Tsundere and the Beast: a Classic Character with a Classic Archetype

“Tsundere” is a term that describes a character who runs hot and cold.  He or she (most often she) is characterized by having two personality modes, switching between “tsuntsun,” emphasizing a cold, mean, hot-tempered attitude, and “deredere,” which describes a caring, vulnerable, love struck attitude.  Tsunderes were classically used as a means of character development; the character in question would start off as tsuntsun, but would gradually turn deredere throughout the span of the series.

As the popularity of tsundere went up, its stock characterization become more and more one-dimensional, which now is more commonly identified as a back and forth between the two personality modes, rather than a gradual, unidirectional shift.  As a result of this, the evolution of the archetype led to its stagnation in stories; tsunderes are as easy as ever to write, but have very little positive effect on the story of which they are a part.

In its most classic sense, today’s tsunderes aren’t even tsundere at all.  Even classic Western characters are more classically tsundere than their modern Eastern counterparts.  A very interesting example is the Beast from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  It is a romantic tale of two unlikely characters falling in love with each other, and learning to find beauty from within.  The story is a timeless classic thanks in large part to the Beast’s character development, which quite humorously, follows the classic tsundere archetype really well, if not better than modern tsunderes.  Let’s take a look through the story’s acts to see how this is so.

Prologue

The movie begins with a narrated introduction of how the beast came to be. One stormy night, a vain prince turns away an old hag who asks for shelter because of her hideous appearance. He is warned that beauty comes from within, but turns her away once more. The hag turns into a beautiful fairy and curses him for his darkened heart. She turns him into a beast, and warns that he will stay that way forever unless he learns to love and be loved in return.

The Beast falls into despair at his horrid appearance, convinced he will stay that way forever. “For who could ever love a beast?”

The narration in this prologue is executed in the most pristine fairy tale style, and the backstory that is given justifies all of the beast’s tsuntsun tendencies that show up later.

Act I – Capturing the Beauty

The beast makes his first appearance when he traps an old man in his castle.  The old man wandered in amidst a storm, lost and looking for shelter.  “So, you’ve come to stare at the beast, have you?” the Beast says, menacingly. He throws him in prison.  His actions are primal, shortsighted, and full of disdain.  Tsuntsun at its peak.

"Baka! What are you doing here!?"
Enter Belle, the beautiful daughter of the old man.  After finding out about her father’s wandering into the castle, she finds him imprisoned and concerned for his safety and wellbeing.  She loves her father dearly, and wants to see him safe.

The Beast discovers Belle, and instead of thinking seeing a woman who could possibly break his spell, he sees another potential prisoner.  Belle pleads for her father’s freedom, even in exchange for his father’s freedom. The Beast accepts her terms, and after finally showing his face to her, Belle is mortified and the Beast averts her gaze as he drags her father off to send him back to town.

The cold treatment he gives her in this moment is a common tsuntsun behaviour.After returning to the castle, the Beast is convinced by his chandelier servant, Lumiere, to keep her in a guest room instead of a prison cell.  The Beast reluctantly accepts with a breathy snarl.

"Fine! I'll let her stay in her own room! I-It's more convenient that way, that's all!"
He walks in on Belle, crying because she never even got to say goodbye to her father.  The Beast is taken aback at the sight, unsure what to do.  Seeing Belle in her vulnerable state is the initial trigger that starts the development of Beast’s deredere. 

"You...I'll show you to your room."
However, he brushes off his unsorted feelings and demands that she joins him for dinner.  “This is not a request!” He barks as he leaves Belle in her room.  He might as well finish that sentence with ‘baka’ or something similar.

Act II – Dinner

Frustrated with the sudden turn of events, the Beast speaks with his also-cursed companions in the dining room.  They suggest to him that Belle could be the woman who could break the spell.  The Beast remarks angrily that he already knows that, but is conscious of his appearance.

“She’s so beautiful, and I…Look at me!”

At this point, Beast is torn between wanting to fall in love with Belle and his bitterness from having turned into his current form. This conflicting feeling between tsun and dere is developed further in Act II, particularly in this scene and the next.  When the door opens, the Beast nervously expects Belle to show up, and he lowers his guard for a slight moment.

"B-Belle?"
The person who enters is Cogsworth, who has the unfortunate task of relaying to the Beast that Belle refuses to join him for dinner.  The Beast erupts and roars into the guest wing, slamming on the door to Belle’s room.  Belle is still angry at the Beast, which doesn’t bode well for his attempts at romantic conquest at all.

He even stutters like a tsundere in his frustration.  “W-w-what does she want me to do? BEG?”

Belle continues to justifiably act stubborn towards the Beast, which sets him off even further.  He states, “If she doesn’t eat with me, she doesn’t eat AT ALL.”Some tsunderes punch.  Some tsunderes tease and call names.  The Beast takes prisoners and refuses to feed them.  That’s how tsuntsun he is.

Act III – Lifesaver

After the famous “Be Our Guest” sequence, Belle wanders off into the castle, stumbling upon the magic rose.  Intrigued by its mysterious allure, she lifts the protective glass surrounding it, only to be caught by a rampaging Beast.  The Beast himself is full tsuntsun now, in the same way most tsundere anime girls go berserk after a perverted accident on account of the useless male lead.

Instead of giving a comic “Naru punch,” the Beast thrashes about as he chases Belle out of his tower, destroying his own property in the process.  He may very well kill Belle at this moment, but instead he banishes her from his castle entirely.  Belle runs away into the snowy night, frightened, and Beast dies a little bit inside, knowing what he has done in hindsight.

"I'm an idiot. Idiot! Idiot! Idiot! Idiot!"
Belle, also consumed by the heat of the moment, is lost in the woods, and is surrounded by wolves.  She tries to run away, but is cornered by the pack.  In heroic fashion, the Beast comes out of nowhere and drives away the pack, but is bitten several times in the process, and is injured to the point of passing out.  Belle brings him back to the castle.

Back in the Beast’s den, Belle tends to her rescuer’s wounds, much to the dismay of both. They argue back and forth, almost like a seasoned couple,trying to place blame on each other for the event that happened.  It comes down to the Beast losing his temper all the time, and he is called out on his tsuntsun tendencies, something that hardly ever happens in anime.  Regardless, Belle is genuinely grateful, and the Beast shows his politeness by saying you’re welcome, and the scene closes with a zoom out on their warm moment by the fireplace.

"I-I didn't save you! I just happened to be in the same place! Consider yourself lucky!"
A neat reversal, since it’s usually the tsundere who shows gratitude as a sign of character development.  In this case, the development is in both directions, and the two of them are finally able to get closer.

Act IV – Something There

Winter is in full-swing, and from afar, the Beast watches Belle wander across the castle orchard.  He admits to Cogsworth and Lumiere that he is starting to feel new things with regards to Belle, and he wants to do something for her to show his affection.  Compared to most tsunderes, his development continues, greatly aided by his honesty with himself, a very likeable and endearing trait.  He ends up appealing to Belle’s bookworm tendencies by renovating the castle’s library, filled with books as far as Belle can see.  Beast can hardly contain his excitement as he watches Belle react to the gesture.

The underrated song, “Something There,” plays out alongside a montage of scenes showing the pair continuing to spend time with each other.  The lyrics of this song encompasse the very essence of what it means to be a tsundere:

“There’s something sweet
And almost kind
But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined
But now he’s dear, and so unsure
I wonder why I didn’t see it there before”

It leads to wonderful ballroom scene that the movie is remembered by, as well as the titular song “Beauty and the Beast,” which won an academy award for best original song, as well as a Grammy for song of the year.  The deredere is in overdrive here, and the tsuntsun is all but a distant memory.

All is not as it seems.  Belle misses her father, and after seeing him collapse in the woods (don’t these characters learn by now?) trying to find Belle, she wants to save him and bring him back to safety.  The Beast, in an ultimate gesture of dere, grants her freedom from being his prisoner.  She thanks him greatly, and she escapes into the night.  The Beast is all alone again, and drifts into a melancholy.

"I-I'm not letting you go because I love you or anything!"
It almost seems like the Beast has reverted back to tsuntsun, but instead of coldness and ferocity, he is timid, alone, and afraid.  His love is gone, and everything that he has worked up to until this point is in shambles.

Act V – Finale

Gaston, the villain of the movie, gathers a bunch of villagers after learning about the Beast’s existence, assuming that he is a dangerous tsuntsun menace.  They storm the castle, and Gaston finds a demoralized Beast.  Gaston capitalizes on the Beast’s pacifism and fires an arrow at his shoulder, and they fight.

Gaston has the upper hand because the Beast is still dere and powerless.  But after seeing Belle again, the Beast summons his strength and defeats Gaston, but at the cost of him being stabbed in the abdomen in the process.  Fatally victorious, the Beast collapses into Belle’s arms and is laid down on the floor for his last words, thanking her for having met, and dies.

"Belle, you baka. I love you."
Belle returns his love by professing her love for him, and the Beast is resurrected, and with the spell broken, is transformed, alongside his friends and the entire castle back, to normal.

And they lived happily ever after, etc.

Conclusion

Outside of tsundere, the Beast falls into his own archetype related to the themes of inner-beauty within Beauty and the Beast.  He even has his own trope entry on tvtropes.  Having said that, according to modern troper definitions, Beast’s development falls under the “Defrosting the Ice Queen” trope.  It’s hard to see the Beast in that manner if we are to take the trope name literally, since he is more than just cold.  He was mean, vicious, and tempermental, even to his closest friends.

But as I’ve explained above, not only does he show similar traits to classical tsundere, but the character development is very well-done.  It’s also the romantic development between both the hot-and-cold Beast and the brainy beauty Belle that allows this movie to persist through the years and be a timeless classic not only in the west, but worldwide.

Can Japan return to its old ways and deliver a tsundere worthy of the old name?  I wouldn’t count on it, but I would be delighted to see anime go back to its roots.

I-it’s not because I love anime or anything.  I just happen to like good stories, that’s all.  Gosh!

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8 thoughts on “Tsundere and the Beast: a Classic Character with a Classic Archetype”

  1. *Blown away*

    That was a wonderful post! I purchased Beauty and the Beast on Blu-Ray several months ago, hoping to share it with my children as I enjoyed it growing up. While the animation was ground-breaking at the time (and remains captivating), it became Disney’s most critically-acclaimed animated feature largely because of the two leads and their relationship. Beast is more ferocious than many Disney villains, which makes his transition all the more powerful. And your analysis of this transition matching the idea of a tsundere was pitch-on perfect.

    Awesome post!

    1. Thanks. To add to your comment regarding the ground-breaking animation, I remember reading on wikipedia that it was the first time they used an animation technology during the ballroom scene that allowed the animated subject to move away from the camera on the z-axis, giving a tracking shot effect, making the scene much more cinematic than other animated films of its time. It remains my favourite scene in the movie, despite not really talking about it much in this post, but I do appreciate you having brought it up. Thanks a bunch for the comment!

      1. Absolutely – I remember watching specials about that scene before the movie was released. It was kind of the first time I realized animation could go beyond what we typically saw as cheap, kiddie fare. It’s really a great, great film – the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Movie Oscar as well.

  2. Haha. You’re totally right. Beast is such a tsundere! And perhaps that’s why Beauty and the Beast is one of the most popular Disney classics. Everyone loves a good tsundere.

    1. Before re-watching this movie in my older age, I never really saw Beauty and the Beast as much of an entertaining movie. I couldn’t relate to any of the characters as a kid. But now, I can appreciate the cinematic merit of the movie as a whole, only now realizing the weight of B&tB’s critical success, having been nominated for an Academy Award.

      I just find it hilarious that as an otaku, we can appreciate in a different level than your typical western moviegoer.

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