Anime Archetypes: What is a Yandere?
If you’re thinking of creating a Yandere character, you’ll have to dig deeper than just creating an innocent girl that starts off sweet and turns out psycho. Yanderes aren’t just crazy; they’re damaged and it’s up to the author to reveal that in an engaging and terrifying way. Never limit your Yandere as only a plot device for something suspenseful. The contemporary audience isn’t as sensitive to blood and violence as they used to be. It’s how twisted a mind can become that makes the yandere ridiculously captivating. We’ll look through the twists and turns of a Yandere’s psyche and afterward, propose some “What if…” suggestions to prompt your Yandere to stand out amongst a group of adorable or handsome serial killers.
Yanderes are an anime trope that describe characters (usually girls) that appear to be kind-hearted, but are truly violet and possessive psychopaths. The "yan" or "yanderu" means to be "sick" (mentally) while "dere" means lovestruck or sweet. They are extremely talented at blending in with those around them and are masters of seizing opportunities. Yanderes attach themselves to someone fairly quickly, usually in a romantic way, and then stick to them like glue. Detachment issues and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are obvious when the Yandere starts to reveal their true selves.
Common Alignment: Neutral Evil
Strengths: Quick thinker, Good actor, Strategic, Decisive, Focused,
Weakness: Prone to jealously, Manipulative, Sadistic/Masochistic, Emotionally unstable,
How do I Make A Yandere Character?
- Backstory – Why Do They Kill For Love? - The Yandere can have a backstory that ranges from traumatic to not so traumatic because it’s not really about who hurt them, but what ended up conquering their mentality. Yanderes obsess over someone or something that gives them pleasure and plan to keep it safe. Something in a Yandere’s past threatened what they love, then led them the extremities of their hostility. To put this in the terms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the obsession is the fear of losing what they love and the compulsion is protecting it through aggressive acts. Keep in Mind: A Yandere’s world revolves around what they love. Make sure it’s something or someone they’re willing to kill for when they recognize the object or person is linked to their passion.
- Your Yandere’s Modus Operandi: Once you’ve established what or who the Yandere loves, they should have a signature killing style which can range to a weapon they are comfortable with or being completely unpredictable. This isn’t about only what they fight with, but also about how they fight. Yanderes can be sloppy, precise, or so clever, it’s scary. Yanderes usually appear to be “crazy” when they kill, but you should correlate their insanity with their obsession. Keep in Mind: Your Yandere’s MO is meant to complement their sick mind. Do they like to hack-and-slash, use blunt force, or are they silent killers? If they use a variety of tactics, what causes them to escalate, or become more brutal?
- What Makes Them Tick and What Do They Do About It? (Internal Conflict) Rena from Higurashi no Naku Koro, a renowned Yandere, has a problem with liars. It’s most likely linked to her mother cheating on her father. Your Yandere should also show moments of irritation, jealously, or frustration when the wrong button is pushed to show how quickly a Yandere is willing to defend what they’re passionate about. The reaction will be aggressive, but what stimulates that aggression is worth pondering on. When you create other characters that interact with your Yandere, make sure you don’t miss a single opportunity to make them snap. Keep in Mind: A Yandere’s mind is unstable. To enhance their instability, make sure to pinpoint how something that is no sweat to one character is a huge deal for your character.
- Emphasizing the Obsession Without Being Cliché (External Conflict): There are a lot of different nervous ticks or bad habits a person can develop when something is on their mind. They’re worth exploring while creating your character so you don’t end up showing your audience what they’ve already seen. There are a variety of phobias and disorders you can explore to make your character more complicated. For example, if you create a Yandere that might have a germ phobia, also known as Mysophobia, they would most likely kill in a subtle way, like poisoning the food or drink of a threat rather than hacking them to bits. Keep in mind: The habits of your character are meant to enhance their obsession. Make sure they’re directly linked to the way they think and act.
- Innocence Incognito: Like most serial killers, the Yanderes are masters of blending in public. The Yandere wants to make sure that who they appear to be is attractive to their target. Receiving mutual feelings from the target would put the Yandere in paradise. Even though Yanderes may suspect that mutual feelings might not occur, to them it’s worth trying. Receiving an unrequited love usually causes the “yan” to appear from the character, so you’ll have to make sure that the character’s lovey-dovey side, or “dere”, is convincing enough to lure in other characters and the audience. Keep in mind: The Yandere’s innocent demeanor or cover does more than just hide their true nature; it’s also bait for their target.
- Yandere-Target Relationship: The target, usually the Yandere’s love interest, can fall into three categories:
- When the Target HATES the Yandere: A target that does not like the Yandere will most likely hate them initially then be repulsed by their true nature or hate them initially then like them later. This target will probably be the one that thinks on their feet and does anything they can to get away from the Yandere. The Yandere, on the other hand, will quickly accept the unrequited love and will either kill those the target loves or kill the target with the “If I can’t have you, nobody can” mind set.
- When the Target is NEUTRAL about the Yandere: A target that sees the Yandere as an acquaintance may be oblivious to the Yandere’s feelings initially, then either disgusted or attracted to the Yandere’s true nature later. These types of targets are usually vulnerable to fear and adopt the “fight, flight, or freeze” thought process. As the ultimate opportunist, the Yandere will take advantage of the way the target thinks and plot to isolate them as their sole possession in due time.
- When the Target LIKES the Yandere: A target that already fancies the Yandere will like them initially and then either terrified or lovestruck when their true nature is revealed. These targets are destined for tragedies with an internal conflict to deal with throughout the story. The Yandere will do their best to keep their target in the dark until it’s no longer a problem and the Yandere believes that ultimately they have the advantage.
Targets vary by thought and action, but the Yandere’s responses to the target must reflect their relationship as twisted in some aspects and genuine in others. Keep in Mind: No matter what kind of target your Yandere is after, the Yandere will put up a fight. Make sure your target will react appropriately to that.
- Yanderes: The Ultimate Die Hards: I’m sure you’ve noticed that Yanderes have a hard time dying. Their obsession makes them resilient and it’s very rare for a Yandere to allow themselves to be killed or kill themselves. What must be remembered is that a Yandere’s death is usually the climax of the story or a distinct part of resolution. The timing of their death is more impactful when it’s unpredictable and almost mistrusting. Keep in Mind: The Yandere’s death must have impact. Make sure their demise is believable, shocking, and perhaps even heartbreaking.
The "What if..." Section
I hope that gave your mind something to think about when you start sculpting your hostile lover. Now let’s take the time to avoid the clichés.
- Gender Swap/Manipulation: There are far too many Yanderes that are girls. Girls do often appear to be the more emotional type, but that isn’t always the case. Men and transgenders have emotions too and they can be just as vulnerable to obsessive behaviors and especially aggressive or possessive acts.
- What if the target is more twisted than the Yandere? Light Yagami from Death Note is the one character that I’ve seen that was more twisted than their twisted love interest, Misa Amane. Manipulative to the core, Light saw many innocent bystanders as just tools for his ultimate goal, but Misa complied as long as she got to be with him. Misa also threatened to kill anyone he dated. Once he passed away, Misa killed herself. A character even more twisted than Light would create interesting interactions with a Yandere.
- What if the Yandere was the villain no one suspected? Many stories bring in the “yan” part of a character very soon to keep the audience captivated, but it sure would be interesting if there was a Yandere that was clever and convincing enough to remain innocent until their “switch” happens when it’s least expected. Consider it a challenge to keep your audience involved until you drop the bomb.
- What if you experiment with genres and themes: We’ve seen the “innocent school girl kills classmates” theme dozens of times. Don’t be afraid to place your Yandere in a genre they have never been in before. If you want to stick with the school theme, it better have one hell of a plot twist because that’s as cliché as it gets, folks.