken, calling the 20-years old Misa Atago "Oba-chan" inevitably triggers her Berserk Button. Of course, this is used for all its worth comedy-wise when she meets the younger characters of the game, Daigo and Yuki, as well as serving as the reason why she fights them.
- In one of the endings of Madou Souhei Kleinhasa, Roze is called this by the children at the orphanage after Franz proposes to her, reasoning that a married woman should be Oba-san rather than Onee-san. Roze (being in her mid-twenties at most) is not pleased, but says yes.
- In one scene in Mega Man Battle Network 5 where our hero Lan tries to ask for help from a lady called Tesla Magnets, the Japanese dialogue states that he calls her Oba-san, and she pretends she doesn't hear that. Only after Lan calls her Onee-san that she agrees to hear him out.
- The third case for the first Gyakuten Saiban game introduces an elderly security guard named Kaoru Ooba. She tends to get very angry at people who use the otherwise innocent honorific "san", i.e. calling her "Ooba-san". In the English version, Ace Attorney, her name is Wendy Oldbag, keeping the joke to some extent by people calling her "Windy Oldbag".
- Played with with (1950) Jeanne Amakawa in Rose Guns Days. Her age isn't specified, but considering that she was married with two children 6 years before we see her, she's probably in her middle-to-late thirties. When Wayne calls her an "oba-han", she beats him up, saying she isn't that old. Then when he forgets to put a "-san", she beats him again, reminding him that she is an oba-han and thus deserves respect.
- Azrael of Gaijin Smash (formerly "I am a Japanese School Teacher") comments periodically on what a terror an angry oba-san can be. In one entry he describes how a field trip up Mount Fuji was cut short by a terrible typhoon, and on the way down his group was passed by a troop of oba-san who had already reached the top through the building winds, and were now marching down.