For better or worse, tsundere are an increasingly common character type in anime, and as stated by the illustrious Shiraishi Minoru, they generally come in two flavors: traditional tsundere who are tsun and slowly become dere, and modern tsundere who switch between tsun and dere frequently. As one might expect from referring to the latter as “modern,” that type of tsundere is more common these days.
This isn’t about discussing which one is better or worse though. What I wonder about is why there has been this shift in the first place. I don’t think it’s as simple as otaku wanting instant gratification or that their attention spans are getting smaller, though those things could actually be happening. Could it be in its own way a fight to make more female characters with an aggressive side to them, or an attempt to soften aggressive characters? Maybe the answer lies somewhere in the middle, as any fan of tsundere will tell you that the appeal comes from the combination of the two sides, though I think they will disagree on specifics.
In thinking about the appeal that the tsundere has for viewers of anime, the notion of risk/reward comes to mind. With a modern tsundere, it is very obvious when a character is acting “dere.” The first instance of the switch from tsun to dere happens very early to establish it as part of their character. For a more traditional tsundere, the switch happens much later. The traditional tsundere also tends to be less abusive towards their love interests than the modern variety. Do you get strong love after much effort, or do you get a strange, convoluted love regularly such that you’re not sure if the girl is interested at all?
In looking at traditional vs modern tsundere, their specific appeal is actually pretty different. A traditional tsundere can be won over by a guy through sheer effort. Even if she doesn’t like him at first, the guy tries so hard to be the man for her that she is moved by his genuine interest in her. It appeals to the nerd in the sense that what they lack in good looks or charisma they can make up for in passion. A modern tsundere however is more like a girl who is secretly shy, a girl who is afraid to admit that she like a guy. This is more for the guy who believes that maybe, just maybe there is a girl out there who likes him but neither side is brave enough to initiate conversation.
Effort vs Potential.
Time vs Space.