The Kuudere, Tsundere, Dandere and Yandere are archetypes from Japanese anime. They are relevant to female young characters as love interests in particular, but Western fiction also has many archetypes which are comparable.
The term “dere” comes from the Japanese word “deredere” (デレデレ) which is the onomatopoeia for being lovestruck. By combining this word with other words, we get these archetypes of love interests in anime and games.
The deres are normally applied to female characters, but there are examples outside anime of the same archetypes in both male and female, and in various genres.
“Business Only, Emotions are Unhelpful” – Kuudere Motto.
The “kuu” in kuudere comes from the Japanese pronunciation of the English word “cool” (クール). A person who is kuudere is calm and composed on the outside, serious, always in charge in any situation, and the kuudere never panics. They keep any anger or sadness – and happiness and joy very deep inside of them, and at extremes can be very emotionless and robotic.
Western fiction examples of the Kuudere are often found across science fiction – Mr Spock of Star Trek struggled to let his human half come out with such a kuudere Vulcan side. Mr Robot’s Elliot contains his emotions robotically, particularly at the beginning of the drama, but later on we see his emotions leaking out in times of higher stress.
The archetypal ‘Robot’ or i-Robot type can be found used often with villains and for villain’s thugs who do the dirty work. Stereotypically, a lot of Nazi-types and ex-Cold War Russians have been portrayed as being very emotionless when going about their bad work. Kuuderes are therefore useful as both villains and on the other side, sidekicks for the heroes, but they normally don’t make a full hero themselves without a lot of help from characters around them to bring out the humanness inside so that we can better like them.
There’s an interesting fictional trope where emotionless uncaring evil masterminds show their dere lovey-dovey side with a cat – troped as their “right-hand cat”. Many historical villains were actually cat haters and dog lovers, but that’s another matter.
“I have so much love to give, but don’t disappoint me!” ~ Tsundere Motto
The “tsun” in tsundere comes from the Japanese word “tsuntsun” (ツンツン) which means to be aloof or high and mighty or to turn away in disgust. Stuck-up on the outside but loving on the inside. In romance terms, these are the characters who struggle between their pride in their status in life, and the person they are interested in.
The hot and coldness of the tsundere can also be a swing between a short and violent temper to a loving nature. There can be a reversal also – a normally sweet character can turn incredibly harsh with some situations (which may involve threats to their loved ones). So, we can have two-three kinds of examples of the tsundere –
The cold aloof to loving
In a love story, the cold aloof will deny their love – because they are so embarrassed with themselves and how people around them perceive them, they often become even more holier and superior in public around the very people they are in love with. But the Tsundere’s character arc will eventually find them admitting their love, at least privately and spending more and more time with their lover.
If you hear a character say the words “It’s not like I love you or anything,” you’ve probably got a cold aloof Tsundere.
So, we have – public – emotionless and aloof, privately – loving and caring for those allowed close. Swings in between. TVTropes calls this type the “sugar and ice personality”.
Danny Zuko from Grease is an example of this tsundere at work at the beginning of a love relationship. He’s so interested in maintaining his “cool” status that he forces Sandy to change her own ways.
Amy Pond (a Dr Who companion) is tsundere to boyfriend Rory. She swings between harsh coldness to tender sweetness and back several times.
The hot tempered to loving
This is another form of showing people around you that you really aren’t interested in somebody (when you are) as well as dispersing your quick anger. These tsundere types may act with anger to maintain their status and throw off somebody they are actually interested in. In primary schools it leads to violence – girls who punch boys, boys who yank a girl’s hair – all just to show they are not interested.
Miss Piggy is a good example of the tsundere pig to a frog Muppet’s interest. She swings from nearly killing him to appearing sweetness and light. Kate Beckett is tsundere overall, but sweet to Richard Castle once they finally admit their love for each other.
There is also much debate (to meme status) over Batman as tsundere – as a public image Bruce Wayne as a businessman puts on a warm persona, but you get the notion easily that it’s exactly that – a mask for the public. Underneath, Bruce is lonely and cold, very much a tsundere until he opens up to a very few trusted loved ones. The Batman alter-ego is extremely aloof, even in a world of aloof superheroes, yet Batman is also hot-tempered and violent. But if a loved one like Alfred the butler is threatened or sick, his dere side comes out.
The Sweet to Harsh Cold Killer
This is the tsundere character who can segregate their cold and sweet loving sides at will, or for certain situations. A standard example is the reversal story where we first meet a genuinely loving couple and later find out that one or both of the couple are trained (perhaps retired) assassins who can kill coldly and at a whim.
The tsundere is the most popular dere archetype but also the hardest one to detail. The “runs hot and cold” aspect of this character needs to be planned for specifically, to create a believable reason why this character will show such differences in their behaviours, and when. We see it used a lot in attempts to create a “strong female character” and used a lot erroneously, by having a strong tsundere female turn wimpy permanently with the love of the true hero.
“When in doubt, don’t…” ~ Dandere motto.
The “dan” in dandere comes from the Japanese word “danmari” (黙り) meaning silence. A dandere is a quiet and often antisocial character. Because of this quiet emotionless aspect, a dandere is often mixed up with the kuudere, but there is a difference –
The dandere’s quietness is through shyness, and a mistrust of getting hurt. The dandere character may often want to be more social, popular, listened to etc, but due to their shy personality is unheard or invisible. If they are in a group that they trust, the dandere may well be talkative and loud, but if a stranger moves into the group, they’ll quickly withdraw.
There are several western archetypal equivalents – the wallflower, the shrinking violet and for teen genres an associated trope is “the invisible.”
The invisible is a term denoting a person, often female, who yearns for the attention of a more popular guy ie. it’s an unrequited love story. Because of the character’s shyness, ugliness or blandness the lover of interest just never notices them. Often, and stereotypically, the trope concludes with “the invisible” or dandere becoming aware that their love interest wasn’t all they were cut up as being, and a more worthy person of their love is probably found in their best friend.
The shrinking violet as shyness trope adds some additional characteristics – the violet will not wear anything which might make them stick out. In stereotype terms, these characters are often the nerds or outcasts who wear no makeup, or untrendy frumpy clothes. Taken to stereotypical levels as a heroine, they will then be adopted by a trendy mentor and have a makeover, suddenly finding they are beautiful, and popular and somehow, no longer shy.
The good thing about the true dandere is that normally they will have a supportive group of lifelong friends to count on. As an archetype the dandere is also often portrayed as being intellectual, and of more worth to society as a whole than the more “popular” cliques. There is often a moral tale around the use of a dandere.
Neville Longbottom is the chief dandere of Harry Potter. Despite his shyness, there is much debate about Neville being the actual real hero of the story. Ginny Weasley is dandere around Harry. Elizabeth March of Little Women is so shy that she stops going to school.
“We are destined to be together – always” ~ Yandere motto.
The yandere is a favourite archetype of mine if done well. Unfortunately it’s often overdone and has become cliched for many bad guys. The “yan” comes from “yanderu” (病んでる) which means to be sick—in this case, mentally sick.
Unlike the others of the dere family, it is not the “dere” part that is hidden inside. The dere or sweetness part is the external side of a deranged character. It’s not a front or mask, however – the dere personalities are geniune. So the yandere is geniunely sweet and kind but there is a dark side to them also.
Unfortunately this sweet to dark is overused in villain terms, meant to surprise the reader when a sweetness and light character turns out to be the evil villain. It also doesn’t help when evilness is explained as being a mental health issue eg. the serial killer is a sweet kind family member but occasionally due to being abused and traumatised in their childhood, turns into a deranged monster for a night.
The yandere characters I do appreciate are the sweet girls normally, who have a wacky slightly deranged side to themselves. This is Luna Lovegood, who is normally extremely kind and gentle, but has a side which allows her to protect, fight and kill her and her friend’s enemies without remorse.
Taking this dere back to the original purpose, sitting as a love archetype, there are two types of yandere – the obsessive and possessive. A yandere is often a normal happy, social and well liked girl. But love makes her crazy—often violently so. So all the obsessive love struck characters who do weird things to gain the attention of their love interest are yandere. And characters like Annie in Stephen King’s ‘Misery’ are very yandere.
The High School Queen Bee who wants to win the prom queen crown alongside her destiny mate of the most popular boy in the school often is a yandere in stereotypical fiction. The obsessive go-getter after a specific job can be a yandere also. Watch out anyone who gets in their way.
Obsessives will manipulate, setup, threaten or injure anyone who gets in the way of them obtaining their love or objective.
Possessives will go as far as killing or ruining the ones they love in case somebody else gets them. Taken to the extreme in real life, we sadly have examples of this in the parents who murder their own children whilst committing suicide, or the ex-husbands or boyfriends who stalk and kill their exes and their current lovers.
The bunny boiler stereotype (from ‘Fatal Attraction’) comes to mind easily here. Up a notch and you have Gone Girl’s psycho bitch. Taken down a notch, we have the crazy bitch. The male equivalent of these is possibly the abusive boyfriend, the stalker or psycho boyfriend.
Another detailed post on the yandere can be found here.
Part of 2016’s Character Archetype Series (A-Z) @ Hunter is Writing.