Tsundere Guys: The Unsung Heartthrobs of Anime

A while ago, I was talking to one of my guy friends about tsundere characters. For those unfamiliar with this term, here is Urban Dictionary’s definition of it:

Tsundere is a slang born on the Internet, and it is a word to describe the nature of female anime or game characters. Tsundere is a word combining two words, “Tsun Tsun” and “Dere Dere”. Both terms describe attitudes of a person. “Tsun Tsun” is used for cold/blunt/curt attitude, while “Dere Dere” is used when a person becomes spoony in front of his/her lover.

There is just one major issue with this definition: it fails to acknowledge the existence of tsundere males. I get it. Haruhi Suzumiya is every boy’s dream. But if we analyze the pool of characters available to us in the anime/manga universe, you will find that tsundere guys are actually even more prevalent than girls. This might have been dismissed because men take tsundere guys to be “just dudes” or “tough guys.” But that’s not really it at all.

To set some parameters for comparison, a “regular dude” would be someone like Naruto, and a “tough guy” would be someone like Vegeta. It’s important to note that this particular character trope is tricky to associate with male characters simply because the traits of a tsundere can be confused for “male” traits. To put it in perspective, it is much simpler to single out a woman who appears uncaring but isn’t as a tsundere than it is to connect a man’s presumed apathy with a hidden care.

Surprisingly, Wikipedia has a better, or rather more encompassing, definition of tsundere:

Tsundere (ツンデレ ?, pronounced [tsɯndeɽe]) is a Japanese term for a character development process that describes a person who is initially cold and even hostile towards another person before gradually showing a warmer side over time.

The takeaway is that a tsundere character must be first perceived as cold, but must eventually reveal his or her true caring self. There are many anime characters like Alto from Macross Frontier, who appear to be tsundere. Some people might even actually label Alto as such, but the issue at hand is that Alto never truly shows his “warmer side.” At least in the anime, while he might lend himself to cute moments, he ultimately fails to have any true feelings. A major giveaway is that he can’t make up his mind between two women.

So who the heck is a tsundere male character, you ask? Let me preach it to the choir:

[Spoiler infested waters. Swim at your own risk.]

Exhibit A: InuYasha – InuYasha

© Viz Media

© Viz Media

Let’s start with bae. InuYasha’s complex existence is what makes his tsundere character the most identifiable. His past love affair with Kikyo leaves his soft side in evidence, but the bad blood and troubling history between the two casts a thick and all-encompassing shadow on his personality.  While he is adamant in making Kagome believe she annoys him, his human form can’t help but succumb to his feelings. Nothing is more satisfying than watching InuYasha begin to exhibit the symptoms of love even as a half demon. Ugh. OTP.

Exhibit B: Sesshomaru – InuYasha

© Viz Media

© Viz Media

The tsundere vein runs in the family, so here is InuYasha’s half brother. As a full demon, Sesshomaru has an easier time at disassociating from petty things like love. He even belittles his brother often for “loving humans.” And honestly, for a long time Sesshomaru might have been nothing more than InuYasha’s bully of a brother. That’s if Kagura, and more importantly, Rin, hadn’t shown us where his heart was.

Exhibit C: Kyo – Fruits Baskets

© FUNimation Entertainment

© FUNimation Entertainment

While we’re originally led to ship Yuki and Tohru, it’s Kyo’s tsundere character that wins us over. He feels deeply, but refuses to show it in front of Tohru. Instead, he lashes out or acts uninterested, all in the hopes of diverting his brother and his love interest from his true feelings. In the end, of course, Kyo’s feelings become incredibly apparent.

Exhibit D: Syaoran – Cardcaptor Sakura

© CLAMP

© CLAMP

I’m going to say Syaoran is the king of tsundere men. Thanks to his age, Syaoran gets to play the “I’m not interested” card (see what I did there?) to the max. He doesn’t like Sakura because she’s dumb and lost all the Clow cards. He also doesn’t like her because she’s a girl and has cooties. He likes her even less because she’s his competition in the capturing card business and in love. He’s also all around cold, even with family members, but through flashbacks and his eventual budding love for Sakura, Syaoran comes full circle. If somebody knows how to come of age in style, it’s this guy.

Exhibit E: Kou – Ao Haru Ride

© Sentai Filmworks

© Sentai Filmworks

Kou enjoys being a tsundere. He knows he is one and makes the most of it. Kind of. The truth is Kou knows what he wants, but he misinterpreted past events with Fukuoka. This caused his pride to get in the way, and he became even colder than before. The interesting dynamic is that Fukuoka knows the real Kou, but so much time has gone by she’s unsure of her own memory of him. He actively attempts to show Fukuoka he’s uncaring, but the minute she is in trouble, his true self can’t help but resurface.

Exhibit F: Killua – HunterxHunter

© Viz Media

© Viz Media

If I came from a family of assassins, I would probably also be v tsundere and v untrusting. Killua plays a similar game as that of Syaoran. As a child, and in self-defense, he acts uninterested and unfazed by everything. Yet, because we understand where he’s coming from, we also guess successfully that he’s about to melt our hearts at any given moment.

Exhibit G: Ikuto – Shugo Chara

© TV Tokyo

© TV Tokyo

Ikuto is first and foremost a delinquent. No doubt about that. But he’s also really sweet for a delinquent. The reality is he loves Amu and has no idea what to do about it. He teases her, gets too close, gets scared, and then ignores her. Sounds familiar? Yup. It’s every hot-and-cold guy you’ve ever met. Except that, lucky for Amu, we know her kokoro is in well-meaning hands.

Exhibit H: Byakuya – Bleach

© Viz Media

© Viz Media

How to go from “wow, this guy’s a dick?” to “oh my God THE MOST LOVING. THE MOST CARING,” in one flashback scene. Also, best Bankai ever. The Bankai of the tsundere.

I haven’t watched every anime out there, nor can list every tsundere guy I’ve ever come across. Nonetheless, I believe this list makes it clear that tsundere is as much a character trait for men as it is for women. And for those men-loving creatures out there, I promise all these dudes are extremely crush-worthy.

As a bonus, I’d like to refer you to the Harvest Moon games. I’ve been playing them since I was little. It’s like uncostumizable dating Sims with a farm and real marriage responsibilities. Ever since the game started featuring female leads and male bachelors, there has always been a tsundere option. There’s Cam in Tale of Two Towns and Vaughn in Sunshine Islands, to name a couple.

As an even bigger bonus, don’t forget the epitome of tsundere (there’s a lot of punk in there, too): Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle.

© Studio Ghibli

© Studio Ghibli

In conclusion, tsundere male characters are too fabulous to continue living a closeted and unacknowledged existence. Now that I’ve put them in evidence, you know what to binge (or play–for a realer experience). Happy crushing!

PS: I claim no responsibility for any unrealistic expectations these men may give you. I’m just another victim.

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