The Tsundere and Misunderstandings

I’ll start by saying the title of this article has many different meanings, one of which is that you most certainly misunderstood what this article is going to be about. But I’ll start with what most people probably did think of. The tsundere is an archetype encompassing well known characters like Taiga, Shana, Nagi, and Louise. In fact, those 4 are so famous, they are called by some as the Four Tsundere Wonders. And of course I can’t ignore the fact that such (in)famous characters are all voiced by the same person: Kugimiya Rie, the so-called Queen of Tsundere. If you are familiar at all with the concept of a tsundere, you probably thought of a character of hers as soon as you read the title of this article. Although her time in the spotlight of voicing countless tsundere has ended, there was a period when this was all she was known for – and she was all tsundere were known for. This period was roughly 2006-2012, which overlapped with a spike in the Western anime fanbase, partly due to the growth in popularity of streaming services. The result is that many people associate tsundere with Kugimiya Rie and also with all her tsundere roles. And that is unfortunate.

Shana, one of KugiRie's many tsundere roles
Shana, one of KugiRie’s many tsundere roles

Pretty much everyone who thinks this way has two major misconceptions. The first is that her roles are an accurate representation of the tsundere archetype, when in fact, they are the worst representation of said archetype. It was once said a poorly written yandere is just a crazy girl, but a poorly written tsundere is still a tsundere. It’s really easy to make use of this archetype, no matter how poorly executed, and when coupled with Kugimiya Rie, that’s exactly what anime got for several years – really bad, copy paste characters who could only exhibit a few cliched actions. The second, and this is not so relevant to the rest of this post, is that Rie is incapable of doing other voices. In reality, she’s a pretty talented voice actress but the demand caused her to get typecasted to a single voice, and now that’s all everyone knows her for. But I’d like to focus on the first point. When so many people consider her roles as the standard for tsundere, it completely skews their opinions on the archetype. A lot of people hate on it, some for good reasons, but most for really bad reasons, reasons that result from a completely skewed understanding of how the archetype should work, instead only knowing how it has been simplified to the most formulistic writing possible. Indeed, it is arguable that the current definition of a tsundere has changed to mean such an incredibly annoying and one-dimensional character. However, among Japanese otaku, there is a different voice actress known for the tsundere archetype: Aoyama Yukari, the “Goddess of Tsundere.” Except you’ve probably never heard of her tsundere roles because most of them are exclusive to VNs, many of which aren’t even translated. The difference between her roles and Kugimiya Rie’s roles can be pretty astounding. As such, there is an incredible gap in perception of the archetype between Japanese fans and Western fans. I won’t go as far as to say Aoyama’s roles will change your opinion but I do think there is a clear degree of faultless ignorance among Western fans regarding what actually (or at least, originally) constitutes the archetype in question. This isn’t an issue of critical thinking or being close-minded; it’s a problem caused by a lack of experience, cultural gaps, and a changing definition that creates an unfortunate misunderstanding between people who think of the best examples and those who think of the worst despite the same term being used.

Christianity runs into a similar problem due to this abstract language barrier of intended meaning and perceived meaning. I previously wrote on how it is impossible to truly understand God, but even in regards to things we can understand, there are many things lost in misunderstands. Miscommunication and misunderstandings are a common problem between friends and family, and this is in part because language is inherently subjective. How a person interprets a given sentence is colored by their personal experiences, beliefs, personalities and current state of mind, and most importantly, relationship with the speaker. All these points are important to proper communication but the last point is what I want to focus on right now. Explaining Christianity to others is hard but even more so to those who already have poor opinions of Christians and their beliefs (which can often be for understandable reasons).

While we use universally common words, the weight and depth of them are so much different than how others understand them to be. Love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, etc. But rarely, if ever, are these words used to express the same depth as God’s love, mercy, etc. for us. The fundamental problem with conveying Christianity through mere words is that words are too limited. Whether it’s because people use the words too loosely or that people don’t sincerely want the words to be so powerful, it is inevitable that society has different meanings that, while still appreciative, fail to grasp the same meanings as when God uses them. As a result, when we describe God as loving or merciful, it is doubtful whether others truly understand the extent of what we imply. We cannot assume that the language we intend to use is understood the same way by the listeners because everyone will interpret your words (even these words right now) differently. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Thus, it is only through actions that we can accurately show God’s love (but this opens up new problems that I don’t wish to address at this time).

Aoyama Yukari saying a tsundere line
Aoyama Yukari saying a tsundere line

I sometimes get annoyed in my attempt to explain how the tsundere archetype can work because there are so many other fans of the archetype – fans that advocate the exact thing I do not support. This only ever works against me because everyone thinks they already know what I’m talking about or doesn’t really attempt to listen or engage seriously. Or, even worse, they assume that I am not correct in my stance for being so different from the other fans. In the same way, people may have already received an explanation by a Christian, except not in the way it should be conveyed. It would be unfair of us to expect them to distinguish what is “true” when everyone is claiming to be the “real” version of Christianity. They might be simply tired of listening to exhausting explanations, content to simply not engage us at all because they have long since decided Christianity just isn’t for them. And there is even the possibility that they may label us as the odd ones out – that we are Christians who happen to be loving people rather than loving people because we are Christians. There is no simple way to dispel this line of thinking, and once again, communication alone has its limitations. But the important thing is to recognize that these people are not necessarily being stubborn, prideful, or unfair; rather, they are the unfortunate results of misunderstandings.

Yet perhaps the biggest problem in this unintended miscommunication is when we ourselves don’t get it – when we think we understand the depth of God’s love and the messages of the Bible but its true meaning still eludes us. This is possibly the biggest problem of Christianity in today’s society where there is so much miscommunication brought about by misunderstandings across generations. I already alluded to so-called Christians getting it wrong enough as to give others very poor impressions of our beliefs. But what I want to address are the Christians who are closer to the truth than most but still fail to grasp the full meanings. And while I think no one, not me, nor anyone else can truly do so, there are those who think they have. What first comes to my mind are those who push their kind of relationship with God onto others. But what works for one person does not work for another, and God’s love is so vast and deep that no two people have the same kind of relationship with God. Failure to understand these differences is a failure to understand God and the extent of His love. We might view someone too liberal as sinful despite their heart being right with God, or we might view someone too conservative as being too legalistic even though they personally struggle greatly with (what we view as) the smallest of things. Although I previously said it was not possible to fully understand God, that does not mean we cannot understand anything nor should we give up on trying. Rather, one of the most important things we need to do is understanding God as best as we can, without any misunderstandings (though lack of understanding is inevitable) because if we misunderstand God, we will only serve to further cause misunderstandings to others. All this said, it isn’t my place to say what is or isn’t the correct interpretation of God. However, I do hope everyone keeps in mind that God and Christianity are not as simple or easy to understand as we often would like to believe, and that even among fellow believers, misunderstandings are everywhere. It is through these collective misunderstandings that so few people against, or even for, Christianity truly understand it themselves. Like the term tsundere has changed to mean different things over the years, people now associate Christianity with many different things, and now we have the dilemma of which parts are truth and which parts aren’t. However, we must always seek to resolve these misunderstandings not for the sake of proving someone right or wrong but for the sake of understanding God.

7 thoughts on “The Tsundere and Misunderstandings

  1. This is one of many reasons why I’m a big fan of diving deep into understanding the history of Christianity, theology, denominations, traditions, etc. Not that it necessarily provides all the solutions or even changes one’s own convictions, but that doing so honors the complexity of the still speaking God (as we quip in the UCC). Knowing one’s faith roots, however, does often answer that “why do we believe what we believe/do what we do” question to some extent. And I say all of this as someone who still knows very little about the vast and varied Christian traditions. 🙂

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    1. I really like that you mention it doesn’t necessarily change one’s own convictions. It’s so common for people to label other beliefs as “wrong,” without understanding why because they really mean “different from my beliefs.” When you start digging into the origins of these deviations in beliefs, it really helps in respecting different viewpoints even if your convictions remain unchanged.

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  2. Now I’m curious as to how you think the tsundere archetype works. I have my own thoughts on tsunderes, but I’d like to hear what are possible misunderstandings I have on the archetype.

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