I've been an anime fan since the 90s and have blogged about anime since 2010. I've seen it all, done it all, and gotten the t-shirt.
What Is a Kuudere?
A kuudere is defined as:
- Having a crush on the main character or a character.
- Masking that crush by acting cold, aloof, and indifferent to that character.
So this is similar to a tsundere, but with the cold-shoulder treatment instead of active abuse. They will ignore their love interest, making him or her wonder if they care at all. But then something will happen where they will save or help their love interest. But, uh, I was just passing through! I just don't like to see pretty girls get hurt! I didn't want uh... I was just... don't count on me to save you next time! *blush*
Subtypes and Related Character Tropes
TV Tropes calls the kuudere fan-speak for what they call the 'sugar and ice personality.'
The Stoic, Stoic Woobie, and Emotionless Girl are related tropes. If a character is a kuudere, they're usually stoic. However, a kuudere is simply acting like they don't care. The Stoic character may actually just not care. Kind of hard to tell sometimes.
A character who lacks emotion in anime usually lacks it due to some kind of previous trauma. They repress their emotions out of fear of repeating the trauma. For example, Riza Hawkeye in Fullmetal Alchemist was traumatized by the Ishvalan massacre. Her fear of losing people she's trying to protect makes her avoid showing her feelings for them.
This character type is similar to the tsundere, in that they both act a certain way primarily because they're hiding feelings of romantic attraction. Or any kind of embarrassing sentiment.
Kuuderes are often intellectual, with all the tropes associated with characters who are shy, bookish, etc. The 'student council president' type of girl is often a kuudere.
The 'himedere' or royal/noble girl, or Rich Bitch can act like this, like a tsundere, or both. But you can bet that she will have the hauteur you would expect from someone of her status.
Well-Known Examples in Anime
- Sesshomaru, from Inuyasha, with the fan-nickname "Fluffy-Sama" because of the flamboyant fur boa he wears. He does care about tag-along child Rin, but he doesn't show it much.
- Shades of this are seen in a few different Sailor Moon characters, including Michiru (pictured above), her girlfriend Haruka, Mamoru, and Setsuna/Sailor Pluto. Coldness is a way the author, Naoko Takeuchi, chose to illustrate the difference between the "inner senshi," who represent closer planets of the solar system, and the "outer senshi" representing more distant planets. Rei Hino, aka Sailor Mars, acts like a kuudere and tsundere at different times as well.
- Yuki Nagato in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. She acts like she doesn't care about Kyon at all, but she invites him over for a friendly exposition dump anyway.
- Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z is like this, and sometimes like a tsundere. As a fellow author put it, "...just when we were so sure he was the type who will die alone in life, he marries Bulma."
- Light from Death Note acts this way to obsessive Misa, and to his later girlfriend Kiyomi. However, it seems likely that he really doesn't have feelings for either of them. In fact, the character he responds to emotionally the most is actually L. He just uses both women.
- Gendo Ikari acted this way towards all of his three noted Love Interests. Even close friend and confidante Professor Fuyutsuki wondered if he was truly capable of love, or just manipulating women who showed feelings for him. He also acts cold and distant towards Shinji.
- Rei is like a kuudere and a dandere. At first, she is cold to everyone except Gendo, but she gradually warms up to Shinji and acts protective of him later.
Why Is the Kuudere Appealing?
Just like the tsundere, the kuudere type is attractive because we tend to like a challenge, someone who is difficult to please. We want senpai to notice us because he or she doesn't. That makes us feel like, in order to win their attention, we have to do something special. Something daring. A big romantic gesture, or simply being really good at something.
Dysfunctional relationship potential—when someone is aloof and ignores someone, and they respond by going full yandere. That creates a lot of drama! Happens with Joker and Harley Quinn, with Gendo and Ritsuko in Evangelion, and with Light and Misa in Death Note.
So, there you have it. As a character, there's a lot of potential for drama. Psychologically, people tend to become infatuated with people who are a little distant. Sometimes being rejected or ignored can make us want someone even more than if they were interested back right from the start.
Sounds crazy? Why would we think like that? Well, it indicates that the person in question is selective, strong-willed, intelligent, confident, and in a high bargaining position. These traits make them more attractive. In the romance world, people don't go for needy or clingy.
Examples Outside of Anime
- Elsa in Frozen acts emotionless ("conceal, don't feel") to hide and possibly attempt to control her dangerous ice powers. Ice is a symbol for her frosty, asocial personality. This is contrasted with her sister Anna's "warm" personality.
- If they're doing a romance plot with Batman, he will act this way. It's his personality, very stoic, but also his sense of obligation to protect anyone close to him, and the fear of losing people close to him he has because he lost his parents. Catwoman and Wonder Woman tend to be written this way too.
- Katniss is a bit "cold shoulder" to most people in The Hunger Games. Makes sense, since she's living in a time and place where showing emotions is a weakness. And she worries about the people she loves getting killed.
- A non-romantic example is Severus Snape toward Harry Potter, mixed with tsundere-like harsh criticism. He does care about him though and is fighting to protect him. He just won't let anyone see that.
- Princess Leia from Star Wars is a kuudere for Han Solo.
- Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca.
- Both Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, to each other.
- Spock, being half Vulcan and raised Vulcan, does the kuudere thing (going from emotionless to showing brief hints of emotions) without a specific romantic reason, in the original Star Trek series.
- Captain Von Trapp is like this to Maria, with whom he eventually falls in love, in The Sound of Music. Most of it is his military discipline ethic, plus his grief over his lost wife.
The 'kuudere' is a type of anime character marked by sensitivity or feelings for someone they're damned if they're going to show, so they pretend to be totally indifferent and unemotional. Until they aren't. People are attracted to stoic types in real life, because it signals selectivity, and is part of the "playing hard to get" thing that makes romance so thrilling. Although there's nothing wrong with friendliness either.
Amalia on April 27, 2020:
Not at all