No, we’re not going to bring up Misty from Pokemon in this article. We don’t want a ship war today.
Ah yes the tsundere archetype. When a character acts cold towards someone but then winds up together with that person. An archetype of mixed reception and overall intrigue. What about tsundere characters makes them so appealing? Let’s explore.
For any audience member who is going, “Woah, wait there Inverseman, what the heck’s a tsundere?” In the most loosest sense a tsundere is this:
Tsundere – n/adj a character (female or male!) who is between being irritable and cold towards a potential love interest and kind and warm towards him/her.
Hm. Sounds like a good definition. Well…Not entirely. The idea of a tsundere itself has undergone shifts over the years. Most notably between old and new.
The old type of tsundere slowly warmed up to the main character. She started out cold and aloof but slowly warmed up to the male lead role. If a romantic attraction is called into question, the classic tsundere will deny it and get a bit embarrassed, and only moreso as the relationship continues to bud. Perhaps she had some secret affections for the guy all along? She won’t bat an eye toward killing you, but by the end of the entire journey of the lead roles, she deeply cares for you. Notable about the Classic Tsundere is that more old school fans would find them more attractive since their feelings open up like a blossom in contrast to the wild fluctuations of the Modern Tsundere, making it more elegant to them. That’s really the nuance between old and new. Sure we’re going from cold to hot from tsun to dere, but how are we going about it?
My favorite example of the Classic is Rin Tohsaka from the Fate series. Rin initially treats Shirou as just another Master and collaborates with him out of courtesy to take out the much more difficult Masters. Though over time, Rin becomes much more dere-dere towards Shirou. In fact, you could say that Rin silently admired Shirou from a distance the whole time, as she did have some mercy and the desire to cooperate with Shirou, adding a hidden layer of subtlety to her character that is left to the audience interpretation instead of some brazen inner monologue.
The new type of tsundere starts out incredibly harsh towards the main character. If the tsundere has some kind of strength, she’ll crash the poor guy through a wall, and he has no idea what set her off. However, the modern tsundere will also show unexpected acts of kindness as well only to cover them with extreme embarrassment. Now the potential lover is getting his or her face punched off for a completely different reason. Whereas the Classic is a shift from cold to hot like a bath warming up, the new paradigm of tsundere is rapidly twisting the faucet knobs from cold to hot over and over, eventually ending in the hot position when the Modern Tsundere finally confesses.
Taiga Aisaka from Toradora! is my favorite Modern Tsundere; she starts out with an extreme hatred for Ryuuji as she’s not even interested in the guy anyway. Taiga shows nothing but violence and loud boisterous pain and burden, but Ryuuji’s good graces and kind nature opens her up. However, now instead of easing in from cold to hot, Taiga ruminates and battles these growing affections inside her, usually with more violence. After a huge roller coaster of a series, Taiga in the very end confesses her love, but she still has that bipolar-y spice to her.
W-Why w-would you even like this?
Now bar any reason why dating/courting/marrying a tsundere in real life would suck, why is a complete jerk of a character so amusing? Masochistic tendencies? Well, to put things into perspective, the tsundere character is a journey of drama. People, perhaps most men, are enamored with stages of a relationship; there’s the fantastic romantic aspect that’s attached to the beginning of a relationship. The energy of two people getting together is entertaining and palatable, and a tsundere getting with his/her lover is a particularly spicy dish. An entertaining romance isn’t the “I love you” at the end but the journey of the relationship and the internal battle of a Modern Tsundere is particularly humorous while the Classic Tsundere gives the audience a great big “awww”.
A critical ingredient to any tsundere is embarrassment. What’s so great about embarrassment? Well, imagine there was someone you drove nuts about you and would react coldly or violently towards you at the mere mention of any affections. You’re probably pretty important to that person if he or she gets flustered at the smallest thing you do. Tsundere characters give a small power trip, especially for the Modern case; there’s a power and charm to when someone cannot be honest with his or her feelings. For the Classic example, the embarrassment heats up as the responses to “Do you like *name*?” go from a sincere “no” to “N-No…” to finally “Yes…”. It’s a bit insidious but everyone wants to be important to someone else anyway.
In the end you could say the tsundere relationship between two characters romanticizes those young impetuous stages of romance and realizing when people start to become very special in your life. Can it be annoying, cold, or bratty? Sure. But for better or for worse, it’s an archetype that’s followed us for the eons and not just in Japan too! Just look at Helga G. Pataki, she was probably your first exposure to a tsundere in fiction. While not per se something one wants all one’s love life, these ideas serve to carry out entertaining romances and dramas for years to come. Join me next time when I eat fifty melon-pans.
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