I’ve been wanting to write a post on dere archetypes forever. Since before I started this blog. You may think that’s super passé…o.k. it is sort of outdated. Everybody’s already shared their views on the subject. Especially on the Tsundere. There’s nothing left to say. Maybe no one will want to read this… Whatever, it’s not like I care! Baka…
Past Irina here. I’ve been randomly writing different paragraphs of this post over a few days and they’re now completely tangled. I’m going to attempt fixing it in editing but I’m not holding out great hope. I’m sorry in advance if this turns out terrible. If it does not, I’m a genius….or lucky.
For those of you who may not be entirely familiar with the term yet… you’re in for a ride. Let me recap the basics for you. Tsundere is a compound word made up of “tsun” from “tsun tsun” which means something like sickening or disgusting and “dere dere” which means lovey dovey. Every time anyone talks about tsunderes they explain this little tidbit and I’ve no clue why. It’s not like being lovesick….Tsunderes are those maladjusted folks who find feelings of attraction or affection so embarrassing, they instead lash out at the object of their desires. They absolutely refuse to admit any tender feelings, reacting instead with insults and occasionally, physical violence. Apparently, some people find this to be a most desirable trait…
Tsunderes are a very popular trope. You can see examples in a wide variety of anime but they seem most prevalent in romance, harem and CGDCT shows. The archetype seems to show up more frequently in female characters, but you can still readily find examples of male Tsunderes, although these tend to restrict themselves to emotional and verbal abuse, rather than go the physical assault route. They vary widely in intensity and expression.
The trope is popular with Japanese audience and has become a mainstay in character creation. In the West, fans are a bit more divided in their appreciation. Something may be lost in cultural translation. From my limited observations, boys seemed more likely to find this trope fun and attractive while girls will often be indifferent and even occasionally annoyed by it. Of course there are plenty of exceptions on both sides. I’m really only basing my self on the dozen or so think pieces on the subject, I’ve read over the years.
My own opinion is frustratingly ambivalent. It’s all about the tsun to dere ratio for me. I have to admit it can be cute to watch a character blush uncontrollably while calling someone stupid. It’s a little funny and feels authentic. I certainly prefer that reaction over a smooth operator that tells you everything you want to hear and moves on to the next person the second they get bored. It can also be very endearing when a normally stoic character gets flustered.
But if all you ever hear from the charater is a string of insults, the spell is completely broken. I remember playing Tokimeki (a series of otomes for DS, fun ones). The main guy of the second game is the resident tsundere (all otomes generally have a tsundere character to romance… I’m telling you it’s popular!), and 90% of what he says to us is calling us an idiot with absolutely no provocation. And for once the tome MC wasn’t an idiot! Forget trying to seduce the guy, I spent most of the game trying to figure out how I could make the MC headbutt him. Sure, it would have hurt her too but I firmly believed it was worth it. That was just wayyy to much tsun for my tastes.
I’m also not a big fan of the physical assault. If the show is clearly a slapstick comedy and it’s exaggerated for laughs it can be amusing. However, if it’s primarily a romance, then suddenly having one character kick the other in the shins for no apparent reason just seems a bit stupid. Who am I suppose to relate to. The self-confidence-free masochist who willingly hangs out with someone who gives them nothing but abuse, or the maladjusted jerk who finds hurting the people they care about preferable to a tiny bit of potential embarrassment? I’m exaggerating to make a point, but you know what I’m saying.
For that reason, I had a rather prejudice view of the tsundere character type for a long time. I remember thinking, who would ever want to be around someone like that? No normal person would act that way. The type was fine as an infrequent supporting character. It was useful to have an unpleasant crazy person to contrast all the super sweet likeable ones. However, as a main character or leading romantic interest it would certainly annoy me. In theory…
Let me just start by saying that I am not someone who’s particularly mothering. Adults should be able to take care of themselves and ask for help when needed. I simply do not understand the appeal of putting up with some grown up brat just to coax them out of their shell. The fact that these characters need babying is definitely not a plus in my book. Imagine getting a black eye if you accidentally do something thoughtful for a friend… Yet, I can’t deny the thrill of seeing that tsun facade finally melt away. There’s a real sense of accomplishment there! It’s sort of sweet.
In time, I’ve grown to accept, even like the archetype. The biggest complaint I have now is that it’s taught the more determined types to take my utter lack of interest as encouragement. I assure it is not. Then again, I’m pretty sure that a lot of those **enduring** individuals, aren’t all anime watchers so I can’t really blame it all on the Tsunderes.
So what is the appeal really? Are we all masochists at heart? Aside from the obvious gap moe I mentioned earlier, I think part of it may be a certain assumption of exclusivity. We are the only one to see the softer side of this otherwise abrasive person. That makes *us* special. Alternatively, we are the only one that can agitate them into losing composure. Either way, still special. I don’t remember a character that has their tsundere side come out for everyone, that would be hilarious, and probably unsustainable.
While I have come to see how a these characters could be interesting, I do wonder why they are so much more popular in the East and why more extreme examples of the trope go over much better there. I guess women may be traditionally more subdued so a tsundere is a bigger contrast and represents an unusual personality type. There’s also something very helpless about tsunderes. Even the very violent ones. They are so incapable of controlling themselves and handling their own feelings that a simple word can unravel them. This taps into a lot of people’s need to take care of someone but still keeps the character “strong”. Or maybe it’s just the gap moe…
What are your views on tsundere characters? Do you love them, do they make you cringe? Are you one?