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 Club. This 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?