While catching up with review shows I missed thanks to my hospitalization (the hospital’s WiFi wasn’t the best and in the convalescent home I was busy with therapy and recovery) I was watching a series of anime reviews by Arkada of Glass Reflections. Many of the reviews brought up the character type “tsundere” enough times thanks to the marathoning that I thought it would make a good installment of Trope Shark, my look at various tropes in media. Even without the medical issues it’s been too long since I’ve written for this series.
The tsundere is a popular trope in “harem anime”. I’ll cover what that is another time but all you need to know for this article is that a harem anime has a protagonist surrounded by many potential love interests, all with some weird quirk that make her (or occasionally him) fun to watch but you may question if the protagonist is better off without any of them. However, tsunderes are not exclusive to harems, or even female characters (for the purposes of my fingers relearning to type I’ll stick with the female pronouns since they’re usually female), and there are versions of them in Western animation as well. So what are they?
The Japanese term tsundere refers to a character who “runs hot and cold”, alternating between two distinct moods: tsuntsun (aloof or irritable) and deredere (lovestruck).The term was originally used to describe characters who began with a harsh outgoing personality, but slowly revealed a soft and vulnerable interior over time. Over the years the character archetype has become flanderized (TV Tropes uses this term to describe an exaggerated character personality type–SWT), and is now generically associated with a character who flips between the two emotional states at the slightest provocation, and usually at a specific person rather than a general sociability problem.
So think the Hulk and Bruce Banner (or whomever is the Hulk when you’re reading this; as of this writing it’s Amadeus Cho for some reason), only sparked by really stupid things. While you can find specific examples otherwise most of the time in recent harem stories I’ve come across the tsundere tries to hide her feelings for the main character. This comes in the form of accusing him of being a pervert in every situation that looks even the least bit romantic or sexual, immediately assuming that he’s forcing himself on the “unwilling victim” (sometimes she’s very/too willing and sometimes it’s just an accident) and beating the daylights out of the poor sap even when he isn’t a pervert (and to be honest they usually are, or again the ones I’ve come across, but in the good ones he still treats women properly).
It’s for this reason that I usually don’t like this character type, at least in most recent shows. You can make the case that Yoko from Gurren Lagann is a tsundere, but one who doesn’t go into psycho mode when, as an example, Simon (pronounced more like See-moun instead of Psy-mon) lands face first into her cleavage after falling. A Western example might be Helga from Hey Arnold. She constantly insults Arnold but has a creepy shrine to the kid and even secretly gave up a beloved Christmas present to help Arnold with a problem he was having. The examples of the more violent tsunderes, however, would be too long to list here, and I don’t like them due to immediately jumping to conclusions and ruining the day of the male lead on false assumptions and not apologizing, or in the case of a character like Sakura from Naruto, spends more smacks on the hero than the villains they’re supposed to be fighting and never called out on it. In her case though she doesn’t want to admit their friends plus she’s pining for some other guy. Also I’m one of those guys who would rather see Naruto get together with Hinata…if she’s still alive. I was way behind on Shippuden even before I got sick.
They’re funny to a point but can too easily cross the line into “this is not a nice person, softer side or not” territory and the “softer” side seems to be there to make us not hate the girl and feel sorry or root for her. Unless your me and will still dislike a character for current actions and not his/her history. Obviously somebody (mostly Japanese and Western anime fans) seem to love the type, though, because they pop up in everything from romantic comedies to harem anime to action shows with a potential love interest or love triangle. Myself, I wouldn’t mind they became scarce until they became funny or interesting again.