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 You may think that’s super passé…o.k. it is sort of outdated.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…

oh you think you can just tab away do you…

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.

Bad vs Good Tsuns
I’m not saying I agree with this but I liked how many examples are included

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…

what??? I’m complex, I can have layers!!

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?

doki doki

41 thoughts

  1. I think Han Solo and Princess Leah might both be considered tsundere. Doesn’t every tsundere start out actually hating his/her eventual object of attraction? They would reflexively fight anyone threatening to enter their restricted space. I think the attraction forms at some later point (usually caused by the other person’s behavior) before they are conscious of it. It slowly gnaws away from the inside until the shell breaks.

    We don’t often see the many times the target fails to get the tsundere interested. Then the term loses the “dere” and could becomes a hatred until death and beyond. (War between the Tates.)

    Like Dawnstorm indicates, we’re seeing a phase of it that starts when the attraction has shifted from unconscious to subconscious and the character has to actively fight against it.

    Most of the “dere” types could be considered psychological problems. Watching them heal over time is fun and gives us hope that we too could heal our issues and become both more rational and more caring at the same time.

  2. I’m fine with them generally as it’s just embedded in the static anime troupes, doesn’t make a whole lot of difference one way or another – the bad ones are just nothing but that.

    People have stabs at Kurisu but really, that’s engineered to allow for Okabe’s brand of otaku comedy.

    Everyone can leave Taiga alone, too.

    Make of this what you will but the real-life equivalence, in my view, is usually a masking of deeper issues, wouldn’t want to tar those people with a label that says they are needy/should help themselves etc because it’s too a subject complex too reduce (not suggesting you are, by the way, just a broader thought to overall commentary)

    That said, each case on its own merits, right?

    1. The good news is that as far as I’ve seen both Kurisu and Taiga are beloved and two of the most popular anime characters around!
      I’ve only seen it in men in real life but it does look like symptoms of more serious underlying problems. You’re absolutely right.
      As a fictional archetype it is interesting to me on a sociological basis. Why certain tropes gain lasting popularity can give us a glimpse into how people think.

  3. There’s a lot of tsunderes in western literature Goes all the way back to Shakespeare and the Taming of the Shrew. When I think of all the “thunder” directed by Doris Day towards Rock Hudson only to have them get together at the end…

    Seriously, the first time I saw the word “tsundere”, I thought it had something to do with a tsunami crashing into one. I guess I wasn’t too far off.

    Tsundere are at their best when you can see why they became tsundere and what keeps them that way. Then watching all that pain and damage unravel to reveal a detraumatized version of them is great. To win a tsundere over makes one a very special person and the tsundere a very special mate.

    If they are that way simply because the author wants one, it sucks.

    You probably disagree but I loved Toradora.

    1. I wouldn’t call the Shrew a Tsundere exactly. She really hated them at first. I guess it goes with what Dawnstorm was saying about the more oldschool interpretation

  4. On the one side, as a grown up, it’s kind of cute to see the younger generation trying to act not-interested in who they’re interested in, but still, I find it pretty annoying, for miscellaneous reasons. In no particular order:
    I respect people who are honest and clear with themselves and others, and thus behave in a way that is true to who they are and what they feel. The opposite of that is less than appealing to me.
    There’s long been this idea that a girl (and I notice most of the tsunderes one could name are probably girls) will act and talk in one way while meaning or wanting something completely different. In the best case, it’s a confusing, miserable mess that creates all sorts of double standards, and in the worst… well, what happened to “no means no,” eh?

    1. Since the type is often associated with love interests an anime is overwhelmingly representative of shonen, those love interest are more often than not girls.

  5. Really depends on how they’re used for me. I’m generally tired of hearing them Tsundere call someone stupid, and a idiot, but when done right I find it amusing sometimes. Kaname Chidori from Full Metal Panic I happen to like. Her outburst are typically justified, and her overaction to Sousuke behavior is priceless for me.

    In romance anime I rather there be a better way of doing a Tsundere. The worst example for me is easily Louise Françoise from The Familiar of Zero anime series. She’s a just badly written character making her romance with the MC hard to buy when she comes across too controlling, and abusive. Other than two examples, I tend to forget about them rather quickly hahaha

    1. That’s a good shout on FMP, it nails the comedy where she’s concerned. It’s believably justified in context of the show’s tone.

      But yeah, it’s still dumb-fun either way.

  6. Ooh, I just have to try to identify every tsundere in that mash-up picture without any googling help. Let’s see:

    Good Tsunderes, from top left to bottom right:

    ? – ? (Best guess, someone from Mison Ikkoku?) – Harima and – Eri from School Rumble (Harima is a tsundere? I can sort of see it, I guess) – ? (vaguely familiar) – ? (a bit more familiar) – ?

    Bad Tsunderes, from top left to bottom right:

    Louise (Familiar of Zero) – Name’s on the tip of my tongue (Naruto) – One of the twins from Clannad (can’t remember the names, and If I could I wouldn’t know who is who – Kou? Kyou?) – ? (I think one of the characters from Ano Hana) – ? (A rather common design back in those days – School Days?) – Nagi (Hayate no Gotoku) – Ranma (I think?) – Kurisu (Steins;Gate) – Sena (is that really her name, Haganai) – Is that Akane from Ranma (not an easy pic; it’s definitely a Rumiko Takahashi design) – Don’t know her name from Akame ga Kill (I dropped the anime and dislike it; I think it might be a short name ending in -ne? Could be totally off.) – Hakua (World God Only Knows; unsure about the name, don’t know if she shows up before season 2) – Shana (Shakugan no Shana) – Mikoto (I never get her name right) (Index/Railgun) – Inuyasha – Kirino (OreImo) – Never watched Lucky Star, so I don’t know – Hinagiku (Hayate no Gotoku) – Taiga (Toradora) – Is that Naru Narusegawa from Love Hina (they cut off her ahoge, so she’s hard to recognise) – ? – ? (Something I haven’t seen, but have seen lots of pictures of – Full Metal Panic?) – Chitoge (Nisekoi) – Oh, dear, I should know this one (but I don’t) – Don’t know her name (Momo), Lala’s sister from To Love Ru – ? – ? (could be from To Love Ru as well?) – ? (looks vaguely familiar) – Rin (from various Fate/ animes)

    Looks like a pretty good list. I don’t know some of those characters well enought to gauge their classification. Also, there may be a mix-up of early vs. latter ideas of what makes a tsundere. Early definitions were actually more about plot development (hate at first and then come to love them; this often includes the current tsundere archetype as an intermediate stage, which is why I think we ended up with the current stereotype).

    Also, no tsundere post can possibly be complete without me posting the tsundere song from Yozakura Quartet.

    The introductory scene

    And here’s the song

  7. In my opinion, it’s a very overused trope. Even Princess Teruhi in this season’s Angolmois–an embarrassing historical fiction about the first Mongol invasion of Japan–is tsundere. Really? With a Mongol horde killing off your entire family and repeatedly trying to kidnap and rape you, you still have time for tsundere? (Hey, those Tsushima girls are apparently tough!)

  8. I generally like them in games, but I agree that sometimes when they just start calling the MC stupid all the time it gets tiring. Although I think I broke my own theories when I played Nameless… I really liked Lance in the end. Probably because he was one of the most *cough* assertive…

    1. Oh no Lance was super respectful by comparaison really. I would call him more kuudere and stoic.
      Nameless had some epic Yanderes….

  9. Much like any tropey archetype, tsunderes can be good or bad depending on execution. If the author’s intent was to make you sympathize with a character but you don’t because they’re such a huge bitch with no redeeming qualities, that’s bad writing.

    Taiga is an example of a good tsundere. She’s aggressively in denial about her feelings, but she cares about Ryuuji when it counts. Her physical attacks felt comical and not abusive, while her insults were wonderfully childish.

    I never liked Asuka Langley, but I am like 99% sure she was intended to be unlikeable anyway, so that’s fine.

    1. I have the exact opposite tastes. But I’m really super basic so obviously the character written to appeal to my demo is going to be more inetersting to me than the one written to appeal to more or less the opposite demo…

  10. Nicely written article on the nature of this trope. I always thought Tsun was onomatopea(sp?) for “thunder”, and dere is kind of like endearing-cute so tsun dere is sort of translated to “thunder endearing”. I agree that its a particularly asian concept.

    I didn’t see if Akane from Ranma 1/2 was listed in the tsundere characters, but she’s probably one of the originals.

    Both Motoko and Narusegawa from Love Hina were Tsundere characters, with Naru eventually marrying Keitaro after she beat him up hundreds of times, and Motoko becoming a successful romance novellist by making Keitaro the inspiration for all her stories. That was in the manga, btw, they never quite animated that bit.

    The tsundere nature of biribiri from Index/Railgun was well done, and she actually bullies her crush into a date in 2nd season of Index. She’s too young for him, being a 2nd year middle school girl and he’s in high school and not interested in little girls, having his own problems instead. I think this also contributed to her tsundere issues and finding out the Sisters like him, collectively, didn’t help with her jealousy.

    Tsundere often seems to require jealousy, like Louise Valliere, who is saddled with an older pervy champion (he’s kidnapped after paying for his laptop to be fixed just to watch porn on it, a fact most people forget since it was the very beginning of Saito’s story in ep 1), and she calls him a dog and beats him frequently. Tsundere only works if there’s a masochist male to put up with their abuses, so its pretty unhealthy.

    I liked your comment about trying to get a character to headbutt a tsundere character. A pity that isn’t an option. Imagine how much fun games would be if that was a standard response?

    1. Ah, Akane is there. Poor resolution image so its hard to tell, and she’s wearing a dress, which is extra unusual for her character. Naru is there too.

  11. I love a tsundere. I think part of the appeal is that it’s a personality type that is so *obviously* fabricated and so *obviously* not something that actually happens in reality (in my experience, anyway) that you can just switch off and enjoy the fantasy. As you say, the thrill of the tsundere is wondering when that crunchy tsuntsun outer shell will melt, allowing the gooey sweet deredere goodness to ooze out of the inside.

    My favourite tsunderes are the ones who don’t overplay it, or who are self-aware about what they are doing. Michiru from Grisaia is a really interesting example, because she says up-front that she’s deliberately playing a tsundere role because she feels like it fits her, rather than it being her actual real personality. Noire from Neptunia emphasises the shy, awkward aspect rather than insults and is utterly charming as a result. Makise Kurisu from Steins;Gate is a pleasure to be around because she’s obviously conflicted between wanting to express her femininity (as shown through her distinctively feminine clothing and overall “look”) and not wanting Okabe to think she’s a demure, quiet “assistant” woman he can boss around at his convenience. And Ikaruga from Senran Kagura is a pleasant combination of tsundere and the “class president” type.

    I have a thing for Asami Imai, okay.

    1. Sad reality about my experience (and one shared by a few people I know)…But having your intellect challenged and being infantilized by people who find yu attractive for no particular reason is in fact something that happens in real life. Obviously the trope texagerrates it but having people express interest in you through aggressivity is really not that uncommon in my experience….

  12. I’m still learning every day when it comes to anime and while I had to do some research for the Harem tag post a while ago, I’m still not very familiar with all these types, so this was certainly a very educational post. As for my thoughts on this type of character…I’m trying to think if I have ever come across one in the animes I have watched…so far I’m drawing a blank. I don’t think it would be a type of character I would particularly like honestly. He/She might illicit some laughs from me, but don’t think it’s the type I could enjoy to watch because probably it’s pretty far from my own type of personality lol. Then again…I never say never😊 Great post!

    1. We may need to explore Raistlin’s dere types some day! You know what we should do – A post on blogger dere types!

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