GS: The Deconstruction of Moe Subculture – EXTRA STAGE: Kuudere

Yuki Nagato

Yuki Nagato

The Kuudere personality archetype isn’t necessarily new, but its categorization and increasing popularity in otaku culture certainly is. To conceptualize it, the Kuudere is… snow. Outwardly cold, even viciously so sometimes, and like the Tsundere, difficult to approach. But snow is also, paradoxically, an insulator, trapping heat deep within its lifeless, passionless bosom, protecting the seeds of spring from the harsh winds of winter.

(I’ll eventually have a general link to all the damned articles – once I get my friend to help set up the server – but, for now, the rest of the series: parts one, two, three, four, five and six.)

The most interesting thing about the Kuudere? Unlike Yandere and Tsundere, there is very little gender bias for this particular archetype. It is one of the few examples of moe that can apply to any genre, and elicit a response from any gender. It may arguably be a universal overlap of appeal amongst all forms of fandom – representative of something intrinsic in how both Eastern and Western culture approaches… love? Affection? Romance? I’m getting into nebulous territory here, but I think I’m getting my point across: Kuudere points to a fundamental aspect of attraction in general.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

The earliest example of Kuudere that I can think of is actually way, way beyond the time of anime as we know it. Audrey Hepburn, actually, is the first face to come to mind in relation to this personality trait. To quote A. H. Weiler’s review of Roman Holiday (and lifting directly from Wikipedia while I’m at it), “…Audrey Hepburn… is a slender, elfin, and wistful beauty, alternately regal and childlike in her profound appreciation of newly-found, simple pleasures and love.”

Working off of the late and great Hepburn’s famous personality, Kuudere’s charming qualities are intrinsically tied into yet another dichotomy, much like its Tsun- and Yan- relatives, this time not in the form of violent-gentle, but regal-innocent, or cold-warm. As “Kuu” is a direct derivative of the English word “cool,” we can see how Hepburn not only served as a prototype, but just about defined every aspect of its conceptualization: a kuudere character is aloof and regal when “cool,” offering a queenly facade of perfection and crystalline beauty. Look, but don’t touch; admire, but don’t approach. The “dere” trait would be the face behind the mask – an expression of unprotected innocence, of the sort of emotional vulnerability that I’ve asserted as central to the definition of what is and isn’t moe. It is, perhaps, a greater paradox of behavior than tsundere, of which is defined mainly by varying scales of heat and passion, but is still ultimately two variants of the same general personality set, whereas Kuudere expresses an outright polarity.

Saber

Saber

Much like with Hepburn’s romantic history, the kuudere elicits a particularly strong possessive response from its admirers, tantalizing them with but the faintest hints of affection amidst a snowstorm of mystery and distance, driving them on to try and claim it. For whatever reason, however, kuudere relationships are not a guarantee in even the idealistic world of fantasy – whatever caused them to uphold that cold mask in the first place lingers, even if you’ve managed to sneak a glimpse behind the facade. Kuudere characters, in fact, often have a higher rate of change towards the first qualifier, rather than dere, amongst its peers – tsundere characters often win out in relationships, and even yandere characters eventually lean back towards sanity, dropping the yan-. But whatever context caused the snow to fall in the first place may linger yet, and stifle the hopes of a warm spring.

Hotohori

Hotohori

Notably, the most numerous kuudere characters are actually… male. Shoujo series are pretty much rife with the outwardly cold but kindhearted prince archetype, giving further warrant to my assertion as to the gender-free nature of this particular form of moe. The reason why we’re attracted to a kuudere girl is the same reason why anybody, boy or girl, are attracted to elegance and class; the reason why admiration turns to longing is the same reason why anybody would want to protect anybody else once they’ve been allowed to see vulnerability.

To embrace somebody else’s vulnerability is, simply, to allow yourself to drop your own safeguards and armor – accepting somebody else’s trust is to trust them with your own weaknesses. But, as anybody who’s ever made a snow cave before, it’s a hell of a lot warmer with two than one.

Snow cave... right?

Snow cave... right?

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~ by Gonzo Mehum on April 4, 2009.

12 Responses to “GS: The Deconstruction of Moe Subculture – EXTRA STAGE: Kuudere”

  1. hm. wouldn’t eva’s good ol’ ayanami be a kuudere, by that description?

  2. Rei02, maybe. Or 01 /and/ 02. 03 was an outright doll, though.

  3. Nice cave.

  4. Is a doll another part of the moe subculture, then? :P

  5. Hrm. Would Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh fit the trope? She certainly seems to have all of the elements, except her “cool” is totally projected on to her by others, instead of being something she generates herself.

  6. The superior insulatory effects of snow arise from the fact that a random agglomeration of independent crystalline structures is bound to contain a large space-to-volume ratio, trapping gases within the structure that impede the transfer of heat by dint of the relatively low coefficient of thermal conduction of gases compared to solids. Since the gas (heretofore assumed to be standard air) trapped in the structure is assumed to be stagnant (snow is very fragile and any air circulation may cause damage to the aggregate structure and change the nature of all the assumptions in this statement, and because it lets us ignore convection) the only appreciable method of heat transfer within the snow is conduction between the air pockets and the aggregate structure, which is impeded for the reasons mentioned above: namely, the low thermal conductivity of gas compared to solids and the high space-to-volume ratio, as opposed to Japanese words that I did not read before writing this comment.

    Am I writing this comment instead of doing my heat transfer homework? I won’t tell you.

  7. @silver – Sakaki’s kuudere trait pretty much is entirely externally-driven. She’s a very nice, very unassuming girl otherwise… with an unpleasant tendency to get cat-bitten.

    @rusty – DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

  8. @Gonzo: Well, yeah. That was the point. Since she’s playing with the trope, I wondered whether she fit still or is supposed to be outside it, because everyone, except Chiyo-chan, thinks she fits.

  9. @silver – Sorry, should’ve clarified. The /audience/ (and Chiyo) knows she isn’t kuudere. Her classmates’ mistaken impression of otherwise is due mainly to the fact that she has the physical characteristics… but not the behavioral ones.

  10. @Gonzo: Got it. Impostor at best, and so not really part of the trope. Thanks for clarifying.

  11. While you emphasize the regal aspect of this archetype, I think it is not necessarily the most major facet. For many personalities I think the overarching theme is “ignorance” or “naivete”. This condition results in the obligation for the protangonist to educate the character and brings on the protective and caring feelings that define moe for many. While “coolness” is an attractive factor, I think that being relied on to serve as the introducer to society to be the biggest appeal.

  12. so, kuudere is cold-warm and tsundere is more like violent-gentle? If that so, I think Fujioka Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club can be categorized as kuudere and Sawachika Eri from School rumble as tsundere.. Is that right?

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