To start off this series, the term moe itself must be visited upon. Moe is a modern term that has sprung up out of the kawaii culture of Japan. It is a word derived from a Japanese word that literally means “budding,” but Its meaning is still ambiguous and ill-defined. Moe is associated mostly to the fandom for anything cute. When the word moe is used to describe characters from an anime it usually means something akin to “adorable.” The origin of the word is unknown, although there are some rumors that suggests the word comes from the name of a Sailor Moon character, Hotaru Tomoe.
Over the years, moe has become a staple of anime. There are various so called moe-inspiring traits which are used as a kind of template to create characters including but not limited to: meganekko, kuudere, yandere, meido/shitsuji, nekomimi, and imouto. More on those at another time. Negima! is perhaps the best example of this trend with one of the largest gathering of cast members specifically modeled after moe-inspiring traits.
Another neologism, the word tsundere is derived from the Japanese terms ツンツン(tsun tsun), which mean to turn away in disgust, and デレデレ(dere dere), which kind of means being lovestruck (wikipedia.org). Originating from the internet, the word tsundere is used to describe characters with particular traits that correlate to their relationships with people, predominantly their relationship with a prospective love interest. Generally a tsundere is exceedingly hostile and aggressive most of the time and rarely, they are kind or generous. This is the typical definition.
After doing some thinking and a little bit of research, I’ve come to understand that tsundere encompasses two seperate but related types of characters. One type comes from more recent anime and there continues to be a great rise of this type of character. I will this character a Type 2 tsundere.Type 2 tsundere are characters who will act contrary to how they actually feel towards situations and other characters. They act hostile, cold, or disgusted, but their true feelings are closer to being in love.
These are already both tsun tsun (cold, hostile, disgusted) and dere dere (lovestruck), but tend to show only their tsun side. It takes special circumstances for this character to show their dere side. Even if the character is aware that they love someone, they are still essentially argumentative and unkind toward that person. Type 2 tsundere often have little character development revolving around their tsundere trait–they usually act the same way in the beginning and the ending of the story.
Examples of Type 2 tsundere:
Understand that these characters, even though they share similar traits, are quite different from one another. Each have their own issues, pasts, and circumstances that help shape who they are. One could divide out these characters further by sub-type: sibling, love interest, and social. The sub-types relating to how and where the tsundere tendencies show themselves. Overall, the Type 2 tsundere comes across as a very opposed and contrary character who never quite entirely becomes considerate or nurturing.
Type 2 tsundere are more typical today, but there are also what I call Type 1 tsundere, who are at first of a tsun personality, but as the story progresses their character begins to gradually become of dere personality. These characters go through an actual character developmental process by which their original behaviors are gradually changed to new behavior patterns. They are at first repulsed or uncaring toward others, but as one spends time with them and goes through various moments together, the once tsun personality gives way to a caring and loving personality. As opposed to the Type 2 tsundere, Type 1 tsundere will not revert back to their overly aggressive self. There is a more substantial change in how the tsundere relates to the specific character who has triggered these changes.
Examples of Type 1 tsundere:
I have heard that Type 1 tsundere were the original archetype which the term was contrived for and that modern anime attempted to use this character type, but instead ended up inventing the Type 2 tsundere instead.
“First, do we comprehend the true meaning of the qualities of a tsundere? No, unfortunately, the word tsundere has suffered misuse and decay, and one could say that the definition has evolved. To begin with, the word tsundere was born in the year 2002, an internet term, but the original definition was a character who starts of hostile, and eventually becomes affectionate. In other words, it was supposed to describe a change over time. And now, it is used to describe the multiple faces of a character. Hostile on the outside, and affectionate on the inside, would be how the word is currently understood. I declare here, this is plainly a mistake! We must bring back the true meaning of tsundere and restore this depraved nation! Rise up, citizens!”
~ Minoru Shiraishi – Lucky Star
Basically the word tsundere is still in the process of being accepted into our mainstream language and therefore has taken on subsequential meanings during its use. At first the term tsundere described a process, but now it is primarily used to describe a character with the contrary behaviors of tsun and dere.
Problems With Our Modern Lexicon
As Shiraishi says, tsundere is a term that has taken on multiple meanings over time that share similarities, but ultimately differ. One describes a character development process in a character, while the other is used to describe the coexisting tsun and dere aspects of a character’s personality. There is yet no distinction using a single word to describe the two. I agree with Minoru Shiraishi from Lucky Star, when he says it is hasty to classify characters with a single term like tsundere.
The connotation behind the word tsundere is often associated to dominantly aggressive and hostile characters who are just a little caring and gentle if moment is right. But there are characters like Kagami from Lucky Star who don’t precisely fit that mold. She does seem reserved about admitting how she feels towards her friends, yet she isn’t hostile or aggressive like what the label tsundere would imply. No… for one, she has a more dominant caring personality then what is typical in a tsundere type character. She is also much more passively embarrassed during situations which would normally trigger tsun-style aggressive behavior.
Kagami also doesn’t fit other roles such as kuudere or dandere. It seems that for Kagami another substitution for the tsun aspect is needed to define her character. The issue itself is brought to bear in the Lucky Channel segment quoted earlier. Co-host Shiraishi calls upon the viewers to invent a new term to describe characters like Kagami. The purpose of this being to perhaps avoid having the term “tsundere” take on even more incongruent meanings.
Many problems lie with how new “tsundere” and other such contrived terms are (according to Shiraishi, the term “tsundere” was coined in 2002). The word tsundere has not yet had enough time to sink into the world’s lexicon. Much like the word moe, tsundere is ill-defined, but that doesn’t keep people from using it and of course improper use as well. Calling Kagami a tsundere doesn’t seem right, but as Akira from Lucky Channel says:
“So what is Kagami if not a tsundere? I don’t really get this complicated stuff… but if you insist … do you have a replacement [word] for [Kagami who’s] currently known as [a] tsundere?”
Impressions and Opinions
In my mind, the two tsundere character types are separate terms. It is a mistake to consider characters “tsundere,” when there are too many ambiguities between what kind of tsundere is being referred to.Type 2 tsundere have a more ingrained personality which manifests itself in contrary behaviors, while Type 1 tsundere have consistent behavior that gradually changes throughout the story. The word tsundere is limiting the perspective on these characters and how they are perceived.
Tsundere types are normally identified by their cold or hostile attitudes, as well as their speech patterns (common phrases like: “don’t get me wrong, I’m not doing this for you.”). Constantly angry looking characters also hint at the tsundere type. The viewer uses the various hints to assess the characters and give them various labels such as tsundere. Once there, consensus is reached as to what standard fits the character best. The characters are then stuck with their label until someone comes along and reinvents the lexicon.
Through some consideration, these tsundere type characters have existed for far longer than the term itself. Only recently has the term been coined, so I’ve wondered which characters of older anime exemplified these traits and which helped define the modern tsundere type. It is something I consider worth studying, but seems like a time consuming work. Characters who existed before the term have been relabeled and I assume when some new term comes along to fix the deficiencies I’ve mentioned, that some tsundere characters will find themselves rebranded also.
The evolution of tsundere characters continue and yet somehow the really aggressive type tsundere seem to be taking over. Tsundere are starting to become overly cliché, mostly because of the Type 2 characters. It can become annoying seeing the same exchanges between different characters over and over again with escalating violence.
To sum up what I have to say, tsundere is a word that is altogether new and has yet to find its permanent place in language and because of this, its use has been at times confused. At first tsundere stood for a character who developed from a cold, unassuming, or hostile feeling to a caring one. Later, it was used to describe characters who shared both traits together. It continues to be used to describe character who seem to fit into the classification of a tsundere, yet often this adds even more confusion to the terms use. Apparently the current lexicon of the world still lacks the words to describe our characters appropriately. To remedy the situation, someone will have to invent new terms and process will start all over.