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The Armadillo Effect

April 23, 2010

Most of us are familiar with the “Hedgehog’s Dilemma.” It’s the cute little metaphor that they used in Evangelion to explain Shinji’s wussiness (And, yes, Eva blatantly lifted it from existing psychology crap.). Hedgehogs are afraid to get close to people because:

A) They’re afraid to hurt others because of their quills stabbing these people’s guts out.

and

B) They’re afraid that said quills will in turn hurt themselves as they press into their own flesh if they become too close to someone else.

The Hedgehog’s Dilemma applies to many loser male anime leads, and I think I’ve figured out another cute animal metaphor that works well for many female anime leads.

I propose The Armadillo Effect.

Y’all know what an armadillo is. You’re also likely familiar with the fact that said little dudes are the poster child of Texas road kill. The main reason why so many armadillos get offed by cars (Other than the fact that they can’t outrun a Chevy pick-up going 110mph in a 55mph zone.) is the fact that their primary defensive mechanism when faced with a potential predator is to jump. Armadillos jump straight into the air before attempting to hightail it out of the way. That’s their natural reaction to “big thing coming at me that probably wants to eat me alive.”

Therefore, when an armadillo sees a car coming, he doesn’t bolt out of the way, heightening his chances to dodge said oncoming vehicle. Nope. The dude jumps straight into the air, often resulting in him jumping into the car’s path and getting hit in mid-air.

When it comes to dealing with cars, the armadillo’s naturally evolved defensive mechanism actually makes his situation worse. Such is the case with the classic anime chick stereotype: the tsundere.

Tsunderes react to romantic and suggestive situations with emotional distancing, anger, and violence. If you say “I love you,” she gets angry, grabs you by your school uniform tie, calls you a fucking asshole, and likely decks you with a flash kick or dragon punch. They want to feel loved, but their naturally evolved reaction to any sort of confrontation (hostile or benevolent) is to react with aggression and violence.

Obviously, such reactions only make the situation worse for the tsundere. The guy might be turned off by her behavior, or it keeps the characters from coming to a romantic reconciliation at an earlier point in the series.

Tsunderes essentially react to love the same way an armadillo reacts to a car: they do the exact opposite thing from what they should do and often get hit by a metaphorical semi.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2010 9:54 PM

    I thought this was going to be about the fact that they roll into little balls, but apparently that’s only one species in South America.

    Your photoshopped image is terrible, but that in itself has a kind of charm. :) Lovely post.

    • Landon permalink
      April 24, 2010 8:47 PM

      Yeah. Charming. We’ll go with that. I like that word.

  2. April 24, 2010 12:02 AM

    kawaii armadillo

  3. April 24, 2010 6:12 AM

    I disagree with your choice of Kagami \`O’/ She isnt a bitchy tsundere like some other bitches like Taiga at all >:P Kagami has no violence and hardly get angry.
    In other word you sucks.

    Interesting story about armadillo though.

    • April 24, 2010 1:22 PM

      I think it’s because he never watched the series with Taiga and is too lazy to find a Naru pic.

      As a random note, I personally thought the manga for the series Taiga’s from was horribly generic, so I never gave the anime a chance, especially since it’s voiced by the current Queen/Princess of Tsundere.

    • Landon permalink
      April 24, 2010 8:46 PM

      Update’s right on both counts. Never watched Toradora and I just went with the first thing that came to mind to superimpose over that poor armadillo’s face.

      Although I remember Kagami being quite bitchy in her own right. I stand by armadilloizing her.

  4. Taka permalink
    April 24, 2010 10:22 PM

    Here’s my question: can the Hedgehog and the Armadillo actually coexist. Like can you have a series with a loser male lead and a tsundere female lead or does one have to always be a strong lead. What does the Hedgehog loser male lead evolve into at the end of the series when he finally mans up and gets the girl? Am I taking the metaphor too far?

    • April 25, 2010 12:54 AM

      Isn’t the loser male the standard guy for the tsundere? I think it’s only recently that we’ve been getting non-loser guys or perverted leads. The traditional guy is already the loser guy, since he’s the only type to tolerate her.

      A perverted main guy doesn’t tolerate her, he’s just too lustful to ignore her. In this way, the audience doesn’t have to sympathize with the tsundere, they just have to be unsympathetic to the lead. Same with snarky main guys.

      While a strong male just wouldn’t work with a tsundere. For instance, Imagine Breaker from Index totally doesn’t seem like he’ll end up with Railgun.

      • Taka permalink
        April 25, 2010 1:12 AM

        Weren’t we doing Toradora examples? Is Takasu Ryuji a loser male lead? I never really saw him as such. My assumption was that when the loser male lead gets together with the girl he ceases being a loser main lead. It’s a little harder to say if tsundere female ceases being tsundere since their lives are in a constant state of flux between tsun and dere.

  5. Aile permalink
    April 25, 2010 10:16 AM

    “(And, yes, Eva blatantly lifted it from existing psychology crap.)”

    Actually it’s an abridged recap of a parable by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), which kinda makes it pre-psychology. You can read the original here: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/schopenhauer/arthur/pessimism/chapter9.html (last one). The other essays in this compilation are also very inspiring and recommendable. (but beyond this parable the creators of NGE don’t seem much influenced by Schopenhauers actual philosophy, his main points being representationalism and ‘will’, though I’m sure if one wanted to it’s possible to retrofit that in there somewhere)

    Anyway, no matter where it came from, the simple idea that people need to figure out a certain balance between closeness and distance for comfort is valid to both scientific psychology and commonday pragmatism.

    Nice thought about that armadillo/tsundere thing. I think the comparison fits (though you can probably find even better animal-examples): A behavior that was once beneficial (the jumping-thing in pre-motorized nature) is now through changing circumstances bad and you’ll suffer if you don’t adapt as well. Indeed this relates to not just ‘tsundere’ but really most of human behavior as well, as most behavior was once learned (or innate) in a situation where it (doing a particular thing) was beneficial, but when you fail to adapt and apply it do a different situation problems may arise. Which comes from the fact that it’s generally easier to aquire a certain behavior than to lose it (it just takes one/few successes to pick up a behavior, it takes many more failures before we realize “hey this isn’t working anymore, maybe I should stop doing it”), but even that itself comes from the need for stability of identity.

    In the case of tsundere-types for example, we often see that their bitchiness came from incidents of the past (like being betrayed/dissappointed or worse) or any other situation where not letting people too close was probably the right thing to do (or ‘snobby rich girl who never learned it any other way’), but anyway now that the situation has changed (ie. our gentle and loving male lead has arrived) the girl is only hurting herself by denying the love. Cue wacky hijinx, ‘comedic violence’ and warm fuzzies as our couple breaks the ice, grows closer and the girl is ‘redeemed’ and stops being a bitch, and you got generic shitty romance comedy 101.
    Definetly not a fan of ‘these’ tsunderes, various reasons. I’d rather see the darker takes on this, ie. follow it through to a selfdestructive conclusion (for example Asuka), though of course that’s not for every show I guess.

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