Full disclosure, I only recently learned of the existence of the term Tsunshun and what it means. Up until a few weeks ago I had never heard of it at all. But since discovering this personality archetype, it may have become one of my favourites. As such, I want to tell more people about it!
Strictly speaking, Tsunshun isn’t exactly a “dere” type. Obviously since it doesn’t have a “dere” in it. But it does behave in much the same way. the “dere” part is usually my favourite thing about all the “dere” personality archetypes so you wouldn’t think I would gravitate towards one without it but here we are.
For all intents and purposes, Tsunshun is a variation on the very popular Tsundere archetype. From what I could dig up the term Tsunshun is a portmanteau of Tsuntsun – which I’ve seen translated as “to turn away in disgust” and shun which is apparently an onomatopoeia associated with sadness, sorrow or depression. Who knew sadness made a sound, and apparently that sound is “shun”.
A lot of online sources define the Tsunshun as a character that is abrasive or hostile, like a Tsundere, but does so to hide their depression. Like I said, I just discovered the term so I am not going to argue the definitions. On paper, this sounds like a very gloomy character indeed and not one I’m likely to enjoy. In practice however, I found that the only Tsunshun I’ve seen was utterly delightful and doesn’t quite fit that definition.
Most sources agree that the trope name comes from Ririchiyo Shirakiin, one of the main characters of Inu x Boku SS (review coming real soon!!!). I would be inclined to believe that as the term is used in the series to refer to the character along with an explanation. And that’s the explanation I’ve gone by.
In Inu x Boku, Ririchiyo is indeed an abrasive and slightly haughty character. She tends to react with sharp words and sarcasm. It should be noted that she never reacts with violence and the idea would probably be traumatizing to her. This said, unlike a more traditional Tsundere character, her actions aren’t really covering up anything. She doesn’t lash out when she’s embarrassed or because she doesn’t know how to react to attraction or something like that. She is simply very socially awkward.
For many reasons that don’t really matter, she was brought up in a way that encouraged more stand offish behaviour. Since she hasn’t had many chances to socialize when she was younger, she never really developed any more sophisticated communication tools. As such, now when she finds herself in a social situation with people she isn’t too familiar with yet or in a situation she’s not very comfortable in, she defaults back to sarcasm or occasionally rude quips because that’s what she knows best. It’s a panic reaction.
However, the character isn’t stupid or completely lacking in empathy and awareness. Moreover, the point is never to make people feel bad at all. It’s pretty much an involuntary reaction. So when Ririchiyo lashes out and realizes that she once again didn’t react in the way she wanted to, she feels depressed and a little sad. Because she might have hurt someone’s feelings or alienated them unwittingly. That’s different from using aggression to cover up sadness, the aggression is the cause of the sadness.
And I sort of like that about the character. She isn’t mean, she does feel bad when she hurts people and she doesn’t want to stay the way she is. She makes these elaborate plans in her head, sometimes even writes them down on paper, to force herself to have normal pleasant interactions with others. Sometimes she succeeds but it’s still very difficult. In the ends she’s just very anxious in social situations and has an unfortunate defence mechanism.
It’s quite adorable in a way, and it made me root for her. It also had me celebrating incredibly mundane victories, like Ririchiyo inviting a friend for coffee without making it sound like a command or as if she was doing them a favour!
One of my biggest issues with the Tsundere archetype has always been that if you don’t carefully balance out the character, then they just end up as an abusive partner. You know, someone who makes people around them feel bad (and occasionally physically injures them) and doesn’t really care all that much. Someone whose own personal feelings are just more important than those of anyone else. Alternatively, some Tsunderes do occasionally apologize for their behaviour, often begrudgingly, but rarely try to change.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many Tsundere characters that I like. Some I like a lot. But as a general notion and character archetype, it’s just not my thing.
The Tsunshun solves almost all my issues with it though. For one, the only Tsunshun I have seen is generally abrasive instead of abusive. What I mean is that the harsh or rude words are all in the way she speaks and never personally aimed at anyone. There are no personal insults or anything. It’s more of a generally rude and arrogant manner. And like I mentioned there is no physical violence which is always nice. I generally appreciate not being afraid that my friend will break my nose because I complimented their outfit or something…
Moreover, the fact that their own behaviour causes them to become depressed sort of dictates that these characters will try to change and improve their social skills at some point. It’s an implicit admission that they care about other people’s feelings and that those feelings matter to them.
Even though I’ve only heard the term used in Inu x Boku and the internet hasn’t been able to give me much more examples, I’m sure there are other characters that fall into the trope. Still, when I sat down to write this post I really wracked my brain and couldn’t think of anyone that quite fit the archetype. Maybe Kyo from Fruit Baskets. He seems to be a bit bummed whenever he acts jerky. In any case, I think we should have more. It’s a nice twist on the Tsundere archetype and variety is always fun!
Did you know about Tsunshuns? Do you know of any other examples? Please don’t say Asuka from NGE. The internet keeps naming her but there’s way too much going on for a simple classification of NGE archetypes in my opinion.