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The term “Yandere” in anime is generally defined as a particular character type. It means a character (often female) with an unhealthy romantic obsession that, in extreme cases, can leads to the murder of romantic rivals, threats, and even the person that the yandere is in love with. But is this really what we’re always thinking of when we talk about yandere in anime?

A while back I posted a “Top 5 Yandere Characters” list, and it’s still one of my highest viewed posts every day. But it’s also had barely any reception, with only 1 “like” and 1 comment, which makes me believe that people didn’t get what they expected out of it, and probably didn’t finish the article. I think this is a problem with a lot of Yandere Lists. People don’t get what they expect because the term “Yandere” actually has two meanings that are often confused with one another, “Yandere” the character and “Yandere” the genre.

Yandere Character is basically what we defined above. Characters with dangerously obsessive romantic feelings. This can mean Yuna Gasai, Shion Sonozaki (in certain arcs), Lucy, Misa Amane, Sofia Valmet, Nonon Jakuzure, Ryoko Asakura (Disappearances only), and many more. All of these characters have some kind of protective or possessive obsession with another character, and get violent over it.

Higurashi Shion Mion Laugh insane yandere

Shion: Murders an entire village into distress as revenge for losing her boyfriend.

Sofia Valmet

Sofia: Given the violent nature of Jormungand as a whole, it’s hard to really call her notably aggressive. Her yandere-ism towards her boss, Koko, is generally played for comedy instead. Because, lesbians! Lawl!

Misa Death God Eyes yandere deathnote note

Misa: Twice shortens her own life in the interest of serving as a weapon for Kira in Death Note.

Lucy yandere elfen lied

Lucy: Just don’t run into her on the train

Nonon yandere

Nonon: Gets angry and aggressive whenever someone fails to respect Satsuki from Kill la Kill. Though, in her case it may be more about admiration then love.

Asakura yandere disappearance haruhi

Asakura: Protects Yuki Nagato’s fantasy world by the blade of a knife. More motivated by maternal feelings, rather than romantic ones.

Yuno Gasai yandere crazy laugh

Yuno: Kills EVERYONE to be with Yuki in Future Diary.

Some of these character, however, tend to stand out in discussions of yandere, not just as the best of the best, but as coming from a whole different league, or better yet, from an entire genre of shows dedicated solely to them. Yandere Anime.

There is a significant difference between yandere-ism of Yuno versus Nonon, Shion versus Valmet, or Lucy versus Asakura. One group has spats of rage or jealousy, while the other has kill counts. Yuno, Shion and Lucy aren’t Yandere Characters added to a show, they are the forces of nature that shows are written around. A Yandere Anime is one that is, from its foundations, structured around building up a central Yandere Character. You can’t have Future Diary without Yuno, School Days without Kotonoha, or the Eye Opening arc without Shion. But Sofia Valmet could be replaced, and all Asakura really adds to Disappearance is a more exciting climax.

Though I’ve suddenly gotten really quiet about Death Note’s gothic idol, Misa. She kinda throws a wrench into this whole thing.

Misa, in many ways, feels like the star of Yandere Anime, not just a mere Yandere Character in some other anime. Feels like, but isn’t. She’s a supporting characters in the psychological thriller Death Note, and while her actions are largely dictated by the universal yandere standard of “let’s fuck some shit up”, Death Note itself is a complex chess game. Misa is only one rogue queen.

So how exactly does Misa walk this line? Well, while Death Note isn’t structured around her specifically, its structure does accommodate the occasional love-motivated murder sprees we like to see from yandere. Because Misa has the power to kill (using a Death Note), and killing and the different motives for killing make up most of Death Note’s drama, Misa’s given plenty of opportunities to express her love for Light Yagami in the traditional yandere way. And it helps that her boyfriend is twice as psycho as she is.

So it is possible to have a hard-core yandere character in a non-yandere anime, which is what makes this distinction so hard to make. I want to say that there’s a clear difference between Nonon and Yuno, Yandere Characters and Yandere Anime, so we can actually discus yandere in clear terms. But I tend you group Misa with the Yuno Gasais and Shion Sonozakis of anime.

I suppose I haven’t really solved anything here, but hopefully some others sympathize with my dream for clarity in the rich, beautiful field of yandere, and we can start to better understand the word “yandere” from here. What does “yandere” mean to you? Leave a comment, and let’s chat about it.

Don’t Lose Your Way