Toxic Report: The Tsundere

Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Lord Reiseng in all his infinite glory and wisdom has finally decided to tackle a difficult and challenging mystery that everyone seems hell bent on unraveling: The Tsundere.

In order to begin this unraveling, we must first examine, what exactly a Tsundere is.

What is a Tsundere?

Here is the wikipedia page for Tsundere’s. In other words, a Tsundere by definition is just a girl who is too shy to express her true feelings, and instead tries to hide them behind a mean, “I don’t care” persona.

But hey, most of the readers of this blog are classy, intelligent people, so, of course you already knew that. No, instead of focusing on trivial details like that, let us instead explore other far more interesting, dark orifices of the Tsundere (hint:There is a dirty joke hidden in that last sentence).

Let us now ask the question: Why are Tsundere’s used in Japanese media?

Do we like Tsunderes?

I can’t speak for the Japanese, simply because I am not Japanese, nor I do not currently live in the land of anime and lolicons, but I can certainly voice the opinions of the  non-Japenese, but Japan loving folk!

We here, in non-Japan, but Japan-loving parts of the world absolutely love the Tsundere.

Upon finding their destined others, young couples engage in coitus under a banner of their chosen Tsundere deity. They repeat this ritual until the female gets pregnant. At his point, the couple splits apart and the female hastily moves into into a secluded room where she meditates underneath the wisdom of a Tsun-Priest for the full 9 moth pregnancy term. The male on the other hand, quickly and efficiently finds himself as many jobs as possible in order to fund a collection of deity figures. These figures are sacrificed to the deity the day after the birth in the hopes of garnishing some much desired good will.

The Mikoto Misaka Tsundere deity is a level 5 Tsundere deity.

Source of deity, the Misaka was taken from an old Ookami-San screenshot of mine

Once the mother starts going into labor, she is taken to a hospital, the father contacted, and the ritual of childbirth begins. During the process of child birth, a priest stands by and chants the tsun prayer: “Aho, Baka, Aho, Baka, Baka, Ba-Ba, BAKA, Aho, Aho, Aho” tirelessly in rhythm with the mother’s grunts of pain. Once the child has been born, a chosen female (normally a flat chested 10th grader) is brought into the birth room.

She whispers “it..it…it’s not like I want you to be happy and prosperous, or anything” once in each ear of the child before firmly implanting the kiss of the tsundere upon the child’s forehead. This ritual is supposed to grant the child, the blessing of the Tsundere Queen. The identity of the Queen has been debated for many a century, but that would require another post, so, for now, we shall forget about it.

In case you were wondering, a miscarriage or still-birth results in immediate destruction of all the deity artifacts and immediate abandonment of the deity’s status as Tsundere deity.

The child grows up under the guidance of his parents and their tsundere deity. Sometimes, once they are of age, the now grown up children chose to worship a deity different than the one their parents worshiped. In some cases, this change of heart is taken well, but in most, it is met with outrage, sadness and in some cases, abandonment.

A few people, give up worshiping tsundere deity’s altogether and seek out the mythical Yandere deity. These people are normally thought of as being extremely cruel, and evil. And, with good reason to. There is no evidence whatsoever that yandere deity’s exist, and yet these people force themselves to worship not only an imaginary deity, but one whose name inspires fear and loathing, the exact opposite of what the tsundere deities stand for. Clearly, there is something not right with their heads.

Sorry, about going on a slight tangent there, but what I was basically trying to say was that non-Japanese DO NOT like tsundere that much. People will always like moe (sorry, all you moe haters, but it’s true), and tsunderes are a subset of of the moe, but people are getting tired of tsunderes. Maybe, it is just the people I talk to, but for the most part, tsundere’s are now seen as cliche, boring and generic.

If most people dislike tsunderes then why do the anime studios and the manga writers still spew out tsunderes left, right and center? Maybe the japanese like tsunderes? I doubt that’s true. The Japanese only like sensible things like tentacle porn, panties and lolitas. There is no way, they would like something silly like tsunderes. Right? Well, I am going to assume the Japanese don’t like tsunderes, and suggest a few other reasons for their common use.

Are Tsundere’s realistic?


Maybe writers, instead of attempting to appease their fans, they decided to model their characters after real life character archetypes. At this point, before I am hit with a “HUMANS ARE TOO COMPLEX TO MODEL, GO DIE, YOU HIPSTER FAGGOT”, I would like to point out that while people are all different and very individual, people often share many personality traits.

Maybe I am just really smart or something, but often an hour or two of conversation with an individual is enough to tell me what kind of person they are, whether they are going to be interesting to talk to and all that other shnaz.

Of course, I am making a generalization, there are always going to be exceptions, and in most cases, it will take decades before you can truly comprehend another person, but since models are only meant to be approximations, this is enough.

So, there is nothing inherently wrong about approximating real people with appropriate character archetypes, and this is even more so the case in situations where the writers don’t have time for character development.

Not all anime/manga are about characters, some are more plot centric, while others focus on morals/themes or plain comedy. In such cases, the characters are simply tools used to present information to the viewers. In this case, it would make sense to use time proven character models that users can quickly identify with and time need not be wasted for character development.

So, yeah, I went on another tangent there, but basically the question to ask here is: are tsunderes good approximations of real life character types? First ask yourself: Have I met a tsundere in real life (or am I a tsundere)?

–Source

The answers will likely vary person to person depending on how many people you have met and your definition of tsundere (in other words, the ratio of tsun to dere needed to make a tsundere).It’s reasonable to assume tsunderes in anime are way over exaggerated compared to their real life counterparts, partly because that is just what anime is, but also because most people would be too dense to associate a character as tsundere if the traits were not exaggerated enough.

I will however, note that there is a limit to the amount of exaggeration you can pull of.The best liked tsunderes are the ones that have just the right amount of tsundereness (e.g. Hinagiku). If you exaggerate too much, you get characters like Louise from ZnT, and most people don’t like her.

Okay, let us assume that real life tsunderes exist (this post really relies a lot on assumptions, eh), what now? Do you like this tsundere? See, just because a character model is an accurate representation of real life humans, it is useless if the reactions to that model are contradictory to their real life expectations.

A few days back, dmckafka tweeted about an online friend who abused him constantly, but refused to let go. Mushyrulez, appropriately chipped in and called her a real life tsundere.

See, most people would probably not like a real life tsundere. The thing is, not only is it harder to detect “tsun-tsun” in real life, but it is much harder to put up with a tsundere when you are suffering abuse first hand and not watching it being dealt out to a 2D generic male lead. In other words, most people don’t really like real life tsunderes, or at least not the ones tsun tsun enough to be considered tsunderes.

And yet, in anime, everyone loves the tsundere. Given any romantic with multiple female leads, the obvious tsundere character is going to get laid (or kissed since anime is soft) far more often than her female compatriots. Yeah, there are some anime, that have side characters who exhibit tsundere attributes, but 99% of the time, the full tsundere is the main character and she is the one that gets the dude in the end.

Male leads in anime like tsunderes for some reason. It’s probably because they know that she is only being shy or something. Well, most male leads don’t know anything really, they are just there because a heterosexual romance requires a male.

As an aside, I would like to mention that the entire section above was pulled out of my ass to make me look smart. The only thing I want from my characters is that they are either fun, endearing or both.

If we don’t really like Tsunderes and if they are not realistic character models, then why are they so commonly used in Japanese media?

Tsunderes are convenient.

As I alluded earlier, it is convenient to preset characters that are easily identifiable, so, time can be spent on other things, but the convenience does not end there. I know that we have assumed tsunderes are only used in situations that don’t require character development, but truth be told, practically speaking, almost all situations call for some level of character development, and just as importantly, tsunderes are often used in situations that focus on characters.

So, what is it about a tsundere that makes them good for character development?Well, much like the common transistor, the common tsundere only has three stages of operation, and also like a transistor, a tsundere can sort of go back and forth between stages (but unlike stand alone transistors, tsunderes will eventually end up in a fixed state).

I present to you: The Tsunsistor. Note: The drawing sucks because it was made by me.

The three stages of tsundere character development(in regards to the tsunderes feelings for the main character):

  1.  I hate you.
  2. Ittt..s not l-like I l-llike you or anything, BAKA!
  3. I li-li-like you! BUT DON’T TELL ANYONE ELSE!

Tsunderes are incredibly flexible with the above states. A tsundere can be stuck in any given state for an indefinite period of time, and still maintain the core tsundere essence (but this can get tiring if prolonged for long periods of time). Need a 3oo episode long romance? No, problem, just set the time it takes to get their feelings to get across to be as long as possible. Need a 10 episode romance? No, problem, have the tsundere spend only a minute or two in the first state, heck, you can even omit the first state if needed.

Also, not only can they spend an unspecified amount of time in each state, but the rate at which they transition into other other states can vary tsundere to tsundere, and even then, the rate of transition from stage 1 into 2 could be very different from the rate of transition from 2 to 3.

The above two properties make the tsundere incredibly versatile, and if well used can allow for a good deal of character differences. Oh, and lest you forget, you can also adjust the tsun-tsun to dere-dere ratio of each tsundere and even the obviousness level of core tsundere properties can be adjusted as well.

So, to sum up the above, writers have four different attributes they can adjust when making their tsunderes.

  1. Time spent in each state.
  2. Transition rate between states.
  3. Tsun:Dere ratio.
  4. Obviousness of Tsun attributes.

So, yeah, tsunderes are incredibly versatile.  So, why do most tsunderes appear to be the same rehashed version of last years tsundere? Well, you must remember that most anime last the same amount of time (~13 episodes), so, that already puts a limit on what they can do. On top of that, in order to make a buck, studios stick to “tried and true” formula for tsunderes.

Wait, are you saying that the tsundere which is a “tried and true” formula has subsets that are also “tried and true”? Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. Just as we often group all generic female characters together, we often group all tsunderes together to. But, the set of characters that we refer to as tsundere is in fact composed of many sub-sets.

Each sub-set satisfies the core conditions of the tsundere paradigm, and since multiple characters often share similar attributes, they can be effectively grouped into sub-sets. Some sub-sets even go and add their own attributes and properties as well. An example of a commonly found (relatively successful) subset is the “Shana-Clone” which as the name implies is just a sub-set of tsunderes that based their attributes on Shana from Shakugan no Shana.

Unfortunately, going any further than the generic tsundere set would really stretch my already limited expertise on the matter, and more importantly, it would make this post recursive. This post is long and winded enough as it is, so, we will drop the discussion on tsundere sub-sets there, and continue on with other just as meaningless gravel.

There is one last point about convenience that we can discuss:Tsunderes are pretty much the only “moe” choice for romantic stories.

See, the current trend (from what I have observed on Twitter and based on current/upcoming anime) happens to be that of the “cute clumsy girl doing cute, clumsy things” kind.  So, why don’t we see more of these cute, clumsy girls in romantic shows or rom-coms ?The answer, is quite obvious. A romance for a cute, clumsy girl is incredibly boring and lacks any real form of development. Now, romances for a tsundere are only three character stage events at best, but, unlike the cute ditz, the tsundere’s character events are clearly linked and have semi-valid transition.

The tsundere meets a boy and he is nice to her despite her arrogance. No one else has ever been nice to her, or if they have, they followed it with a betrayal that left our tsundere bitter and sad. So, naturally, she falls in love with protag kun and we have romantic development!

With a cute girl who only does cute things, we only have out of love and in love, and on top of that, you can’t really charter any reason as to why she should fall for the protagonist in the first place. I mean, she is already cute, she already has a circle of cute friends who do cute things together, what could the pro-tag kun give her that she doesn’t already have? This is why the descriptions “cute girls who are doing cute things” and “romance” are never associated with the same anime.

In conclusion, the writers behind anime and manga may use tsundere archetypes because some people like tsunderes, but also because tsunderes are very convenient (especially for romance), versatile and  easy to use.

As for my own personal take on tsunderes. Well, I like some characters that are tsunderes, and I also don’t like a lot of tsunderes. The character model itself, though quite flawed and unrealistic is not really all bad, but more often than not, the implementation of said character model is quite flawed.

Picture of Makise because Makise is awesome.

–Source

There isn’t enough variation, the studios stick to what made them money in the past. I suppose that is understandable; the animators need to earn a living after all. Still, it would be nice if we could have more characters that might be classified as tsunderes by those who like to analyse stuff, but are not IN YOUR FACE tsundere, so, other people might not even notice their tsundereness. I guess that is why I like Hinagiku(Hayate no Gotoku), Misaki (from Kaichou wa Maid Sama) and Makise(Steins;Gate).

Sorry, for the long post, I have no idea if any of the above makes sense, but thanks for reading.

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  1. #1 by Emperor J on April 8, 2012 - 11:07 am

    This post badly needed a comment, so I thought I’d chip in. Tsundere characters do provide a convenient platform for disguising bad lead characters. The three characters you point out do provide good characterization. Hinagiku wants to be in a position of strength though that goes against her own feelings. Misaki struggles to figure out who Takumi is at the same time. Kurisu has the meta-tsundere thing happening where it seems like an act on purpose in my opinion.

    • #2 by Reiseng on April 8, 2012 - 1:29 pm

      Thank you EJ! I was beginning to feel real lonely after no one left a comment, you cheered me up!

      Tsundere characters do provide a convenient platform for disguising bad lead characters

      I totally agree. While the viewers are supposedly focusing on our tsun-tsun character, the bland lead gets away with being bland. So, not only do you spend less time on making your female characters, but you can also get away with making weaker MC’s.

      On top of that, a bland MC is apparently more relatable for the the viewers, so, you win like that to. Well, that’s what the fanboys claim, I don’t think bland leads are relatable.

      As for your comments on Hina/Misa/Kurisu, hmm. I hadn’t thought of it liked that, but when you think about it, you are right. Each of them has tsundere traits for a reason other than it just being an archetype. I guess, at least in the cases of Hina and Misa, you could claim the tsun-dereness is a clash between their feelings and their goals. Interesting, most interesting.

      Yeah, Makise is most likely a meta tsundere, especially since she was told as much several times. :P

  2. #3 by John Sato on April 15, 2012 - 5:37 pm

    You should patent the Tsunsister. :D

    The only point I might disagree with is the “no reason for cute girls to like guys” point. I mean, love doesn’t *have* to begin at set flags like someone being nice. Then again, you may be thinking of a different kind of cute girl than I am. So I guess that’s kind of a moot point.

    That aside, though, this is a very nice discussion, and I think you broke this character type down quite well. Very insightful.

    • #4 by Reiseng on April 15, 2012 - 7:42 pm

      Yeah, I thought of that while writing this post, but I seemed to have forgotten to write it down. I figured that yeah, it would be possible for a cute girl to get infatuated with the dude, but after that, romantic development would be difficult. Or at least difficult to show.

      I would patent the Tsunsister, but I am sure Apple or Samsung already have it covered in some way shape or form.

      I am glad you liked the post. :P
      Thanks for commenting; I really appreciate it!

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