Sliding scales of male tsundere

Sliding scales of male tsundere

A tsundere is a character who is both ‘tsuntsun,’ (aloof) and ‘deredere,’ (sweet). While most anime and manga fans associate the term tsundere with female characters like Haruhi (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) and Taiga (Toradora), many male love interests in shojo series also have tsundere qualities. Some of them are cold and gradually warm up over the course of the series (usually because of the main female character), while others seem hotblooded yet are actually shy. Because of this range in tsundere personality types, I feel as though the following male tsunderes are sliding on a scale from cold to hot. Of course, this is all my personal opinion, and some of the characters I’ve listed I’ve never seen labeled as tsundere yet I feel fit right in.

Naoki Irie (Itazura na Kiss – 1990)

Level of Tsundere: Neptune is warmer…

The paragon of the cold tsundere love interest. He’s a genius at everything from academics to tennis to cooking. He doesn’t get close to people, so he’s hard to figure out. Naoki has a lot of pride and is confident in his abilities,  but when it comes to love he barely lets on that he cares. In favor of romatic gestures, Naoki prefers to brutally tease Kotoko about everything from her (lack of) grace to her body, publicly rejects her love letter and dismisses her in front of her entire class. Most importantly, he can run circles around her in terms of intelligence. Thus, Naoki is someone who is ‘above’ Kotoko – she’s out of his league and she has to work hard to earn his love. And because melting moments for him are few and far between, it takes a while for the audience to warm up to him.

Shinichi Chiaki (Nodame Cantabile – 2001)

Level of Tsundere: a Slurpee

A music prodigy, Chiaki sees everyone around him as an idiot. From to his perfectionist music style to his tidy apartment, Chiaki does everything by the book. Like Naoki, he’s pompous, is a good cook, and is admired by many of the students at his school, especially women. However, he isn’t ‘perfect’ at everything and does have weaknesses, including a fear of flying that is preventing him from accomplishing his dream of travelling to Europe so he can study to become a famous conductor. And despite his arrogance, he often gets roped into doing favors for his classmates (usually due to Nodame’s whims), so while he may be berating them he’s still helping them out. In particular, he shows concern for Nodame when she does something foolish (which is often), which reveals his feelings for her. As the series progresses, Chiaki realizes how snobby he used to be and starts to loosen up.

Rui Hanazawa (Boys Over Flowers/Hana Yori Dango – 1992)

Level of Tsundere: Dippin’ Dots

Now, I’ve never seen anyone label Rui a tsundere – usually fans just describe him as being quiet and very mysterious. However, I consider Rui a tsundere because like Naoki, he doesn’t interact with people much or get attached to them. He’s also bipolar – sometimes he’s really harsh and acts like he doesn’t even like Tsukushi (let alone love her), yet other times he’s nice to her. Naoki acts this way too, but it’s usually realizing the depth of Kotoko’s feelings for him that makes him act nicer – but Rui’s switches don’t seem to be for any particular reason. Even though Rui has been shown to be a ‘prince charming’ later on in the manga, he’s not perfect at everything like Naoki is. He also seems superior to Tsukushi – probably because she acts really awkward and unlike herself around him. The complexity of his character makes him hard to figure out, especially when his feelings for Shizuka are still in the mix – so perhaps this is why the audience preferred Tsukasa as the main love interest, and Rui lost his leading role.

Yuu Matsuura (Marmalade Boy – 1992)

Level of Tsundere: Marmalade-flavored shaved ice

He’s good at academics, sports and cooking, but he’s not ‘perfect’ at everything like Naoki is. He teases Miki, but in a less cruel way than Naoki and less childishly than Tsukasa – if anything, his teasing is pretty affectionate in comparison. Although he doesn’t get attached to people, he does smile and acts friendly towards others in a distant way (whereas Naoki won’t even bother with people). And like Naoki, he seems to be ‘above’ Miki, who is average, and has many girls who like him. However, unlike Naoki, he doesn’t seem to have any problems with admitting his feelings to Miki. He’s ‘hard to read,’ according to Miki, but slight signs of jealousy reveal his feelings for her to the audience, which makes him less mysterious than Rui. However, he does have other hidden secrets he is tormented over… Perhaps because his character isn’t as extreme as some of the other ones, he doesn’t stand out as much as other ‘cold’ male love interests.

Izumi Sano (Hana-Kimi – 1996)

Level of Tsundere: Tap Water…and just as boring

Another one who is not normally labeled a tsundere, but I will because he warms up over the course of the series, which is a typical tsundere trait. Cold Angtsy Guy #3571, there’s nothing very different about Sano in comparison to other tsunderes. He’s generically athletic, smart and popular with girls even though he goes to an all-boys school. Even though he’s had family problems, he explains that the reason he initially treats Mizuki coldly is because he apparently doesn’t know how to talk to girls (which is makes no sense considering how easily he was able to talk to his former manager who is female).  At first, he bottles up his anxieties  about the pressure he faces to high jump. However, he openly laughs and smilies, so he’s not as closed-off as Akito. Sano’s friends point out that he’s like a ‘mother-cat’ with Mizuki, and that he’s changed since meeting her. Thus, even though Sano’s friends say he’s closed-off, like Yuu, Sano’s not anywhere near as cold as Naoki. There have been times it was more difficult to tell what Sano is thinking than Naoki – not because Sano’s more mysterious, but because I simply didn’t find him interesting enough to care.

Akito Hayama (Kodocha – 1994)

Level of Tsundere: a Junior Frosty that’s been out in the sun

I consider Akito to have a unique blend of traits from both cold and more volatile tsunderes. Even though he’s only 11, he’s quiet and a ‘lone wolf’ who does his own thing. While he’s smart and athletic, unlike Naoki, he’s not perfect at everything.  He’s cynical and never smiles, yet he also won’t lie, even to people he dislikes. However, he does have a fiesty side – he has a temper that causes him to kick things (though he’s not as violent as Tsukasa). However, unlike other tsundere love interests, he and Sana feel like equals. Even though he’s popular, she’s one of the few people who understands him and they both can only be themselves around each other. Sana herself is spunky and one of the few people willing to stand up to Akito when he causes trouble in their classroom. Unlike Naoki, Akito does at least accept his love for Sana, and tries to express his emotions the only way he can by saying he ‘doesn’t hate’ Sana. Furthermore, he has a few close friends, and is looked up to by the other guys in his class, so he’s not a complete loner.  We can see how his tragic background shaped him into the person he is, who can only see things negatively, and rather than thinking he’s a jerk, we really feel sorry for him.

Tasuku Kurosaki (Dengeki Daisy – 2007)

 Level of Tsundere: Medium salsa (since he doesn’t like tomatoes)

Kurosaki slides more on the hotblooded side of the tsundere scale. He is a reformed deliquent-turned janitor who loves to tease Teru by pulling her hair or calling her a ‘puny A-cup.’ Like most other male tsunderes he is resistant to admit his love for Teru. However, this is because Kurosaki feels guilty about his past, and thus his teasing isn’t meant to be cruel like Naoki – instead, he is doing it because he feels like he doesn’t deserve Teru and doesn’t want her to know of his feelings. He’s quick to anger and violent with anyone who threatens Teru , but he rarely blows up at Teru beyond teasing her. Like Kyo, he’s actually shy around the girl he loves but tries to hide it – he blushes when Teru compliments him or shows him any affection. One thing I love is that Kyousuke Motomi, the author of Dengeki Daisy, makes fun of Kurosaki’s tsundere ways in a very tongue-in-cheek manner.

Kyo Sohma (Fruits Basket – 1999)

Level of Tsundere: Kimchi
He’s prone to violent outbursts, just like Tsukasa – however, he doesn’t pick fights with strangers like Tsukasa does and instead has a grudge solely against one person, his rival Yuki. The curse of the Zodiac has made Kyo uncomfortable in social situations, and since he feels unaccepted by his own family, he doesn’t get close to others. Unlike most love interests who are popular, Kyo is often teased (especially by Tohru’s friends). His tendency to yell and lash out at people comes from his shyness and inability to express himself. This is also true when it comes to Tohru, who he worries about in his in own way (which often involves yelling at her whenever she’s careless). Although he’s hot-blooded, Kyo shares similarities with colder tsunderes – for example, he rarely smiles. And like other fiesty tsunderes, he’s often awkward and at a loss for words during tender moments, which brings out his dere-dere side.

Tsukasa Domyoji (Boys Over Flowers/Hana Yori Dango – 1992)
Level of Tsundere: The sun seems like frozen yogurt in comparison…

He’s pompous like Naoki, but he doesn’t actually have the skills to back it up considering he’s not that bright. Instead of being cold and disinterested, he ‘s loud, violent, and teases Tsukushi like a child. Unlike other male tsunderes, who rarely let their motivations show, Tsukasa’s childish goofiness makes him transparent, thus hurting his ‘cool’ factor. But it’s because of his childishness that he and Tsukushi feel like equals despite the fact that he’s rich and powerful – and that they’re both quick to anger, and stubborn. Unlike most other male tsunderes in shojo manga, Tsukasa has no problem telling Tsukushi he loves her once he figures out his feelings for her, and is willing to give up everything to be with her. So rather than being mysterious, Tsukasa is obvious and overt, which makes him both hard to handle and hard to resist.  All of the contradictions in Tsukasa’s character – that he’s violent yet gentle, arrogant yet selfless – ultimately make him not only unique, but very lovable.

There are many other male tsundere characters, from Shaoran in Cardcaptor Sakura to Hikaru in Ouran High School Host ClubThis page provides a good list of other examples.  I feel that in many cases, the more tsundere the love interest is, the more interesting the romance is because there tends to be a lot of push-pull between the male and main female protagonist. I seem to like tsunderes who are extreme, like Tsukasa, or ones whose reasons for being jerks are interesting and cast them in a sympathetic light, like Kurosaki and Akito. Do you guys like male tsundere love interests or not? And who are your favorites?


22 thoughts on “Sliding scales of male tsundere

  1. I wouldn’t consider Kyo a tsundere character — I think the “Jerk with a Heart of Gold” trope fits him better. He’s a character that’s outwardly jerk-like to everybody; his ‘tsuntsun’ isn’t triggered by the love interest, and his ‘deredere’ nature that we see is usually just his heart of gold making its way to the surface. His acts of sudden, uncharacteristic kindness aren’t always on Tohru’s behalf. He’s just a nice guy with a grumpy disposition.

    1. That’s still a tsundere, though – many tsundere characters use their aloofness as a mask to guard themselves. And even in cases where the dere-dere side of the character is actually their default state and they only rarely have cold moments still counts because there’s still that inbalance. And male tsunderes have a tendency to be labeled by fans as a jerk with a heart of gold rather than as tsunderes.

      1. In terms of a ‘new-age’ tsundere (having a combative personality and not a predominant shift from tsun to dere), a character can have swaying emotions without having to be a labeled a tsundere; the difference is that a tsundere’s disposition usually changes in response to certain characters. It’s usually a love interest, but not always. Lucky Star’s Kagami is a good example, since she’s typically a sulky but mild-mannered character whose tsuntsun is almost exclusively triggered by Konata.

        I can see why Kyo could be (and often is) considered a tsundere under the ever-evolving criteria of the term, but he still strikes me as a jerk with a heart of gold because his mood swings aren’t usually in response to another character’s actions — something just clicks in his head and he decides to good (or bad) by it, on his own terms.

        I think the only thing an ‘imbalance’ really shows in a character is that they just have heavy mood swings or are bipolar (the latter probably being why ‘tsundere’ is sometimes localized as ‘bipolar’ during translation).

        I agree that male tsunderes are often labeled as jerks with a heart of gold. Probably because some fans are trying to illustrate a separation in gender. That is, tsundere are female and the male counterpart is the “jerk with a heart of gold.” I personally do not agree with this segregation. Some characters are explicitly tsundere based purely on reactions to certain characters (your example of Tasuku Kurosaki is spot-on), but it’s harder to separate the jerk and the tsundere. The two terms are strongly correlated, but a tsundere can be a tsundere irregardless of JWHoG status.

      2. A tsundere can certainly mask themselves from all characters around them and come out sometimes rather than just with a love interest! That may be the most appealing type in terms of plot but any character(s) count, not just love interest, period. As for the dere-dere side being default, there is a name for that kind of tsundere…

  2. I love the set up here and how you rated each male love interest based mainly on food. Very creative and good job!

    Looks like we both had male love interests in shojo on the brain. I always enjoy reading stories where a guy who is cool to start gradually warms up over time. Their transformation from being the cold one to one who is warm and open is exciting to see.

    Tsukasa is my favorite tsundere. He’s also my favorite “jerk with the heart of gold” (as you saw in my recent post) because he has the most development in HYD. You really see him mature and become less short tempered, impatient, and immature to become the kind of guy you can see Tsukushi end up with. I also found Tsukasa more interesting than Rui to be honest. At times I found Rui to be very boring in comparison to Tsukasa. Rui felt more like a wet blanket type of love interest.

    1. Thank you! When I saw your post I was shocked we had written about such similar topics around the same time! Sometimes I feel like bloggers are on the same wavelength. 😀

      Totally agree, Tsukasa manages to take elements that are common tsundere traits but still feels different than most other ones. I’ve also noticed that I have a higher tolerance for male tsunderes than female ones. And I agree with you about Rui 100%, which is why I never understood why some fans prefer him over Tsukasa. There were times Rui was meaner to Tsukushi than Tsukasa was, even though he was supposed to be the nice guy! And aside from the relationship between Tsukushi and Tsukasa, Tsukasa’s character development was probably the series’ biggest strength, especially because some series with the ‘jerk love interest becoming nicer’ plot isn’t convincingly executed.

      1. Looks that way. It’s awesome when bloggers can be on the same page with topics that interest them and still manage to come up with something completely different at the same time. 😉

        I think considering Rui is supposed to be the designated “nice guy” of shojo love interests, he does come off surprisingly cold for a nice guy. I’ve read stuff where the designated nice guy doesn’t act as cold as he does. It’s hard to believe that he’s considered to be the “better choice” for Tsukushi between him and Tsukasa. Rui also acts less interested in Tsukushi even when he decides he may be falling for her! Between the two of them, I’ll always root for Tsukasa and Tsukushi to be together.

    2. You have encapsulated the reasons why I love Tsukasa so much. Although at the beginning, you are supposed to like him because he so mean to Tsukushi, at the point of almost raping her, his development into a more mature and selfless character is what endeared him to me. His willingness to give up everything for her is what made me fall in love with him. Unlike Rui, he is the perfect love interest for Tsukushi and I am glad the mangaka changed her mind on this

      1. Thanks for commenting! Tsukasa steals the spotlight right from the start of Hanadan because he’s so goofy – you can’t help but laugh that he would think Tsukushi likes him or when he makes one of his many grammatical mistakes. What I love is that even after Tsukasa is shown to be extremely loyal and willing to do anything for Tsukushi, he’s just as pompous as ever, which helps his character development still feel realistic.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post! Very interesting and creative. I always love stories with a male Tsundere. Although it might be common and a bit cliched, I think it makes for a great romance. Two of my favourites that you have explore are Yuu and Kyo. I also have a soft spot for Ryoki Tachibana of Hot Gimmick, he really is a Tsundere for life!

    1. Thank you so much! And I’ve noticed that not only do I also like stories with male tsunderes, I also tend to like when both partners are tsunderes. This way, it doesn’t feel like either character is being walked over. I never cared much for what I’ve read of Hot Gimmick, and it’s probably because I felt like Hatsumi is too passive to be truly equal to (or even be able to handle) Ryoki.

  4. I know what you mean, she is very passive throughout. But ultimately she chooses who to be with so I feel like that is her redeeming factor. Stories with a pair of Tsunderes are great, I like the comedy value accompanies that set up.

  5. Personally, I’ve always felt Rui was more kuudere than tsundere as he comes off more unemotional, but it’s a nice list nonetheless and I echo what others have said, the naming and colour scheme is very creative.

    Out of the list, I’m only familiar with Rui, Kyo, and Tsukasa and out of them I only really liked Tsukasa as a love interest. It’s because I like the dynamic between him and Tsukushi. 🙂 I find I’m pretty hit and miss with tsunderes (both male and female). I usually do like female tsunderes because they tend to be more interesting than sweet moe girl, but there are a few even I don’t like because they are too over the top. For male tsunderes, it depends more on the dynamic of the relationship. I also noticed I tend to like the fiery type for males more often. :]

    1. I was going to mention other character types that are similar to tsunderes, because I felt that in some ways Akito and Rui fit into the kuudere category as well. However, I chose not to because I feel that for both of them they go back and forth between being nice and mean, which is a general tsundere trait. And thank you for mentioning the color scheme – if I were a bit more technologically-savvy maybe I could have created something a bit more obvious to show the color change from cold to hot and how each guy fits into the scale.

      Female tsunderes are very hit or miss with me – sometimes I like them, like Teru in Dengeki Daisy, while others really annoy me like Haruhi Suzumiya, probably because she’s so bossy. It really depends on how extreme they are.

      I also generally like fiery tsunderes more, probably because they have a tendency to be shy or goofy, which I find to be really sweet.

      1. I like Haruhi (but she is nowhere near my favourite character), but she does dance a fine line for me. Her obnoxiousness sort of grew on me in the end and she is a nice foil to Kyon, which is why I like them as a couple (and for me anything is better than moe blob Mikiru D: ) For me, Louise from Zero no Tsukiama was too much. She’s so violent and childish, I just could not take her or the relationship seriously. D: Shana from Shakugan no Shana, also danced a very fine line. Ultimately, I don’t hate her, but I don’t like her either.

    1. I didn’t put Ichigo on this list because I was specifically discussing male characters from shojo series and Bleach is, obviously, a shonen series. Thanks for commenting!

  6. PFFT. Tsukasa is my favorite tsundere! He’s pro’lly the most tsundere guy I’ve seen in a manga 😉

    Then again, Tsukasa and Tsukushi are tsundere’s! No wonder their names begin with “Tsu.”

    (From Vol. 13, Chap 5)
    Shizuka: You’re getting along well with Tsukasa, aren’t you?
    Both: Hah?
    Tsukushi: N-No way! With this idiot!?
    Doumyouji: Moron! That’s my line! Me get along with this pug-nose!? You’ve got to be kidding me!

    ^ Both of them were blushing too (cause of the “warming up” incident in Canada xD)

    1. “He’s pro’lly the most tsundere guy I’ve seen in a manga.”

      Hence why I put him at the end of the scale. 😉 Not too many other guys pull off tsundere as well as Tsukasa does. And the fact that both he and Tsukushi are tsunderes is probably why they work so well together in my opinion.

  7. Syaoran Li is my favorite tsundere character, he is aloof and stoic yet cute and shy on the same time. He always shows this tendency towards Sakura and to some extent Yukito. And I like him a bit more when he is shows his gentle more, especially troughtout the near end of the series and the Cardcaptor Sakura: The Sealed Card movie.

  8. I think tsukasa beat everyone. I mean there are so many shoujo’s out there , but no one of them come cross to hana yori dango.

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