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[Dramaland Catnip] Prickly marshmallows and tsundere heroes


Tunnel

 
By @shinayame

When I read the catnip post for the first time, my head went completely blank. What is my catnip? I thought and I thought and I thought, and then I realized a lot of my favorites did have one thing in common: They all had one male character, lead or not, who was a typical tsundere—prickly on the outside, but hiding a marshmallow heart.

Take, for example, Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim. Han Seok-kyu’s eponymous Dr. Kim is the perfect example of the stern and sometimes inflexible man who nonetheless cares deeply about people important to him. His silent support of his protégés comes from a place deep inside that he doesn’t show to the world except when its back is turned.


Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim

The same can be said of Tunnel’s time-traveling hero, Park Kwang-ho. Probably because of the time he grew up in, Kwang-ho is firm and dependable but unused to being open about his feelings. Although he may never say the words, his single-minded dedication to getting back to his wife, as well as the care he shows toward his daughter and partner, speak volumes.

Do I know why these men are my catnip? No. I suppose when it comes to prickly puppies in love (requited or otherwise), like Geol-oh in Sungkyunkwan Scandal or Kwang Tae-ho in Gogh’s Starry Night, it’s the fact that they overcome a painful past or even just their own personality for the woman they love, and really, isn’t that why we love bad-boy love stories? Because they are willing to move past the pain or get over themselves just to be with the person they love. Maybe it becomes more poignant when the love is unrequited like Jung-hwan’s in Answer Me 1988, but only because he gets in his own way.


Liar Game

Maybe it’s because when characters like Ha Woo-jin in Liar Game step up to be the knight in shining armor, it means more because they’re not doing it for love or even because they want to, but because it’s just in their nature to do so. (I was already done when Woo-jin came to the heroine’s aid and called himself her “faithful dog,” but then he had to go and say “Da-jung-ah” with those giant puppy dog eyes and I was toast.) Or it could be because when I watched Hwi-young hide away his love for Soo-hyun in Chicago Typewriter for the sake of fighting for his country, his bravery and self-sacrifice made me pray and pray that he would be rewarded like he hoped.

Maybe it’s because when I see these grumpy marshmallows, I keeping thinking of that saying, “Still waters run deep.” They may hide it deep, deep, deep down, but there is so much passion and kindness and love in these men that when they do show it, you know how much that moment or person really means to them and just for that second, you wish you were that important to someone too.


Chicago Typewriter

 
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YAI is the ultimate tsundere for me 😍

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Geoloh will forever remain my number 1 second lead. Forever and always. ^u^ (Even now I still wish he'd gotten the girl, dammit!)

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Ohs my god, yes. Years later, I'm still bitter about that one.

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Thats the reason why I am still stuck on ep 7. I can't bring myself to watch past it. YAI ❤️

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Yoo ah-in is indeed the epitome of tsundere 💕

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No other second lead syndrome has come close to my love for GeolOh. His hiccups still kill me. He's the ultimate tsundere and the one who got the girl in the alternate retelling of Sungkyungkwan that exists in my head.

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Tsundere heroes are the best, because we ultimately get to see their fluffy feelings spilling in all directions & its worth it. :-D

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Tsundere leads are not exactly my favourite type of leads but the way you have written about them just makes me go awwww! 😘

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Thank you! I kinda want write it again because everyone else's comments reminded me of tsunderes I forgot to mention but also really, really liked. :D

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Tsunderes... the stuff most leads in kdramas are made of. Definitely a catnip of mine! ♥

This works for me especially when the tsundere shows affection only for our heroine - like she is the only one to affect him and make him show emotions/acts of caring which no one else can do and that he'll never do with anyone else. He may do it in a grumpy way, but it's so squeal-worthy that he did it so in the first place! 😍

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I think that's why it's my personal catnip too. She's the only one in the world who can get past his armor, his only weakness. And often, once she's got him, she's got him wrapped around her little finger. And she's the only person who can get him to do anything and everything.

Besides, it gives his personality some zing and complexity. Sweet heroes are often soooo boring.

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+1
Although, sweet heroes are nice when they're written well, like Ahn Min Hyuk or Jung Joon Hyung in Weightlifting Fairy.

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Too true! Nothing to feel a girl more flattered than to see a guy do things he never does, just for you 😍

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A thousand times yes!

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Characters who can't say what they mean (within reason, before misunderstandings spiral out of control and ruin the narrative) are the best.
Pride + Sensitivity = Endless Fun

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YES! I love bad boys with a heart of gold. This is my cat-nip for just about any genre, even out side of k-drama. I can think of so many of these characters I love. Great Catnip

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Haha, you know, it's funny, I always say I want to move on from these kinds of male leads to ones more like Kim Boong-do, Ahn Min-hyuk etc. (and I still do want more of those)...

But, who am I kidding...when I love tsundere heroes? I love them SO MUCH. Sung Joon drove me crazy in Shut Up Flower Boy Band. And so many others...I can't help but adore them, hehehe.

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Hahaha I'm the same, I think we just need dramaland to give us both. The only thing is, when tsundere characters are done badly they drive me insaneeee whereas I find that with the characters full of love don't have quite the same effect

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Although hardly anyone is immune to a Mr. Darcy, like you I don't typically fall for tsundere heroes. However in the hands of capable writers especially when these heroes are not being portrayed as arrogant jerks without good reasons, I do love watching them ultimately getting their comeuppance for their behaviors and having to fully repent to earn the love of the heroines.

Side note: Kim Boong-do will forever be what I measure all the drama heroes against......

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I always loved tsundere heroes and that has never changed. It is definitely one of the reasons that I liked Chicago Typewriter, Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim, Tunnel, and Liar Game so much. Whenever there is a prickly lead character, but actually with a soft heart, my heart will always tune in.

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Gosh I love watching there Tsundere cheeseballs flounder with how to express their feels! ^^ <3

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Definitely a catnip of mine. For me, I think it's because these guys generally appear so confident, which I always find an attractive trait. But then it's also that it seems that much more special when they finally open up and show their vulnerable side to that one special person who has earned their trust. That makes me turn into goo!

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This is definitely Ha Seok Jin's catnip! I haven't watch him portraying a different role aside from this so far. From D-DAY, DRINKING SOLO, 1% of SOMETHING, and RADIANT OFFICE. He's good in portraying this kind of character. Jinsang is my favorite character of him 😃

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Totally my catnip! He always comes off so abrasive and before you know it he ends up being my favorite character.

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Great example, HSJ characters work for me and Ji Soo characters are pretty reliably my kind of tsundere as well.

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Read the post title, and Seo Woo-jin bujang-nim automatically comes to my mind ^^

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I'm not big into the Tsundere characters, but I do like when you have a Tsundere who falls fast and hard for the heroine first.

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This reminds me of Park Hae Jin, The Ultimate tsundere of em all. My 2nd favorite is YAI.

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Don't forget Lee Hyun and his 15 + alpha as show of affection that has become the ultimate form of agreement and likability a on beanies.

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"I was already done when Woo-jin came to the heroine’s aid and called himself her “faithful dog,” but then he had to go and say “Da-jung-ah” with those giant puppy dog eyes and I was toast." hahaha I just really get what you mean here ^^

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Hwi-young in CT... broke my heart! Oh my God... he was beautiful even when he died....

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That last screencap of YAI brings back tears that I have so far managed to keep hidden!!! Those memories of that drama!! The feels!!! All gushing back to my mind!!!!

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Still not over Chicago Typewriter. I might never be.

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Yes, this! I married one of these. I love watching them on screen! I think most men on kdramas are this way--at least the first leads. Seconds leads are usually just marshmallows all over.

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Tsunderes!!! I blame the anime of my youth for getting me into loving tsunderes (both male and female).

I do love male tsunderes, especially in k-drama. Watching these prickly porcupines show affection to our heroines/designated bromance always warms my cold heart.

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Me too! But it's one reason I won't let my daughter watch Kdramas until she's much older. Because guys like that don't really exist in real life. 99% of the time, he's just really an asshole, and love won't/can't change him.

It also only works if they eventually go soft & starry-eyed. I recently watched "Tomorrow's Cantable" and he didn't go soft enough for me. He did some sweet things, but never said "I love you" or got moony-eyed. I enjoyed the drama, but that ruined him for me. Because she deserved for him to go completely gaga over her.

I pictured their married life where he's just a dick to her the whole time and she just takes it.

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Even though he was not the lead, I was crazy over Do Ji-han's Ban-ryu character in Hwarang. He was the ultimate tsundere for me! :) His scenes with Lee Da-in (as Soo-yeon) cracked me up and man, when he was finally able to talk coherently with his precious, I died :P

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In real life, I could never date a tsundere but I go crazy for them in dramas. However, I love men who are stupid in love even more than tsunderes.

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Yesss to all this!!, I guess I found my catnip :).

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Gogh's Starry Night! I am so embarrassed by how much I love that little series and Kwang Tae Ho's inability to express himself well for the first half of the series. Like, I can watch it over and over again. I am always sad I can't watch/comment/debate on ongoing recaps of it.
(Most of the characters are reasonably well rounded, enough to almost make the mid-series office competition worth watching.)

And, loved YAI in SS to pieces.

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I love Gogh's Starry night too! And KYK's portrayal of Kwang Tae-ho was swoony!

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LOVE.

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Yes, this is my catnip too! I've always been drawn to heroes who are so gruff and unsmiling on the outside but are actually giant marshmallows on the inside; those who are scant with their words but speak volumes with their actions.

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Yep, YAI is the ultimate dere dere tsundere.
Fell hard for Geol oh in SKKS.

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Well, that's annoying - my comment didn't post. Ok, take two ---

I think some of the best characters that have this type of personality can be the non-romantic ones. As @shinayame 's first example mentions: Dr. Kim. Not necessarily a romantic interest, but a main character nonetheless. I think the best example of this (or the one that pops into my head immediately) is the dad from Reply series. Not a surface guy, but such a fierce love for his children.

Don't get me wrong. I am a huge Darcy fan, and love when this type of character is the main love interest, but I think when you combine it with another trope, as another pointed out, such as the hero falls first - yummy. :P

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Tsundere! I'm slightly a noob in K-drama, so I didn't know there was a term like that. Reading this now, I realized I enjoy watching male leads who are tough on the outside but are total marshmallows, especially if they fall first and are totally unaware of it haha.

Thank you for bringing up Chicago Typewriter! I will never be over Hwi-young and the way he was so steadfast in everything. Also: is there anyone else than YAI who can make dying look good? What a man this man.

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Most of kdrama heroes is a tsundere. They would usually be a fluffy mess once they fall for the heroine. 😀

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I like this one ONLY if the character is written well. Most tsundere characters in K-dramaland are jerks. Those who display their alpha in rude ways that I just can't swoon because they make me want to issue a restraining order.

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Perfect example: Lee Min-ho's character in The Heirs. I tried, really tried to get through the drama for Kim Woo-bin, but LMH's character was too much of a jerk who definitely warrants a restraining order.

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can y'all stop putting YAI in every post? I'm literally here to find dramas he isn't in T T it's almost as if you DON'T want me to get over Chicago.

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That's me too .
I still can't get over Chicago typewriter.
YAI is the only actor who can turn me , an anti fan , into a fan.

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Yes! Kwang Tae-ho in Gogh's Starry Night! Love Kim Young Kwang in that mini drama!
And Lee Sang Yoon as Prof Grumpy-pants in Twenty Again.

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So Ji-sub does an amazing job as this kind of guy. Ji-soo, too! Ji Chang-wook in Healer was awesome, but not sure if it counts, as he was a recluse as well. I didn't realize this is a catnip category until you wrote about it, because everyone mentioned is someone I vividly remember and mostly enjoy. Thanks, @shinayame!

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Didn't know i liked this trope until u gave examples, but only if the characters r done really well. YAI was born to be a rebel and also great as a tsundere hero too as y'all hv said. Can't ever forget his Hwi toung character in CT n also Moon jae shin in SKKS😍

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Not really fond of Tsundere characters. At one point, as a teenager, I used to like them but then I grew up. Sometimes they are very badly written: boys over flowers, playful kiss, secret garden, goong.

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One of the reasons I love Liar Games is that there wasn't a romantic story line. I just appreciate that sometimes a girl has bigger things to worry about besides finding a man.

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Park Kwang Ho is the epitome of tsundere men lol But then there's also Cha Hyun Seok from "Twenty Again" hahaha

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Seo Hwi-young is my classic tsundere..

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I want to tell you guys about the biggest tsundere I have ever seen in a drama. It's the main male lead in family drama Five Kids. In short, the male lead kept getting mixed up with the female lead. Crises seemed to follow her like a shadow and he kept swooping in like a knight in shining armor to help her out because .... well it just seemed the right thing to do. So he had this pattern of swooping in, rescuing her, and then backing off. But it kept getting more pronounced like her ex-hubby would be arguing with her and PING! the hero would pop up and defend his "girlfriend". Even she was like, "What is his deal? Does he LIKE ME?"

Oh, also, the male lead was her BOSS. She just got head-hunted to his company and transferred in as an assistant manager directly under him.

Anyway he finally pushed back really hard and chastised her for roping him into all these wacky situations and probably liking him, and she got pissed. She stewed all day and finally blew her stack at home and about 11pm called him up at home and ordered him to meet her at the park halfway between their houses. So middle of the night, they're there in their PJs and coats and she RIPS him one. She tells him she has never tried to suck him in to her problems, he keeps volunteering unasked and rushing in like a planet with an elliptical orbit. And she tells him to think about what his real motivation is.

He's not stupid. Once he's hit in the head with the clue bat he's all, " ... oh, *I* like *you*! We should date!" That was only halfway through that 50 ep family drama too.

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R88's jung hwan should have def made the list

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Yoo Ah In will always remain as my favorite Tsundere.

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Kwang Tae-ho is such a great Tsundere. So was Le Soo Hyuk in Valid Love. <3

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