Tsundere Sexuality: Part 1

A random thought which I posted on Twitter last night resulted in an interesting discussion on tsundere sexuality. The first thing I wanted to determine was whether I, along with other tsundere fans, were the only ones who noticed tsundere characters in a more sexual light than other moe archetypes, and, if that wasn’t the case, whether some objectivity could be applied to the observation. I think, based on the handful of responses I got, it’s safe to say that tsundere characters, in general, emanate more sexuality than a lot of other moe archetypes, but I still have no idea whether this is something that’s innate or engineered.

It’s worth pointing out a few cases which lead me to this observation in the first place. A lot of tsundere characters have this strange quality of emanating sexuality without being blatantly sexual. Cases like Haruhi (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya), Naru (Love Hina) and Louise (Zero no Tsukaima) quickly come to mind, but one that stands out for me in particular is Kyou (Clannad), and the reason for that is because of the stark contrast between her sexuality and the sexuality of the other girls around her and those those that have appeared in previous Key stories.

Kyou, in case you haven’t noticed, is hot (and I’d be thoroughly disturbed if this turned out to be a completely subjective statement), and the show itself plays it up, with encounters such as the gym storage room scene. However, the girl that Tomoya ends up choosing, Nagisa, isn’t quite so sexual, and her naivety when it comes to sexual situations is shows on several occasions. The portrayal of the relationship is really romantic, in an idealized way, so the sexual component of the relationship is suppressed in a way that’s rather awkward and unnatural. For example, not once during the 38 episodes over which their relationship forms and flourishes, through their marriage, pregnancy and up to the birth of their first child, do we see Tomoya and Nagisa share a kiss. Even things as simple as holding hands, showering and sharing a room are great ordeals. Which is why the announcement of Nagisa’s pregnancy was jarring: somewhere in between the two of them getting nervous about little moments of shared intimacy, they found the time to have sex. In contrast, during the Kyou alternate universe special, Kyou was kissed twice, and there was nothing unusual about it (ignoring the momentous, rollercoaster relationship that Tomoya and Nagisa shared that made the Kyou story look like child’s play).

What on earth reason does she have to be lonely? I've read the doujins...

One of the points raised by cyth, of cythoplazma, was that the tsundere cannot exist without the male lead. Tsundere relationships are just about defined by massive amounts of sexual tension, which might explain why they never progress very far, because sexual tension can often be a hell of a lot more entertaining than what happens after it’s released, and the awkwardness is gone. Hanners, from Hanners’ Anime ‘Blog, brought up the counter example of Kagami (Lucky Star), but whether Kagami can even be categorized as tsundere in the first place is open to debate. Certainly, under the Shiraishi model of tsundere-ism, she definitely isn’t, but considering the nature of modern tsunderekkos, this might be an outdated model. The old, more traditional tsundere was tsun towards the main character at first, then dere when she realized and admitted her feelings for him. These days, the lines are blurred and there’s almost a new type of *dere (eg, kuudere, deretsun, etc) for every two or three characters that fall under the tsundere umbrella. Who even knows what type of dere K-On!‘s Mio is? (Although she is another example of a girl who’s much more innately sexual than the characters around her.)

The interesting thing about almost-tsunderekkos like Mio and Kagami is the idea that they don’t need a male lead to be tsundere. So, then, who are they being tsundere to? The easy answer is Ritsu and Konata, respectively, both of whom are, of themselves relatively masculine characters, but I think it undersells how big an impact this idea of male-bereft character interactions is having on anime at this very moment. Traditionally, the male otaku looks for someone they sympathize with to self-insert their perspective into, which explains the proliferation of loser main characters throughout the harem genre, but the man-free moe anime has managed to thrive, and much more than any recent harem I can think of, bar Bakemonogatari. The sexual components are also very much suppressed (which makes them different from blatantly yuri anime like Strawberry Panic), and left largely to the imagination of the audience, which, in the case of Lucky Star, lead to an explosion of Konata x Kagami shipping. With the male lead gone, there’s no longer a conduit by which the tsundere interaction is directed. In a way, could that possibly mean that the tsundere interaction is taking place directly between the anime character on screen and the audience at home? If this is what’s happening, that’s a mind-blowing idea. (Read the following from top to bottom.)

  1. Andy Hanley
    Hanners1979 @Sorrow_kun What about Kagami in Lucky Star? Blatant tsundere characteristics, and no male lead in sight.
  2. Sorrow-kun
    Sorrow_kun @Hanners1979 *Bang* Argument shot down in an instant.
  3. Sorrow-kun
    Sorrow_kun @Hanners1979 Although, there is the whole argument that, under the Shiraishi model of tsundere-ism, Kagami isn’t really a tsundere.
  4. Andy Hanley
    Hanners1979 @Sorrow_kun You could probably also counter-argue that the only time Kagami behaves in a truly dere dere way, it *is* because of a guy.
  5. Sorrow-kun
    Sorrow_kun @Hanners1979 In that case, that makes her even less a tsundere. You can’t have the dere before the tsun!
  6. Andy Hanley
    Hanners1979 @Sorrow_kun But the viewer sees her tsun side, even if the guy in question doesn’t – like a tree still making a sound in an empty forest. 😉
  7. Sorrow-kun
    Sorrow_kun @Hanners1979 So, she’s tsundere for the audience. Philosophical question: can you be tsundere for something you don’t know exists…?
  8. Andy Hanley
    Hanners1979 @Sorrow_kun I would say she was created with the existence of the audience in mind, so in a way she *is* aware of them.
  9. Sorrow-kun

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This article has been split into two parts, and I’ll post the second part in the near future. Part 2 of this post will continue exploring the idea of characters being tsundere towards things other than the male lead, as well as dealing with the common physical traits of tsundere characters, and the expectations of what happens once a tsunderko goes into the bedroom.

10 Responses to “Tsundere Sexuality: Part 1”

  1. Hmmm… I think it has more to do with the nature of Tsunderes. Aorii at Major Arcana pretty much explain it perfectly that tsunderes lack self confidence. This explains why they overreact to protect themselves… that self-denial is probably one of the qualities that makes tsunderes rather popular in nature…

  2. As I said on Twitter yesterday, I believe that tsunderes are only more sexual because of circumstance. Yet in most contemporary anime, tsundere characters have stopped being used in any non-romantic set up. In fact, the tsundere romantic set up has become the norm, so much so that non-romantic tsundere relationships like Kagami-Konata have become a romantic one in the eyes of the fanbase. And that causes a feedback loop where, seeing that this has become the expectation, you see more and more animes that reinforce this expectation, so the idea of the tsundere relationship between friends has largely disappeared. The expectation has been set, so I wouldn’t expect to see a shift from this stereotypical tsundere relationship anytime soon, especially considering how we’re seeing a lot more VN adaptations, which, I feel, reflect the Otaku fanbase far more.

  3. I always find myself rooting for tsunderes. I can definitely relate to them so I’m all for them getting the sex. They are also more attractive in term of personality. Put Nagisa and Kyou side by side and compared their personality. I rest my case.

  4. As Mystlord said, this is a real circumstantial case. Imo the reason why sexual tension is highlighted amongst tsunderes is precisely because that’s where their powerful -dere trait really shows to complete their character. Yes tsunderes will throw tsun- at other people than the male lead (e.g. Mikoto is constantly in denial), but given the heavy use of romance and shipping in anime it’s not really surprising much of this translates in sexual tension. I mean just think about it, a tsundere romance arc without any tension to draw out the dere would just be her/him being bitchy the entire time— I’m sure fans would love that.
    Besides, the tension of tsundere arcs is nowhere as heavy compared to yandere arcs; since yanderes have an even more powerful dere than tsunderekkos.

  5. @chikorita157
    That explains what makes a tsundere charming, but it doesn’t explain what makes a tsundere sexually attractive (or why anime makers choose to make tsunderes sexually attractive). I suspect there’s something more at play. What it is, exactly, I can’t quite put my finger on it.

    That’s an interesting idea. So, basically, audiences have been conditioned to expect that tsunderekkos will take part in romantic relationships. I have a feeling this is something anime makers might pick up on more in the future, and we might see more anime that diverge from the “tsundere likes main character but can’t tell him for 24 episodes” formula, and more examples of girls who are tsundere towards things that aren’t just the main character.

    Well, that’s one example, but it’s not hard to find tsunderekkos with rotten personalities (I find Louise insufferable at times, for example, and those two girls in Rental Magica were pretty annoying). As far as Clannad is concerned, even if you say Kyou had a better personality, within the context of the story, the coupling of Tomoya and Nagisa made more sense because they each complemented each others’ shortcomings, and the relationship played more to the innate themes of the story. This is one of the things that really annoy me about shipping, particularly in cases like Clannad. Shippers simply want to see their favourite girl win, but that’s not the point of the story at all. It ignores the fact that, at least sometimes, the male lead does in fact have a personality, and that he has wants and needs that are independent of the viewer. Yes, it only happens relatively rarely, but it does happen, and these are the types of anime that shippers really ought to leave alone, IMO.

    But, when it comes to yandere, the dere almost always comes first. The yan is a shocking surprise later on. With tsunderes, you get the tsun first, and the dere as a reward. One of my questions (which I’ll explore in the next article) is, if tsun is something which must be tolerated (as you say, a character that is all tsun is a bitch) to get the dere reward, why aren’t permanently submissive characters significantly more popular since, with them, you get the dere straight away? I have a feeling there’s something more to this, something more to do with our innate expectations of female characters. I once saw someone cynically joke that tsundere fans tend to be the types of people with mother complexes. I make an effort not to be quite that Freudian in the next article, but perhaps there’s an element of substance to that.

  6. I agree to much of this, specially after watching Sumomo mo Momo mo. In this case you might feel sympathy for Momoko, but when Iroha gets into the story you sure hope shes coming in the next episode. I believe making Iroha more sexually atractive than Momoko was on purpose, so our attention remains in all characters: Momoko for the story, and Iroha for being so beautifull (and pretty horny on episode 12). But something I thought about Iroha is that she got to be friends with main characters to completely taste the tsundere. Sanae wasn’t as attractive because she felt like an add made last moment, just a detail, even though a pretty large detail. Maybe tsundere is just centralized on character attractiveness, when its not a main character, for it attracts attention from the audience, if not, most wouldn’t care if the character was friendly suddenly, and would feel a great change in little time, for they didn’t expect anything from the character. I still remember Kodomo no Jikan. Its not really a series with complete tsundere characters, but there is a bit in each of them. Rin seems to have problems with her “relationship” with her teacher, Aoki Daisuke, Kuro doesn’t like Aoki until the OVAS, I think, and even then its not really liking, just not hating as much, and Mimi started the series with previous problems that scarred her for her life, and left school to protect herself. There is also Shirai-sensei, in a way, but I won’t talk about her.

  7. Ups, sorry, what I meant was that Iroha got to be friends with the main characters too quickly to fully taste the tsundere in her personality. There’s also Tenka Koganei, who even though he is male and most unimportant to the story, in my opinion, showed tsundere when he was troublesome at the start, and then befriended the rest, as Tenchi and the other guy who the thugs thought would kill anyone and everyone, but he really isn’t important either, and doesn’t interact with main characters until chapter 15, when he also befriends them, so I’m not sure I should be even talking about him.

  8. Tomoya and Nagisa compliment each other? Oh please. I don’t root for any of the girls in Clannad although I did find that star-fish girl to be adorable. I think he’s better off with any of the girls except for Nagisa. I find it a problem that at the end of the day, the timid shy girl who is annoying as fuck with her insecurities seems to always gets the guy in harem. It’s ridiculous.

    But I’m off topic now.

  9. Mei from Manabi Straight has strong tsundere character traits, but there are no men in sight. Her ‘tsun’ and ‘dere’ are expressed less in terms of sexuality and more in terms of closeness/distance to others.

  10. That Kyou pic… Is it just me or was it screaming like Kyou was implying… “PLEASE VIOLATE ME IN ANY WAY YOU LIKE”

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