Anime Archetypes - What Is a Dandere?
The quietest of our ‘dere’ bunch is the Dandere. Sometimes they’re invisible; sometimes they try to be invisible but fail inevitably because they’re meant for something more than just hiding. The Dandere is the personality type that goes through one of the most apparent transformations because they start off as weak and timid, then grow into a more confident version of themselves. The unique quality of a Dandere is that they usually remain true to themselves. Danderes have specific paths laid out for them when they are either the protagonist or a side character. Rarely is this type an antagonist, but anything is possible. After describing the general personality of the Dandere, I’m going to discuss their foundational elements and the roles a Dandere usually takes in shoujo/josei and shounen/seinen anime and manga.
Common Alignment: Neutral Good
They were first called “danmari deredere” with “danmari” meaning to be calm or shut one’s mouth all the time (Source: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Dandere). Danderes only speak unless spoken to or speak up in the sense of an emergency, which is hard for them since they loathe being the center of attention. They hide their true selves for their own safety, however they love being supportive for those they care for. Danderes are the type that show their support through action and hope their actions appear as genuine as their intentions. Danderes can be misunderstood as weak and submissive, which can come off as annoying or not worth paying attention too. The Danderes always seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to first impressions, but there are some Danderes that are destined for greatness and have to go through a variety of challenges before they realize their potential for a great future. As protagonists, Danderes are pushed to achieve more than they think they deserve; as side characters, Danderes become linked to those who inspire them or destroy them.
Strengths: Genuine, Contemplative, Focused, Sincere, Considerate,
Weaknesses: Easily frazzled, Submissive, Indecisive, Over-Dependent, Self-Loathing,
The Four Elements of A Dandere
Backstory – Flexible, but Convincing: A Dandere’s backstory is dependent on their role in the story. If they are meant to be in a harem, they may be more of a blank slate. If they are meant for a transformation, they should have a backstory that emphasized why and how their Dandere personality came to be. Danderes can have a variety of roles, since they are the impressionable type, which is why their history depends on whether it’s essential for the other characters to know or not. Danderes don’t open up about their past unless they trust someone or they’re pressured into spitting it out. Keep in Mind: A Dandere’s past is a good opportunity to emphasize how their meek qualities became their way of understanding the world around them. If you don’t find it to be necessary, make sure their present selves reveal their impressionable mentality as their prominent trait.
Purpose – Why do they dream? A Dandere’s role can be anything to finding love to defeating an enemy. The important part is revealing why this is important to your character, which will not be easy. A Dandere is shut in, but they’re not as cold as a Kuudere or a Tsundere and shut others out or push them away. Danderes hide their true selves because a lack of confidence hinders them. However, the Dandere’s genuine nature can’t fight off the desire to dream and hope for something more when other characters inspire them to do so. Hinata (Naruto) wanted Naruto to notice her and to become strong enough to protect him; Hitoe Uemura (Selector WIXOSS Spread) wanted friendship; Anri Sonohara (Durarara!) wanted to keep a secret to protect her friends. Danderes try dream for themselves, but mostly dream for others because their confidence stems from their genuine care. Keep in mind: Danderes dream because they care for others. They dream to better themselves, but ultimately hope to be there for those they care for.
How are Danderes Seen By Others? – Danderes can be seen as either reliable companions or walking targets. Danderes usually know there is a strength in numbers, so they hope to seal in friendships with whatever kindness or generosity they can offer. They don’t like to be alone and may come off as needy or overdependent to some, but their truly good intentions aren’t easily forgotten. Danderes are also very good at balancing the brashness of a Tsundere or the pretentiousness of a Himedere or Kamidere. The overconfident types may despise or envy the Dandere’s humility and gentleness, which may lead to the Dandere being the target for another’s projected anger. Keep in Mind: A Dandere’s sweetness can be wonderful to some and bitter to others.
The Transformation: The transformation of a Dandere can appeal to audiences that understand the struggles of self-worth and self-respect. Challenges of intimidation, temptation, self-awareness, and pride attack a Dandere at their strongest and their weakest time. They hate dealing with the repercussions of their mistakes and become their harshest critic, but Danderes are known for rising from the ashes. They become phoenixes and soar higher than they ever expected to when they don’t give up on themselves. Danderes have the tendency to serve others and not take care of themselves, but when they realize they can do more harm than help because of something within them, they need a moment of self-reflection and revelation. This will lead them to understand themselves in a more positive light. Keep in Mind: Danderes dream to protect who they care for, but they will not succeed unless they care for themselves and become strong enough to protect.
Dandere Roles in Certain Demographics
Danderes in Shoujo/Josei
As Protagonists: Dandere would most likely be the lead in a harem anime if anything because Danderes are impressionable and indecisive. Since they are usually reclusive with their emotions, Danderes appear to be more of a blank slate. They are dependent on their surroundings rather than their own intuition. When they are pushed by other characters they can act outside of their comfort zone and roll with the punches rather than cowering in fear, though it takes a while to get to that point. It’s common for Danderes to not only hide their true intentions and dreams, but also their skills. Sometimes, Danderes as protagonists can occasionally pull the “genius skill” that Kuuderes have to emphasize their significance in a plot. Both the Kuudere and Dandere don’t fancy attention, but the Dandere is more sensitive to being in the spotlight. In time, the Dandere will adjust and show a grand improvement in attitude and action, usually representing that even the quietest characters can make an impact on others.
As Side Characters: Danderes have consistently been the overshadowed side character in Shoujo and Josei. Their timidness causes them to fall asunder to the bolder Tsunderes, Yandere, Himederes, Kamidere, and even the normal Derederes because of their confidence. The bolder “dere” types are usually attracted to the Dandere so they may push or even force them out of their shell. Danderes aren’t strong enough to be villains, but it would make an excellent front for a more brash character. Danderes are not always innocent as side characters, but they’re the least suspected for cruel behavior, making them interesting plot devices. They can be brave or cunning unexpectedly. Danderes are also potential love interests. Since they take the time to trust and love slowly, they have a series of key qualities that make a common slice-of-life/romance anime.
Danderes in Shounen/Seinen
As Protagonists: The closest to a Dandere type in a Shounen or Seinen is the “’Wimpy’ Hero Character” who goes through a number of internal and external struggles in order to discover and enhance their strengths. Danderes as Shounen protagonists would most likely go through physical/external endurances as opposed to Shoujo protagonists that would focus on the emotional/internal. There will most likely be side characters that are more brave or talented than the protagonist, leading them to question their self-worth or current ambition. Danderes in Shounen can be seen as punching bags most of the time, but progression leads them to stand up for themselves and become remarkable heroes. Since Danderes are timid, they are very focused on hiding their true selves, but Shounen/Seinen stories have the tendency to push those characters in an abrupt way so that they may accept and embrace the truth. Challenges of intimidation, temptation, self-awareness, and pride are common for the Dandere protagonist to face.
As a Side Character: Danderes in Shounen/Seinen will most likely be love interests. Danderes consistently fit the “damsel in distress” mold, but the Dandere personality isn’t bound by gender. Also, the Dandere in distress will eventually be sick of being rescued all the time, as the protagonists and other characters will encourage the Dandere to watch out for themselves. Danderes are not meant to become hardcore fighters, but they can be. Their shyness may be more apparent in social settings rather than physical settings. Danderes as side characters make it crystal clear that they have a severe lack of confidence in some area and they do their best to pursue those that can help them with that. However, they may also fall victim to more manipulative characters that constantly put them down. Danderes bring a whole new meaning to neutral when they have no guidance, which is why they appeal to audiences that relate to being indecisive and submissive.
- What if Danderes made stubbornness their strength? – There are some things a Dandere will refuse to do because they are terrified of it. Somehow, their stubbornness can outshine their weaknesses and bring out strengths they didn’t know they had. Would there be a way to show that Dandere’s do have a backbone when they can’t be persuaded? Can that resilience be used to enhance a strength they have?
- What if Danderes had alternate personalities? – It’s common for people to have differing personalities around different people or even alter egos. What if the Dandere side represented one part of your character and another “dere” side represented another? What could that mean for your character’s future experiences?
- What if Danderes were someone else before they were Dandere? – There are some people who were born with shyness and others who became shaped around that trait. Think about if the “Dandere” personality is your character’s true personality or not? Have they always been this way or did something force them to change? If it was their choice to change, then why?