Hey there! I was wondering the other day why the tsundere trope in anime is so popular, and I wanted to go over my feelings about it. They’re not good, so hold on to your hats!
To get an understanding of the tsundere trope, we have to look at what a tsundere is. Basically, it’s a character that’s outwardly hostile character that runs hot and cold, slowly revealing a more kind and vulnerable side later on (but sometimes will go back to the hostility). I feel that it’s supposed to be a character that you’re willing to fight for in terms of acceptance, that you’re willing to put up with the bad to inevitably see the good in them. I mean, I get that.
My Problem With Tsundere Characters
My problem with the tsundere trope came in the form of Toradora. It’s a much-loved anime that is highly ranked by a lot of anime fans the world around. But I couldn’t bear watching it. That is because Taiga Aisaka, the poster-girl for the tsundere trope, is a character that I could not get behind. She’s not a character that I would personally be able to approach, let alone be friends with.
I didn’t think it could get worse, and I mean…I was close, I suppose. Zero no Tsukaima has Louise as its main character, and Taiga was a copy-paste of Louise, just in a non-magical setting. Both treat their male (future) love interests horribly in the first few episodes – I’m pretty sure they both refer to them as ‘dogs’, and it was so blatant that Taiga is Louise that I thought they were created by the same mangaka.
Turns out they weren’t, but they share the same Japanese voice actor.
For a main character, I need to be able to root for them, and the problem with them is that I wasn’t rooting for either of them, and it tainted my perception of tsundere characters going forward.
The Impact of Toradora and Zero no Tsukaima
Those two anime made it really hard for me to appreciate tsundere characters. I initially didn’t want anything to do with Natsuki in Doki Doki Literature Club, and there are lot of tsundere-type characters in the Danganronpa franchise – Mahiru Koizumi, Byakuya Togami, Maki Harukawa and Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu, to name but a few. In the end, I managed to at least like them to a point, but I was never able to look at them and go ‘I really like these characters.’ However, the Danganronpa characters, for the most part, gained good character development, and their tsundere characteristics boiled down to their personal circumstances rather than just because.
However, I’ve had to force myself to interact with tsundere characters. While playing through The Arcana, I became aware that I would have to play every route to fully understand the story, and that meant having to play Muriel’s route. From what I read in the original prologue, and across other routes (Asra’s in particular), he seemed the kind of person that I could probably not get along with, due to his closed-off personality. I did have to force myself to play through his route, but I started to enjoy it once he opened up more. So while I was initially repelled by the tsundere trope, because of the back-story and the character development, it works.
How to Improve the Trope
My main problem with the tsundere trope is that the tsundere characters can be unlikeable at first. Even if that character later on becomes more accepting and warm, the initial first meeting is what counts for me. Because I’ve met a lot of awful people in my life, I’m definitely one for judging someone based on a first impression. If a person that I’m meeting for the first time comes off as very standoffish and even resorts to name-calling, I’ll immediately nope out of that. I remember a few times discussing people with my highschool best friend, and while I rejected them based on their initial meeting, she’d say that they were usually friendly people. But it didn’t persuade me, because I had that bad first impression. So instead of making a tsundere character that resorts to name-calling and swinging a sword around their home, maybe make subtle gestures of hostility. Make it a mixed messages kind of deal.
I’ll say this now – when I first met my boyfriend, I didn’t think he liked me even as a friend. That was down to his body language being misinterpreted – so he was fed up and stressed out with college work, where I took his body language and attitude to feel that he wasn’t interested in getting to know me. I mean, I still hung out with him because we had mutual friends and we’d hang out all the time. Because of that, we got to know each other, and got together. I mean, he’s not a tsundere,
I’ve highlighted a few examples of tsundere characters done right, with subtle hints of hostility with a warmer personality that makes itself shown sooner – Mahiru Koizumi from Danganronpa 2, for example, acts abrasive towards Hajime Hinata in the beginning, and to male characters in particular, due to her home circumstances relating to her father. However, she’s more open and friendly towards girls. But the abrasiveness is more of a ‘you better watch out because I won’t tolerate your bullshit’ reaction rather than a ‘I fucking hate you, you pig’.
It…it’s not like I wanted to do this post or anything…baka!