If there is a greater window into the Japanese psyche than anime, I have yet to find it. Anime has always been about people and worlds. It includes vastly different kinds of people, all of them distinctly Japanese. Throughout my journey of watching anime, I’ve seen different kinds of characters emerge, and their patterns of behavior resemble weird characters in my life, my close friends, or even myself.
While I’ve seen my share of anime characters that I find unsavory, and some that I outright disliked, there are few characters I find to be as boring as your garden-variety professional (but who knows, even they might even be a kamidere obsessed with harvesting souls of subordinates). From psychotic class presidents with gambling addictions, to timid schoolgirls with no self-esteem, to bold fighters seeking to protect the ones they love, to psychotic lovers who will resort to murder; I’m sure there is an anime character personality out there for you!
For those of us with no background in Japanese language, the word “dere” is derived from the term “dere dere” (デレデレ), meaning lovestruck. Combining “dere” with other Japanese words, namely “yan“, “tsun“, “kuu“, and so on, creates the different kinds of personalities in the world of Japanese anime. I’ve thrown all the rules out the door, and begun creating a list of different archetypes. In this article I included the Japanese archetypes as subcategories for my personal categories.
These are your standard badass characters in an anime. Their personalities contain two facets: a rougher, harsher side, and friendlier, softer side. The standard tsundere is one that is abrasive and verbally abusive. They are often shown using words like “baka,” when dealing with their love interest, and are uncomfortable with emotions. They flush red, stutter, and verbally trip over their words when feelings are involved. A classic example of this character is Edward Elric. He’s such a tsundere he can be in a dramatic fight one day and then begin reciting the periodic table of elements when just sitting next to Winry Rockbell the next day in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Other characters from that anime include Olivier Mira Armstrong, or Izumi Curtis. Or Ash Ketchum, from Pokémon.
There is a second kind of tsundere. This character is friendly and amicable with most people, right until they are dealing with their love interest. This character becomes “tsun“, or abrasive and harsh, since they cannot understand how to deal with their feelings. To continue down the FMA:B vein, Winry Rockbell is generally kind-hearted and gentle, until dealing with Edward Elric, when she turns into a violent, wrench-swinging mechanic. Other tsundere of this kind include Misty, from Pokémon, or Levy McGarden, from Fairytale.
Other notable tsundere:
Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion
Toosaka Rin from Fate/stay night
Makise Kurisu from Steins;Gate
Vegeta from Dragonball Z
Barnaby from Tiger & Bunny
These are the quiet, stoic, often emotionally removed characters. They are usually calm, composed, and unexpressive, despite the fact that they strongly care for those they love. This is an interesting facet of the Japanese psyche, which tends to conceal true feelings of love and care as such displays can be seen as a form of weakness. I would even argue that this is an even more populous category than the main tsundere grouping of characters. Some of our favorites include Spike Spiegel, who spends most of his time listlessly lounging away, napping, or watching TV on the Bebop. Some other prominent kuudere are Mikasa Ackermann from Shingeki no Kyojin, Saber from Fate Stay/Night, or Riza Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
Other notable kuudere:
Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion
Homura Akemi from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Yuki Nagato from Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu
Hitagi Senjougahara from Bakemonogatari
Hancock Boa from One Piece
The second component of the “Wallflower” category include the dandere. Call me a brony, but my go-to for explaining this category is Fluttershy, from My Little Pony (which is not an anime, I agree). These characters are your typical wallflowers, the quiet girls and guys who sit in the back of the classroom, who probably know the answers of every question, but don’t raise their hands for fear of drawing attention. These tend to be those characters who internalize all their thoughts and create extensive monologues in their head without taking any action that have the audience crying out “Just say it already!” These are the gentlest and sweetest characters, and once you break them out of their shell, they are more outgoing. Some include Shihoro from Hai to Gensou no Grimgar or Japan from Hetalia: Axis Powers.
Other notable dandere:
Mio Akiyama from K-on!
Tsukimi Kurashita from Princess Jellyfish
Mikuru Asahina from Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu
Hinata Hyuuga from Naruto
Atsushi Murasakibara from Kuroko no Basuket
Most of us are somewhat happy people, overall pretty content with our lives, but this category of characters puts us to shame when being scaled on a level of relative happiness. Have you ever seen one of those people who are happily coupled, in the stages of “puppy-love”, who are on each other’s laps all the time? The term “dere dere” (デレデレ), as above, means “lovestruck”. These are the infuriatingly happy characters that you want to slap because our current level of happiness is nowhere near theirs.
Chiyo Sakura from Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Hotaru Ichijo from Non Non Biyori
Meiko “Menma” Honma from Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai
Chiho Sasaki from Hataraku Maou-sama!
Maes Hughes from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
It brings me overwhelming joy to share this last (and certainly not least) category. Each of the characters and categories exemplifies a different kind of crazy, whether it’s an unhealthy obsession with a loved object, or having a god-complex. This is all sorts of crazy, and probably one of my favorite sections.
This is probably my favorite category of crazy. Imagine Light Yagami from Death Note, think of how he believes himself to exhibit godlike powers over the world, and how he thinks he’s morally untouchable, then you have a picture of the personality of the kamidere. These are the Dr. Moriarty’s of the anime world. Other prominent kamidere include Gilgamesh from Fate Stay/Night and Satsuki Kiryuuin from Kill la Kill.
Other notable kamidere:
Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch
Akihiko Kayaba from Sword Art Online
Alex Rosewater from The Big O
Enel from One Piece
Mio Isurugi from MM!
These characters take “crazy in love” to a literal level. While they appear amicable and friendly on the outside, they are rotten on the inside, and it leads to manic or obsessive behaviors. If you’ve ever seen Griffith’s behavior in the Berserk series, he clearly meant that he “owned” Guts in more ways than one. If you imagine the equivalent of celebrity stalkers who take this obsession to a homicidal level, then you have your typical yandere. The archetype of this character type began with Gasai Yuno, from Mirai Nikki (Future Diary).
Other notable yandere/sadodere:
Hitagi Senjogahara from Nisemonogatari
Ringo Oginome from Mawaru Penguindrum
Mahiru Hyuuga from Kamisama Dolls
Lucy from Elfen Lied
Mika Harima from Durarara!!
Bonus: The Hedonists
I came up with the idea to do this archetype after watching Kakegurui, an anime focused on Yumeko Jamabi, a girl attending a prominent school where the social hierarchy is based on gambling acumen. She doesn’t seem to register the standard feelings, instead only experiencing a thrill when taking risks with astronomical stakes. There are plenty of these hedonists who find a thrill in something, and that seems to define their entire personality.
What are your thoughts on these? What is your favorite category, or the category you think you fit most into? Did I capture the right ideas behind these anime characters, were there categories that I missed? Please share your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org!