If a harem show, a show with a love triangle, or any other kind of romance comedy anime has a prominent tsundere character, chances are the protagonist will choose her, if the protagonist chooses anyone. Naturally, this dynamic was more prominent in earlier years, especially with the advent of arc-based shows like Amagami SS and branching-story shows like Yosuga no Sora and Photokano, but it’s frustrated me for quite a while, especially when a show contains much nicer options for the main character.
I can understand the appeal: Defrosting a cold maiden’s heart until she can’t help but admit her affection; piece-by-piece, moment-by-moment charming the girl into helplessly falling in love. It’s a pleasant thought, don’t get me wrong. At the same time, however, the appeal is diminished for me when other girls are around, ones that don’t make a habit of punching the main character into the sky or beating him with a riding crop.
For what’s portrayed by so many as a wish-fulfillment genre for lonely men, harem anime protagonists seem to have a penchant for choosing some pretty hostile women. Anywhere else, they’d be admonished for passively encouraging these girls’ bad behaviour and advised to break up and/or get a restraining order, but in anime, it seems hooking up with abusive women is par for the course.
What’s more, often times a much more forthcoming love interest is in the harem/love triangle, competing with the tsundere, meaning not only is the protagonist deliberately choosing an abusive partner, he’s deliberately choosing an abusive partner over someone who can be honest with her feelings!
The Familiar of Zero has Siesta, who plays foil to Louise.
Aria the Scarlet Ammo has Shirayuki and Reki, competing with Aria for Kinji.
Mutsumi and Shinobu play opposite Naru and Motoko in Love Hina.
The iconic Kotonoha Katsura plays the alternative to Sekai Saionji in School Days.
And Negima! has too many alternatives to Asuna Kagurazaka to reasonably count.
Observant readers might note the presence of yandere characters and could reasonably question why on Earth I would suggest a character who’s entire archetype could be summed up as “obsessed and murderously insane” as an alternative to tsundere girls.
The thing about yandere characters is that, unlike tsunderes, they’re very up-front and know what they want. Truth be told, the only reason we categorize them as “yandere” is because they lose. And, to a certain extent, the only reason we characterize “tsundere” characters as “tsundere” is because the main character always makes the mistake of dealing with their crap long enough to see the sweet girl underneath the façade.
It’s an unhealthy paradigm to instill into the minds of otaku. It’s saying, “yeah, she’s kind of a jerk, but she’s kind-of sort-of really sweet sometimes when she’s not physically or verbally assaulting you!” I’m here to say you don’t have to settle! You don’t have to put up with bad behaviour just to find love! You can go out there and find that cute yandere girl who’s obsessed with you! (Just don’t cheat on her, or she’ll kill you.)
All joking aside, what I really want is to see more love given to other character archetypes. The tsundere is an iconic archetype, and plenty of great characters throughout the decades have been part of it, from Lum Invader to Askua Langley Soryu to Taiga Aisaka, and the appeal of slowly chipping away at a love interest’s shell of hostility until they come around to how they’ve felt all along is irresistible.
But I also love the strong, unwavering femininity and devotion to family represented by the Yamato Nadeshiko archetype.
I love the quiet, standoffish nature of the Dandere.
I love the “keep trying no matter what!” attitude of the Dojikko.
And yes, I especially love the insane, obsessive, all-or-nothing pure love that the Yandere brings to the table.
So I say we broaden our horizons, explore all characters and, for Haruhi’s sake, stop dating tsunderes!
All joking aside:
Don't settle for people who treat you badly. Harem shows like to play up the hilarity of the tsundere dynamic, and the satisfaction of cracking the tough outer shell to reach the soft, sweet center, but carefully consider if it's worth being abused, degraded, or treated like trash. Most of the time, it's not. Don't reward bad behaviour. Don't get taken for granted.
The tsundere is a fundamentally immature archetype. While this is part of her charm, it's also what makes her a dangerous relationship model. She doesn't know how to handle being desired romantically, so she lashes out to save face.
Respect yourself enough to know you deserve better.