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…)
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.
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.
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Transcript of Scene from School Days HQ Visual Novel
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Transcript of Scene from School Days HQ Visual Novel
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