How would you ‘define’ tsundere?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

What’d you mean you don’t want to comment here? F..fine! Go read the other articles. See if I give a damn. I don’t! I don’t care about you at all! IDIOT DOG!



About Valence

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25 Responses to How would you ‘define’ tsundere?

  1. misterowl24 says:

    It–it’s not that I care about this article that I commented! *looks away*

    Tsundere in real life can be quite a pain. We can’t read their mind unlike in anime where we literally watch their thoughts.

  2. chikorita157 says:

    There was a post in the blogosphere explaining why tsunderes act this way. One of the reasons is this insecurity that tsunderes have when it comes to something embarrassing like love. In order to cover it up, they have to react violently.

    Anyways, I’m a big fan of tsuntsun girls… You probably know this already with my obsession of tsunderes like Kyoko.

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  4. If you think Cindy is a tsundere, have you ever seen Helga in the old cartoon Hey, Arnold? She was as tsundere as they come.

    I guess in defining the word, I just go with the normal–from bitch to sappy sorta thing.

    • Valence says:

      Actually, Helga’s a better example than everything else I’ve mentioned thus far. She actually beats up Harold all the time. In every episode I remember. That’s extreme.

  5. Taka says:

    Cherry Cordials: Solid Chocolate Outside, Gooey Cherry Inside.

  6. Piecake says:

    The only major exception I’ve found to the typical tsundere image is Senjougahara from Bakemonogatari. It’s interesting there where there appears to be almost no barrier between her and the main interest, and her cold tsun nature is just part of how she acts toward people. I think I’m going to have to go re-watch that now and brush up on her character type; it’s been a while!

  7. Nopy says:

    “3.Not all tsunderes are flat-chested lolis with unusual abilities , special traits or long twintails, who are all voiced by Kugyu.”

    What do you mean? Of course they are 🙂

    My take on tsundere is that writers have taken a trait seen in younger children and given it to older kids. Everyone knows about boys or girls that bully the ones that they like in order to get their attention. It’s basically the same thing with tsundere characters, they just don’t know how else to get the other person to notice them.

    • Valence says:

      “My take on tsundere is that writers have taken a trait seen in younger children and given it to older kids. Everyone knows about boys or girls that bully the ones that they like in order to get their attention. ”

      Explains all the loli tsunderes!

  8. Azure Hoshizora says:

    I skimmed through the post before actually reading it: “Cindy, I presume, must have been bullying Jimmy for ages before she started to love him, thus the whole cold treatment.”
    I went “huh?” for a minute there before I finally remembered that silly show with silly characters with silly hair style from nickelodeon.

    I always assumed that the word breaks up into ‘tsun’ and ‘dere’; being cold towards someone then slowly opening up or something. Flat chest and twin tails are bonuses for me. The only kugyu tsundere I like is Taiga though, for some reason.
    I suppose the definition differs from people to people. And I only just realized tsunderes IRL would probably be really annoying; the tsun part anyway.

    • Valence says:

      Remember all shows from Nickelodeon are silly, but that’s their trademark, isn’t it?

      The word does break up into those two, but surely there are more things than that. If not, most love stories would be contain tsundere characters..

      • Azure Hoshizora says:

        I suddenly found it depressing that i claim to like tsunderes then I realized I have no idea what the word means at all.

        nearly every single romance comedy has a tsundere though…

  9. ~xxx says:

    I find it really hard to understand tsunderes…
    asides, I think it’s normal for a girl to act like one.

    • Valence says:

      Normal? Most of these tsunderes beat up the other character on a regular basis, and with all sorts of (what surely must be) painful weapons.

  10. Yi says:

    I don’t really know how I’d define a tsundere exactly -or if there is a definition that complete encapsulates it and nothing but it- but I know one when I see one. It’s weird, isn’t it?

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  12. afkeroge says:

    If I may bring it up, I just played Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke wo: Tenshi no Hanabira Zome last week. It’s a visual novel in a long line of yuri eroge for those who are not familiar with it. The catch here is that the protagonist is a Yamato Nadeshiko tsundere. The visual novel takes this chance to explore the inner thoughts of the tsundere protagonist, who is really sweet (as to make bentos throughout the night for her lover), and bring forth a very sweet story. She has this tendency to push away her half-English partner but of course, in the end, they get their justified happy ending. The first game in the series also has a semi-tsundere character, but she is more submissive and honest.

    There’s also my favorite tsundere of all time, Oone Touka from Sharin no Kuni, Himawari no Shoujo (another visual novel). She seems to be one of the most generic tsundere that ever existed, with a knack for using violent words while not being violent in actions. However, she possesses a very kind heart that beats the kindness of most outwardly kind heroines with a very touching story to compliment her unconditional kindness.

    Bottom line is that the tsundere is a character archetype that has evolved from the standard formula of a love-hate heroine into something more complex and fleshed-out personalities that we can appreciate. Of course, the standard formula is still very nice to see, save overly-violent heroines who beat people up for no reason.

    • Valence says:

      Overly-violent heroines are too cliche. It’s like the only way they portray tension nowadays. Yet under all of that tension is purity : it is because they are pure, do they have such tensions : the innocent ones are the tsunderes. They get shy easily, which adds to the tension.

      Also, welcome aboard, if you’re still awake.

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