Anime Archetypes: What is a Kuudere?
The Kuudere are commonly seen as the cool and collected types that guard their emotions and keep a level head in stressful situations. Creating this type of character takes more than a character that is initially quiet then quirky later. Their personalities require the author to dig deep into the power of emotion and the reasons why the Kuudere decides to reserve that power. The following will be a step-by-step analysis of the common Kuudere’s contruction. Afterwards, “What if…” writing prompts will be suggested to help you create a Kuudere that isn’t cliché.
Common Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Strengths: Focused, Self-Motivated, Observant, Cautious, Precise, Adaptable
Weaknesses: Trust issues, Vengeful, Self-Critical, Defiant, Lonely
The Five Elements of a Kuudere
Backstory That Doesn’t Have To Be Traumatic – It’s common to assume that the cool, quiet type are characters with a troubling past and have a hard time talking about it, but not every Kuudere fits these criteria. Some characters were just born with a melancholy personality. Everyone goes through emotional experiences then comprehends and responds to it differently. When you create your Kuudere’s past, you want their emotional responses to be more expressive in action rather than an indirect reaction. Kuudere’s know the power of their feelings, which can be overwhelming to themselves or those around them and they will not act out unless they sincerely feel beckoned to do so. Giving the Kuudere a tough past is expected, but not mandatory. The only way to make their cool demeanor believable is to show how powerful their emotion can be. Keep in Mind: If your Kuudere can weigh the strength of their sincere nature and emotional maturity in the past and present of their story, their “kuu” (cool) and “dere” (loving/emotional) sides will be easier to understand.
Skills That Bring Attention, Even When They Don’t Want it – Most Kuuderes possess one or more skills that surpass a “genius” level of understanding. This is because Kuuderes are deep thinkers that learn quickly, which makes them appear to have a natural talent for whatever is thrown at them. Since the Kuuderes skills are often seen as extraordinary, they will most likely attract attention from genuine admirers or manipulative opportunists. To make their skills incredible, you as the author need to do more than just show how fascinating the Kuudere’s skills are; you must also display why the Kuudere focuses on their skills, what motivates them to stick to it, and how they plan to utilize their skills in the future. This is what establishes the desire of the character. Keep in Mind: The skill of a Kuudere is meant to reveal information about their mentality and their desire. Remember to also reveal how they and other characters respond to their skills whether it is negative, positive, or a mix of both.
Personality Quirks – There’s Always More To Them Than You Think – Akame from Akame ga Kill has a big appetite; L from Death Note loves to eat sweets; C.C. from Code Geass loves pizza; Byakuya Kuchiki from Bleach has a thing for spicy food and bananas. I don’t know why most Kuuderes have a thing with food, but it’s definitely a quirk that makes all of those characters memorable. Kuuderes have narrow interests that can be seen as obsessive or impulsive. Since Kuuderes naturally regulate their emotions, they need to have some sort of outlet. When a Kuudere acts out impulsively, it’s always remembered because it’s not expected of them, but it’s also a great opportunity to understand the depth of their character. For example, Haruka Nanase from Free! Iwatobi Swim Club is only interested in swimming and appears to have such affection for the water that he’ll jump into any container that would allow him to relax in the water. His impulse to jump in the water whenever he gets the chance explains why he always has a swimsuit on under his clothes, but it also emphasizes how important swimming is to him. These kinds of situations allow the audience to see how the character really feels about the Kuudere’s lifestyle. Keep in mind: The quirks of a Kuudere are another layer of depth that must be shown to sculpt the character’s true nature. The more meaning behind the impulsive act, the more intriguing the character will be.
What or Who Brings Out the “dere”? – The Kuuderes are the quiet observers of the group that usually wait to be spoken to or only speak up when it’s necessary. If you want the Kuudere and their company to be compatible, make sure you show how the other characters took the time to be patient and understanding of the Kuudere knowing that earning their trust takes time. If you want other characters to oppose the Kuudere, they should be impatient, self-absorbed, and reckless. Depending on what type of Kuudere you’ve created, they should respond in an opposing, tolerant, or uncaring manner. The “dere” side can’t be revealed naturally without establishing how the Kuudere observes the other character. Once the Kuudere understands the characters around them and how they want to interact with them then their actions can be revealed. A Kuudere’s acts of kindness or attempt to bond are meant to be a mystery to the other characters and even the audience, but it should also be an apparent sign of the Kuudere’s genuine willingness to build a relationship with others. Keep in mind: A Kuudere observes, concludes and then acts. They consider their truest selves to be a side of them that others earn through mutual respect.
What is their Role/Allignment? – A Kuudere can be a lot of roles in a story: a companion, a love interest, a villain, a hero, etc. A common role of the Kuudere is to be neutral or chaotic good because these characters usually have their own goals to fulfill no matter who they may be aligned with. It really depends on how well the bond with their company and what the author has planned for them. As you create different situations for your characters, think about how the Kuudere responds and why they respond that way. Their thoughts and reactions will lead them to belong in one or several alignments. Here are general summaries of how a Kuudere would think and act in the alignments:
- Lawful Good: The Kuudere upholds their own moral law and does what they can to protect it. The “Kuu” side stays calm during a tough decision or sacrifice; the “dere” side appears through kind and valiant actions and shows how the feel about the tough decisions in private or around those who know them well. (Moderately Common)
- Neutral Good: The Kuudere is moderately independent and is open to compromising and working with others for the greater good. The “Kuu” side takes the time to think before they jump into a conflict and offer compromise. The “dere” side appears when someone in good company requires help or there is an opposition with another restricting the Kuudere’s freedom. (Common)
- Chaotic Good: The Kuudere is extremely independent; they can be cold and self-serving at times, but then considerate and helpful at other times. The “Kuu” side creates strategies that ultimately lead to their benefit in the long run; the “dere” side will do their best not to harm or offend anyone as they execute their strategies, but will act like they don’t care if they hurt another. (Very Common)
- Lawful Neutral: The Kuudere’s thoughts and actions are founded by the rules they grew up with and refuse to object to them, putting law before pleasure. The “Kuu” side is resilient enough to uphold whatever law they were raised to defend whether it be just or not. The “dere” side appears when there is chaos within their order and will do what they can to restore that order. (Rare)
- Neutral: The Kuudere doesn’t take a side, is never bound to specific morals and legalities, and isn’t easily influenced by others unless the Kuudere sees an opportunity for benefit with little conflict. The “Kuu” side will keep their distance from most or be in small companies that are unbiased; they sometimes will lean to a “good” or “evil” side, but only in beneficial circumstances but will never remain committed to one side. The “dere” side will act in an unpredictable way to either care for themselves or those close to them; their acts are not meant to bring excessive harm or bring attention to themselves. (Very Common)
- Chaotic Neutral: The Kuudere is selfish and self-reliant making sure they get what they want and don’t show much care for who they offend. The “Kuu” side will keep their company in the dark about their true intentions, leading them to come off very secretive and cold; they will do whatever they can to achieve their goals. The “dere” side is impulsive and acts rashly when their freedom or power is threatened. (Common)
- Lawful Evil: The Kuudere is cold and arrogant; they constantly strategize their way to power through legal and methodical means; they are masters of hiding their true intentions by claiming they uphold rules and regulations first and foremost. The “Kuu” side is methodical and cunning as either a servant or a ruler. The “dere” side only appears when rules are broken and if their appointed position is jeopardized. (Very Common)
- Neutral Evil: The Kuudere keeps everyone in the dark about how they truly are no matter where their temporary allegiance lies; they are extremely self-absorbed and only depend on others until they get what they want. The “Kuu” side plays their cards wisely and knows how to earn the trust of others until they get what they need. The “dere” side appears when their pursuit for power is jeopardized or when another character discovers their true intentions. (Common)
- Chaotic Evil: The Kuudere makes their “dere” side appear as nonexistent, until their true desires are intact. The “Kuu” side makes the character void of emotion, making them seem inhuman or incapable of feeling. The “dere” side appears when the characters immoral and destructive desires are accessible and would expose their desires in private. (This mentality is dangerously close to Yangire; the difference is in the desire) (Moderately Rare).
Now that we’ve dug into the details of a Kuudere, let’s find ways to make the Kuudere less cliché.
- …The kuudere wasn’t a creepy, Japanese girl in a school uniform that ends up becoming nice when her past is revealed to a special character? It’s been done over and over again so don't be afraid to explore other physical appearances and various plot devices.
- …The kuudere isn’t immediately talented at everything? Revealing the weaknesses of your characters make them more relatable. Take the time to explore that before showing their “genius” if you choose to give them such a trait.
- …The Kuudere can show emotion when they want to? Who says a Kuudere can’t act? Although they may come off as two-sided, a Kuudere actor or actress would be an interesting character to dig into. Why are they good at expressing emotion, but choose not to?