Since this year’s Anime Trick-or-Treat was another colossal failure I’m reworking it into an in-depth analysis of the one subject that was actually requested, namely Gasai Yuno, and her archetype, the yandere.
Since the actual request was just about Gasai Yuno, let’s start with her. Yuno is easily the most iconic yandere and could easily be credited with popularizing the archetype. Additionally she completely carries Mirai Nikki, which does have a lot of fans, however misguided they may be (read prior post for context if you like). That said she’s not exactly what I’d call a good character. Gasai is more or less defined by three traits, the core components of the yandere, obsessive love, extremely violent tendencies, and of course a firm binding of crazy to wrap up the whole package. Of the three traits her insanity is probably the most believable and well thought out, Mirai Nikki does show that Yuno’s mom was kind of insane and abused Yuno by locking her in a cage and whatnot. This is a cut above the truly awful crazies who are insane because plot, like the villain from the Alfheim arc of SAO, but it’s not that good either. As discussed in an old post on crazy characters the best crazies typically have their entire lives colored by their insanity, they don’t just have an inciting incident like Yuno. Now you could make the case that since Mirai Nikki takes place in a second world, the Yuno we see there has lived an entire life of insanity already and thus makes sense, but that still doesn’t really explain how she became so insane in the first world beyond the inciting incident.
The abuse also does make Yuno’s violent tendencies more believable as abuse victims sometimes become abusers later in life. However it doesn’t explain how extreme her violence is nor why she’s good at it. It’s one thing for the a kid who gets beat his whole life to beat others when he becomes an adult but it’s a lot less believable for that person to become a full blown serial killer, especially one that’s insanely good with knives, axes and guns. But even setting aside the potential issues of Yuno’s violence there is one glaring hole in her character, her love for Yuki. It’s clearly shown that the Yuno’s of both worlds fall for Yuki but it’s not ever explained why. Now I get that love isn’t necessarily logical but come one what’s Yuki got? He doesn’t appear particularly good looking, he has no social skills, and he’s done nothing for Yuno that might make her fall for him. So what gives? Why is he so damn important to her? Because plot apparently. Ultimately though I think Gasai Yuno symbolizes the inherent problem with yanderes, they are such comically overboard characters at the conceptual level that playing it straight is shooting yourself in the foot. It would take a lot of work to make a believable person who was also a full blown yandere and frankly most yandere creators don’t put in that effort because their shows are kinda shit. Off the top of my head I’d say the only genuine yanderes are the main girl from School Days, which is infamous for being a dumpster fire, Gasai Yuno from Mirai Nikki, which as previously discussed is pleb tier anime and the orange haired girl from Shuffle!, which was a pretty subpar harem show that I’m honestly wondering how many people currently watching anime even really know about since it came out in 2005. Most people also include one or more of the girls from Higurashi but there’s so much else going on in Higurashi that I think labeling them yanderes is grossly oversimplifying their characters and is wrong. Lucy from Elfen Lied is also often called a yandere but I don’t think that quite fits either.
In my opinion the best use of yanderes are as gags, and given the prevalence of the gag I think most Japanese creatives agree with me. Off the top of my head, Medaka has a yandere gag in Medaka Box Abnormal, both Tsukihi and Senjougahara have a couple yandere moments throughout the Bakemonogatari franchise, Ayase from OreImou has a few yandere scenes, Rin from Kanojo ga Flag wa Oraretara has several yandere moments, the black haired girl from Baka to Test has a bunch of yandere scenes, Chocolat and Yuragi both have yandere scenes in NouCome and the real star of this post, Anna Nishikinomiya of Shimoneta, has a few yandere scenes too. There’s probably more if I thought about it but I think I’ve made my point, yanderes as gags outnumber actual yanderes, because yanderes are so conceptually goofy that they make way better punchlines than characters. This brings us to my favorite yandere of all Anna Nishikinomiya of Shimoneta.
Anna is a great yandere because A, she’s not a yandere 24/7, B, because the world of Shimoneta is inherently ridiculous and full of ridiculous characters so a yandere fits right in, and C, the narrative has done a better job explaining why she exhibits yandere behaviors than most if not all other shows. For those unaware, Shimoneta takes place in a future Japan where porn and all things sexual have been banned and censored by the government. Anna is the daughter of two major proponents of this censorship and as such is a ridiculously sheltered and pure girl even by woefully sexually unaware standards of the people around her. During the story she is kissed by the main guy during a sting operation where he saves her from some stalkers and she falls head over heels for him, therefore explaining her deep love for him. It’s also established early on that Anna is insanely physically competent, both due to plot and due to the fact she’s a cream of the crop elite who works her ass off to fulfill her parent’s expectations. So she has good foundations for being good at violence. The final and most important touch though is how sheltered she is, she has no concept of the difference between love and lust, between what are acceptable ways to show affection and what’s not ok, so she engages in both extremely violent and extremely sexual acts and believes herself justified in doing so because she’s acting out of love, which she only has a vague idea of but believes is a pure and righteous thing. She also has no idea how to calm her body’s now awakened sexual urges and only seems to succeed in doing so when she’s performing her most perverse and extreme activities
To make a long story short, the reason the yandere succeeds as an archetype is because it’s incredibly stupid and out there. Everyone likes to talk about the great animes, the ones that everyone knows about and which left a long-lasting impression on the fandom and even the medium, but most of the time anime isn’t that, it’s stupid and weird. I say this as a compliment, stupid and weird can be a ton of fun and most of the time I want fun, not the next big classic which reshapes the medium. Stupid and weird are also core elements of camp, which is something most people absolutely love despite the negative connotations surrounding the word. The yandere archetype plays into the crowd’s love of camp, a character taken to such extremes and whose behavior is so overblown you almost can’t help but laugh at it. Because of this it’s vital that the yandere in question not be taken too seriously because serious and camp tend to butt heads. This is where Gasai Yuno both succeeds and fails, the character herself is ridiculous enough to be kind of awesome, even of you hate Mirai Nikki like me I still think Yuno herself has some appeal as a gimmick or a concept, but at the same time because Mirai Nikki plays her role straight and serious it weakens her character and the show itself. Ultimately Yuno is the face of yandere and I doubt anything will change that, and in fairness she does embody the extreme nature of the archetype quite well and by extension showcases the archetype’s appeal rather nicely. But in the context of being played seriously, shes not a good character, and she’s used poorly because again Mirai Nikki is pleb tier anime.
Over the top violence and love taken to creepy, crazy extremes is fun and funny, which is why the yandere should be a gag, because it works so well that way. Alternatively it makes sense for a yandere to be played fairly straight in a world and story that are already so ridiculous that nothing is to be taken too seriously. Yanderes, despite their dark reputation, are actually really fun and they are good making us laugh in the “well this is sort of fucked up but it’s still funny” sense. And if nothing else Yuno performs the crazy violence and twisted love we come to yandere for, it’s just too bad she’s in a show that doesn’t use her properly. So if you like the yandere, or maybe just want to see what all the fuss is about, go watch Shimoneta instead and let Anna show you how it’s done, because to me she should be crowned as the real Yandere Queen. Thanks for reading I hoped you enjoyed it, and if you have other characters you think make for good, or bad, yanderes do feel free to share in a comment. I’ll see you in the next one.