Sour Outside, Sad Inside

aka: Tsunshun
This character is harsh and mean. They are deliberately abrasive and cruel. It's all a facade though. In truth they're just depressed and fearful, trying to intimidate people into leaving them alone. Like a hedgehog, this characters bristle with spikes in order to protect themselves. Intimacy scares them. Perhaps because they've been hurt before?

This is a common method of creating a Jerkass Woobie by being introduced as a jerk that the audience hates, only for character development to reveal that they're really just scared of getting close to anyone.

Often overlaps with the Broken Bird who has similar feelings of depression, isolation, and fear of social interaction due to a Dark and Troubled Past. Broken Birds, however, tend to be passive, while this character is proactive about driving people away. May cultivate and revel in their jerkass reputation. If their hidden persona is discovered it is possible they might react with Don't You Dare Pity Me!.

Compare with Tsundere and Jerk with a Heart of Gold, where a character can use a harsh and abrasive personality to conceal a sweet or loving side. The Stepford Snarker is somewhat similar, hiding their sadness and insecurities under snarkiness, but not necessarily such a Jerkass about it. In anime fandoms this character is referred to as a tsunshun.

In Real Life, frequent swings between angry/aggressive reactions and anxious/depressive ones is a hallmark of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Compare Knight in Sour Armor.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • Asuka Langley, from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Her Broken Bird past, for example (her mother Kyouko going insane and treating a doll as Asuka in place of the real deal, and then hanging the doll and herself) leads her to be rude to many people with some exceptions (Kaji, Hikari, Misato... even Shinji). However, when left to herself Asuka shows that she has almost no self-esteem and struggles to overcome it.
  • Accelerator, from A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun. Being experimented on, forcing people away and being attacked on a constant basis because of his ability makes him more unbalanced than depressed, but he still uses his abrasive attitude to try to distance himself from others. Sometimes he acts more like a standard Tsundere, others he acts like a Tsunshun.
  • Arguably, Kanda Yu from D.Gray-Man. His Dark and Troubled Past is a very good reason to hate the Order. He doesn't even make a secret out of it.
  • Arguably, Revy from Black Lagoon takes this to whole new extremes. Normally she just acts like The Lad-ette, in that she's slightly abrasive, but more or less congenial once you get used to her aggressive nature. However, if you start trying to get to know her on a personal level, she can very quickly become Ax-Crazy and will make a sincere effort to kill you. Luckily for her, a handful of people like Dutch and Rock have been to relate to her on some level, but even then she's still very defensive. Due to an horrific childhood wherein she was abused by her caretaker, the police, and anyone else in authority, she has severe fears of feeling exposed and vulnerable, and she NEVER wants that to be hurt like that again. She developed an obsession with power, and she tends to be very tightlipped about her personal life to protect herself from betrayal. As such, whenever anyone gets too close to her, she often gets spooked, and reacts with violence.
  • Kyo Sohma, from Fruits Basket. Being the black sheep (cat) of the Zodiac has put immense pressure on his shoulders, which he covers up with his attitude. He gets over much of his negativity as the series goes on, mostly due to Tohru.
    • Same with Rin. She began to act cold and distant to cope with her parents abandoning her as a child, to the point where she is incapable of expressing genuine feelings of concern for others. At several points she coldly tells Hiro and Tohru that they should butt out of her business and that "kind people should stay in their kind little worlds", only to later reflect that it came out much worse than she meant it to - she really just didn't want nice people end up hurt and broken like she was.
  • Natsume, from Hidamari Sketch. Her feelings towards Sae cause her to overreact and act rude towards her before stomping away. One of the chapters (the only one to not be in 4koma style) helps explain the reason for her attitude. Sae also acts this way, but only when she deals with her younger sister.
  • Ririchiyo Shirakiin, from Inu X Boku SS. Being virtually ignored by her family in favor of her sister and the bullying she went through as a kid because she's rich leads her to be rather unsociable at first. This facade lasts only about five minutes, for Ririchiyo either walks away to sulk somewhere or actually opens up to you and shows her Spoiled Sweet side. She's also the Trope Namer for the term tsunshun, as the term was coined In-Universe by Nobara Yukinokouji to describe Ririchiyo.
  • Ryoko Ookami, from Okami-San.
  • Shiva, from Saint Beast. He's got all of the tsun which covers up his fears of inferiority and frustration at not getting what he wants.
  • Taiga Aisaka, from Toradora!, a deconstruction of tsundere. Also known as the "Palmtop Tiger" because of her fierce Tsun-ness. Moved into an apartment when her parents got divorced, because she could not get along with neither her mother nor her father and stepmother. Her father also makes promises that he has no intention to keep. As the series goes on, she becomes emotionally stronger and Ryuji and others help her stand on her own again, culminating with both a True Love's Kiss with Ryuuji and her decision to come back home, so she can mend her broken family life before marrying him.
  • Victorique, from Gosick. At first emotionless due to being locked in a dungeon for several years and being forsaken by her father, she warms up because of Kujo and they become happily married at the end.
  • Ichiko Sakura of Binbō-gami ga! seems to be your average Spoiled Sweet rich kid. Up close, however, she's quite a massive Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who thinks of nothing but herself. Behind that, however, lies a sad, broken little girl who just yearns for the loving care of her parents, whom she hadn't seen since infancy, not to mention the fact that she is still being haunted by a horrible betrayal by a girl she once trusted. All that trauma ultimately turned her into the Alpha Bitch she has become when the series started. It came to the point that even her Sitcom Archnemesis, resident Jerkass Goddess Momiji, slowly started to mellow out to her and even become her Trickster Mentor, helping her reconnect with humanity and bring back the kindness she used to have.
  • Kyoko Sakura in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. At first, she seems to be a mean, selfish girl who believes that Magical Girls should use their powers for their own purposes. But as the series progresses, it's revealed why she acts this way: Her family fell into destitution after her preacher father was excommunicated and when he found out that his followers increased and came back was due to Kyoko's Magical Girl powers from her wish compelled by Kyubey and not from people actually believing in him, he killed his family and himself and only she survived, which resulted in her the inability to trust anyone. It is only when she learns about the Awful Truths of being a Magical Girl and when she saves Sayaka from Homura that she starts to get over her sourness, which culminates in her performing a Mercy Kill to witch!Sayaka and sacrificing herself so Sayaka wouldn't be alone.
  • Nishigami from Shindere Shoujo To Kodoku Na Shinigami, who tells his class not to get close to him on his first day at school because he believes everyone he gets close to will die.
  • A minor example is Matsuoka Rin from Free. Much of his jerkassery and his obsession with beating Haruka stems from his low self-esteem and self-loathing for failing to live his father's dream. He gets better though.
  • In the first arc of Berserk, Guts deliberately acts like a Jerkass to stop others from getting close to him. Not only is his normal fear of relationships heightened due to a recent betrayal by his master and closest friend, but he is currently marked with a brand that causes him to attract man-eating demons at night.

    Fan Works 
  • Evangelion 303: Asuka initially came across like abrasive, rude and arrogant, but in reality she had very low self-esteem and little self-confidence, and she pushed people away because she was frightened of them.


  • Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets.
  • Katherine Brooks, the principal of Queen's Academy in Anne of Avonlea. She hates teaching, but as a plain, single woman who is determined to be independent, she has no other options, locking her into a career that is slowly sucking the life from her. Anne's relentless goodwill towards her eventually breaks through the sour shell, and a visit to Green Gables goes a long way towards easing the sad inside.


  • Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, of A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • Stannis Baratheon is strongly hinted to have the same problem.
  • Severus Snape of Harry Potter floats easily between this and Jerk with a Heart of Gold once you learn his Belated Back Story of unrequited love, Parental Neglect and near constant bullying. . He dealt with that via racism, massive ingratitude towards the target of his Unrequited Love and abusing an innocent kid for things that happened before he was born
  • Haymitch Abernathy from The Hunger Games would qualify for this trope; after all, the president had Haymitch's loved ones killed for defying him. It would only make sense that he would refuse to take in people.
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky:
    • Nastasya Filippovna from Dostoevsky's The Idiot is an example from classic literature. Her public persona is that of a proud, arrogant Femme Fatale, but in reality she takes on these characteristics to hide the pain and shame she feels about the abuse she suffered in her past. Interestingly enough, she is in a Love Triangle with the more traditional Tsundere Aglaya Yepanchin for the favor of the saintly Prince Myshkin, and Myshkin's inability to choose between helping to overcome the problems of a 'shun' and returning the love of a 'dere' leads to his tragic downfall.
    • Polina Alexandrovna from Dostoevsky's novella "The Gambler" has shades of this as well. Given Dosteovsky's interest in psychology and his tragic Real Life affair with the very Sour Outside, Sad Inside Apollinaria Suslova, it is entirely possible that there is a reason for his use of this trope.
  • The titular raven for What The Raven Saw. To most people, he's the vicious old bird who won't let anyone else live in his churchyard; inside, he's deeply lonely and bitter with the world.
  • Patience, in Dinoverse. She's deeply, antagonistically cynical and exaggeratedly tough, because she's convinced that if she ever relies on anyone, for so much as a moment, they'll leave.
  • Angel in The Charlie Parker Series, at least initially. As the series goes on, his facade cracks quite badly.
  • Lu, the main protagonist in Murderess, was sent to Earth from Greywall’d in her infancy and grew up repeatedly switching schools and being betrayed by the friends she made, and having all of her questions about her heritage ignored. At the beginning of the book, while she might not be actively mean, she does give people Death Glares to keep them at arm’s length and is often fairly snarky.

     Live Action TV  

  • In Smallville, Oliver may be this, especially in season nine. Chloe might be a mild example on her worst days, but with what she has gone through...
  • Derek Hale from Teen Wolf mainly communicates through aloofness and threats of bodily harm. Which makes a lot of sense when you remember he was sexually manipulated as a kid. By a grown woman. Who then burned down his home with most of his family in it.
  • One could interpret Eric from Power Rangers Time Force as being this. Trip even scans him in one episode and finds that he's a good person but he's lonely.
  • Peter Quinn from Homeland is this. He's coolly hostile to his co-workers and was brought in specifically because he's good at not getting emotionally involved. Despite his bluntness, willingness to put people down and inability to trust or be trusted, by season three it's clear the majority of his issues stem from constantly being on the move due to CIA work and being haunted by the number of people he's killed. Even though he claims and acts as if he dislikes the people he's working with, he finds excuses to be around them and manages a few conversations that are non-work related, during which he's about as nice as any of the main cast.
  • Charmed: Piper came off this way for a while after Prue's death, throwing herself into demon-hunting, coldly brushes Paige off (when she's not outright dismissive) and won't let anyone talk to her about it. She eventually mellows out to her old self and comes to accept Prue's death, and Paige's place in the family.
    • She plays it even straighter during Centennial Charmed when we see an alternate reality where Paige never met her; the Power of Three was never reconstituted, and she becomes a cluster of raw nerves and leather in her Roaring Rampage of Revenge for Prue's death.

     Video Games  

  • This characterization is often given to Waluigi from the Super Mario franchise. On the outside, the guy is an unrepentant Jerkass who does things just to make people angry or because it's mean. On the inside, he knows he's never going to win, and that he's way out of his league.
  • Jack, from Mass Effect 2, as a result of her horrific past. She gets better by Mass Effect 3 if she survives.
  • Mandy from Bully is the quintessential Alpha Bitch, but it's eventually revealed that she just bullies people to compensate for her own insecurities.
  • Squall Leonhart of Final Fantasy VIII puts an extraordinary amount of effort into being brusque, unsociable, and unsympathetic to others in order to keep anyone from getting too close to him. As the game progresses, it reveals that he does this because he's actually cripplingly insecure and desperately afraid of coming to care about and rely on others only to lose them, which he believes is inevitable.
  • Lulu from Final Fantasy X is a milder example; she puts up a very cold, alienating front - being outright abrasive to Wakka, Tidus and (very occasionally) Yuna - but is revealed to just be an exceptionally sad person inside as the game progresses, due to the loss of her fiancé, Chappu, Lady Ginnem, her first Summoner due to her own inability and the fact that Yuna will die too once they finish the pilgrimage.

     Visual Novels  

  • Shizune Hakamichi from Katawa Shoujo turns out to be this, and it's hinted that it's in part to compensate for her deafness, and because she's actually extremely lonely and frustrated over her inability to keep friends.
  • Aoba from Family Project due to issues with her parents and later her grandfather tends to treat others in an extremely hostile manner. It's quite rare for her not to be either a jerkass or completely disinterested.
  • Touko Fukawa from Danganronpa, due to never having friends in the past. For worse, she has a Split Personality... the Serial Killer known as Genocider Syo.

     Web Comics  

  • Homestuck:
    • Vriska is hiding a lot of angst under that 'Bluh Bluh Huge Bitch' attitude. She only shows this to John.
    • Similarly to Vriska is Karkat, who hides a lot of self-loathing under his angry exterior.
  • Zimmy in Gunnerkrigg Court: She's a creepy, grimy, nasty teenage ex-street kid Reality Warper with Power Incontinence with only one friend, gentle Power Nullifier Gamma. It's explicitly stated that Zimmy drives people away to protect them from getting trapped in her hell-world and getting their souls stolen.
  • Sakana:
    • Yuudai is an angry, loud-mouth jerk who claims to "hate everybody"... except he actually doesn't. Word of God confirms that Yuudai suffered some pretty hardcore abuse not too long ago, and in reality is so afraid of being hurt again that he pushes everyone away. Due to this, he is very sad and lonely, but maintains a sour exterior to hide his feelings— which works remarkably.
  • MegaTokyo has Kimiko (aka Kimi-Zilla). The artist has another character, Kotone, referred to as Tsun-Depressed.

     Western Animation  

  • One of the main antagonists of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Prince Zuko, is short-tempered, arrogant, demanding and selfish (though with enough Pet the Dog moments to make it clear he's not all bad), and even after his eventual Heel-Face Turn he is noticeably more brooding and serious than the others. He is also deeply hurt inside.
  • William Murderface of Metalocalypse. This is even lampshaded when a psychologist working for the series' Omniscient Council of Vagueness analyses him.
  • Eddy from Ed, Edd n Eddy is revealed to be this in The Movie. He acts like a total bastard, treating everyone like crap (even his own friends) and doing everything to get as much money as he can. However, it's all a Jerkass Façade, only acting like his older brother (who abused him physically and emotionally) to be popular and hiding his own pain and suffering. Everyone in the show found this in horror, and his admission and regret of all his mistakes leads him (and the other Eds) to be accepted by the other kids.
  • Babs Seed, from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, is a particularly nasty example of bully compared to the show's usual duo of Alpha Bitches. Later, Applejack reveals to the Cutie Mark Crusaders (her victims) that Babs herself was picked on back on her home town because of her mark-less flank. After things are explained among the five of them, everything goes for the better, and Babs starts appearing in a far more positive light.
  • In Hey Arnold!, Helga Pataki is portrayed as this. She is as mean as possible to everyone on the outside, bullying, dictatorial, and unsympathetic, but a flashback to when she was three shows that she is simply putting the act on because she is scared that if she isn't a bully, people will bully her. Therefore, although she frequently shows her personality as a hopeless romantic with a lot of creativity when she's alone, and does sometimes make sacrifices for those she cares about, she tries her hardest to keep those parts of her hidden.

Alternative Title(s):

Tsunshun, Borderline Jerkass Disorder