There are certain archetypes you can rely on always seeing in a good visual novel — and the ever-popular tsundere is one of the most commonly seen. So I thought it might be fun to pick out five of the best tsunderes from visual novels!
I always find the enduring popularity of the tsundere archetype rather interesting, because it’s one that would doubtless be absolutely infuriating to live with in real life. I mean, can you imagine living with someone who constantly berated you for things that didn’t really matter and refused to admit that they actually liked you when really they go weak at the knees at the very thought of you? I mean, sure, the inevitable “dere” moments would, in theory, make it all worthwhile, but I suspect daily life with the “tsun” bit would get very tiresome after a while.
And yet! And yet. The best tsundere characters in visual novels are some of the most enduringly popular characters in general; they’re memorable, they often have interesting backstories and, more often than not, they’re also spectacularly attractive. The knowledge that we’re dealing with pure fantasy allows us to separate ourselves from what would be the reality of a relationship with a tsundere, and simply enjoy the fun side of things — gradually winning over someone who initially puts across the impression that they absolutely do not want to be won over.
Anyway. Enough philosophising; let’s get to some of the best tsunderes in visual novels. And as always, this list isn’t an exhaustive one — if you’ve got some of your own favourites, feel free to share ’em down in the comments, or write us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!
We could absolutely not have a list of the best tsunderes without including Rin Tohsaka, who originated in Fate stay/night back in 2004. Rin is an immensely important character to Japanese popular media in general, because she helped to popularise a whole host of things that we take for granted today — including the tsundere archetype itself, as well as “zettai ryouiki”, the “absolute zone” of visible thigh above stocking or sock tops.
But Rin is more than just a meme or a list of popular character elements; she’s a fascinating character in her own right. And considering she is, in many ways, the codifier of the tsundere trope, she actually keeps things relatively mild in that regard. She doesn’t put across the impression that she hates protagonist Shirou for no reason; rather, she simply tries to keep him at arm’s length because she knows that the nature of the Holy Grail War will inevitably bring them into conflict with one another at some point.
She’s intelligent, she’s one of the most knowledgeable characters about the whole situation in the original Fate stay/night, she’s a powerful mage and she’s always willing to do the right thing when the shit truly hits the fan — even if that means having exceedingly uncomfortable sexual intercourse with a visual novel protagonist.
My Girlfriend is the President is one of my favourite visual novels, not because it’s especially deep and meaningful, but because it’s composed with such joy; it’s hard not to get swept along by its energetic comedy and its incredibly colourful characters — and, as it happens, it’s also home to one of the best tsunderes in visual novels.
Irina Putina is the president of Rusia (sic). She shows up quite early in the story, ostensibly to discuss official matters with Nipponese president Yukino Ohama, but ends up hanging around because, in the tradition of all the best tsunderes, she’s actually sad and lonely and wants some friends to hang out with. In many ways, she is a textbook tsundere — she relentlessly pursues the affections of protagonist Junichiro, but would never admit that she is doing so — but ultimately comes across as a very likeable character with an endearing element of fragility to her.
She’s also the source of some of the most significant character growth for Junichiro; a sequence where she takes genuine offence after he mocks her hobbies and interests, even after she has demonstrated her passion for them, makes him realise that sometimes — just sometimes — it’s a good idea to dial things back a bit and turn off the “cocky dickhead” act. You may be the protagonist, but sometimes it ain’t about you.
Another mandatory inclusion in any list of the best tsunderes, Makise Kurisu from Steins;Gate is probably the quintessential example of the modern tsundere, right down to her voice actor being the wonderful Asami Imai.
Kurisu is a wonderful character because the way in which she deals with protagonist Okabe through gritted teeth is one of the most enjoyable things about Steins;Gate. Her attitude also helps to highlight the fact that Steins;Gate is emphatically not a romance-themed visual novel for the most part — and this is helped along by the fact that Okabe is far too self-obsessed to even contemplate a relationship with any of the many attractive female characters in the novel.
She acts as the perfect foil to Okabe’s chaos; while Okabe is obviously quite intelligent, one gets the impression that most of his inventions and revelations come about almost by accident. Kurisu, meanwhile, obviously has genuine intelligence coupled with a rather rational, down-to-earth way of looking at what’s going on, which puts her in a perfect position to understand when something is a good idea and when something is absolutely batshit crazy.
Plus I suspect she’s responsible for at least a few tights fetishes out there.
Azuki from Nekopara may not quite be a textbook tsundere in that she is always fairly open about her affection for protagonist Kashou — however, the way in which she becomes very flustered, embarrassed and borderline angry any time someone points out that she’s being affectionate makes it clear that yes, she is one of the best tsunderes out there. The best tsunderes are the ones you might not immediately notice, after all, or so the saying goes. I think. I might be getting muddled up with something else.
Anyway, Azuki plays a crucial role in the “family” dynamic of Nekopara in that she is the oldest “sister”, and thus inevitably ends up being one of the most responsible characters. Unlike some of her younger peers, she’s mostly immune to her more feline tendencies — though there are very occasional exceptions — and one gets the impression that she and Kashou feel like they can address one another as absolute equals, despite catgirls technically having something of a subservient role in the society depicted in Nekopara.
Possibly the best thing about Azuki is the fact that despite being the oldest sister, she is also the youngest-looking character, thanks to her being based on a breed of cat that usually ends up being quite small — the Munchkin. To further highlight this juxtaposition, the oldest-looking sister Coconut is actually the youngest sister — she’s based on the typically quite large Maine Coon breed. And if you don’t believe the best tsunderes are the smallest tsunderes, you haven’t spent enough time in Azuki’s company.
Much as Asami Imai has become somewhat typecast as tsundere characters over the years, so too has Emi Kitamura; she’s responsible for some of the best tsunderes in both video games and visual novels, and Asano Hayase from Our World is Ended is an absolutely prime example.
Like the other characters in Our World is Ended, Asano is a member of the game development company Judgement 7 — she’s the company’s sound designer and, amusingly, throughout the narrative is implied to be both pretty good at her job and totally tone-deaf; no-one can bear to be around her during the creative process. She’s also an interesting contrast to other tsunderes in that she’s not a spoiled princess or a haughty character looking down on others; in fact, she’s an absolute wreck of a human being.
Some of this is just pure bad luck — such as her uncanny ability to break IT equipment and her comparatively small breasts in comparison to the rest of the cast — but a lot of it is self-inflicted. She frequently gets rip-roaringly drunk, goes to karaoke by herself and is an obsessive shotacon. Naturally, a lot of these things stem from very deep-seated insecurities and a very troubled background — but I’ll leave the details of all that for you to discover! Needless to say, she’s a fascinating character, and one of the best tsunderes out there.
And that’s that! There are many, many more wonderful tsunderes out there in the world of video games and visual novels — so it’s time to pass things over to you in the comments! Who are some of the best tsunderes in your view, and why? Leave us a comment — or pen us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page if you’ve got more to say!
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