Tsundere is one of the most popular fictional character archetypes in Japanese popular culture. It has the characteristics of being initially hostile towards their love interests or friends. The hostility later diminishes as the character warms up. These characters can be both male and female. Some call their special someone a baka (馬鹿) or idiot every time they show concern towards the tsundere. They become too flustered to react, and the only reaction is being comically violent. They switch moods between being hot and cold.
Some examples of tsundere characters over the past decades are Asuka Langley Sohryu from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Katsuki Bakugou from My Hero Academia, Hiiragi Kagami from Lucky Star, Yuu Kanda from D. Gray-Man, Fujibayashi Kyou from Clannad, Louise de la Vallière from The Familiar of Zero, Tohsaka Rin from Fate/Stay Night, Shana from Shakugan no Shana, Aisaka Taiga from Toradora!, and Vegeta from the Dragonball series.
Tsundere (ツンデレ) utilizes two separate Japanese words: tsun-tsun (ツンツン), which has a lot of meanings like aloof, cold, harsh, irritable, or spicy, and dere-dere (デレデレ), or deeply affectionate—combining those two words means hot and cold moods.
A Brief History
Tsundere already appeared in Japanese popular culture, even predating the word itself. The word itself does not have a clear origin since there are too many sources claiming its roots.
One of the earliest manga that depicted tsundere came from Tezuka Osamu’s manga (リボンの騎士) Ribon no Kishi or Princess Knight in 1953. Hecate was a shapeshifting witch who covertly helps Princess Sapphire with foiling her demon father’s plans in the manga. She would refuse to show her interest towards Princess Sapphire but later helps the protagonists out of affection.
Takahashi Rumiko is one of the Japanese mangaka recognized for featuring tsundere female protagonists. She wrote manga such as Urusei Yatsura, Ranma ½, and Inuyasha. Her female protagonists like Lum Invader, Tendou Akane, and Higurashi Kagome would comically beat up their love interests every time they unknowingly offend them. The male love interests, meanwhile, are dumbfounded why the female protagonist got furious at them. Sometimes the female protagonists’ hostility came from jealousy against other romantic rivals.
Fans believe the word first appeared from the visual novel Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was first released on August 3, 2001. The non-linear visual novel is about dating one of the eight different girls by choosing pre-determined scenarios. One of the dateable characters, Daikuuji Ayu, has the traits of a tsundere. She is rude towards Narumi Takayuki at the beginning but later reveals her real emotions for him.
Tsundere became a buzzword in otaku circles in 2006. Anime series like Lucky Star introduced tsundere to popular culture on television. A tsundere café event was held in Yokohama in March 2006. The maids pretended as tsundere servers, and fans found it “moe.” Some customers paid for maids to act like snobbish younger sisters. The maids would later act lovey-dovey to the customer. Fans also got to play rock-paper-scissors with the maid. The event became successful as fans flooded the café.
Kugimiya Rie is one of the popular Japanese voice actresses who gained popularity for voice acting tsundere protagonists. She voice-acted for tsundere characters like Louise de la Vallière from The Familiar of Zero and Sanzenin Nagi in Hayate the Combat Butler. Fans gave her the title Tsundere no Joou (ツンデレの女王) or Tsundere Queen.
Nowadays, tsundere is so popular that fans can expect them in every seasonal manga and anime, and maid cafés. Tsundere characters act tough at first glance, but their “moe” part is being affectionate in the end. Tsundere is also present in other countries, ranging from novels to television series and even movies. The character archetype tsundere is not only limited to Japanese popular culture. People still believe that even the grumpiest person has a softer side.
Could you imagine the hilarity that would erupt if most of history’s famous women were tsundere…and your modern-day boss? Read The Most Tsundere Boss in History by DLE, Sahoko Yamazaki and Tomokichi published by SOZO Comics in the Manga Planet Library!
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Galbraith, Patrick W., The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insider’s Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan. Kodansha International. pp. 226–227.
Galbraith, Patrick W., “Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan.” Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies. http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2009/Bryce.html, 31 October 2009, Retrieved 31 January 2021.
Matthew, “Wednesday Notes… Akamatsu-sensei Talks “Moe.” Matthew’s Anime Blog. Anime blogger. , https://web.archive.org/web/20100302143739/http://matthew.animeblogger.net/2005/07/20/wednesday-notes-akamatsu-sensei-talks-moe, The New Matthew’s Anime Blog, 20 July 2005. Archived on 2 March 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
ファンキー通信, 【ファンキー通信】タメ口、暴言の接客もなんのその！ ツンデレカフェ登場！？, livedoorトップ, https://news.livedoor.com/article/detail/1792314/, 22 March 2006, Retrieved 31 January 2021.
声優アワード：「ツンデレの女王」釘宮理恵さんが主演女優賞に 神谷浩史さん二冠達成 Mainichi Shimbun, https://web.archive.org/web/20100203160859/http://mainichi.jp/enta/mantan/archive/news/2009/03/07/20090307mog00m200025000c.html, 7 March 2009, Archived on 3 February 2010, Retrieved 31 January 2021.
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