"Oh, Arnold, how I love you. And yet I hate you! And yet I love you. And yet I hate you! And yet I LOVE you."
—Helga Pataki, Hey Arnold!, summing it up quite nicely.
I'll demonstrate... since it figures that you wouldn't know what a Tsundere is. Look, if you really must know, I suppose that I'll tell you. Just... consider yourself lucky that I just happen to have an article handy!
...'ahem.' Yes. So. The Japanese term tsundere refers to a character who "runs hot and cold", alternating between two distinct moods: tsuntsun (aloof or irritable) and deredere (lovestruck). The equivalent English term, at least during The Roaring Twenties, is "bearcat".
The tsuntsun can range from the "silent treatment" to "lovestruck kindergartener who pushes you into the sandbox." The reasons behind a Tsundere's behavior vary widely. Some are reasonable justifications. Others simply flow from the conflict between their feelings about the object of their affections and their reactions to having them.
The Tsundere stock characterization is very popular with writers of Romantic Comedy because the conflicts between both personality facets can be easily utilized to generate both drama and comedy. Can be form of Wish Fulfillment especially if it's obvious the male lead is an Author Avatar.
Tsundere can be divided into two main categories, depending on their default mood:
- Type A (alias Type Tsun or harsh): These Tsundere have tsuntsun as their default mood. It takes something special to trigger their deredere side. The intensity of the tsuntsun can range from "I must glare and fight my way through life" (Louise of The Familiar of Zero) to grumpy pessimism (Kagami of Lucky Star). It's about which part of the tsundere personality is the public face and which the hidden. If the Tsundere is The Rival, she is more likely to be Type A. Helping a rival out is usually accompanied by a line like "Don't get me wrong, I'm not doing this for you." This is the "bear" in "bearcat".
- Type A can overlap with a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but usually not. The moods of a Tsundere tend to switch in reaction to the actions of select people or adverse scenarios; the deredere side usually only comes out when someone has acted in a way to trigger it. A Jerk with a Heart of Gold is jerkish in general regardless of whether the other person is mean or nice, and shows their Hidden Heart of Gold only when the situation warrants, regardless of how the other person had been acting. Male characters in particular should be considered for Jerk with a Heart of Gold status, as arguably because of Double Standards, men are generally that instead of tsundere, although the Kuudere subtype is more equally split in gender. Oranyan is sometimes used to refer to a male tsundere character - incorrectly since it means the complete opposite.
- Type B (alias Type Dere or sweet): These Tsundere have deredere as their default mood. They are sweet, kind and generous, but just happen to have a hidden violent side as well. In this case, temper is almost always triggered by someone or something else, usually a Love Interest. Either they have Belligerent Sexual Tension, or are an idiot, or are an Accidental Pervert, or just has no idea how to handle feelings of love and attraction. May also overlap with Violently Protective Girlfriend if her Love Interest is threatened or in danger. This is the "cat" in "bearcat".
- Type B should not be confused with a Yandere. If a Type B Tsundere were really convinced that their Love Interest didn't want them, they would revert back to the deredere side and probably enter an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy phase.
See also the Analysis page for more detailed information on common "strategies" employed by Tsundere characters, and other, related topics. Here is a scientific explanation on the appeal of the tsundere character.
A common way of showing that a Tsundere has mellowed or has had her heart won over by the Love Interest is to have her shift from Type A to Type B. If her motivations are inquired, she will often engage in a Suspiciously Specific Denial, complete with a Luminescent Blush and total evasion of eye contact (cue the squeaks of Moe Moe).
When paired with a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, together they produce Belligerent Sexual Tension. Sometimes a way of creating a Jerk Sue. Compare with Well, Excuse Me, Princess!, Jerkass, and Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Contrast with Tsunshun, which shares the spiky exterior but has depression and self-doubt rather than kindness hiding underneath. When Flanderized tends to overlap with Mood Swinger. Also see Don't You Dare Pity Me! and Anger Born of Worry. Aloof Ally may show the same hot-and-cold behavior but for differing reasons. Very fond of Pervert Revenge Mode. Shana Clone is a specific subtrope with a particular set of characteristics.
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Huh? Did you really read through the whole thing? You're determined, aren't you?
Not that I noticed, or anything. I'm just impressed by your attention span. Maybe. A little.