In order for one to be able to speak fluent anime, there are a number of terms that need to be known. One of the most well-known terms is tsundere. Its notoriety is probably due to its reoccurrence across anime as well as being a recognizable character type, even if not by name, in all kinds of stories.
The tsundere character is mostly known for coming off about as cuddly as an iceberg then transitioning to a disposition that is far more endearing. More than describing a collective set of personal attributes, the tsundere term alludes to the journey of personal development for a given character. Watching this character develop is usually rewarding, especially for the hopeless romantic.
Even though tsundere is most associated with an abrasive character softening, the term has also been used to describe a tendency to rapidly flip from one disposition to another, whether it is harsh to soft or soft to harsh. The alternate definition still relates to the traditional one, but seems to emphasize only one of its aspects.
Case Study: Taiga Aisaka
Toradora’s palm top tiger, Taiga Aisaka is one of the most ideal fits for both definitions of tsundere. Taiga’s initial tsundere attributes include a foul temper, violent reactions to others, and a tendency to demean those around her. Only through a mishap, does the co-protagonist, Ryuji Takasu, start to discover Taiga’s softer and gentler side.
Taiga and Ryuji quickly find out that each has something the other wants, ready access to a crush. Once this is revealed, the two protagonists form an unlikely alliance in effort to help win over their romantic interests. In true tsundere fashion, Taiga starts off as mean and down right abusive to Ryuji. Ryuji is called a dog and even takes a few hardy hits from his pint sized partner.
Taiga embraces the second, quasi-bipolar, definition of tsundere during her warm up phase to Ryuji. From time to time she is emotionally exposed or allows herself to be vulnerable. When uncertain how to deal with her feelings or when Ryuji does something to point out she is softening, she quickly reverts to the coarser side of her personality. By the end of the anime Taiga fully accepts her gradually developed feelings of comfort and affection for Ryuji. The character evolution lends itself to a rewarding conclusion to an inner struggle.