Tropes can very easily be overdone. If you rip apart a character until all that’s left is what makes it fit into a trope, you’ve overdone it. If your character can be perfectly predicted to do something in every case just because they’re so clearly a specific trope and nothing more than that, you’ve overdone it. That should go without saying, really. At that point I’d have trouble even calling your character anything more than an idea that you dropped in the middle of your story and never really refined. As someone who’s been a bit privileged with good storytelling for the beginning of my anime adventure, and really adventures through literature in general, my outspoken comments about a particular trope that has a habit of being done poorly more than any other trope made it seem like I hate it. I don’t hate tsunderes, in fact they’re my favourite of the “dere types”, but there are a lot of issues when it comes to them.
If anyone has been following me for a long time, before I even became a writer for Anime Corps and used to almost exclusively rant about anime on Twitter, you might know what those last few sentences were referencing. I have a very outspoken disagreement with how a large majority of the tsundere characters people enjoy are written and whether or not they’re good characters. I can’t really recall a direct list of characters I used to bash, but it would whip so many people into a frenzy to the point where I was eventually just labeled a tsundere hater. Not that I’m upset about what happened (I’m not.), and I wasn’t always as well spoken about my opinions in the past, but I thought after finishing the anime Kiniro Mosaic and having quite a few thoughts about how the two tsunderes in that show were done, I might as well make myself seem like I don’t just hate something because it’s popular.
Kiniro Mosaic has one tsundere in it that by merely saying those first seven words people who know anything about the show already know who I’m talking about. Aya Komichi is arguably the most popular character from the show aside from Karen, and she just so happens to be a tsundere. Not only is Aya a tsundere, but she resembles perfectly how not to do a tsundere type character. I would like anyone, Aya fan or not, to point out one memorable deep part of her character that made her anything more than just a tsundere. Aya’s cute points were that she got embarrassed almost constantly, regardless of what was said to her, yelled a lot, and was voiced by Risa Taneda. I don’t remember anything else about her character other than those things and I finished this series literally days ago. You can’t call Aya’s character well done because all there was to her was how, quite frankly ridiculously often, she got emberassed and that it was cute because a well-known voice actress was behind her.
What I find to be the most confusing thing about how this character was presented, was that in the same show, there was a tsundere that displayed exactly how you’re supposed to write a character to fit a trope. Akari Kuzehashi, the teacher introduced in the second season of the show, wasn’t perfect but a million times better than Aya. She had depth, we knew things about her, she had more of a character to her than “I like cute things” and actually it made sense why she would get emberassed and why she seemed cold on the outside. Her trope was given context and because of that, from a sheer writing perspective, she was better than Aya, who’s entire character might as well be the idea of a girl having a crush on Yoko.
The more upsetting thing, at least to me, is that most tsunderes are written this way. This trope likes being written in a way where all the production displays is that they’re emberassed as the flocks of fans swoon over how cute they look. It’s such a common thing that Misato Tachibana from Nichijou is purely made to make fun of how this character type is written, getting emberassed and drawing lines that the conversation must secretly be about her crush when they were literally just talking about what to eat and also getting rediculously violent whenever her crush so much as says anything. It’s strange and I honestly don’t see the appeal since they’re even flatter than two dimensional characters when they’re written that way (not referring to Misato, as that was very clearly satire and I personally thought it was hilarious).
However, I did say that my favourite “dere type” was tsundere, so why is that? Despite what I said about a huge majority of characters being written to fit that trope being awful there are a handful that are amazing. My personal favourite of the trope being Rin Tohsaka from Fate/stay night. What makes her so much better than the static unchanging tsunderes I complain about constantly is that her tsundere type is presented perfectly. I don’t expect that everyone would become a tsundere if they were suddenly tasked with having to kill someone they had developing romantic feelings for, but that’s at least a really good excuse to be cold and borderline violent with someone you like. Rin doesn’t even just stay as that type either, her feelings and personality change as the story progresses and she develops regardless of which version of the story you watch.
There’s also Kurisu Mikase from Steins;Gate that not only has a good reason for being tsundere but develops as a character as the story progresses and gains depth in a logical way. I’m not saying every single tsundere has to be this way, but when the trope is this overplayed to a degree that’s pretty dumb. I’m not even saying every single show has to be filled with main characters that develop, as shows like Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka? have proved that depending on how you deliver your production, you can make even that enjoyable. But, going back to the original example, when you have a charcater like Aya amidst a cast that has very clear depth and goals. Shinobu, Alice, Yoko, and Karen all have some sort of quark to them that gets developed on as the show progresses but Aya is just there, and that makes her stand out like she doesn’t belong.
Characters need to be written for a purpose, whether or not they get development. It’s a bit awkward when one of your characters just seems like they were tacked onto the production because they could be without adding anything whatsoever to… well, anything, really. That’s why I don’t hate tsunderes, I just hate the tsunderes that everyone else loves.
Thank you all so much for reading today’s editorial! I am fully prepaired to be crucified for my opinions. As always, if you’re a fan of what I do here and would like to see what I’m usually up to, why not follow me on Twitter? Also, I’ve gone back and credited the source for all of the featured images I’ve ever used for an editorial. So, if one ever caught you eye and you’d like to see more by that particular artist, the links are now at the very bottom of every post. See you all next week!
The featured image for this post is a screencap from the anime Kiniro Mosaic.