Five Tsundere Anime Girls I’d Gladly be Berated by

Freud would have a field day with this post title.

October marks the beginning of “Tsundere Appreciation Month” at The Nihon Review, an occasion that’s enticed me out of my self-imposed hiatus, at least temporarily, to open our month long celebration of everyone’s (or, at least, our) favourite moe archetype. “Tsundere Appreciation Month” started last year after a random thought about what makes tsunderekko so damn sexy inspired six (go ahead and count them: six) articles from Akira, Kylaran and myself ruminating over the charms of anime’s bipolar sex symbols. (Major spoilers for the tagged titles.)

A tradition as noble and worthy as this must be continued and turned into an annual event, so this month the blog will host, alongside all our general activities, a slate of tsundere themed articles as our staffers share lists of their favourite tsunderes, examine how the archetype has evolved over the years and ponder that deep question of just what it is about angry, frustrated anime girls that so resonates with our sense of attractiveness. By the end of the month, you’ll either sympathize with us, feel the need to debate with our choices of favourites, or be left wondering if our mothers were too strict with us as we were growing up.

Today I’ll be going over a list of five personal favourite tsundere girls that has accumulated over the last decade of anime watching. But I’ve also tried to pick characters that are historically significant in one way or another. The definition of tsundere has changed over the years. In one time it was about characters who started tsun towards the MC and become dere later on. These days, the dere kinda has to happen from the get go, especially when the “tsun” is strong, or else you get characters like Kirino, and she’s just a bitch. Oh yeah, and as tempting as it is, there are no male characters on this list. Otherwise I’d have to include Shinichi from Nodame Cantabile. The topic of male tsunderes is a fascinating one, but it’s one for another day.

Fujibayashi Kyou

Clannad stands out for being the first major Key work that wasn’t an erogame, yet I honestly don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say it’s the most overtly sexual of the Key/KyoAni adaptations to date. And a big part of that is because of Kyou. While Tomoya and Nagisa shyly prepared for a candid married life filled with long sessions of ravenous hand-holding, Kyou was the tease, the seductive option of a romance that also involved, well, sex. Funnily enough, between the sexually tense and awkward situations Tomoya and Kyou found themselves in, particularly in the school’s gym equipment storage shed, and the strong suggestions of Kyou’s athletic prowess during the basketball game, it was her bashful moments when she denied her feelings for Tomoya that pushed tsundere fans’ buttons the hardest.

I don't understand what's happening in this scene. Could someone explain it to me? Doujin form would be preferred.

Kyou is a sex symbol even now, but in the anime at least, she was never a legitimate romantic rival to Nagisa, because the story valued a purer form of love that was more familial, and less concerned with raw passion and physical intimacy. It’s interesting that the anime (counter to the VN) did not once show Tomoya and Nagisa kiss over two complete seasons… arguably the most basic and commonly displayed example of intimacy. Yet in the alternative reality OVA, Tomoya and Kyou kissed not once, but twice. I get the ren’ai thing, but c’mon, Nagisa gets pregnant later in the story. I was almost prepared to believe she had an immaculate conception.

Existential moe.

Suzumiya Haruhi

Another sexy tsundere. Suzumiya Haruhi, as a show, was one of the first to expose the appeal that referencing and convention awareness had for otaku audiences. Haruhi was an enigma as far as tsundere leads were concerned… where her peers at the time were tsun towards a hapless MC, Haruhi was tsun towards society and an ordinary existence. If there was anyone that was tsun towards another character, it was Kyon towards Haruhi. One of the appeals about tsundere characters is that the archetype demands character development by its very definition (well, assuming we adopt the Shiraishi definition), as basic and formulaic as it is. Haruhi is a reasonably dynamic and well developed character, IMO, and the movie and anime series have shown both her best side (“Live Alive”) and her worst (“Sighs”). But Haruhi’s character development pales with respect to Kyon’s, who is undoubtedly the central character of the story. In many respects, it’s funny just how many of Kyon’s buttons Haruhi pushes.

This is Kyon in his dere mode.

Tokiha Mai

Here’s where we go back in time a bit, to the more innocent time of the first half of the decade, when Sunrise shocked the anime world with a melodramatic, arguably at times, incoherent, roller coaster ride featuring a cast of good-looking yet romantically frustrated high-schoolers fighting against each other with magical powers and mechanical behemoths. However, unlike Code Geass, this one was set to a Kajiuri Yuki soundtrack. My-HiME was such a surprise when it first came out, and while its moe-meets-action set up might be considered passe today, the episode 16 plot twist created mood whiplash rarely seen at the time, before the ending rammed everything to such a jarring halt that those sitting in the front row crashed their heads through the windscreen.

These days, My-HiME‘s strong-headed lead is often overshadowed in discussions by her also-tsundere side-kick and BFF Natsuki, partly because she ended up falling in love with her psychotic lesbian stalker, Shizuru, and partly because of dat ass. From a fanservice point of view, Mai also didn’t get the advantage of spending an episode walking around Fuuka’s fantastical campus wearing nopan (as was the style at the time). But I’d say Mai had a bigger impact on the headstrong tsundere female leads that followed in her tradition, those who aren’t afraid of taking the initiative and kicking ass when there was ass that needed to be kicked. I particularly see a lot of Mai in a certain tsundere railgun, the more recent and significantly more popular Misaka Mikoto, of Index fame, who shares a lot of similarities with Mai, both physically and in behaviour and relationships. But in my eyes, the advantages go against the popular electromagnetic girlfriend, as Mai has the bigger rack and a better sense of taste in men.

Because a sickly brother and a guy who doesn't do anything for most of the show are far better men than Rightfist Punchbitch.

Narusegawa Naru

Let’s go back even further. No one for a moment would suggest that Love Hina invented harems, but it did bring them into the 21st century. There’s so much about Love Hina that influenced the shounen romance genre during the ’00s, from the “kinda but not really” supernatural intonations, to the “orderly randomized” sitcom humour style and the mix of archetypes that have became standards ever since. Love Hina gave us Horie Yui, who holds a special place in my heart as my permanent favourite seiyuu, a position she’s held since I first downloaded 56MB .avi fansubs of the show over Kazaa through a dial-up modem. You see, Love Hina was the first anime I actually watched subbed, only previously being just slightly cognitively aware that the episodes of Dragonball Z and *ahem* The Cardcaptors that I saw on morning TV were originally in Japanese.

So, when I saw it, it was all new to me. Hot girls slobbering over a loser guy with his heart in the right place, but no serious prospects in life. Where do I sign up? The funny story is, when I queued up the first three episodes, episode 3 downloaded first. So impatient was I about 3 kb/s download speeds and 24 hour download times, I decided to watch it first and (as unsurprising as it should have been at the time) it made no sense. Why is Naru such a bitch? Who is that weird girl with the glasses and braids? Episode 2 came next, and my questions still remained. Finally, I got episode 1 and everything fell into place. At that moment, I swore never to watch anime episodes out of order again, a decision that in hindsight is common sense, but at least this experience forced me to see the advantages of discipline and patience (required virtues if you consider 10 kb/s to be a miracle of the universe).

Haruhi isn't the only one with a killer ponytail.

Senjougahara Hitagi

Bakemonogatari was, in many ways, much like Suzumiya Haruhi – a series that came along and turned the harem genre on its head. Despite Oshino Meme’s proclamations that Hitagi is a tsundere, she isn’t really. She doesn’t neatly fit under the category without turning it on its head in the same way the anime did to the conventions of the genre. What we do know is that Hitagi has a sharp edge, and a sense of wit that is, at times insulting, but usually playful. The irony is that she’s probably one of the least bitchy “tsundere” girls in existence (and yes, that’s taking into account the fact that she threatened to kill Araragi… but that’s a detail). She’s charming, but certainly not docile. She also avoids the romantic constipation that afflicts so many other tsunderes who struggle with the idea that, yes, when you become a teenager you often become attracted to boys and, no, that doesn’t have to make you delicate and vulnerable.

11 Responses to “Five Tsundere Anime Girls I’d Gladly be Berated by”

  1. I really enjoy these kinds of fun (yet insightful) posts. It would be amusing to read more picks from the NHRV cast.

  2. […] like someone admits that getting berated by hot tsunderes is A-ok. I […]

  3. My favorite tsundere is Kallen Stadtfeld (or Kozuki, whichever she wants to be known as). Why? Beats me; I just think she’s hawt and feisty. However, after thinking for some time, in light of Akira’s School of Thought in his theory of “tsundere classification“, I don’t always favor the cute/hawt tsundere type. Senjougahara initially rubbed me the wrong way – she’s a bitch no matter how incredible everyone claims she is – but she gradually wins my favor as the show develops.

    Can’t say much about the rest of the tsunderes in the article, since I don’t have much of an opinion for them. Misaka Mikoto is cool; I hate how much of a boob she is made into in the Index series, but she’s a tolerable tsundere to me.

  4. @Aeroblip
    Glad you enjoyed it. Should be more coming over the course of this month. :)

    I don’t think I’ve ever had you pegged as a tsundere fan. 😉 I agree as far as Mikoto from Index is concerned though. Why did they write such an otherwise kickass character as just another one of Touma’s love interests.

  5. How about listing the tsunderes you want to punch in the face?

  6. I laughed at the Kyon picture.

    I like Kyou, Haruhi (and Kyon) and Mikoto (though I only saw her in Railgun), not so much Narusegawa, there was too much tsun.

    In fact, whilst there are some tsundere’s I like, the tsundere’s like Zero Louise which are very tsun tend to annoy me. I don’t get why people like them so tsun. I like them dere.

  7. @sadakups

    Oh, that would be just about every other Kugimiya tsundere for me.

  8. I don’t get why people like them so tsun. I like them dere.

    Starting to understand that Japanese men are masochists. Would explain NTR love, too.

    As for Western fans? Sad attempt at trying to be like Japanese fans, is my guess. Truth of the matter is, if you ever met a real tsundere girl, you’d think she was an annoying bitch and move on.

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