So, Tsunderes. Love them or hate them, they have become a cornerstone in the Otaku world, being a frequent feature in anime that has even the slightest hint of a romance subplot. Some of my favorite anime centers around Tsunderes being the main lead and it’s not hard to see the appeal. They are cute, feisty, and dynamic. These qualities make for an interesting protagonist but there is something to be said about how the line thins between cute and toxic.
Could Tsunderes be considered toxic in the first place? Yes. Just like most things, too much of one thing can often lead to it being a detriment rather than a positive. The same holds for the kind of stereotypes we’ve come to expect in anime since not all of them are just fun and played up for jokes. Of course, Tsundere isn’t the most toxic stereotype out there (that award goes to the illustrious Yandere) but it can be a balancing act.
The word Tsundere is a portmanteau of two different character types. The first is borrowed from the term ‘tsuntsun’, which describes a person that is short-tempered and brash to most people around them, except their love interest. Then comes the ‘deredere’, which is the opposite i.e., they are kind and tolerant towards everyone but the object of their affections. Combine the two and you get your typical anime Tsundere, a character that switches between ice-cold and sugar-sweet behavior when interacting with their partner.
Now, as I said before, I enjoy Tsundere characters a lot. Hell, I used to relate to them back when I was an awkward teenager who couldn’t deal with compliments from a boy without thinking they were mocking me. It just comes with the territory of growing up as someone who was always short-tempered. But again, there is a difference between not knowing how to react towards a crush and being needlessly cruel. And Tsunderes in anime tends to skirt that fine line a little too much.
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Why Are Tsunderes So Popular In Anime
It’s not hard to see why Tsunderes are some of the most popular female archetypes in rom-com anime. They make for fun partners to star opposite the main lead, who always tends to be more passive in these settings.
Tsunderes are cute. They are unpredictable and snarky, and people consider that feistiness a part of their charm. There’s just a lot of versatility with a character like that. You can either have a situation where they react angrily and help further a plot through misunderstandings. But they can easily transform into more shy, docile characters that work for a softer setting too, winding things down to be more romantic and endearing.
Some notable Tsunderes in anime include Taiga Aisaka from ToraDora!, Misaki Ayuzawa from Kaichou Wa Maid-Sama, and, oddly enough, Jotaro Kujo from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Yeah, men can be Tsunderes too!
When Tsundere Behavior Slips Into Toxic
So, how does Tsundere go from being endearing to just plain abusive? There is a point to be made about how physical violence is often shown as a ‘quirk’ in Tsundere characters. Sure, it’s often played up as a gag or trivialized but it tends to get really old, really fast.
But it’s not just the constant hitting. There’s also the whole ‘hot-and-cold’ routine that a lot of these characters are based around which is honestly frustrating for anyone pursuing them. Like imagine being told by your crush that they like you, but they turn around every second to change their mind. Those kinds of mixed signals are so maddening, that at some point a person has to give up and move on. Some might call that a chase, I call it exhausting.
And the way some Tsunderes act comes off as so manipulative, that it stops being endearing and becomes toxic. Just because a Tsundere character can’t figure out their feelings, doesn’t give them the right to play with another’s.
Where Do We Draw The Line?
Look, nobody would actually like a partner that constantly hits them out of anger or frustration in real life. Like that is not an ideal we should be looking at and normalizing, period.
I’m not saying that there can’t be relationships where misunderstandings and mixed feelings happen. That’s just part of the process of dating someone. But there should be boundaries made. As I said, physical abuse should be on top of the ‘not acceptable’ list but so should manipulative mood swings. And in hindsight, anime should write its Tsunderes to grow beyond the stereotype, instead of hamming it up more with irrational reactions.
I adore shows like ToraDora! because Taiga went on to have a personality beyond her Tsundere archetype. She went on to be more open with Ryuji, the male lead. That’s what we should be aiming for, instead of relying on the same tired tropes we have had since the late 2000s.