Hello, I’m David Animattenborough, and welcome to another edition of This Planet Anime, where we investigate the diverse and glorious members of this anime kingdom of ours in their natural habitat. In previous episodes, we’ve examined the bonding dynamics of the common Seme and Uke, the raising and care of the moeblob, and caught a fascinating glimpse of the rare bishounen grazing in a cool and aloof fashion. Today, we’ll be looking at one of the most common creatures of this wonderous and strange realm, those of the deredere species.
Deredere, in Japanese, translates roughly as “lovey dovey,” “having a gooey sweet center,” or just “having affection for someone.” It has given rise to a fascinating tribe of character archetypes, mostly female but with male examples as well, who combine this soft kind heart with other, contrasting attributes. They appear in multiple anime and manga, particularly romantic works geared towards young men such as harem anime. Some decry them as tired stereotypes meant as fanservice, while others hold them up as engaging and interesting characters in their own right.
Wait! Look, over there, by the ice cream shop! I believe I see a wandering herd of derederes approach, following that hapless young specimen of Maleus protaganis. Let’s observe these fascinating creatures as they engage in their mating patterns and attempt to catalog them.
Tsundere – Smack Smack Kiss Kiss
Notice the tall, sporty specimen there. See how she just punched the Maleus protaganis? Never fear, this isn’t a challenge, more like the mating behavior of the tsundere.
Tsundere, the most popular and well known of the “deredere” species, is a portmanteau of tsuntsun (to turn away with disgust) and deredere. It refers to a character who (at least initially) acts cold, critical, hostile or even downright violent towards the main character/love interest but shows a softer, warmer side over time. How this plays out varies from series to series; some tsunderes have always had a sweet gooey center but just use their aggressive posturing to hide it, while some are genuinely nasty and defiant until someone takes the time to thaw them out. Often their antagonistic behavior is directly proportional to how much of a romantic connection there is between them and their target; hence you’ll have tsunderes being friendly to everyone except the hapless hero, who will be punched into orbit for so much as looking at them funny (expect lots of blushing and awkward denials from the tsundere if she gets called on it or if the hero compliments her in some way).
Tsundere’s are extremely popular thanks to their mix of strong, independent qualities and the promise of a softer, kinder side. People talk about how specific characters are more “tsuntsun” than “deredere,” or vice versa, and debate endlessly about which is better. A lot of people have fantasies about breaking through someone’s stubbornness and antagonism to bring out their warm side; tsunderes are just the obvious expression of that trope. Not sure where all the violence and punching comes into it, though…
Famous tsundere include Akane from Ranma ½, Germany in Hetalia (a male example) and half the cast of Love Hina.
Kuudere – Cool Beauty
Ah! We’re in luck! See that calm, quiet girl at the back reading a book! We’re lucky enough to get a rare sighting of a kuudere in her natural state of not giving a damn.
Like tsunderes, kuuderes (mix of kuu for “cool” and deredere) have a soft and squishy side buried beneath a hard shell, but while tsunderes tend to progress spunk and aggressiveness, kuuderes instead project an aura of aloofness, even coldness. While other characters are sweatdropping, pratfalling and being punched into the atmosphere, the kuudere will be there with a bland, bored look on their face and a quiet comment delivered in a monotone. Kuuderes are not often nasty per se, but they will often be somewhat blunt and practical. They like to be “above it all,” though a lot of comedy can be derived from watching them get dragged into hilarious or wacky circumstances and try desperately to salvage their dignity.
Like most of the derederes, kuuderes do have a softer side which is usually brought out by friendship or love. Like tsunderes, some kuuderes are only cold until you get to know them and they warm up to you; in other cases, the kuudere requires almost literal defrosting. A rather poetic description of kuuderes on TV Tropes likened them to a blanket of snow covering and protecting the seeds for next spring’s flowers, the coldness a shield for keeping things warm and safe beneath the surface.
The most famous kuudere is Rei Ayanami from Evangelion – ironic, considering she was meant to be a deconstruction of the trope in that she has little to no squishy warm center! Other popular characters are Yuki Nagato from the Haruhi Suzumiya series and, in a non-anime example, Raven from Teen Titans.
Yandere – Dark Side of Devotion
Do you hear that? That loud scream? That is the mating call of the yandere… the distinctive, “WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME?!” cannot be anything else.
Yandere comes from the combination of deredere and yanderu, meaning to suffer from mental or emotional illness. Unlike their fellow dere’s, yanderes often have their sweet and gentle side right out in the open. Unfortunately, it is often accompanied with a rather large helping of sheer craziness and codependency. Yanderes love the object of their affection to an unhealthy degree, and having their affections frustrated will often result in some truly unsettling, unstable behavior, often to the point of violence against his/herself or his/her loved one. Expect to hear the common refrain of, “If I can’t have you, then I don’t want anyone else to have you either!” More benign members of the species will instead resort to catty behavior, backstabbing rivals, self-destructive or suicidal behaviour and generally becoming more clingy than SaranWrap. Basically, they’re a cautionary tale about taking devotion too far and becoming obsessed as a result.
Despite their predatory behavior, however, yanderes are often quite sympathetic and likeable characters. This is often because, while some yanderes are malicious and put on an act of sweetness, many yanderes are truly kind, loving characters, just a bit TOO kind and loving, if you know what I mean. Some of them actually start out reasonably clear-headed and “normal” but then crack over the course of the series, often due to external influences as much as their own instability. It’s hard to muster much scorn for a girl who’s been bullied and harassed at school constantly, latches onto the one guy who treats her with some decency, then goes slightly (or more than slightly) wonky and obsessive when he abandons her. Watching her obsessively cooking for the boy she loves while he’s out with some other love interest, her eyes teary or vacant or crazed, inspires a compelling mix of pity and sheer creepiness.
Some examples of sympathetic yanderes include Kotonoha from School Days and Kaede from Shuffle. For a more malicious take on the character type, see Tomoe in Mai-Otome.
What are your favorite “deredere” characters? Thought of any “deredere” types I missed?