Role Language of Yandere Characters in Anime

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One of the amazing things about anime is its versatility. By that, I’m not referring to its ability as a medium to tell a wide range of stories. I’m talking about its ability to be used as a case-study in a plethora of classes. Here’s a little write up I did for a Japanese linguistics course analyzing the speech of everyone’s favorite yandere characters.

Enjoy… or else~

(Seriously, I had to go through a ton of academic readings in Japanese for this and it was not easy…)

1. Introduction

Role language, or yakuwari-go, is a type of language that is spoken by characters in fiction (Kinsui, 2003). Writers use role language as a tool to facilitate macro-cosmic communication, to quickly and efficiently convey aspects and traits of certain stereotypical characters to the audience though the addition of specific linguistic features (Yamaguchi, 2007). For instance, “わし” and “じゃ” are spoken by hakase, elderly professors, and overly polite and feminine speech is used by ojou-sama, rich upper-class ladies.

Role language of tsundere characters, however, differs from regular role language. They are not universally recognized by the average reader and are not specifically character particles. In addition, instead of being tied to the social background of the character and used constantly, like hakase-go and ojou-sama kotoba, tsundere role language is based on personality and will only exhibit itself in certain situations (Nishida, 2011). Yet, it still functions as role language as it helps transmit information about the stereotypical character archetype to the otaku audience, allowing them to recognize them as tsundere characters without the need for excess characterization and explanation. From this, we can therefore see that the concept of role language is far more varied and flexible than initially thought.

2. The Yandere Character Archetype

In otaku fandom today, following in the footsteps of tsundere characters, there are other dere character archetypes that have surfaced, namely, yandere, kuudere and dandere. These characters also take advantage of the gap in personalities that they exhibit to incite the feeling of moe in the audience. For this project, I focus on the yandere character archetype and analyze their language to see if there is a form yandere role language being employed.

Essentially, yandere characters can be defined as characters that are loving (dere), from デレデレ, but are also mentally unstable or insane (yan), from 病む. These characters are almost always exclusively female and are extremely protective and obsessive of their love interest to the point of madness. They are willing to commit excessive acts of violence to protect their relationship, becoming yan when they feel that their relationship is being threatened in any way.

Similar to tsundere characters, yandere characters can be time-based and situation-based (Nishida, 2011). They could have been driven mad over the course of the entire series (time-based) or have a form of psychosis that allows them to switch between the two states depending on the situation (situation-based). Some well-known examples of the yandere character archetype include Katsura Kotonoha from School Days, Gasai Yuno from Mirai Nikki, Sonozaki Shion from Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni and Fuyou Kaede from Shuffle!.

3. Linguistic Features of Yandere Characters in Anime

3.1. Linguistic Features of the Dere State

As with the other dere character archetypes, the dere state of yandere characters is characterized by feminine speech as evidenced from the use of the feminine particle “わ”, sentence ending particles “よ” and “ね” and polite forms (see Appendix A) (Nishida, 2011). Stereotypical feminine speech avoids making decisions, coming to conclusions and is non-commanding (Kinsui, 2003). As the particles ‘わ”, “よ” and “ね” and polite speech all serve to soften the impact of what is said, it causes the statement to appear more feminine. For instance, the “よ” and polite “です” in “大事ですよ” (see Appendix A) softens the impact of the statement which would seem rather forceful without them. Similarly, “ね” in “ゆっきは私と七月二十八日に結ばれるんだもの。ね?” (see Appendix A) softens the blow of the statement by seeking confirmation from the listener. Therefore, these linguistic features all contribute to the creation of the image of femininity and cuteness.

In addition, blushing usually accompanies this state to further emphasize the loving, cute and feminine nature of the character.

3.2. Linguistic Features of the Yan State

One of the most stand-out features of the yan state that clearly demarcates it from the dere state is maniacal laughter. Compared to the quiet, restrained and cute, feminine laughter in their dere state, “うふふ” or “ひひ” (see Appendix B), the laughter that yandere characters use, “やははは”, “あははは”, or “はははは” (see Appendix C), is loud, unrestrained and devoid of any feminine shyness or cuteness. Instead, it is maniacal, unabated and sadistic and symbolizes the loss of control and pleasure derived from the grotesque acts of violence. This laughter is also different from another characteristic laugh, “ホホホホ” – an element of ojou-sama role language, which is haughty and prideful (Kinsui, 2003).

While not a linguistic feature, the blank, soulless eyes are a mainstay of yandere characters in the yan state as, not unlike the laughter, they signify a loss of reason and control.

The linguistic element of maniacal laughter is a common feature of madness in anime. Characters who are mad, be it mad scientists or murderers (see Appendix D), all exhibit the same kind of unrestrained laughter. Likewise, they also have soulless eyes. On the other hand, hypnotized or possessed characters, whose eyes are also blank to represent a loss of will, do not exhibit the same maniacal laughter that is common with mad characters (see Appendix E).

Therefore, as an element of role language of madness, we can see that laughter, as a linguistic feature, is used in the yan state of yandere characters to convey to the audience that they are mad quickly and effectively with little characterization or explanation.

3.3. The Switch Between the Yan and Dere States

The switch in speech styles from feminine when dere to masculine when yan also plays a part in the characterization of yandere characters. Some examples include the usage of the second-person pronoun “お前” instead of “あんた”, masculine particle “だ” instead of the feminine “わ” and imperatives like “死ね” (see Appendix F). In contrast to feminine speech, masculine speech decides, commands, requests and persuades (Kinsui, 2003). “お前”, “だ” and the imperatives are all exceedingly direct, forceful and crude, giving the impression of masculinity in statements like “お前はここで、私と死ね!” (see Appendix F). While one cannot say that masculine language itself is an element of role language of madness, the switch in speech styles serves to inform the audience that the character has switched states from dere to yan and vice versa, informing and reminding them of the duality of states that yandere characters embody.

Most fighting girls in otaku culture today retain their feminine speech styles even when fighting, save for those in a position of command within an organization. Here, one can argue that the masculine language serves to create a dissonance, not only linguistically, but also visually as it is unsettling seeing a cute girl using aggressive and commanding language (Konei, 2011), adding to the mad nature of the character.

A change in vocal pitch and voice quality also signifies a change from one state to the other. There is a significant deepening of the vocal pitch to mark out the switch between the two modes, from high pitched and girly when dere to deep and threatening when yan.

3.4. The Blending of the Yan and Dere States

One of the features of yandere characters is the switching between the two states of yan and dere. In addition, unlike purely mad characters or fighting girls, a unique quality that can only be seen in yandere characters is the blending of the two states of yan and dere.

Linguistically, we can see the appearance of the dere state in the yan state with expressions like “死んじゃえ” (see Appendix G). While the regular imperative form of “死ぬ” is “死ね”, the dere state manifests itself in the yan state when the characters use “死んじゃえ”, the imperative form of the casual form of “死んでしまう”, “ 死んじゃう”. Not only is “死んじゃえ” symbolic of madness as the character is making light of something as gruesome as the death of others by using the casual form, it is also restrained and therefore, cuter and more feminine than the regular imperative form, reminiscent of the dere state.

The opposite is true as well. The yan state appears in the dere state when the character talks about the killing of others in a polite, cute, high-pitched feminine manner. In the line, “殺すわよ” (see Appendix H), the particle “わ” softens the impact of the very forceful and serious word, “殺す”, making it sound more feminine. This is similar to the previous case as there is a dissonance created between the speech style and subject matter, emphasizing the fact that the character is treating death lightly. This dissonance is what is unique about yandere characters and again symbolic of how madness manifests itself.

4. Role Language of Yandere Characters in Anime

If one were to look at the progression of the expressions of yandere characters when they feel threatened, it would be:

Dere (Feminine Speech) ► Yan Manifesting in Dere (殺すわよ) ► Switch from Dere to Yan (Switch in Speech Styles/Pitch) ► Dere Manifesting in Yan (死んじゃえ) ► Yan (Laughter)

The above change can occur across the span of an entire series or take place within a short period of time depending on the nature of the yandere character, whether they are time-based or situation-based respectively.

Similar to tsundere expressions being the characteristic middle ground of the tsun state and the dere state of tsundere characters (Nishida, 2011), the linguistic appearance of the yan state in the dere state, and vice versa, is a perfect in-between that serves to inform and remind audiences of the insanity and duality of states that yandere characters embody without much need of further explanation. Therefore, we can say that this is an element of role language of yandere characters.

However, the other linguistic elements such as the switching of speech styles and pitch to inform audiences about the change in states and the characteristic linguistic features of the individual states of yan and dere need to be viewed together, from a scene-by-scene or entire-series perspective, in order for them to function as role language of yandere characters as no other character archetype embodies the same combination of linguistic features.

5. Conclusion

Once again, similar to tsundere expressions, yandere expressions are not conventional role language that is linked to the social position of the character or used constantly, but are instead personality-based and used in specific situations. Yet, the otaku audience can instantly recognize this character archetype when presented with these characteristic linguistic features, or a combination thereof.

———

Bibliography

Araki, T. (Director). (2006). Death Note [Television series]. Tokyo, Japan: Madhouse.

Hosoda, N. (Director). (2011). Mirai Nikki [Television series]. Tokyo, Japan: Asread.

Hosoda, N. (Director). (2005). Shuffle! [Television series]. Tokyo, Japan: Asread.

Iwasa, G. (Producer). (2011). Steins;Gate [Television series]. Tokyo, Japan: White Fox.

Kinsui, S. (2003). Vaacharu nihongo yakuwarigo no nazo (Virtual Japanese: The mysteries of role language). Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.

Kishi, S. (Director). (2013). Danganronpa: The Animation [Television series]. Tokyo, Japan: Lerche.

Kon, C. (Director). (2006). Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni [Television series]. Tokyo, Japan: Studio Deen.

Konei, R. (2011). “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” and its Role Language: Notes on a Theory of Image Translation. In Kinsui, Satoshi (Ed.), Yakuwarigo kenkyuu no tenkai (pp. 173-180). Tokyo: Kuroshio Shuppan

Motonaga, K. (Director). (2007). School Days [Television series]. Tokyo, Japan: TNK

Nishida, T. (2011). Tsundere expressions as role language, focusing on circumstances of usage. In Kinsui, Satoshi (Ed.), Yakuwarigo kenkyuu no tenkai (pp. 265-277). Tokyo: Kuroshio Shuppan

Overflow. (2010). School Days HQ [PC game]. Tokyo, Japan: Stack

Sato, J. (Director). (1992). Sailor Moon [Television series]. Tokyo, Japan: Toei Animation.

Yamaguchi, H. (2007). Universals and Specifics of Role Language in Popular Fiction: A contrastive Analysis between Japanese and English. In Kinsui, Satoshi (Ed.), Yakuwarigo kenkyuu no chihei (pp. 9-25). Tokyo: Kuroshio Shuppan

———

Appendix A

Transcript of School Days Episode 03 (20:31 – 21:27)

伊藤誠:そんなに大事なのかな、呼びかたって。
桂言葉:大事ですよ。
伊藤誠:あの、桂?
桂言葉:ごめんなさい。気にしないでください。
伊藤誠:いや。じゃ...言葉。
桂言葉:あ。
伊藤誠:なんだか照れくさいな。
桂言葉:嬉しいです。
伊藤誠:そう?
桂言葉:あ、あの...誠くん。
伊藤誠:お、名前だ!
伊藤誠:やっと、恋人って言う実感がわいてきた...かな
桂言葉:はい。
伊藤誠:うん。よかった。

Transcript of Mirai Nikki Episode 06 (15:05 – 15:52)

我妻由乃:ゆっきは由乃を好きになる!
天野雪輝:なんでそんなことを言えるんだよ。
我妻由乃:ゆっきは私と七月二十八日に結ばれるんだもの。ね?
天野雪輝:僕がその未来を変えるかもしれないぞ。
我妻由乃:いいよ。
天野雪輝:いいよってお前...自分で言ってること分かってのか?
我妻由乃:ハッピーエンドになるもの。
天野雪輝:だから、僕が未来を変えたら...
我妻由乃:ゆっきは好きにすればいい。
我妻由乃:でも、この未来はゆっきにも変えさせない。
天野雪輝:由乃。
我妻由乃:七月二十八日、必ずゆっき私を抱くわ。

Appendix B

Transcript of Scene from School Days HQ Visual Novel

桂言葉:誠くんも私のこと、好きですか?
伊藤誠:あ。
桂言葉:そうですよね。
桂言葉:分かってますよ。うふふ。

Transcript of Mirai Nikki Episode 10 (12:15 – 12:24)

我妻由乃:すごい、ひひ。夢のようだわ。
天野雪輝:ひどい。悪夢のようだよ。

Appendix C

Transcript of Scene from School Days HQ Visual Novel

西園寺世界:うん?桂さん?
桂言葉:西園寺さん?
西園寺世界:はい。あの、桂さん、ひさしぶり。
西園寺世界:どうしたん...の?
桂言葉:死んじゃえ。
西園寺世界:え?なに?
西園寺世界:う、うそ。
伊藤誠:世界?
桂言葉:あはははは、あはははは...!

Transcript of Mirai Nikki Episode 14 (06:20 – 06:40)

秋瀬或:我妻さん、答えは?
我妻由乃:やはははは...あはははは...!答え?何の答え?

Transcript of Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Episode 21 (06:55 – 07:21)

園崎魅音:やめて!やめて、やめて、やめて!
園崎詩音:よし。じゃ、こうしよう。千回「ごめんなさい」っていうんだよ。そしたら、沙都子を解放してあげる。
園崎魅音:ごめんなさい、ごめんなさい、ごめんなさい...
園崎詩音:ははははは...!

Appendix D

Transcript of Steins;Gate Episode 10 (19:35 – 19:50)

岡部倫太郁:俺は狂気のマッドサイエンティスト鳳凰院凶省!
岡部倫太郁:なにを恐れることがあるというのだ?
岡部倫太郁:ははははは...ははははは...!

Transcript of Danganronpa Episode 12 (23:02 – 24:10)

江ノ島盾子:待っていたわ。私様はまっていたのよ。あなた達のような人間が現れることをね。
江ノ島盾子:あ...よくある設定だよ。だから、いまさら言うのも恥ずかしいんだけどさ。つまり、私とむくろは双子の関係にあるんだ。
苗木誠:二人のは...絶望。
江ノ島盾子:体力自慢の姉と言う設定が、戦刃むくろ。可愛くて、転生で、しかも妹と言う設定が私。
江ノ島盾子:江ノ島盾子ちゃん!
江ノ島盾子:あはははは...あはははは...!

Transcript of Death Note Episode 12 (07:36 – 08:17)

二ア:言い逃れられるのなら、言い逃れてみてください。
夜神月:ははははは...ははははは...!
夜神月:そうだ。僕がキラだ。

Appendix E

Transcript of Sailor Moon Episode 02 (18:42 – 19:00)

妖魔:やれ!
学生達:へへへへへ...
セーラームーン:や、やめなさいよ!
学生達:へへへへへ...
セーラームーン:やだ!
学生達:へへへへへ...
セーラームーン:それ以上近づくと、ただじゃおかないわよ!
学生達:へへへへへ...

Appendix F

Transcript of Mirai Nikki Episode 12 (08:46 – 09:18)

我妻由乃:ゆっきは私の活きる希望。
我妻由乃:でも、それも叶わないのなら、せめてゆっきのために死ぬわ。
我妻由乃:そして、死んでも私は、ゆっきを追い続ける。
来須圭悟:こいつは...
我妻由乃:お前はここで、私と死ね!
天野雪輝:だめだ、由乃!
天野雪輝:僕は由乃と星を見に...

Transcript of Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Episode 21 (06:20 – 06:55)

園崎詩音:ころす。
園崎魅音:やめて!沙都子を殺さないで。
園崎詩音:はははは!今頃命乞いかい?あんたはそれを悟史くんの時に死なかった。それがあんたの罪なんだ。
園崎魅音:許してあげて!私はどうなってもいいから。沙都子を許してあげて。
今叫んでるお前はあの時の私。
どんなに叫んだって、届かない、救えない、助けられない。お前はそこで苦しみは味わうがいい。

Appendix G

Transcript of Scene from School Days HQ Visual Novel

西園寺世界:うん?桂さん?
桂言葉:西園寺さん?
西園寺世界:はい。あの、桂さん、ひさしぶり。
西園寺世界:どうしたん...の?
桂言葉:死んじゃえ。
西園寺世界:え?なに?
西園寺世界:う、うそ。
伊藤誠:世界?
桂言葉:あはははは、あはははは...

Transcript of Mirai Nikki Episode 02 (14:47 – 15:08)

我妻由乃:ゆっきを守らなきゃ!
我妻由乃:なにを犠牲にしても。
我妻由乃:死ね!死ね!みんな死んじゃえ!
我妻由乃:ゆっきを殺すものは全て死ねばいいんだ!

Transcript of Shuffle! Episode 19 (20:56 – 21:40)

芙蓉楓:帰って。
時雨亜沙:へ?
芙蓉楓:帰ってください。帰ってください。帰って...ください。帰って。帰って。
時雨亜沙:楓。
芙蓉楓:帰って!帰って!帰って!この家にまで来ないで!
土見稟:楓!
芙蓉楓:稟くんを返して!
時雨亜沙:楓。
土見稟:楓!
芙蓉楓:いや!どうして?何でなの?
土見稟:楓!どうしたんだ?落ち着け、楓!
芙蓉楓:いや!放して!
土見稟:いい加減にしろ!
芙蓉楓:あんたなんか、死んじゃえばいいんだ!

Appendix H

Transcript of Mirai Nikki Episode 04 (10:10 – 10:23)

我妻由乃:十七時五十分、ゆっきはシックスと話してる。
我妻由乃:ゆっきは私の悪口を吹き込まれて困ってるよ。
我妻由乃:なにゆっきに変なこと吹き込んるのよ。
我妻由乃:殺すわよ。

5 Responses to Role Language of Yandere Characters in Anime

  1. alexeon says:

    Interesting read, once again. I learned stuff. :D

  2. Bubu-Chan says:

    Im personally fond of yandere girls in anime.. Yuno Gasai my fave so far but I think its a scary personality in real life :O hahaha Nice read :)

  3. Actar says:

    @ alexeon: Glad that you did! (^o^) Hope my articles can continue to inform and entertain.

    @Bubu-Chan: I don’t mind them whatsoever. In fact, if you play your cards right, they could be the most loving and caring people you’ll ever know. (^.^;)

  4. dethenigma says:

    @ Actar:
    I AGREE COMPLETELY with your statement, as I have always been loving fond of – “Ys” – since the – “Y-light archetype” – which was presented by Disney’s – Tinkerbell – (1953) and yes , she was – “Y”

  5. Nikolaj says:

    Definitely well-written and well-documented – Looking forward to more of these :)

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