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In its most literal translation, Onee-sama (also parsed o-nee-sama or oneesama) refers to a highly respected older sister (which can be troublesome when dubs treat it literally and it isn't). It's an extremely formal phrase and probably is most commonly heard in period dramas.

In modern times, it has three main uses:

  1. An idol-follower relationship between young women, usually signifying extreme adoration on the part of the follower.
  2. A subset of the first type of relationship, signalling a lesbian relationship with the uke referring to the seme as "Onee-sama", i.e., the Onee-Seme.
  3. Identification of a very formal and traditional relationship between sisters. Most likely to be used by very traditional families (miko, samurai, Yamato Nadeshiko, etc.). Tends to be a sign of awe rather than affection. (Awe can mean either adoration, or a type of fear.)

The Onee-sama is always an older character, if only by a year. She's essentially a princess for the other characters with grace, beauty, and poise. The Onee-sama often overlaps with Aloof Dark-Haired Girl, but usually comes in two flavors:

  1. One kind is reflexively affectionate and doting, finding frequent excuses for giving hugs; the kohai is treated almost like a puppy. The Onee-sama might be a Dorm Mother.
  2. The other is the 'serious' one, a girl who seems cold but enticingly mysterious; almost always the "alpha" schoolgirl. As a sign that they view themselves as an idol to the rest of their coterie, the Ojou may demand to be referred to this way. When part of a romance she is likely to act possessively towards her object of affection to disguise her romantic feelings.

Mainly appropriated by the yuri fandom, it has become so closely identified with a particular brand of the Senpai-Kohai relationship that it is very difficult to use without carrying the connotations of attraction. Ironically, the increasingly overt behavior of Onee-sama can probably also be attributed to shounen's use of this phrase.

Sometimes the term is rejected by its target because she doesn't want to be the object of adoration and perfection that the term implies. If the romance element is present, a rejection of the term signals that she's straight and so does not return the affections of the girl referring to her as "Onee-sama".

Interestingly, in contrast that in Japan, the honorific onee-sama is mostly used by a girl to call another girl; in Korea, which differentiates the honorific not only by the gender of the one being called but also the gender of the caller, the counterpart of onee-sama in Korea only present if the caller is male. (Nunim if the one being addressed to the honorific is an older female, addressed by a younger male, and Hyungnim if the one being addressed to the honorific is an older male, addressed by a younger male). Also there's a slight twist to Type 3, in which said person is used to address said male's in-laws instead of actual older sibling.

Contrast with Cool Big Sis, who is less ladylike and more flirty. Often unapologetically so. Due to Values Dissonance, that is where non-Japanese media examples should go as well.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You shows this relationship in the form of the maids Mei and Mai. The latter idolizes the former for her impeccable skills and poise when serving the Hanazono household, and took on the job in order to be close to her. She even calls Mei "onee-sama" and gets jealous and territorial when it comes to her. Mei, on her part, does hold affection for Mai and fulfills the mentor archetype that dominates this trope, but she refuses to see Mai as a "little sister" and is already deeply in love with the protagonist Rentarou Aijou.
  • One of the few bishoujo shows that still uses this phrase straight is Ah! My Goddess (although the manga is over two decades old); Skuld usually refers to her idolized sister Belldandy as just Onee-sama. She always just calls Urd by her name. Belldandy herself, however, frequently refers to Urd as Neesan, and in a flashback with them as children, is shown calling her Oneesama. The formality fits with being goddesses.
  • Alicia and Akira from ARIA. Athena would qualify, if only she weren't so ditzy most of the time.
  • Azumanga Daioh. Chiyo-chan is implied to see Sakaki as this, especially in the "You took it, didn't you?" scene.
  • In Berserk the Hawks refer to Casca as their "sister" or "sis", though their word for it in Japanese is "anego" rather than "onee-sama".
  • In B Gata H Kei, Yamada tries to surprise Kosuda with a kiss in the dark, only to discover it's her friend Takeshita. She remarks afterward that "if it had gone any farther, I'd have to call you onee-sama". (See intro for the term's yuri connection.)
  • Rukia from Bleach adored her Lieutenant Kaien's Yamato Nadeshiko wife, Miyako, who fits in here as a Type 1. Rukia openly refers to Miyako as "beautiful" and as "her role model".
  • Chizuru's sister Ichiko in Bokurano is kinda like this, too.
  • Liang Qi from Canaan sees her boss Alphard this way, and is very, very Yandere about it.
  • In the Hatamoto Family arc of Case Closed, Natsue calls her older sister Akie "onee-sama," keeping with the formal modes of address in the family (for example, her aunt Mariko uses "onii-sama" when referring to her older brother — Akie and Natsue's father). Conan calls Ran by this, though it once (almost) backfires — when he temporarily becomes 'normal' again and still calls her that, which given the circumstances then is decidedly... odd.
  • Euphemia uses this on her older sister Cornelia in Code Geass, although she is often required to address her by her title while in front of others. Nunnally to her brother Lelouch. Even when he gave her all the reasons to hate him.
  • In Dear Brother the eldest Sorority girls play the role or are supposed to. Lampshaded by Nanako, who comments on how "Lady Borgia" Ogiwara and "Lady Mona Lisa" Komabayashi were kind to her... until the Sorority is in risk of being disbanded.
  • In Digimon Adventure 02, Miyako Inoue greatly admires "Mimi-oneesama." This is particularly amusing because Miyako already has two older sisters, Momoe and Chizuru, and because of the blatant Utena Shout-Out during the episode they first meet.
  • Kale from Dragon Ball Super refers to Caulifla as her "onee-sama". The two are particularly close with Kale looking up to Caulifla and Caulifla being very protective of Kale.
  • The androids' first appearance in Excel♡Saga was that they fell in love with who they first saw. One saw Excel and actually called her this.
  • Fairy Tail: Kagura considers Erza this after the Grand Magic Games arc.
  • In Fruits Basket, Kisa calls Tohru Onee-chan. Tohru is like a big sister to her and helped to draw her out of her shell, getting her to start speaking again after some severe school bullying turned her into an Elective Mute.
  • Kazumi Amano from Gunbuster is a classic example of the 'serious' Onee-sama in her relationship with series protagonist Noriko. Of course, the first half of the series is an Affectionate Parody of classic Shoujo series like Aim for the Ace! that used this trope without irony or (intentional) subtext. In Diebuster/Gunbuster 2, Nono adopts a reluctant Lal'c as her Onee-sama at first sight.
  • Hanaukyō Maid Team La Verite episode 10. When head Security maid Konoe Tsurugi learns of the intruders effortlessly passing through the mansion's defenses, she says "Nee-Sama". This is because she realizes that the intruders are being led by Shikouin, the woman who trained her.
  • Hinagiku of Hayate the Combat Butler calls her older sister by this. As Yukiji is a greedy drunkard, the title is perhaps lost. Although Yukiji does show signs that the obsession with drinking is just a cover and does truly care about her younger sister. Yukiji seems to have been pretty cool when younger. Nagi also holds Sakuya in this regard.
  • Yuzuki calls her older sister Shizuki "Onee-sama" out of awe in Hekikai No Aion. Shizuki is the cold and mysterious type but has a soft spot for her twin ditz sister so the awe is a sign of adoration.
  • In the manga of Higurashi: When They Cry, Mion addresses Shion this way when grovelling to her after the latter goes yandere.
  • Aiko from Hime-chan's Ribbon is an actual sister example, having all the personality traits and Himeko calls her such.
  • His and Her Circumstances took this a step down in its tangential last episodes, with Yukino's sister the apparent victim of a stalker, culminating in a shy declaration a character wants to be her "oneesan".
  • Koko Hekmatyar from Jormungand. Grace, check. Beauty, check. Poise, check. One Head Taller hugs? Definitely.
  • Used in two different meanings in a scene of Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl: when Yurine's little sister Sumire falls in love with Ayaka, she suddenly asks if she can call her "Ayaka-oneesama". The latter irritatingly replies that Sumire "already has that" (a big sister − who's incidentally Ayaka's love interest).
  • Motoko Aoyama's older sister in Love Hina is an example of actual sisters. They are swordswomen, very traditional, and Motoko definitely feels awe towards her older sister, however, instead of "o-nee-sama", Motoko uses a more samurai-style archaic form of addressing, "ane-ue".
  • In Love So Life, Shiharu is this to the other children at the orphanage.
  • Yuzu addresses Akane as Onee-sama in Love Tyrant. Yuzu is Akane's half-sister, but also loves Akane romantically. They are also members of a fairly ancient family of assassins/guardians, so Type 3 may also apply.
  • In Lucky Star Minami Iwasaki is very attached to her neighbor Miyuki Takara and accidentally calls her "Onee-chan". Minami appears to have a similar relationship with Yutaka (but with roles reversed), at least in the eyes of Hiyori who draws Dōjinshi of the two as a Yuri couple; Yutaka calling Minami "oneesama" even made it into the English dub, though the dub already includes honorifics most of the time.
  • Haruka from Minami-ke is very much this, as well as a Cool Big Sis. Due to her Promotion to Parent, this goes double for her little sisters — especially the younger, Chiaki, who invariably calls her "Haruka-neesama".
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Amida Arca, Naze Turbine's "principal wife", is called "onee-sama" by the other members of the Turbines.
  • Yuu Kashima from Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is called this by her legions of fangirls. She's a bifauxnen who plays princes on stage and openly flirts with any woman she sees, but is actually rather immature and easily confused. This trope actually causes some confusion in one chapter, when the rest of the main cast escort a younger girl who asks to meet Kashima, who she refers to as "Onee-sama". It isn't until the two of them actually meet that the girl is revealed to be Kashima's actual younger sister and not another fangirl.
  • My-Otome has Otomes refer to their senior Otomes as Onee-sama, with Shizuru being the example. Shizuru is known for being unfailingly polite, graceful, and finding reasons to hug the main character randomly. (Shizuru was also an Onee-sama type character in My-HiME — on the surface.)
  • Chizuru Naba in Negima! Magister Negi Magi plays the affectionate (with a little bit of The Trickster thrown in) type, particularly with her classmate Natsumi (in a twist, Natsumi is actually the older one, if only by a few months), and combines this with Cool Big Sis when she all but adopts Negi's Half-demon rival Kotaro. Another example would be Mei's relationship with her upperclassman Takane.
  • Momiji calls Kureha this in Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword.
  • Nami occasionally calls Robin "Onee-sama" in One Piece, particularly when Robin does something that makes Nami very happy.
  • Mizuho from Otoboku - Maidens Are Falling For Me, surprisingly, becomes the Onee-sama figure for the whole school shortly after transferring in.
  • The leader of the Lobelia girls in Ouran High School Host Club is this to the point of parody.
  • In Princess Resurrection, the relationship between Hime and her little sister Sherwood both exemplifies AND subverts the trope. Sherwood always calls Hime her "onee-sama," and Hime is exactly the type of character who would get that moniker; she is cool and mysterious and (literally) a princess. However, Sherwood's use of the phrase is initially quite ironic because at the start of the series she actually has no respect for Hime at all, and even makes an attempt to kill her.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica
    • Mami Tomoe is a Type-1 example; an elegant, reserved and graceful older sister figure who rookie magical girls look up to. However, as confirmed by Word of God, this is only a mask used as encouragement to prolong her Magical Girl role. It breaks in an alternate timeline depicted in episode 10, when upon learning the Awful Truth about Kyubey's magical girl system, she loses it and starts destroying the other magical girls' Soul Gems, believing she's saving them from a Fate Worse than Death. Fortunately, Madoka destroys Mami's own Soul Gem before there was more than one casualty; unfortunately and very understandably, poor Madoka has a sobbing meltdown afterwards and Homura has to comfort her.
    • In The Different story manga, Kyouko openly admits to considering Mami her Onee-sama... as to which meaning she had on her mind by that is left ambiguous, but given the series' tendency for yuri undertones, it's only natural to consider it possible type 2...
  • In the second season of Rosario + Vampire, the three "butterfly monsters" who were tamed after the showdown with Youkai Academy's Public Safety Commission (in the first season) refer to Moka's vampire personality as Onee-sama. In their human bishoujo forms, of course. Similarly, Kokoa, Moka's actual sister, is deeply in love with her vampire personality — her original personality, actually, with whom Kokoa grew up — and always calls her Onee-sama. All her intrigues revolve around getting back her Onee-sama from Aono Tsukune who seems to prefer the coy, "illusory" Moka who appears as a result of the original Moka being bound by the eponymous Rosario.
  • Chikage Maki from The Rows of Cherry Trees is the first flavor of Onee-sama, affectionate and doting and pretty much a Cool Big Sis. The girls of her school adore her to boot, including the protagonist Yukiko.
  • In Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke, Oyu is one to Sasuke in the literal sense (and a Yamato Nadeshiko in general).
  • Nadeshiko from Shugo Chara! acts like Amu's older sister figure, despite being the same age. She's a Wholesome Crossdresser and is actually male that goes by the real name Nagihiko.
  • Neviril from Simoun is an Onee-sama figure for both Chor Tempest and the rest of the Sibylla corps. Paraetta is also referred to as Onee-sama but is more of a bifauxnen type.
  • In Sorcerer Hunters, Tira Misu refers to her older sister Chocolat as "Oneesama".
  • Tenchi Muyo!. Sasami addresses Aeka as "Oneesama," much like Aeka addresses Yosho as "Oniisama." This fits with their royal and formal nature.
  • Tokyo Mew Mew: Minto calls Zakuro "oneesama." Zakuro is older and very serious, and a romantic attraction on Minto's part is definitely implied.
  • In Vandread, Misty calls Meia this constantly, despite having just met her. The dub unfortunately has this directly translated as "dear sister", confusing everyone into thinking the two are actually related when they just met each other.
  • Yurika, from Yurika's Campus Life, is usually called this way by other women in her university. This implies that either the student's lack of contact with males or Yurika's inexplicable sway over girls has somehow created an atmosphere of almost-pure yuri in the campus, akin to a lewder version of Maria Watches Over Us.

  • Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts: Miharu is a Psycho Lesbian who's very much in love with Minami, and refers to her as "onee-sama".
  • All three versions show up in A Certain Magical Index.
    • Kuroko calls Mikoto this, and teleport-gropes her at every opportunity. Kuroko is probably the best-known example of the "rejected" version.
    • Many other girls at their school also call Mikoto this, (probably) without the lesbian overtones of Kuroko. Mikoto herself is uncomfortable with the term. She does her best to live up to it in public, but among close friends, she isn't very ladylike at all and can be rather childish at times.
    • The Sisters all call Mikoto this as well, but in their case, they're actually referring to her as their big sister.
  • In Date A Live, the girls Miku Izayoi brainwashes refer to her as "Onee-sama."
  • The textbook example is Maria Watches Over Us, where most of the important characters are referred to this way as part of the school's Soeur system. Sachiko herself is the archetypical Onee-sama, although some fans complain through Character Exaggeration that she has become more aloof in the show than she was in the original novels and manga. Sachiko's aloofness appears to have been toned down considerably in the last season of the anime, making her much more sympathetic.
  • Reina in Myriad Colors Phantom World uses the third type to refer to Mai, which fits Reina's upperclass persona.
  • Type 3 in Re:Zero: Rem always addresses her older twin sister Ram as "nee-sama".
  • Strawberry Panic!, which takes a lot of cues from Maria Watches Over Us but with even more blatant yuri, has Shizuma serving as this to Nagisa with all the romantic connotations present. Ironically, however, it's Nagisa who is most often addressed as "onee-sama". (Why? Because Shizuma has an even more respectful title unique to Astraea: "Etoile-sama".)
  • In Love Over Gold, lesbian hockey players Katrien and Diane become the subjects of a yuri manga called First Love Hockey Girls, whose fans call them "o-nē-sama and imōto". When Diane explains what those words mean, Katrien admits that they fit the trope, with Katrien as the experienced Closet Key to the shorter, more reserved Diane.

    Live-Action TV 


    Video Games 
  • Cloche for Sasha in Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica. She's an elegant, reserved, and affectionate big sister figure. Sasha's adoration can be seen in every one of their conversations.
  • Loretta calls her older twin sister Stella "onee-sama" in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. What's odd is that the English dub keeps this — when you swap between them in Sisters Mode, Stella calls out "Loretta!" and Loretta calls out "Sister!" (To hear Loretta's original "Onee-sama!", hold L when you pick Start Game; this switches you to Japanese voices till next reset.)
  • Disgaea:
    • Raspberyl from Disgaea 3 is often called onee-sama (translated as "my lady") by her "delinquent" subordinates Asuka and Kyoko. Considering the nature of "delinquency" in the Netherworld, it's hard to tell just what type of onee-sama she's supposed to be.
    • Fuka of Disgaea 4 is always called onee-sama by Desco. A somewhat more literal example than the previous, as Desco was created by Fuka's father to be a younger sister for her.
  • A Type 3 happens in Galaxy Angel Moonlit Lovers, on Forte's route. After solving the problem of Chitose's extremely inflexible line of thinking as per her New Meat status, Forte gets this treatment from Chitose. Quite amusingly, Forte outright flips from embarrassment and begs Chitose not to call her that.
  • Vira from Granblue Fantasy is incredibly infatuated with her fellow Albion Academy graduate, Katalina, and always refers to her as 'onee-sama', it even being the name of one of her passive skills that gives her skills a shorter turn cooldown if Katalina is in the same party. Katalina on her part doesn't seem to notice or care why Vira calls her that.
  • An interesting example occurs in Kara no Shoujo where the dynamic is clearly in place, but since it takes place in mid-'50s Japan the concept hasn't been fully realized yet. Characters clearly fall into the relationship in regards to Orihime Tsukishima, and a sort of prototype is in place regarding Mizuhara and Toko,note  but the term hasn't been invented yet.
  • Lilly Satou from Katawa Shoujo is this to everyone around her and specially to Hanako. Even Hisao, the male lead, sees her as such.
  • Aqua from Kingdom Hearts falls somewhere between this and Cool Big Sis, since she can be affectionate and informal or ladylike and serious based on the situation. Either way, though, she acts as a protective sister figure not only for Ven (and arguably Terra), but also for Kairi and Cinderella in particular, and to a lesser degree the other Princesses of Heart she encounters. This is reinforced by Aqua taking up the role of The Hero and rescuing every one of them from danger at least once while only needing to be rescued herself when Vanitas wises up to how strong she is and ambushes her while she's protecting Ven.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Mipha was this to her younger brother Sidon, who admired her great strength and wisdom. He continues to look to her example for guidance in the present day, even though she has been dead for a hundred years.
  • Persona
    • In "The Answer" of Persona 3: FES, Aigis is regarded as this by Metis. And in Persona 3 Portable, Mitsuru's social link is recast as her being this for the Female Progatonist (still some leftover romantic undertones, though).
    • A more overtly romantic example: Noriko Katayama of Persona 2 refers to her ex-senpai Anna Yoshizaka as this. The former is either strongly implied to be or is outright in love with the latter. The localization interpreted the term literally, giving the impression that they are related when they are not.
  • Super Robot Wars: They're not siblings, but Excellen Browning managed to get Lamia Loveless to call her 'Exie-neesama'. Latooni and Seolla refer to Ouka as Onee-sama since she was older and always watched out for them at The School.
  • In Touhou Project, Reisen Udongein Inaba often acts as the first type of Onee-sama towards Tewi Inaba, a doting and caring sister. Except that Tewi is quite an ungrateful girl and tends to pull pranks on Reisen instead. Tewi is also the elder of the two being over 1,300 years old. It stuck to her so much that in the semi-canonical Inaba of the Moon and Earth, when Reisen dreamed about Tewi acting like a doted little sister, she considers it weird. When she gets up and sees Tewi acting like her usual devil-may-care prankster self, she hugs her in relief.
  • Being a walking yuri cliché, Dallas Wyatt from Valkyria Chronicles will call some of her female teammates by this moniker in some interactions (usually when calling the medic for them) if the voices are set to Japanese. Alicia seems to hold a special place in her heart (as indicated by her status buff while near her), and consistently refers to her as onee-sama even though she doesn't really fit the part. If Dallas is knocked out, she even lets out a weak "Onee-sama..." unless the English voices are on, in which case she only calls for Alicia after comically ragdolling.