In 2007, the anime Lucky Star proposed the idea that there had been at some point a fundamental shift in what it meant to be “tsundere.” A character archetype whose primary trait is a shift from hate to love for another, Lucky Star argues that tsundere can be roughly divided into two groups: traditional and modern. Since then, another related character archetype has been on the rise, which is the “yandere,” or a character who goes from being in love to being obsessed/psychotically dangerous. What I believe is that the yandere also has two main versions, such that there is a difference between a “traditional yandere” and a “modern yandere.”
The difference between the traditional tsundere and the modern tsundere is a matter of time. The traditional tsundere is a character that starts off hating another character, but grows to fall in love over time. It is a process by which a character transitions from “tsun” (cold and disdainful) to “dere” (warm and sweet) over the course of a story. An example of a traditional tsundere is Nagaoka Shiho from the visual novel To Heart, who begins the story antagonistic towards the main character, but eventually falls in love with him (provided you play the correct route of course).
Misaka Mikoto, A Certain Magical Index
In contrast, the modern tsundere, flip flops between the two feelings constantly, as if both are constantly bubbling up inside. This is the type of character that will say, “It’s not like I made this lunch for you, okay?!” Misaka Mikoto from the A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun is a popular example, as her feelings for the hero Kamijou Touma are at constant war with each other, and he constantly becomes the target of her violent responses.
**Note that the distinction of “traditional” and “modern” is somewhat of a misnomer, as both archetypes have co-existed for a long time. That being said, the traditional tsundere appears much less frequently in current manga, possibly as a result of an increasing shift towards “database narratives” and emphasis on kyara (the qualities that make a character seem "real"). The distinction can also be nebulous, with characters possessing elements of both sides.**
What About Yandere?
Asakura Ryouko, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi
The traditional yandere, then, is a character that starts off sweet, possibly in love, and then is gradually shown to be highly dangerous. The reveal that a given character is yandere is a kind of “event,” a twist that shows the dark underbelly of her inner psyche, such as in the case of Asakura Ryouko from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. The modern yandere, in turn, is one whose psychosis is evident from almost the very beginning, to the point that love and harmful intent are as one, being expressed at the same time in a kind of extreme form of sadism.
The character that inspired my consideration of different yandere archetypes is actually Toga Himiko from My Hero Academia, whom I would call a “modern yandere.” A supervillain who gains power from inflicting large wounds and draining blood from her victims, her ideal man is someone who looks like he’s been beaten within an inch of his life. Moreover, her actual character design immediately invokes the yandere archetype with a disturbing, ever-present stare and an all-too-wide smile that reveals fang-like canines.
Toga Himiko, My Hero Academia (Chapter 80)
Much like the tsundere, there isn’t a sharp divide between the two yandere types, and in a way it has a lot to do with when exactly the “reveal” occurs. In Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist, childhood love interest Nishikinomiya Anna starts off normal, but within the span of a few episodes is revealed to have another side to her, which then persists throughout the rest of the series.
Are you a fan of yandere? Do you prefer traditional yandere, modern yandere, or a “healthy” mix between the two? Or, does the very notion of yandere bother you and you can’t understand why anyone would even be into this archetype? Chime in and leave a comment below!