What, it’s you again? Here to read another blog post about some aspect of anime, I bet. Alright, I’ll see what I can do. But I’m not writing about the history of tsundere characters in anime because I like you or anything, got it? B-Baka!
What is a Tsundere? What Makes Them so Charming?
Anime is all about the tropes, and one staple character archetype is the classic tsundere. The word describes a character, usually but not always female, whose personality is tsun-tsun (irritable, grouchy, abrasive), with a small amount of dere-dere (“lovey-dovey”) sprinkled in. Like the word moé, this term was born on electronic bulletin boards in Japan, though the concept type isn’t new at all.
The elements that define an excellent tsundere character are:
- A difficult personality, which is often revealed to be a coping mechanism to hide the character’s insecurities.
- In many ways, a tsundere’s boisterous and prideful personality is the opposite of moé, which is designed to bring out feelings of love and protectiveness by fans rather than push us away. And yet they both often end up in the same place once the character’s defenses are broken down.
- Often the character is short in stature or a loli, and this rough personality is one way they deal with being disadvantaged height-wise.
- Much comedy can be realized when the haughty character gets embarrassed, usually by failing in a big way in front of their crush.
- There’s a lot of variation in tsundere characters. Taiga is violent at first but sweet at the end. Louise is even more violent yet obviously wants a sexual relationship with Saito. Kurisu Makise acts tough to protect herself from emotional harm…and to hide the fact that she’s a closet otaku.
- The balance of tsun and dere is extremely important since the whole point of the character is the emotional payoff fans get when the character finally lets her guard down and is honest with their feelings. When creators don’t get this balance right, fans are usually turned off by the characters.
The Origin of Tsundere in Popular Culture
While the term entered general consciousness thanks to the character of Ayu Daikuuji from the 2003 Kimi ga Nozomu Eien Ni anime, it describes a character archetype as old as Shakespeare. Some classic pre-anime tsundere characters who “doth protest too much” might include:
- Princess Leia from Empire Strikes Back
- Scarlett O’Hara
- “Hot Lips” Houlihan from M*A*S*H
- Dr. House from House M.D
- Veronica from Archie and Friends, always playing hard to get
- Kate from The Taming of the Shrew
- Sandor Clegane from Game of Thrones
Who was the first true tsundere in anime? While many people will default to Lum from Urusei Yatsura because she’s always electrocuting her poor Darling, I don’t agree. There’s very little focus on the feelings of love Lum and Ataru feel for each other, and the two never pair up in a way that’s emotionally satisfying for fans.
I believe the first example of this character trope comes from another Rumiko Takahashi work: Ranma 1/2. The character of Akene Tendo is, to me, the perfect example of a well-balanced tsundere: 85% angry and violent, but with a sweet payoff of 15% dere-dere love, which made her special to fans. Watching the show back in the day, it was really exciting to see Akane become more and more honest with her feelings towards Ranma.
The Top Eight Most Influential Tsun-Tsun Characters in Anime
Rin Tohsaka from Fate/stay night. The extremely popular anime based on a hentai visual novel brought us one of the most popular tsundere characters ever in the form of the “Salty & Sweet” Rin. She checked all the boxes and helped popularize “absolute zone” leggings, too!
Naru from Love Hina. Another important character, Naru was many fans’ initial introduction to the character archetype.
Kyo Sohma from Fruits Basket. The best example of a male tsundere, Kyo acts tough but he’s a pussycat inside. Literally.
Kyou Fujibayashi from CLANNAD. Another popular character from the golden age of Kyoto Animation-produced series based on Key visual novels, she’s my favorite from the series.
Kirino from Oreimo. One of the most epic tsun-tsun anime sisters ever created, she made a deep impression on many fans.
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Eris Greyrat from Mushoku Tensei. If the journey a character goes on is important, Eris from the outstanding Mushoku Tensei is one of the best tsundere characters out there. The changes she undergoes over the 24 episodes of the series are unbelievable, arriving at a place we never thought the story would go to.
Taiga Aisaka from Toradora. My personal favorite tsundere is Taiga from “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (as Mrs. J-List invariably calls it). It’s one of the best-executed anime stories ever told. And it’s almost time to start my annual Christmas re-watching of the series!
Asuka Langley Soryu from Evangelion. Finally, the most perfect tsundere is Asuka from the ground-breaking 1995 Evangelion. The movie changes her into a much more dere-dere character, to the point that director Hideaki Anno changed her name to Asuka Langley Shikinami in the films. I will always prefer the original.
Thanks for reading this blog post on the history of tsundere characters in anime! Which character from this genre won your heart? Post him or her below, or reply to us on Twitter!
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