Debunking the Dandere Archetype: Understanding the Silent Heroes & Heroines of Japanese Anime

Dandere Defined: Its Definition and Background

It is truly amazing how capable the Japanese are of providing a grouping for certain types of people. This is true, even in fictional works by Japanese artists. In fact, the Japanese anime and manga scene boasts of pure Japanese creativity in terms of creating complex characters and unique storylines. For this article, a particular character trope will be scrutinized closely - the dandere character.

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The character archetype of dandere is one that originates from Japanese anime but has become popular all over the world, all thanks to the rising popularity of anime all over the world. In order to understand the archetype, the word dandere must be dissected first. This word is actually a contraction of two different Japanese words - “danmari” and “dere”. Knowing this alone would make it easier to understand the dandere character type.

 First off, the “dan” part comes from the word “danmari” in Japanese means silent. This is important as dandere characters are portrayed to be the silent type. This definition is proven true as most dandere characters are initially portrayed as untalkative, due to one reason or another. However, despite being the taciturn type, the “dere” part comes from the Japanese word “deredere” which signifies being loving. This puts the reader into a perspective on what the dandere character truly is - one who is silent, but they are truly warm and loving. It is quite amazing how this character archetype can portray real human behavior.

 Dandere characters are usually close to the heart of anime viewers for their natural shyness or awkwardness. After all, that is extremely relatable for anyone who has had trouble expressing his true feelings at least once in his life. The socially awkward dandere characters in Japanese anime are either the main character or a side character in the story. 

 This good-naturedness is actually a driving factor of a dandere character’s shyness. they are afraid of saying something wrong, which may cause negative reactions from people around him. Out of their desire not to cause any strain within his social circle, they are willing to easily give up on the desire to express what is truly on their mind. While watching Japanese anime, it is easy to identify the dandere characters in contrast with the bubbly, outgoing characters.

 In fact, the bubbly and outgoing characters not just provide a good contrast to the dandere characters of the story, they are also complementing characters that allow the dandere archetype to evolve. Dandere characters are popular among romance themed storylines for this very reason. They are portrayed as characters who needs to be with a person of opposing personality in order to come out of their shell. Naturally, a bubbly and talkative partner would help a lot in order for the dandere character to go out of his natural character and be comfortable with expressing what he truly thinks and feels.

When identifying dandere characters, it is important to distinguish them from another archetype that also portrays quiet type characters. The other quiet archetype of anime characters is known as kuudere. While the two characters both show a quiet or silent demeanor, the motives that drive them to act that way are completely different. As mentioned earlier, a dandere character is motivated to be silent and timid because he’s afraid to ruin his social relationships. On the other hand, a kuudere maintains a quiet demeanor because he truly does not want to keep up with social relationships.

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In contrast to the warm and loving dandere, the kuudere comes off as cold and isolated. The third archetype is tsundere, which shows a character who may come of as egoistic at the start.These three character archetypes have something in common, a hidden layer of lovingness waiting to be unleashed

 Meanwhile, an archetype that is the exact opposite of dandere and the two other archetypes is the yandere. While the kuudere, tsundere, and dandere explore a character who has a hidden loving side that needs to flourish, the yandere shows a loving facade with raging craziness inside. This is a stereotype that is commonly portrayed by girls in anime. So far, this is the only archetype that differs from the others.

 But why learn about these things? Well, it is simple. Understanding a storyline would require a viewer to be able to dissect the characters within the plot. By identifying their roles within the plot as the tsundere, kuudere, dandere or even the yandere types, it is easier to understand the motives behind each character. Character profiling also provides the viewer a better appreciation of how the story unfolds, and the evolution of the character as the storyline progresses.

 The Dandere Boy: A Highlight on Popular Male Dandere Characters

This section will provide a brief discussion on notable male dandere characters, while at the same time providing recommendations on anime series to watch. Thanks to the abundance of great content in terms of Japanese anime, this list is surely just a fraction of anime’s that are worth watching.

 The first dandere hero on this list is the fictional Sakamichi Onoda from the anime Yowamushi pedal. His character, at the beginning, portrays a weak, yet kind character, As the story progresses, he makes an effort to become one of the jocks in school, most of whom he used to feel a strong dislike for. In the process, he engages in more athletic activities. By the end, Sakamichi Onoda learns how to get out of his shy shell, by making new friends and engaging out of his comfort zone but at the same time maintaining his natural kindness.

 The experience ultimately makes his a better and more outgoing person. In a way, Sakamichi Onoda is the ultimate dandere at the beginning. He was shy and quiet, and his vibe was even borderline nerdy or otaku. At school, he was the type who could be found in the library most of the time. Hence, it is good to see how his character improves as time passes.

 Two great portrayals of the dandere archetype are through Atsushi Murasakibara from Kuroko’s Basketball and Ken Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul. In a way, both characters portray a dandere character despite being in a different environment. Unlike Sakamichi Onoda who was the quiet anime club type, Atsushi Murasakibara is a high school jock. His looks scream jock due to his big built, and his outer appearance just gives off a menacing vibe. Instead, he is a dandere through and through; warm, loving, kind, and uncharacteristically kind for a jock.

 Ken Kaneki is a ghoul. A ghoul is expected to eat people, so they are not supposed to be kind in nature. However, Ken Kaneki’s character provides great depth and complexity as he lets his silent and kind side prevail - despite the circumstances he is in. The premise of the story shows how a character like Ken would survive being a ghoul while maintaining his inner kindness.

 Another great dandere character in Japanese anime is Tadase Hotohori from the series Shugo Chara! The anime is about the protagonist Tadase who aspires to be the ruler of the world. However, his major shortcoming is his extreme shyness and his fear of public speaking. Another part of his character that shows his dandere side is his inability to return the romantic feelings of others, due to his extreme shyness. Thankfully, he has a Guardian (or a fairy godmother) type of character in Kiseki, who is always on his side. With the aid of Kiseki, his character progresses into a stronger one; worthy of ruling the world.

The next character, Kakashi Hatake, is quite a popular one due to the success of the Naruto series worldwide. There is not much to say about Kakashi’s character but silent, sweet and loyal. Despite his great ability and skill in fighting, he maintains a natural kindness within him. He is silent, but he does not really need words to express his loyalty to his friends, making him a great companion to the lead protagonist Naruto.

 While animes wherein the dandere character is influenced by a friend or family figure around him is nice, there is no doubt that animes that spark romantic feelings between the characters are even nicer. The next few suggested animes feature romantic storylines from the point of view of a dandere character. The first anime on the list of romance is Wolf Girl and Black Prince, featuring Yuu Kusakabe. Yuu is the ultimate nice guy, and he is trying to win over the affections of Erika, a girl whom he has had a crush on. It is interesting to see a dandere like Yuu try attempting to start something with Erika despite his extreme shyness. It is even more interesting how he deals with the rejection after Erika chooses a bad boy - someone who is far from Yuu’s awkward self.

 Another dandere with a crush is Mochizo Ooji from the anime Tamako Market. His family is competing in business with another mochi seller’s family within the same market. In a funny twist of fate, he ends up having a huge crush on the daughter of their rival family in the market. As a dandere, he deals with his feelings in the least assertive way possible. However, this changes throughout the story as the plot moves. There is truly something sweet and cute about a shy boy who is motivated by love to change and improve his personality.

 The Dandere Girl: A Highlight on Popular Female Dandere Characters

While there is an abundance of dandere male archetypes all over Japanese anime, there are even more dandere female characters. After all, the quiet and shy aura fits the bill perfectly for a lot of anime heroines. Below are some suggested animes worth checking out, with a protagonist or side character who shows endearing dandere characters.

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A good series to watch for those who want to look into the dandere archetype is the anime Kimi ni Todoke. The protagonist is a dandere girl named Sawako, who has been plagued with the misconception that she looks like the girl from the horror movie The Ring. She is extremely shy, so she does not correct people when they assume that her name is Sadako, which is only a letter away from Sawako. In the story, she finds a group of people who fits her niche personality, and they provide her the support and motivation that she needs in order to move past her natural shyness. Sawako’s character is not just endearing, but the storyline itself can be a good source of laughter, thanks to the humor infused within the plot.

 Another dandere character who is sure to warm the heart of viewers is Nagisa Furukawa from the show Clannad. Like other characters from her archetype, she is silent but kind.

She dreams of establishing a new drama club in their high school, however, the is perpetually plagued by her inner dandere self which hinders her from stepping out of her comfort zone. Like most dandere’s, she has her fair share of socially anxious moments, which she tries to overcome by gaining inspiration from her favorite food. Her character is borderline lovable and hilarious.

 Notable Quotes from Dandere Characters in Japanese Anime

Due to their natural shyness, it may be hard to get notable quotes from dandere characters. After all, they have trouble expressing their true feelings, unless it is in their head. However, there are several quotes from different animes that capture perfectly how a dandere was feeling or thinking at the moment. A great example of a moment from a dandere’s point of view is from Kimi no Todoke. As mentioned above, the protagonist Sawako is a dandere through and through.

During some part of the show, Sawako has the courage to express how she truly feels towards Shouta Kazehaya, her love interest. When she finally musters the courage to express how she feels, she tells him “It was like you brought color to my life. You changed my life, all by yourself.” It was a monumental feat for a dandere to express how she feels. The response from Shouta is equally thrilling, as he says, “I didn’t do anything. I’m sure the others just didn’t have the opportunity. There might be others who’re waiting for an opportunity to talk to you.” This is a perfect encapsulation of a dandere moment, where in her inner shyness has hindered her from reaching out to people. Luckily, a character in the form of Shouta was able to penetrate her wall of shyness and motivate her into becoming a jolly ray of sunshine in other people’s lives.

 There are plenty of other quotable dandere moments in Japanese anime that are worth noting. Similarly, these all capture the sweet side of the dandere, making them all the more lovable to the hearts of the viewers.