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Moe Check! » It's Not Like I Wanted To Post This – The Tsundere

Cross Channel.

I realize that this anime blog is, as I always mention, intended for moe, and all it entails. It's not so much a genre as a style, an additional feature that can stand on its own (regardless of whether it should), but can also be added to another show as akin to a condiment. It is, in the popular definition, a set of traits and personality types which converge, however eventually, to a common point.

Even so, there is one particular form of moe which has never quite grabbed me in the same way as, say, glasses or silence. Strangely enough, at least in the Anglophone anime fandom, it appears to be the most popular, or rather the one with the most vocal contingent. It is a personality type that relies on being abusive, insulting, and unpleasant towards their target audience, in the hopes of some sort of payoff at the end. This is, of course, the tsundere.

This is one of those words which has no real English equivalent. It is difficult to explain with a definition, but somewhat easier to provide examples of. The vague idea has been around for somewhat longer than anime itself, but only reached its current form, complete with a Platonic ideal and a parodifiable stereotype, quite recently. TVTropes, as usual, has an article.

This post will be rather different from my previous posts on the aspects of moe, in that I don't actually understand this particular variety. (This must be how non-moe fans feel about us.) So I'll be relying on other people to explain why they like tsundere characters; in this case, a friend of mine who would like to go on the record as insisting that he is not speaking for all of the tsundere fandom, but merely his own personal tastes.

Since I am incredibly biased, I get to go first.

Rin from Fate Stay Night.

My distaste with tsundere characters can be boiled down into a dislike of the tsun aspect. There's a lot of details and caveats, which I'll get into in a bit, but at its core, I simply cannot see the point in putting up with all that abuse just for the payoff at the end, especially if there are other choices, so to speak. When the girl is tsun, she pushes you away, right into the arms of someone more willing. Efficiency dictates a change of tastes.

However, matters of taste are rarely efficient, nor should they be. (It would be nice if they were, but it's not mandatory.) "Liking" a character is more complicated than that: there's liking a character enough to want to be friends with them, if one could self-insert into that particular continuity (the stuff of fanfics), and there's liking a character just to watch them in action.

Take one character I actually like, in the "watching in action" way, Teana Lanster from Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. She may or may not be intended as a tsundere character, especially with the complete lack of a male love interest for most of the characters, but fanworks have depicted her as tsundere enough that I can safely assume that she has the behaviour of a tsundere. Now, I like her because her interactions with Subaru have lots of potential for comedy, if nothing else, and she's a great Straight Man character in the midst of all the LOVE AND PEACE around her. However, I suspect that any new character, self-insert or otherwise, would have to get past her "why are you bothering me?" spiky exterior before joining in the fun. It's just not worth the hassle.

And then there's a tsundere character I don't like, Louise Insert Long Name Here Valliere from Zero no Tsukaima. She alternates between beating up Saitou and becoming all clingy and possessive, and I don't know what Saitou sees in her. There could be something about Inner Vulnerability and such, but Henrietta has the same possibilities in that direction. Just about every significant female character in the show is attracted to Saitou, but he stays with the one who constantly insults and belittles him.

Tangentially, in the anime with a long name but which I remember as Megadere, the tsundere character in question is always dere to the male lead, and always tsun to everyone else. Perhaps not surprisingly, I also like watching her in action.

Now, I understand that there could be a difference between A Character With Tsundere Traits and A Tsundere Character; it's the difference in whether the character is defined by their tsundere-ness. This is where I suspect taste is the dividing factor: a character defined entirely by her Shy Meganekko-ness I can still enjoy as what amounts to eye candy, for the part of the brain concerned with observing moe. A "pure" tsundere, in contrast, is just irritating.

I'm not closing my mind the the possibility of liking tsundere characters; if I had, I wouldn't have named Teana as my favourite MSLN character overall. But more or less the defining trait of the tsundere is that, to the viewpoint character at least, they make themselves hard to like.

Akiba Angels.

Let's have a look at the other side of the issue, from the aforementioned friend of mine.

First, he would like to emphasize again (and I agree with him) that this is all personal taste. And when it comes down to it, he doesn't so much "like tsundere characters" as much as like assertive female characters. It's just that the tsundere character trait often accompanies an assertive character, possibly for ease of audience identification.

For a tsundere, the tsun is the assertive part, but the dere reminds us that the character is still "girly". The juxtaposition of these very different personality types engages a frisson of moe in the brain. It also fits with the idea that attractive characters have a hidden side to them, separate from their public personas: maybe the refined ojou-sama is an anime fan (Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu), or the shy meganekko loves cosplay and gaming (Love and Collage), or the silent standoffish girl is a sexual deviant (plenty of H-mangas I will deny knowledge of if confronted). I hesitate to call it an unexpected side, since in most cases we've seen stuff like it before, so it's not like we're surprised. If a character lacks this hidden side, rest assured that fandom will fill in the gaps.

It is, admittedly, a thin line to tread. A good rule of thumb is that the "hidden" side should be the attractive aspect, or at least not bad. For example, Ami Kawashima from Toradora has yet to fully redeem herself in my eyes from her initial behaviour: sweet and airheaded hiding cold and manipulative. Even so, it's only a rule of thumb, and exceptions abound on a case-by-case basis.

A tsundere apparently requires twin ponytails for her hairstyle. Thigh-highs are useful but optional.

Quoting from TVTropes:

What makes a Tsundere attractive is her determined attitude to do everything well; even if it's a cover for deep-seated insecurities, it's better than her wangsting about them. Furthermore, she's much less likely to suffer from Chickification as her less-than-doting personality facet is her major appeal. For Type A, it's assumed that she only acts that way to hide her good heart or deal with romantic attraction. For Type B, her hidden tsuntsun side shows that she's more than just the sweet girl.

"Type A" here means a "normal" outward personality of tsun, like the typical view of a tsundere. "Type B" means a normally kind and sweet girl who turns out to have a short temper or some such: Ibuki Ikaruga from Asu no Yoichi comes to mind, although I'm sure various heroines from Rumiko Takahashi's works would also fit (Akane Tendou may or may not fit the "kind and sweet" clause).

Another option is that since guys are, generally speaking, the "ones with power", it provides a rush when a girl asserts her own power: I'm not entirely sure if it's adrenaline or hormonal. The competitive feeling might turn into attraction, after a suspiciously short amount of time.

Also, girls apparently look hot when they're angry. Personally I much prefer girls looking happy (and in fact think that they look their best at those times), but it's all taste.

Something he sees as a possibility, even if I'm not sure if he agrees with it himself, is that when the tsun aspect finally goes away and the dere comes out, it could be seen as a conquest. The taming of the shrew, perhaps.

Arisa from Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha.

All in all, de gustibus non est disputandum: there's no arguing with taste. I don't like the tsundere archetype, and this is the sort of dislike which is more potent than a simple lack of interest, as with the sporty tomboy type and the haughty ojou-sama. And yet I understand and recognize that it is a valid, extremely popular moe archetype, and so I have to try to grok it. Maybe understanding will result in a change of tastes, and I will be tsundere about tsunderes.

So, why do you like tsundere characters?

Taiga and Ryuuji from Toradora.

19 Responses to “It's Not Like I Wanted To Post This – The Tsundere”
  1. Silverdragon15 says:

    That was an interesting read…not that I enjoyed it or anything…(okay, that felt wrong, I'm stopping now).

    Hmm…for tsunderes, I like certain types of them. Honestly, I hate Louise. I don't know how she would think that beating people up will want them to stay with her. Saito must be a masochist. Taiga, from Toradora, is a different matter. Though, one can argue she isn't a Tsundere really.
    Tsundere's points of moe really comes out when they have trouble expressing their true emotions, and they try to cover it up so they aren't embarrassed. Taiga's funny because she hides it differently with different people. Her behavior is far more unpredictable, but she isn't going to attack or beat up a friend. Louise, on the other hand, is so predictably annoying that I eventually stopped watching the series.
    I'm sure I have more to add on this later, but great job on this article. And amusing pictures.

  2. Balorn says:

    I generally don't like tsundere characters either. Nagi from Hayate is the most tsundere character I'll put up with in a leading role. I couldn't even finish the first episode of Zero no Tsukamia.

    Part of it may be I got more than my fill of tsundere-ish characters from Ranma 1/2, back some years ago. Part of it may be so many of them aren't so much "tsundere" as "TSUNdere"

  3. Kalium says:

    They are, generally, a lot more fun than your standard romantic archetype. It helps that they're almost always quite transparent, fooling primarily themselves.

    To take the canonical example, Tohsaka Rin is hilarious in her lighter moments.

  4. Crisis_Vyper says:

    Well, for me, the Tsundere archetype is usually a character that is more often than not, a little more suspicious of the hero during the beginning rather than hating the hero outright. They do not really trust the hero, and somehow thanks to the typical anime/manga manner, the hero puts himself into a situation where he did some wrong to the Tsundere character that causes him to be hated outright, or at least sets the pace for their antagonism. At least, I find that pattern very common and cliche when it comes to the Tsundere's atttude towards the protagonist.

    For the Type A Tsundere;

    Their interaction with the other characters are often normal and friendly, but it is only with the protagonist that the antagonism really skyrocketed. But as the protagonist shows the Tsundere that he is not what she perceives him to be, she will soon come to realize that her actions are a little out of proportion. As they come to know you, they will try to talk to you in a normal way, but something called pride comes into play and it will make out for a very awkward situation for the Tsundere character, which in turn causes her to become a little more….shall we say combative to cover up that though of hers.

    For the Type B tsundere;

    Likewise, there is also those that are initially sweet from the outside but are actually are not that sweet on the inside, and this is an example of them letting loose form their social cover of being the lady, and becoming something that they are more comfortable with. Thus, as this type of Tsundere goes, the hero comes to discover this side by accident and then is forced to keep it a secret from everyone, less he dies a very painful death or punishment (whichever is the reaction of the day). Of course, the Tsundere character will soon becomes more comfortable acting the way she is near the protagonist, and becomes more trusting of the protagonist to let her do what she wants with herself.

    But the reason why I believed that people like the Tsundere achetype is because they have a sassy attitude, and also an independent spirit that shows them both their strengths and also weaknesses. But there is also the fact that some people like being sado-masochistic about it, but I would not delve in that though for the sake of this topic. That is perhaps why I like tsunderes, rather than the constant bickering, as it makes a character more normal than the usual "Genki" type ( I really can not stand characters that is overly positive), but as you say it is all the matter of taste.

    But even for Tsundere Lovers, there are times that some characters are so fake that sometimes one wonder what the hell is going on. Foremost among all of this is Louise from Louise no Tsukaima as she is just annoying and if I may be blunt here, a bitch. I believe that the best Tsundere character is actually one that is a little more uptight than most characters, but nevertheless for all intent and purposes, she is just human in most aspect. Yui Kotegawa from To-Love-ru is a Tsundere that is more in line with this, and personally is a character that one can come to like as characters like this are often seen in real-life as well. Same goes for Misaka from Toaru no Majutsu no Index as she is a nice character, but nevertheless the hero did something to her that caused her to have the rivalry in the first place which is also another humane action that one do against someone that did them some inconvenience.

  5. al103 says:

    There is also one important factor – do tsundere have a point? Asuna and Chisame from Negima manga do 90% of time, as Teana from Nanoha, on other side Zero no Louise 90% of time have no point and just a bitch – and many cases in between. I don't know how about others, but heroine which can smack others when they are idiots is good one for me and heroine bitching out of something in her head or out of constant PMS for me is heroine which can ruin any show.

  6. Irishninja says:

    Yay, you're talking about tsundere! :D

    I have several thoughts about this subject and why they're so popular in America, but since I'm at work I'll make it brief mercifully.

    1. I think the tsundere archetype is the one moe archetype that comes closest to how actual people are. What I mean is that people have two sides of their personalities: the side they show in public and the side they show in private, to a small group (close friends, family, and lovers, usually). The tsundere archetype takes this duality of personality to an extreme, usually for comedic effect or else to simplify a character.
    2. A lot of tsundere characters are bossy, sassy, assertive, and independent. I think those traits appeal to a certain segment of men (myself included), especially in America.
    3. They also tend to have really soft sensitive sides that they only show to certain people (usually only the male leads or other guys they are interested in) as a show of trust, which I think also appeals to men. There's a certain level of "She acts like this around everyone else, but when it's just the two of us she acts like this… just for me."

    There's more I want to say, but I have to go. Thanks for talking about this! :)

  7. TheBigN says:

    My only problem with the tsundere archetype is that it tends to be presented more often in the "extreme" scenario, and I don't understand why most guys would want to take the abuse some people do. And it's funny in that I don't really consider characters like Teana or Chisame tsundere, though you could make the argument that they are. I guess it's that extreme connotation coming with the word that bugs me.

    And I think like Minoru said in Lucky Star that the definition might have been skewed a lot. :P

  8. Silver says:

    Just like any other characters, there just seem to many kind of tsundere. Tsundere like Louise is just plain annoying because they just don't seem that realistic. Personally, I have a huge dislike for Taiga although that's mostly due to a different reason. Tohsaka Rin though or Yui from To-love-Ru are interesting and are actually cute in my opinion since they are just like that and are not exactly violent. Tohsaka Rin especially is pretty cute. The reason is that most of the time she is clever and playful and once in a while, she just goes tsun tsun out of embarrassment.

    Oh, glasses totally make me go crazy. Not in a good way though because I always have this kind of hate for it although I am trying to control it now so it's a bit better. This is probably due to a trauma when I was younger. Ironically, I wear glasses.

  9. kindaichi17 says:

    I agree with Silver…there are many kinds of Tsundere so one can't strictly define all Tsundere characters into a single group. Just as I like FSN's Rin, NGE's Asuka and PW's Franziska, I find Louise a really annoying character. Factors like appearance, other traits inherent in the character and even the character's back-story all can play a role in whether she's likable or not.

  10. Mike says:

    There's a line, I think, between a realistic "tsundere" who is simply suspicious or passionately independent, and the dumbed-down archetype who swings between two unrealistically extreme poles. Louise is an example of the latter; Taiga a bit more moderated, to pick two roles by the same voice actress. That's the problem anything gets turned into an arche/stereotype; you take appealing characteristics (forthrightness, spunk) and drive them into the ground. Danged lazy writers!

    I liked this analysis a lot, so much that I decided to feature it on a brand new anime channel for Dailysite! Every day I pick a new link to feature on the Dailysite anime channel, and if you make that your starting page, you get taken to articles like yours automatically. I hope it helps your traffic just a bit :)

  11. Rah'ra says:

    A tsundere is a girl with a passive-aggressive personality, combined with good social graces that comes from a healthy and attractive body. It's like a giant oxymoron. I don't think such creatures can exist in reality.

  12. Tommy says:

    Tsundere is always fun to have around. The type of tsundere range from the soft to the hard one. Moreover, tsundere girl like Aisaka Taiga is the perfect example for it but for Loiuse in Zero no Tsukaima is really a unrealistic tsundere.. poor Saito.

    I was thinking about writing a Tsundere post on my blog too since you post it I have a great increase my knowledge of it. Thanks!

  13. Martin says:

    First off, great post. Dunno why I didn't notice it earlier. Secondly, this.

    And when it comes down to it, he doesn’t so much “like tsundere characters” as much as like assertive female characters. It’s just that the tsundere character trait often accompanies an assertive character, possibly for ease of audience identification.

    I'll hold my hand up say I'm guilty as charged; I can see where your friend's coming from. I actually don't like the submissive moe archetype at all so assertive characters are a breath of fresh air for me. Like any personality type though, it can be used in a predictable and lazy fashion or just over-used, as any personality archetype can be (moe included. Hell, it's possible to have moe characters that don't irritate me).

    Why are tsunderes awesome? I'll say it's the tsundere trait itself more than a full-on tsundere character because it can indeed be over-used. The duality in personality can happen for a number of reasons, which adds a lot of entertainment value onto the characterisation. "Why is she being so short-tempered and hiding her feelings?" and so forth. Secondly, it is refreshing when the 'anime girl' stereotypes are meek, submissive and whatnot. Furthermore, when I interact with people like that IRL I find the more assertive, tsun-tsun people easier to deal with. If they're annoyed about something, they don't suffer in silence; they often come across as more honest in that sense.

    Of course, that's the type B you mention. Type As aren't really that honest since they're hiding one set of emotions behind another, and are often a bit predictable and one-dimensional (lacking the things I like about the tsundere in the first place!). Watching someone being obnoxious and rude isn't fun, I'll admit.

    It depends on the time and nature of the 'payoff' though. To me the tsundere of Toradora! is Taiga – she has real problems admitting to even herself that she cares about Ryuuji. Granted, her tsun-tsun behaviour is either funny or grating depending on your personal tastes but it's entertaining, and rewarding in a way, to see her notice and then think about her true feelings.

    I was expecting to write a rambling comment (I did a post about this on my old blog absolutely ages ago…hopefully including a link won't get this comment eaten by your spam filter) but it's turned out to be even more tl;dr than I expected…sorry about that!

  14. Keroko says:

    I like tunderes mostly because they are often stronger characters. In many anime, non-tsunderes either get shoved to the sidelines or spend a lot of time in heavy typical girly emotional turmoil. Sometimes both. I don't like girls being dedicated to the 'you are a girl, I must protect you' role (hence one of the reasons I like Nanoha) and tsunderes by their nature often fight more often then their non-tsundere counterparts.

    This is not always the case, and there are many examples of non-tsunderes with strong personalities, however the will to bite back is always present in a tsundere.

    That being said, I only like them to a certain level. Like almost anything in life, too much of one thing can spoil its taste. Louise is a perfect example of 'too much tsundere' her abusive behavior goes far past acceptable boundaries and straigt into the 'Saito, what on EARTH are you doing with this girl?' territory.

    The aforementioned Teana, on the other hand, shows the typical tough tsundere attitude, but does not shy away from showing her more gentle side.

    A general rule of thumb for me is if a tsundere often becomes violent for unreasonable things (such as Louise whipping Saito for doing things she herself asked for), I probably won't like her.

  15. Roy Mustang says:

    I like them because they're not as weak as to die while giving birth to your child. You lose the love of your life. You blame and hate your child. Lose-lose situation for everyone.

    Plus I just dig purple haired characters.

  16. gen says:

    honestly i dont know why i like tsunderes?
    maybe because im a bratty tsundere myself…

    or maybe because they're not the damsel-in-distress type, they're strong.
    and when someone is being bitchy with them, they strike back.

    *and maybe something is wrong with me because i dont find louise annoying.
    sometimes i got pissed off, yes, but not because she's always beating up saito
    (but because she should rather beat the hell out of that siesta instead )

  17. Alex says:

    Its actually wrong to say the archetypes of tsunderes are an expression of female empowerment. Although, I encounter many girls who think it is, but I cannot understand how physically hurting a male or using violence shows "empowerment", it is a ridiculous double standard that shouldn't exist. I pit the above posters who think this way, most people would agree that violence is not only bad, but male hurting a female is considered WRONG. Yet, you do realize that punching men for talking to you does not make you look feisty and independent, it makes you look dangerously unhinged and would not serve to endear you to anyone, still less the man you've just punched?" Absolutely mind-blowing to think strong female characters have to resort to hurting another to show they're strong. I guess society sees female on male violence acceptable which above all absolutely disgusts me. Female characters don't have to show any tsuderes tendencies to make them be strong women, let alone violence and the best example of a strong women is Saber from Fate/Stay Night.

  18. CCX says:

    The thing that might turn some people off from Tsunderes is that they focus too much on the "tsun" part and forget about the "dere". I suppose what's so appealing is that there's a certain immaturity associated with the archetype, like she doesn't really know how to express her feelings so it comes out in the form of bullying–a reversal of the more stereotypical image of a little boy picking on a girl he likes. (Hence, the twin-tails tie-in; it's all supposed to make her seem like a little kid in a grown-up body). Why this is so appealing, I can only guess. Maybe it's because usually women are the mature ones, and we're insecure about not growing up as quickly? Or maybe we just need to be put in our place once in awhile. (Although that wouldn't explain my attraction, since I'm a total wimp.)

    Of course, in my case it's just a need to find a kindred spirit. :) Not so much the violent aspect–that's a huge turn-off–but the whole "aloof, pretending not to care" type? Oh yeah, that's so me.

    Oh, and of course, you forgot to mention the most important thing. Tsunderes blush. A lot. Some of them seem to be stuck in blush mode. And that is what makes them so moe.

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