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Tsundere. Noun. Wikipedia defines it as, “a Japanese character development process that describes a person who is initially cold and even hostile towards another person before gradually showing their warm side over time.” Tsundere is an anime and manga character stereotype that’s been around for ages. I’m really excited to bring you this article!
The word tsundere is actually a combination of two different words. The “tsun” part is from the word “tsuntsun” which means to turn away in disgust. This is shown in characters who originally start out to be quite harsh towards the main character. The “dere” part of it comes from “deredere” in Japanese which means to become lovey dovey. These characters are sweet and loving. So essentially a tsundere character is someone who does a 180 in the series! Be it they go from being mean to being nice, or from being cold to quite affectionate and loving towards the main character.
The celebrated manga author Ken Akamatsu (A.I. Love You, Love Hina (!!!), Magical Teacher Negima, etc. etc.) says that tsundere is a branch off of the moe character archetype and that the difference is is that a moe character is usually someone who needs to main protagonist to save him or her. Yes there are moe male characters. Deal with it. Tsundere on the other hand, switches the roles of the protagonist and the tsundere because the tsundere acts high and aloof frequently as a way to distance themselves from the protagonist. This changes the roles with a tsundere because the main character no longer has to save the tsundere, but rather vice versa. (Not literally save, but have to interact with them a lot, needs a favor, etc. etc.)
The tsundere archetype, as I mentioned above, has been around for a good amount of time now. Does the name Rumiko Takahashi ring any bells? If you guessed Inuyasha, you’re right! But can you name other works by the famous artist? What about Ranma ½? Maison Ikkou? What about Urusei Yatsura? The original tsundere character that most sources point to is actually one of the main characters of Urusei Yatsura, Invader Lum.
To give you a brief backstory, the alien race, Oni, come to invade Earth. However, they give the earth one week to play tag. Should a human touch the horn of the Oni, Earth will be spared. Ataru, a young boy is chosen to play against Lum, the princess of the Oni. Ataru sucks and Lum flies away a lot. On the last day, Ataru touches Lum’s horns by tricking her and through a mishap, accidentally proposes to Lum on live TV. Lum moves in with Ataru and tries to be a good wife. However, Ataru is a pervert!
Ataru is trying to get back with his crush Shinobu and Lum isn’t having it. She punishes Ataru by electrocuting him constantly. She would usually yell “Darling!” when she is angry right before she electrocutes him. She does appear to be the doting “wife” by taking care of him lovingly, but she will never hesitate to punish him severely for his lecherousness. Hence, Lum’s back-and-forth-ness of punishing her husband and then making lunch for him while telling him that she loves him, makes her a fantastic example of a tsundere.
Now that you’re all equipped with this knowledge, check out three shows with major tsundere characters in them to find out more!
Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 1995 – March 1996
Ahhh, good ole Evangelion. This show has been around forever it feels like and this is a perfect example of having a tsundere character! Just a quick intro though. The world is in danger. It is under attack by aliens called angels. Shinji, Rei, and Asuka fight in giant robots against them in hopes of saving the Earth.
Now on to the tsundere. Here in this series, it’s Asuka. She originally starts out being exceptionally mean to Shinji, the main character, for what seems like no reason. She really did irritate me at first with what seemed like a superiority complex. Her reasons and backstory, be it what they may, do eventually change and she is forced to live with Shinji. She still takes jabs at Shinji throughout the series, but she does seem to have a change of heart.
Asuka insults become less and less and she shows more concern for Shinji. Her backstory is explained after a few events giving more depth to her character, and eventually what happens is... … … I’m not telling you! Please enjoy the series for yourself and find out what happens!
Neon Genesis Evangelion - Theatrical Trailer
- Episodes: 24 + 1 OVA
- Aired: April 2007 – September 2007
Lucky☆Star is a classic comedy anime which otakus have come to love? Why? Because this anime is just a giant show making jokes about other anime with tons of references. To touch briefly on the plot, this show follows Konata, Kagami, Miyuki and Tsukasa and their everyday lives. Kotana is an otaku, Kagami and Tsukasa are twins and Miyuki is a very well-to-do, sweet character.
The jewel that shines bright as a tsundere though, is Kagami. Now I know you’re saying, “What!?!? This show is about girls!” Stay with me here though. Kagami is very much a tsundere to the core. The difference being though is that we can see her internal dialogue a lot. Being very happy one second because Konata has come to visit her, but then yelling at her the next because Konata is trying to copy the homework. The great part about Lucky☆Star is that it almost breaks the fourth wall at one point when Konata tells Kagami that she is basically a tsundere in “real life.”
The other character in the series that’s a tsundere is Akira, as a part of the Lucky Channel segment. Cute one minute for the camera, but as soon as she thinks it’s clear, she drops all character and does a 180 to be a crazy girl with a bad attitude. The scene with her realizing where her pay is going is perfect.
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2008 – March 2009
Toradoraaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! and all the feels! I love this show! It’s amazing. Toradora, to give you a brief background, follows Ryuji, a misunderstood high school student. Taiga is a crazy girl that everyone in the school is terrified of. They strike a deal one day that is supposed to be mutually beneficial for the both of them. He helps her, and in turn, Taiga sets Ryuji up with her friend.
Taiga, voiced by Rie Kugimiya (see below) is another perfect tsundere. She does take it to the extreme a bit because she is quite violent. Hence why all the males in the school are terrified of her. She is quite lazy though at one point when a few things are reveled, but even after that, she still takes a very high handed approach to everything. Again, here is where we really do see the switching of roles by the main character and the tsundere. Even though he could call her out at any time and break her, he instead submits because his role is below hers.
Taiga, like all other tsundere characters, does eventually start to make a turn around when a few other things happen, but I’m not spoiling the series for you! You will have to try it out for yourself and see what happens!
Toradora Anime Dub Trailer
I really hope you enjoyed reading my suggestions and I want to give you a few more things to point out about the tsundere character and how their roles play out in anime. In some shows, yes, they can become major romance interests once they do start to become affectionate. However this is not always the case. Sometimes, it’s a part of the characters missing their chances.
To be honest, in my opinion, tsundere characters tend to shine more in slice of life series as well as with comedy series. The reason being is that with a bit more of an easygoing plot, as say, compared to action series, they usually get more screen time as well as more interactions with the main characters. Not to say that action series tsundere are undervalued or underused in the least! It’s just that they, in my humble opinion, tend to stand out more because there is less distraction with fight scenes and what not.
Another good place to look, should you like tsundere characters, the seiyu, Rie Kugimiya, is generally hailed as the queen of tsundere since the major roles she takes are tsundere characters. So I would suggest looking her up and watching shows that she does voices for to enjoy more! Some other shows that didn’t make it here, but you can certainly check out are, Hayate no Gotoku!, To Aru Kagaku no Railgun, Bakemonogatari, Love Hina, Shakugan no Shana, and Zero no Tsukaima. Try out all those shows if you find yourself loving and wanting more of the tsundere stereotype!