Ask John: Are There Any Male Tsundere?
Seeing that the term “tsundere” can apply equally to either a male or female character (at least, according to Wikipedia), can John ever recall encountering an example of a male anime character with a tsundere personality – which, on first glance, is likely to be a very rare occurence?
According to Lucky Star voice actor Minoru Shiraishi, the term “tsundere” was coined in 2002 to describe the process of a character with an initially “tsun tsun” (aloof, cold, blunt) personality gradual turning “dere dere” (“lovey dovey”). In short order, the meaning of “tsundere” evolved and expanded to include characters that had a bipolar “tsun tsun” and “dere dere” personality. The later definition seems to have become the more widely used and understood meaning of the term, which is perfectly fine. The commonly used jargon term “otaku” has similarly experienced several transitions in meaning. The fascination with tsundere personalities seems to be primarily concentrated in Japanese otaku – particularly male otaku. While American anime fans recognize tsundere, the phenomenon doesn’t really exist in American pop culture. (Parodical examples exist, for example, hulking professional wrestler The Game playing a ruthless vampire who dotes on an effeminate lapdog in Blade 3: Trinity.) Since the fascination with tsundere seems to be primarily rooted in Japanese men, most tsundere characters are female. But that’s not to say that male tsundere characters exist.
I believe it’s fair to use the term tsundere in its present day definition, meaning a character who is both “tsun tsun” and “dere dere,” but I don’t want to generalize categorization so far as to include any or everyone. In order for the characterization to be usefully applied, I think it needs to refer exclusively to characters that very distinctively illustrate a decisive bi-polarity because applying the term to any male character that has an aggressive mood and a soft spot makes nearly every male anime character tsundere. For example, Rozen Maiden’s Jun Sakurada is aloof and standoffish toward most people, including the Rozen Maiden dolls, yet he gradually becomes considerate and compassionate for them. While that may seem tsundere, I don’t think it is because Jun’s personality and his tenderness for the Rozen Maiden dolls is merely a natural result of familiarity and friendship, not a revelation of a profound personality characteristic. I’ve seen characters including Kamina & Viral from Gurren Lagann, Li Syaoran of Card Captor Sakura, Edward Elric of Fullmetal Alchemist, and Tiera Erde of Gundam OO described as tsundere. I refute these claims because when male characters with such natural range in emotion and personality are considered tsundere, the only male characters who aren’t tsundere have to be the practically one-dimensional characters that never reveal any degree of natural human vulnerability or compassion. In other words, applying the distinction too liberally compromises its effectiveness.
I think that the classification of tsundere must be limited to referring to characters with an innate bipolar personality consisting of outward testy aloofness used to encircle and protect an inner tenderness and vulnerability. Characters including Kyo Sohma of Fruits Basket, Germany from Hetalia ~ Axis Powers, and Ayato Naoi of Angel Beats illustrate my own perception of genuine male tsundere characters. These characters are instinctively externally combative, resentful, and gruff yet secretly vulnerable, emotional, and compassionately considerate. Their personalities are distinctively polarized between the standoffish tsun tsun and sensitive, emotional dere dere, and they only allow certain, select people to approach both sides of that internal personality conflict.