Kuudere - A Cool Anime Archetype

Television shows, cartoons, and movies often assign archetypes to their characters to make them easily relatable and lovable. Some of these archetypes can be universal, or they can be special to the culture of the country that the television show was created in. Whether these archetypes are appreciated depends highly on the culture that it hails from and the culture of the show’s consumers. For example, in anime shows from Japan, they have ascribed terms to certain archetype personalities that fit into the genre’s popular tropes. One of these beloved archetypes is the Kuudere.

What is the Definition of Kuudere?

The word “kuudere” itself is a noun. It isn’t an official Japanese word yet, in terms of Japanese dictionaries, so it’s still considered slang. A kuudere is an archetype in manga or anime, which is characterized as stoic, cold, cynical, blunt, and/or indifferent. The catch is, this archetype just uses this exterior as a mask to hide its true feelings, which is often very deep love for another person, or people. Kuudere are very nice, caring people on the inside, and only occasionally show this. In storylines, they are usually the ones who have control over revealing their inner world and/or true intentions only when and where they choose to.

It is near impossible, or very difficult to willfully pull out these thoughts and intentions from them. In situations where most people panic, the kuudere character can keep a level head, and make logical decisions. They also tend to possess dry wit and make sarcastic remarks. To a kuudere, letting their true feelings show is one of their greatest fears, as they perceive showing feelings as a weakness. They can take on different roles in anime/manga, from strong-willed leaders to an office subordinate who likes to keep things professional.

The Meaning Behind the Word “Kuudere”

The etymology of the word kuudere is very simple; the Japanese have a habit of borrowing words from other languages and adding it to their own language using katakana, which is one of their alphabets. When translated from English to Japanese, the term “cool’ (as to describe the character’s cool personality) transforms to the katakana word “kuu”.

“Dere”, on the other hand, roots from the word “deredere”, which is a Japanese onomatopoeia for being love-struck. In a looser term, it can also mean “lovey-dovey”. So, when you put those two words together, it describes someone who is lovey-dovey (or infatuated with someone) but plays very cool about it.

The History of the Word “Kuudere”

Although the exact origin of the word kuudere cannot be accurately traced, usage of the word became popular during the 90’s, as time went on and anime shows became more widespread. Few characters during the mid-80’s began to exhibit this archetype, such as Karl Heinz Schneider, who came out in Captain Tsubasa Anime. More would emerge later in the 90’s, with an example of one of these characters being Sailor Moon’s Sailor Neptune.

The -Dere Terms

The kuudere is not the only archetype that ends in the suffix “dere”. Because many of the archetypes in anime and manga have something to do with being love-struck, they have the suffix “dere”. Three highly prevalent examples of these archetypes include “yandere”, “tsundere”, and “dandere”.

“Yandere” comes from the combination of dere, and the “yan” from “yanderu”. Yanderu refers to sickness, and in this case, mental illness. Combine mental illness and being lovestruck, and you have the recipe of an archetype who is very caring, sweet, and loving upfront, but suddenly turns violently insane, aggressive (and sometimes homicidal) in a snap. Usually characterized by a girl (but there are male yanderu), this archetype is very manipulative, jealous, and obsessive, especially if the feelings aren’t mutual. In his/her insanity, the yandere can inflict serious injury, or even cause someone’s death.

“Dandere” comes from the combination of dere and the “dan” from “danmari”. Danmari means quiet, which is exactly what the archetype of this character is all about. Again, combine that with dere, which means love-struck, and you have the archetype of someone who pines for another person but is too shy to speak up. They’re usually very awkward and avoidant and have no choice in being so, unlike the kuudere, who plays an active part in choosing to be sarcastic and calm instead of expressing their love. 

What’s the Difference: Kuudere Vs. Tsundere

The “tsundere” is the closest thing to a kuudere, compared to the other archetypes, but they are still very different. The “tsun” in tsundere was taken from the term “tsun tsun”, which refers to when someone is so disgusted, he or she has to turn away. When you combine “tsun” with dere (love-struck), then you have opposites; disgust and love. This combination makes for an archetype that is hostile, rude, cold, or mean to someone at first out of a general dislike for them, but ends up being sweet and loving later.

This is different from kuudere because kuudere never show dislike – in fact, they’re much more emotionless than tsundere are. They play like they’re unfazed, while tsundere are fazed by almost anything the person they end up liking does. Perhaps tsundere show these negative emotions for valid reasons and later on find themselves endeared to whom they used to not like, or they’ve been in denial about liking the person that this expresses itself in angry outbursts. Kuudere are aware that they like someone and play coy and/or cold about it.

Different Variations of Kuudere

The kuudere archetype branches out to three more common subtypes that are often seen written in manga or anime. Some of the characteristics in these subtypes intermingle, so this is best used as just a quick reference to give you a reference for different kuudere character ideas.

The first type is the “mood swinger”. This kind of kuudere doesn’t have any persona fixed; it all depends on how he or she feels at that moment, thus making their shifts very spontaneous. These kinds of kuudere can sometimes have a trigger, something that happens that makes the kuudere show his/her sweet side, or turn apathetic.

The second type is kuudere who is cold during the initial stages of your relationship with them but starts warming up to you the more you get to know each other. So, people who don’t really know them that well get their cool or “kuu” personality, while those who are closest to them (lover, family) see their “dere” side.

The third type is the kuudere who is always stoic but hides their true feelings of tenderness (until an event yanks their intentions out – the expression of tenderness still varies). Emotions from this variation are very limited, so this kind of kuudere could let out a small smile, which is akin to them finding great pleasure in something or laughing hysterically.

A Couple of Examples of Female Kuudere Characters

If you’ve ever seen an episode of Attack on Titan (also known as “Shingeki no Kyojin”), you’d know right off the bat that Mikasa Ackerman is a bona fide kuudere. Aside from her traumatic experience that happened when she was a kid, nothing has ever shaken her. Perhaps that traumatic experience is what shaped her to become so cool-headed amidst danger, and highly skilled in her craft of killing those giants.

Another kuudere recommendation is Ayanami Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Ayanami Rei reigns supreme as the queen of this archetype, as her deep introversion makes her seem almost emotionless to most people. Throughout the show, though, her character development shows in her starting to form more obvious emotional expressions and bonds.

Can Male Characters Be Considered Kuudere?

Yes, a male character can be considered kuudere. While it is done in anime, outside of the anime world, there are also several examples. A popular one could be Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. You could refer to Mr. Darcy as someone who is kuudere, as he doesn’t show his emotions for Elizabeth Bennet right away, and is extremely blunt with her in the beginning, only to later profess his love for her.

Popular Examples of Male Kuudere Characters

As for a traditional example from an anime, take Aoshi Shinomori, who stars in Samurai X. He is emotionless for a huge chunk of the series, so much so that he doesn’t even celebrate or show any hint of happiness when he wins a fight. He may seem ruthless, but under that icy exterior, Aoshi only wants the best for his gang. He cares so much about their well-being that he’d do anything for them, so he dedicated himself to fight Kenshin to honor his friends who died in earlier battles.

If Ayanami Rei is the queen of the kuudere archetype, then Naruto’s Itachi is the king. Despite giving the impression of being ruthless, cold, and emotionless (he kills his entire family and joins an elite crime organization, you have to be pretty apathetic to do that) – he does everything out of love for his younger brother.

More About Kuudere Chan, Kuudere Simulator’s Protagonist

These archetypes are famed in the anime world, so it’s no surprise that people are developing games out of them. One of these games is called kuudere simulator, created by YandereDev. Kuudere-Chan is one of the characters in this game, and just like her name indicates, is as cold as December when it comes to interactions. This is no hidden fact, as her student profile even says that she doesn’t exhibit any emotion.

Kuudere-Chan’s hair is short and sky blue, and her eyes are a bright red. You’ll find her wearing a standard Japanese school uniform for girls. She often talks about not caring whoever “senpai” (an honorific term reserved for someone who is older than you in a professional environment) is dating. This is to presuppose that she has a crush on that said senpai. This behavior is a perfect example of someone who is a kuudere, as she pretends not to care, but she does.

Behaviors of A Typical Kuudere Character

There are specific behaviors and attributes that kuudere have that are unique to this archetype. If you’re thinking of creating a character with this kind of archetype, there are positive and negative sides to them that you may add to your narrative. Positive traits include being able to focus on a situation and get it done, being flexible about problems that may arise, be careful about making decisions, and preciseness in executing these decisions.

As for negative traits, the kuudere archetype has a hard time being open and trusting other people – thus the need for hiding his or her true emotions. They are also cast very harsh judgment on themselves, which also means they may do the same to others they meet, even if they may not be outwardly expressive of this. If they are crossed or misunderstood, they have the propensity to take revenge. They can also be very lonely during the day to day life, but never properly address this, as they also tend to be quite stubborn.

Building Your Kuudere Character

When you create your kuudere character, there are a few stereotypes that you may or may not follow – it’s all up to you. First off, kuudere sometimes have a traumatic background. However, this doesn’t always have to be the case. They can be born into this personality type too, and have been like that since childhood. They also tend to have special oddities about their personalities. Think of this oddity as something they do a release from their tight-gripped personalities. They could be very obsessed over a strange fad, or have a weird habit that makes them stand out.

Don’t forget to give your character an alignment that they can work with, to set a storyline. Next, properly point out exactly what or who instigates that side to them that is loving and sweet – also known as the dere side. How does your kuudere react to everyone compared to that person? What is that person like? Fleshing these facts out helps build your story, as well as the dynamic between characters.

There are a whole array of different tropes and archetypes you can learn about and add to your own stories. It’s fun to write these stories during any time of the year, but most especially during any month during spring, (April, Mar) when love seems to be most in the air in Japan. It’s helpful to be able to identify them and see how every writer constructs their personalities differently. You may even find that these characters remind you of people you know in real life – as they say, art imitates life, and life imitates art. Do you know a kuudere in real life?