Recently I finished the second season of Zero no Tsukaima, and as much as I liked the first, I just didn’t find the second season quite as satisfying, despite its multiple attempts to build character relationships. Watching the show got me thinking: what exactly is a ‘Tsundere’?
The term tsundere is kind of a portmanteau of the terms ‘tsuntsun’, meaning digust and hatred or general irritability , and ‘deredere’, meaning lovey-dovey. Basically it’s about someone, usually a female character,being initially cold, if not hostile to someone else before gradually showing their warm side. Sure, to us anime fans the term makes sense. We has a rough grasp of what it means, and if it were to ever pop up in our daily chat then we’d know how to respond.
Problem is, there doesn’t seem to be kind of a easy way to define what makes a character, a ‘tsundere’. Trying to find a translation for tsundere is difficult enough.
For instance, in Zero no Tsukaima , for a large amount of the series she’s generally harsh towards Saito, whipping and punishing him for being a pervert, whether willingly or not. But somehow, throughout the course of the series, this harsh side of her gives way to the image you see on the left, before the final episode’s battle.
But how would the idea of tsundere be defined, say , in another medium, aside from anime? It’s after all, a character type, and doesn’t need to be unique per se to Japan. How would the West view this trope? This trope is a crowd-winner since it fulfills many requirements for a generally satisfying story : tension, humour, and of course an happy ending, most of the time. So how exactly would this idea be enacted outside of anime?
And then it hit me. So it came to me like this: Having reached home from school, I was lounging about in the living room when my sibling turned on the TV. And immediately, the first cartoon that came on already answered this question for me – The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron.
In the show, there was this character, named Cindy, who tried to get the main character to dance with her on numerous attempts,but bullies him most of the time , in the same episode, no less. That single episode solved most of the questions I had about tsunderes:
- Tsunderes usually have something like a ‘barrier’ between her and the love interest. It’s almost as though they cannot be in love, or that the tsundere is unwilling to admit it. Thus the constant denial. Louise cannot love Saito because he is her summoned familiar (Kind of like beastiality, huh?) , Taiga cannot love Ryuuji since she had been chasing her love interest, Kitamura and Ryuuji chasing Minori. Cindy, I presume, must have been bullying Jimmy for ages before she started to love him, thus the whole cold treatment.
- Shyness. I suppose it comes as a byproduct of the above point. Exactly because of this barrier, does this shyness come about. Since they cannot love each other due to this invisible barrier between them, the tsundere does not want attention – attention could be love, right? – and thus acts coldly, if not shyly, stuttering and denying her own intentions. But when the love interest doesn’t give her any attention – she feels like she’s being abandoned! – the tsundere then displays her own dere side, if not hints at wanting attention through her cold behaviour. Thus it’s an on-off relationship regarding wanting and not wanting attention – leading to this trademark ‘tsundere’ we see today.
- Not all tsunderes are flat-chested lolis with unusual abilities , special traits or long twintails, who are all voiced by Kugyu.
I would have wrote more, but that’d defeat the purpose. How would you define a tsundere, or what do you think makes a tsundere? It’s be interesting to read your responses.
But don’t take this the wrong way. It’s not like I want to read your responses or anything like that. Consider yourself lucky that I’ve given you the chance!