Tsundere (ツンデレ): a Japanese term for a character development process that describes a person who is initially cold (and sometimes even hostile) before gradually showing a warmer, friendlier side over time. Derived from the terms tsun tsun (ツンツン), meaning to turn away in disgust, and dere dere (デレデレ) meaning to become ‘lovey dovey.’-good ole Wikipedia
Ah, the tsundere. One of the most prolific archetypes in anime. So tsun. So dere. And yet, so goddamn endearing!
Today we’ll be kicking off my “character archetype analysis” series by delving into what our love of this particular archetype actually says about us. You see, there’s a lot we can learn about ourselves based on who our favorite fictional characters are. So what better archetype to start with than the ever-prolific tsundere?
Why We Like Characters
When it comes down to it, we tend to like characters for one of two reasons:
- Because we identify with them
- Because we want to identify with them (or, in laynerd’s terms, because they’re AWESOME and we want to be awesome, too!)
Arguably there’s also a third reason: “because they’re funny,” though ultimately, I find that that one falls under reason #2. I mean, who among us doesn’t wish we were just a tad bit funnier, no?
As you can see, the characters we like say everything about us and very little about them. As such, by analyzing our favorite characters, we can learn more about ourselves. Through them, we can identify our strengths and weaknesses and ultimately come to own our powers.
The Two Faces of the Tsundere
I don’t know about you, adventurer, but I LOVE me some tsundere. Given this archetype is popular enough to spawn its own portable TV, chances are you’ve seen a tsundere or two (or two hundred).
In fact, did you know there are two different types of tsundere?
According to TV Tropes, there’s the “tsun” (harsh) type, and the “dere” (sweet) type. If the character’s default mood is harsh and abrasive, they’ll fall under the “tsun” category. Similarly, if they’re usually sweet and kind, they’re considered “dere.”
Considering the “tsun” type is more of your textbook tsundere, that’s the type I’ll be focusing on today.
The following is a list of characters that come to my mind—personally—when I think of textbook “tsun” tsundere.
- Asuka Langley Soryu, Neon Genesis Evangelion – there’s a lot of contention about whether or not Asuka is a “true” tsundere due to the fact that she’s actually a deconstruction of this archetype. However, I feel she’s still one of the first characters to come to people’s minds when they think of a classic tsundere.
- Rin Tohsaka, Fate/Stay Night – another classic example.
- Yamato “Matt” Ishida, Digimon Adventure
- Misty/Kasumi, Pokémon
- Syaoran Li, Cardcaptor Sakura “Cardcaptors” – such a great example of a male tsundere!
- Inuyasha – do I really have to list which show this guy is from?
- Rainbow Dash, My Little Pony
- Helga Pataki, Hey Arnold!
- Zuko, Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Cera, The Land Before Time – she was likely my very first introduction to the tsundere archetype as a child! (OMG, I so want to marathon those movies now…)
- Morrigan, Dragon Age
- Cassandra Pentaghast, Dragon Age
- Severa/Selena, Fire Emblem: Awakening/Fire Emblem: Fates – in my opinion, she is THE tsundere. Like, she IS this archetype. She perfectly exhibits all your typical tsundere qualities.
- Takumi, Fire Emblem: Fates
- Shadow, Sonic the Hedgehog series
- Midna, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
- Yukari Takeba, Persona 3 – another very stereotypical tsundere, IMO.
- Leon Magnus, Tales of Destiny – BEST. TSUNDERE. *fangirls*
- Rita Mordio, Tales of Vesperia
- Tsunderplane, Undertale – this enemy character is just one big parody of the tsundere and I love it so much.
- Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice) – after the season 6 finale, I almost want to say she’s yandere…
- My dog, Ares – seriously. He is also THE tsundere. My nickname for him is “tsunderpup” (that could totally be a super pet name. Just sayin’.) As weird as it may seem for a dog to be tsundere, I promise you he is a textbook example.
Maybe you’ve noticed by now, but most tsundere characters are female. This archetype actually came into fruition being female-only, so it makes sense, I guess. Though that’s not to say male tsunderes aren’t awesome too! I mean, my personal favorite tsundere just so happens to be Leon Magnus from Tales of Destiny, so…
But—ahem!—let’s get on to the analyzing already, shall we?
Outwardly Harsh (tsun)
Abrasiveness puts the “tsun” in tsundere. When characters are exhibiting their “tsuntsun”-like tendencies, they can range from being overtly aggressive to simply giving people the cold shoulder. But it all comes back to keeping people at a distance.
These characters struggle with their emotions and it shows. Their outward reactions are a means of covering up how they really feel. Perhaps they like someone—platonically or romantically—but they don’t like that they feel that way, so they do something in direct contrast to how they feel as a means of reaffirming their ideal identity.
It’s something we can all relate to at some point in our lives, so it has mass appeal. After all, we all have a Shadow—a side of ourselves we don’t like and therefore, don’t want to acknowledge.
So even though “tsun” characters can come off as total jerks that we would by no means want to befriend IRL, we like them because a part of us identifies. Maybe we aren’t going around being massive jerk-offs 24/7, but I’m sure we’ve all had moments where we said something we wished we wouldn’t have—done something in contrast to how we really felt.
Inwardly Sweet (dere)
Then comes the “dere,” the nice, sweet, and innocent part of the equation. Though “tsun” tsunderes are usually more than a little rough around the edges, the “dere” is why we stick around.
When it really boils down to it, tsunderes just want to be loved. And why wouldn’t they? At our core—whether human, dog, or triceratops—don’t we all?
Though their difficulty with their emotions prevents them from saying that outright, tsundere characters really only want to love and be loved. (Yes, even Cersei)
Again, we find this relatable, because the wish to give and receive love is the most universal sentiment of all—whether or not our tsundere selves want to admit it. And yet, thanks to societal conditioning and the struggles of life, we tend to sabotage ourselves when it comes to giving and receiving love.
But no matter how much we fuck things up, we all still have moments when that pure part of ourselves shines through—just like the tsunderes.
The final reason I believe we like the tsundere is a matter of wish fulfillment. More often than not, another quality shared by tsunderes is being badass as shit.
Whether a sword-fighting prodigy, a powerful mage, or a seemingly-normal girl who can LAY THE BEATDOWN, your typical tsundere kicks ass and takes names. And I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to do all that?
In addition, people often crush hard on tsundere characters because—at the end of the day—they’re just loyal, lovable softies with those they truly care about.
We, too, want that in our friends, family, and—especially—romantic partners. Isn’t there just something romantic about the idea of someone who’ll play it tough around others, but open up to you and you alone?
And so, we love our tsunderes. They’ve got a special quality that allows us to simultaneously identify with them and want to identify with them. Plus, they can teach us a lot about getting in touch with our emotions. (And how to be BADASS AS SHIT)
So tell me, adventurer, who are some of your favorite characters? Why do you like them? And am I the only one out there with a tsundere dog?
What I’m Playing: Skyrim – debating whether or not to marry Marcurio again in this playthrough. I mean, he’s a pretty good follower and if I marry him, I won’t have to pay for his services again!
What I’m Watching: Haven’t watched anything today but I’m ABOUT to be watching The Land Before Time! Ah, the nostalgia.
What I’m Listening to: “Spirit, Purpose, and Energy,” a podcast by JJ Flizanes – it’s a really well-rounded source for all things rabbit hole!
What I’m Reading: astrobutterfly.com – really analyzing the astrological forecast for October.
What I’m Writing: More blog posts! This is actually the last of my seven-day streak. I’m moving to weekly on Wednesdays from here on out.
What I’m Contemplating: What my “limiting beliefs” might be. I’ve been feeling like I’m in a rut as of late and I suspect there’re some outdated ways of thinking at the heart of it… now if I could only figure out WHAT those ways of thinking are…