Love in the Moe Realms – A Concise ‘Dere’ Guide

45. picture1The moe phenomenon has been around for a couple of decades now – long enough to see many sub-trends come and go, and for copious amounts of manga and anime to be based on almost nothing else. Small wonder then that moe as a whole has spun off into numerous different types and categories over the years, each of them catering to its own particular brand of fetishized cute: glasses moe, maid moe, and bandaged moe, just to name a few. Another distinct evolution of moe (or rather, several evolutions closely related to each other), are the ‘dere’ varieties, all of which have seen widespread fan usage since the early to mid-2000s. This article aims to loosely explain the four most common of these – tsundere, yandere, kuudere, and dandere.

Tsundere: I-it’s not as if they like you or anything!

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Think of the tsundere as the type of kid on the playground who will call you names or shove you headfirst into the bushes in order to cover up their affection. In denial about his or her ‘secret’ crush, the most common form of the tsundere character is a cute girl (or occasionally guy) who is initially ‘tsun tsun’ (irritable, blunt, basically a jerk), but over time begins to display, or sometimes abruptly switches over to, their ‘dere dere’ (lovestruck) mode. Several viewers have pegged these types of characters as vehicles of wish fulfilment, since the base concept of tsundere seems to revolve around the idea that, inside the shell of every brusque or hostile love interest, is a blushing and vulnerable core just waiting to be discovered. However, it should also be noted that there are a few tsundere characters out there who act like this towards friends or family members as well; romantic feelings masked by a tsundere’s rough behaviour is typical, but not strictly necessary.

The term itself became popularised through bishoujo games – a subset of Japanese dating sims targeted towards heterosexual males – but particularly by the 2001 visual novel Kimi ga Nozomu Eien (also known as Rumbling Hearts). However, Comiket organiser Ichikawa Koichi has credited Princess Lum of Urusei Yatsura as being the original tsundere, the manga of which was first released in 1978 and the anime in 1981.

So enthusiastically received has the tsundere ideal been that it has since crossed over from gaming, manga, and anime into industries such as technological gadgetry and maid cafes. Given just how popular this type of character has grown, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to find that it’s now possible to buy a PSP-based car navigation system featuring voice actresses saying things like, “Even a fool like you can obey the traffic rules, right? I’m not going for a drive with you because I like you or anything. Turn right in 700 meters!” Or that an Akihabara-based maid café called Nagomi has waitresses that will greet customers at the door with a surly “What are you doing here?”, but suddenly become clingy and emotional when the customers are leaving.

The number of tsundere characters now in existence are almost too many to be listed, but a few of the classics include Taiga from Toradora!, Kagami from Lucky Star, Naru from Love Hina, Shana from Shakugan no Shana, and Kurisu from Steins;Gate. However, male tsundere characters are far from unheard of – Germany from Hetalia: Axis Powers is one prime example, as is Kyo from Fruits Basket. On the milder end of the spectrum, both Syaoran and Touya from Cardcaptor Sakura could possibly be viewed as being tsundere, as could Watanuki from xxxHolic, another CLAMP title.

Yandere: Crazy about you… literally.

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The yandere might be considered as the odd one out on this list, since this is the only type to cover up emotional or psychological issues with an outer layer of sweetness, rather than hiding a naturally soft and lovable core beneath a harder shell. The term is derived from the aforementioned ‘dere dere’ and ‘yanderu’ – the latter of which signifies a mental or emotional illness. In short, a yandere character exhibits an adorably cute and completely harmless surface persona, but has the unfortunate habit of being a total psycho whenever anything appears to either harm their significant other or get in the way of the pair’s relationship. Controlling, manipulative, and obsessive to the point of plain insanity, a yandere character has a strong tendency to attack or kill anyone seen to pose a ‘threat’ – particularly those viewed as potential romantic rivals. However, if the yandere can’t have what they want, then nobody will; when pushed to their absolute extreme, a yandere may end up killing their love interest (probably right before committing suicide themselves) in order to prevent somebody else from obtaining their one true love.

As with the tsundere category, widespread usage of the term yandere only emerged around the early 2000s, although the character type is said to have been around since the 1985 release of the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam anime – particularly in relation to characters Reccoa and Sarah, and their actions as influenced by Scirocco.

Also similar to the tsundere archetype, the overwhelming majority of yandere characters are female. Yuno from Mirai Nikki is the most commonly cited example, but there are numerous others, including Misa from Death Note, Lucy from Elfen Lied, Nina from Code Geass, and Belarus from Hetalia. Have no fear though (unless of course you’re there to steal away their loved one) – there are enough male characters to go around: Rolo from Code Geass, Suzu from Peacemaker Kurogane, Toma from Amnesia, and Guy from Ai no Kusabi all easily make it into the yandere ranks.

Kuudere: The ultimate in moe snow queens.

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Whether this is merely a subtype of the tsundere or a category all on its own seems to be a matter of personal opinion, although the differences between them are obvious enough. While the tsundere’s outer shell is typically all heated bluster, the kuudere is ice cold. Pragmatic, apathetic, and possibly armed with a cynical, sarcastic, or even downright snarky attitude, the stereotypical kuudere wears a frosty mask to protect a delicate heart. Since the kuudere usually takes being emotionally stoic and unaffected to the most extreme ends of the scale, their reasons behind this are often similarly dramatic. They might hide dark and tortured pasts behind uncaring facades, or their almost robotic-like indifference may be explained by the fact that they are, quite literally, part robot. They’re sometimes given supernatural powers, or are otherwise marked as being in some way isolated from the rest of humanity.

While nobody seems to know exactly who first coined the term or where specifically it originally appeared, research suggests that it grew up almost exclusively around Evangelion’s Ayanami Rei, now one of the most iconic and popular anime characters of all time. ‘Kuudere’ being derived from the English word ‘cool’, it’s easy to see how Rei became the poster child of this concept.

Other than Rei herself, others characters that fit snugly into the kuudere category include Kanade from Angel Beats!, Eureka from Eureka Seven, Ai from Jigoku Shoujo, Yin from Darker Than Black, Ein from Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, and C.C. from Code Geass. Meanwhile, the only male kuudere that springs to mind is Yue from Cardcaptor Sakura – although even this example is somewhat debatable since Yue is, technically speaking, genderless. (Regardless, as you can see from this list, it’s probably safe to add white/silver/grey, green, and blue hair as being another relatively common feature of the kuudere.)

Dandere: Unintentional masters of the unspoken.

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The dandere and the kuudere may seem interchangeable at first, as they often share at least one of the same defining qualities: silence. However, where the kuudere usually comes across as intentionally icy and emotionless, and are generally tough or cynical to boot, dandere characters are simply painfully shy or otherwise socially inept. Sweet rather than bitter, a dandere character becomes suddenly more open and talkative under just the right circumstances. Less likely to have a tragic backstory and more likely to be just plain awkward, dandere characters may either clam up only when facing their romantic interest until such time as the right buttons are pushed, or else present a near-silent face to the world at large, rarely speaking unless directly spoken to first and outright avoiding any kind of social interaction. Their antisocial behaviour may be mistaken by other characters as standoffishness, but dandere characters are not by their nature harsh or unfriendly – merely too afraid, unsure, or embarrassed to open their mouths.

If the specific origins of the term kuudere are uncertain, the roots of dandere are even more obscure. While it’s largely accepted that the name has its beginnings in ‘danmari’, meaning ‘silence’ or ‘to be silent’, it isn’t clear when it came into popular usage or what specific character, if any, first inspired it. However, due to its similarities to the kuudere, it’s possible that the now separate concept of dandere may have begun as a subcategory of this.

Hinata from Naruto is generally understood by fans to be a dandere character, although Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh and Lain from Serial Experiments Lain are other likely candidates. There’s also been some debate on whether Yuki from Haruhi Suzumiya qualifies as a dandere or a kuudere (or if she’s just a weirdo who doesn’t properly fit into either camp). However, given that the dandere necessarily involves physical silence while the kuudere doesn’t, and because Yuki doesn’t really appear to be sharp or hostile, dandere seems to be the more popular choice. The one male nominee immediately obvious is Yuki from Fruits Basket.

Question of the post: Love ‘em, hate ‘em, don’t care? Also, since male characters for both the kuudere and dandere types are especially thin on the ground, can you think of any examples other than those already listed here?

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27 thoughts on “Love in the Moe Realms – A Concise ‘Dere’ Guide

    • I concur – so long as they’re on the milder end of the spectrum, that is. Blushing bishounen can definitely be pretty cute, but I feel there’s also a fine line between embarrassedly brusque and emotionally abusive. For example, I quite like Touya from Cardcaptor Sakura, but Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha’s Touka crosses into habitually offensive territory as far as I’m concerned.

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  1. I like Tsunderes grounded in a bit of sense. I liked Taiga a lot in the light novels for ToraDora, but I never got into the anime because her Tsundere qualities felt extremefied in order to push a character type, instead of focusing on the character herself.

    Yanderes creep me out :\. That’s real life horror.

    A question about “Dere” in general: do the characters have to be involved in a relationship or be the love interest of a protagonist? Or does the typing occur in a vacuum as well? If you remove Keitaro from Love Hina, does Naru still count as a Tsundere?

    I’ve always thought of Tsundere as a domineering personality, a natural instinct toward aggression and combative behaviors, and a struggle toward self-honesty, which results in saids denial versus romantic interests. Sometimes, I refer to my some of my own characters as Tsunderes for the convenience of what one word represented. Or, what I thought it represented.

    Does Tsundere relate specifically toward relationships/handling of relationships?

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    • I think your questions depend on opinion – moe (and by extension the various types of moe, including the tsundere character) is something that developed out of fandom, and so it often seems that the audience themselves defines these things just as much, if not sometimes even more so, than the creators themselves do.

      As for my own opinion though, I don’t think a character has to be in a romantic relationship in order to be defined as a tsundere. They very often are, in part because so many anime revolve around romance to begin with, but I don’t think romance is strictly necessary for a tsundere to be a tsundere. It would depend on the character, though – for example, Toradora’s Taiga only really acts in a tsundere manner to Ryuuji and nobody else, whereas Lucky Star’s Kagami more or less acts like a tsundere to the world at large and has no romantic affiliations at all. I think that the concept of tsundere does refer to the handling of relationships in general, but that those relationships could be either romantic or platonic in nature, or anything in-between.

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  2. My favorites:

    Tsundure –> Kurisu, Stein’s Gate, not even close. It was realistic, in character…she wasn’t just being a random bitch. Plus she was acting her age too.

    Kuudure–> The ones you list that I’m familiar with are ‘straight’ human. Kanade, Ein (if I recall correctly) and CC. They’re all “altered” humans, brainwashed or something. Throw in Nagato from Haruhi too.

    Dandere–> I typed the above before reading it and now you’ve made it even more confusing!

    You know what’s funny? As much anime as I’ve watched (granted I’m still on an upward curve), I’ve NEVER run into a real Yandere yet. The female lead in Nodame Cantabile might be close, but I get the sense that that is relatively tame on the Yandere scale. I’ve seen Code Geass and Deathnote but didn’t feel Misa/Nina were Yandere. However, if we’re including males, good call on Rolo, BUT his “love” wasn’t romantic as such. Actually a good contender here is one of the girls in Gunslinger Girl, but she wasn’t a main character.

    Where would you categorize outgoing social females like Haruhi and Holo (Spice & Wolf)? I guess they sort of fall within “normal”.

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    • Well, I wouldn’t put Nodame in any of the dere categories at all. She was in love with Chiaki, and she was a flake, but she was a flake around everyone.

      My favorite tsundere would be Misaka from RailDex.

      As for Gibble96’s comment, I think all this dere business began with romantic relationships, but has branched out because the words are useful in other contexts as well.

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    • I don’t think romantic love necessarily has to be involved for someone to be a dere to begin with – hence why I include characters such as Rolo.

      As for outgoing social females, I think it really depends. But there’s no need to categorise every single moe character as some kind of dere – some really are just ‘regular’ cute girls (and guys).

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  3. I’ve never really understood the appeal of yanderes, but I do appreciate some kuuderes and tsunderes (the “type B”). Best girl is still Senjougahara, who doesn’t quite fit into any archetype, even though she refers to herself as a tsundere.

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    • Personally, I don’t go crazy for any of the dere types – although if I was forced to choose only one that I had to like, it’d probably be kuudere. I guess mysterious often = interesting character (and/or sexy) to me. There are exceptions, but tsundere girls have been really annoying me recently – most likely because they’re a dime a dozen, and the stereotype is becoming a tired cliche.

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      • I agree, it’s getting really taxing. Nearly every single show features one now and, often enough, they tend to lean towards the more abusive side these days. As you mentioned up top, a bit of pull back is fine in a character, just being emotionally/physically abusive is soooo not. And lately it’s felt like tsunderes have been getting more and more abusive, both the males AND female versions. :/

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        • Agreed. And another major annoyance for me is when a character acts like a tsundere (or any other kind of dere/moe-type) but ends up coming across as extremely calculated – like the creators consciously thought, “Hey, this story is good, but we need more moe. I know! Let’s make her a tsundere!” Logically of course, I know that everything in anime is basically calculated to some extent – it’s a business, after all. But I prefer it when characters feel natural, not shoehorned into roles just to appeal to a certain demographic or in order to tick the appropriate cute boxes.

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          • Oh, I hear ya. That’s been happening more often, too. It’s like there’s some master checklist going around all the animation companies or something.
            And it’s all the worse when a character is forced into a moe role for the first part of a series and then, as soon as it’s inconvenient to the story for them to remain so, they completely alter. And it’s not like a gradual character growth. It’s a sudden metamorphoses. Even Ovid would raise an eyebrow and say, “Isn’t that a bit too… convenient?”.

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  4. A very well done post! I have to admit, while they’re certainly annoying in their more overdone/extreme forms, quite a few of my favorite characters fall somewhere near the dere archetypes. Let’s see, examples…
    Doumeki from XxxHolic for Kuudere (his needling of Watanuki but deeply self-sacrificial actions moves him from Dan to Kuu in my mind). Nezumi from No. ^ would probably count as well.
    Goto from Samurai Flamenco for Dandere. He’s rather social once he warms up to Masayoshi (despite the occasional tsun comment), but his issues make him lonely and distant to 90% of the cast. Not cold really so much as deliberately separate.

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    • I think a few of my favourite characters would probably fall into some of the dere types as well, but in those cases, it feels more coincidental than anything else – like their characters were already created and then just happened to fall into place as a tsundere or whatever, rather than being consciously planned as being one from the start.

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  5. These dere varieties are all fine and good, but don’t underestimate the power of a straightforward deredere. Princess Nia from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was my introduction to moe.

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    • I don’t like the really obvious or overblown ones – especially now that tsundere girls in particular are such a huge cliche. If it’s more subtle though, I don’t mind them as such.

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  6. Coming back to comment now that one or two have hit me. Mytho from Princess Tutu could totally go in the kuudere category for males. I’m not so sure I’d agree with Yuki Sohma being ‘dan’ or ‘dere’ enough to be included here, as although he wasn’t likely to open up very much at first as much as he may have wanted to, he was still perfectly capable at polite conversation with strangers. While I have a lot of characters I love, Mytho and Yuki are both among the small handful of characters that really bring out a swooning fangirl in me, so my personal approach is that yes, Mytho makes me a fangirl for partly for his kuudere ways, whereas Yuki makes me a fangirl more for his princely ways (plus, he’s a rat, and that instantly makes him cool in my book but is a little off-topic). I’d probably put Kamui from X comfortably in with the male Tsundere, seeing how he treated Fuuma sharply when meeting back up with him though that obviously conflicts with tender how he really feels as evidenced later in the series.

    Then again, it’s very easy to stretch these categories so much that they can include any “loner” character while losing the tropiness of the troupes, seeing as loners are so common and, deep down inside, the vast majority of them just want to be loved. I think it’s just a more recent phenomenon to create characters for the sake of being ___dere characters.

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    • Ooh, Mytho is a good pick – nice thinking!

      Yeah, I definitely agree with you that these categories (among others) can be stretched to include many characters that were never intended to be whatever-dere to begin with. Moe as such a mainstream term in itself is still relatively recent – the dere types even more so – and so many characters that just happen to loosely fall into those categories easily predate the labels that people now fit them with. And of course, many of those labels and/or the characters that carry them are up for interpretation as well.

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      • Mytho even has the white hair to complete the look. 😀

        Do you foresee more entries on explaining character types, like Uke/Seme, or Hetare? I think some words/types hit their booms at different points, though. The typical cast lineup you see today probably doesn’t look like the lineup you’d expect in the 80’s or 90’s, though that probably depends a lot on genre. Nonetheless, I don’t think so many 80’s and 90’s series wrote tsundere characters into the story for the sake of having them and pandering to the whims of the fandom world (I think we have more cool beauties and tsunderes now that air-headed heroines or even Yamato Nadeshiko love interests). Since it’s an industry, I’m sure they were pandering, but I’m curious what people would say the fads were in different times.

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        • I’m not sure yet – I don’t have any immediate plans for that, but it’s something I may well end up exploring later on. Regardless of whether it’s moe or something else, I find anime fads as a whole pretty interesting.

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  7. I knew about the tsunderes in maid cafe. I think some maid cafes even offer multiple archetypes for their services, gotta applaud these maid’s acting skills xD One episode of Culture Japan where Danny Choo went to a maid cafe (and he chose the tsundere course) is funny as heck xD

    Never knew about the car thing though, that’s awesome. I think the tsundere archetype is just so popular it can just appear about anywhere. Maybe I should try to find some phone alarm tone with a cute tsundere girl saying “I-It’s not like I want to wake you up or anything!” No more rushing around in the morning.

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  8. Pingback: It’s Not like I like You or Anything: The Trouble with Tsunderes | The Afictionado

  9. Pingback: 5 Great Anime Mascot Characters | OTAKU LOUNGE

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