The anime adaptation of Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro has put the “teasing character” back in the spotlight, and what I find interesting is how strongly this archetype draws fans in. I see the teasing character as a sort of middle ground between different preferences (and fetishes), and this positions it to hit a variety of targets simultaneously.
In a sense, the “teasing character” can be viewed as the grandchild of tsundere and the direct offspring of the yandere. The tsundere is all about the prickly personality, often portrayed as a character who tries to deny their own feelings or reluctantly develop them. They might attack the love interest, but they’re typically built as reactive or passive characters in the realm of romance. The yandere, however, is the twisted mirror image of the tsundere: an obsessive and dangerous love whose thrills border on horror. The teasing character, then, is a sort of a compromise between the two by being more aggressive than the tsundere but lacking the morbid violence and emotional intensity of the yandere. They actively pressure their possible love interest, throwing them off their game and rendering them helpless. Any romantic feelings are covered in layers of snark and smugness, but unlike the tsundere, the power resides primarily in the teaser.
If tsundere is too tepid and yandere is too scalding, then the teasing character might be just right. Even then, it should be noted that there are differing degrees of teasing characters. Nagatoro’s bullying isn’t quite the same as the heroines of Teasing Master Takagi-san or Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out, who are more prankster and brat, respectively.
I also find that the “Goldilocks”-esque nature of the teasing character extends beyond the tsundere-yandere spectrum and into other territories. So much like how the teasing character is like “tsundere but more aggressive” and “yandere but without the obsessive physical/psychological violence,” you can describe the archetype in similar ways relative to other fetishes. It’s NTR (a form of cuckolding, for the unfamiliar) but without the betrayal aspect—the powerlessness of the audience character is there, only not in as soul-crushing a manner. It’s S&M but primarily emotional and without cold contempt, meaning that all the pain and pleasure isn’t in the realm of physical pain—and it’s not the Blend S-style distanced masochism. A lot of relationships in storytelling are about power dynamics, and the teasing character is right in the thick of it.
I’m actually not that into the teasing character type (or everything I’ve mentioned beyond possibly tsundere), so my observations are limited by my lack of personal connection. If there’s more insight to be had, I’m interested in hearing from the true fans.
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