What if Qiyana isn't a jerk?

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the concept of the tsundere. Tsundere - derived from the Japanese words _"tsun tsun"_, a... "sound effect" (I forgot what English calls it officially) for someone who's aloof or standoffish, and _"dere dere"_, which similarly refers to someone who is lovestruck or fawning - is a character trope in manga. Originally it was taken literally. The character tended to be aloof or even aggressive towards others, but was actually lovestruck with someone (usually the protagonist) and would sometimes express it in sudden moments. Since then, the trope has evolved and in many cases matured. It's sometimes used to describe characters who simply act cold but are actually quite loving and compassionate underneath. It's not always played for comedic impact anymore, and it has a slightly broader definition. I submit to you that Qiyana is not a hateful... I don't know what to call it. She's not a spiteful person who stomps on those beneath her. Nothing in her lore paints her this way. She's a brash girl who wants to prove herself to everyone and inherit her parents' seat of power ahead of her older sisters. She doesn't want her own people to fear her, she wants them to respect her and sing her praises. She only wants her enemies to fear her. So where does this popular conception come from? Well, her voice lines, clearly. It's not hard to catch the disdain and aloof arrogance when she speaks. But to me, who has been exposed heavily to manga culture thanks to a couple friends in high school (and one very adamant senpai...), I actually spot Qiyana as the most accurate "anime-esque" characterization Riot has ever achieved. Far moreso than the Star Guardian or Battle Academia skins got it right. Everything about her words and behavior feels, to me, like the words of an overzealous girl with talent and ambition that outstrips the temper of her life experiences. She doesn't say the things she does to be malicious or cruel, she says them because she has way too much confidence and not enough understanding of tact. Some of her lines feel like a deliberate effort to separate herself from everyone else, perhaps knowing she'll have to contend with her sisters one day. Letting people close means sharing secrets, and in a feudal society, sharing secrets is exposing weakness. The shameless cuteness of her /joke further embodies my interpretation. Tsundere are often depicted in this way to make them endearing to the viewer. When you get to see the cool, sharp-tongued woman who stands above everyone around her in pride and skill make a clumsy mistake and get red in the face, it makes her more relatable and softens most viewers to her. Does that apply here? Well, let's be honest, those hiccups are nothing if not adorable. Unlike Illaoi or Vi, Qiyana isn't "always on". She's not going at 100% aggression 24/7. There are periods when she lets her guard down a little and makes herself subtly less elevated over her team. > "Congratulations, you have Qiyana. The other side, they have no Qiyana." (She's making herself a part of the team with this statement.) > > "I don't mean to sound arrogant but I'm extremely good, at everything." (She's literally not trying to be arrogant. She's simply telling the truth here, and likely doing so to inform her team that they're in good hands.) > > "Is that all they brought to face us? My Omelle could defeat them, and she is 85." ("Us". Again making herself a part of the team, and trying to bolster their confidence by shaming the enemy.) > > "We should throw a feast for me, but we'll need something to celebrate. I know! Let us crush the enemy." (With this statement, she's including her team in her glory. Feasts in feudal societies were where kings would gather their lords and sit with them at the same table, breaking bread and sharing wine. It was an act of camaraderie.) > > "I'm not arrogant, I'm right." (She's trying to tell people that she doesn't say what she says from a place of haughtiness, but because she believes it to be true.) > > "I name this The River Qiyana." (I love the way this line is delivered. You can _hear_ the proud grin on her face. It's such a playful line that shows she's not out to conquer because she wants to destroy, but because she enjoys using her abilities and showing people how great she is. This whole thing is an adventure for her. It shows a bit of the light-hearted softness I believe is under her haughty exterior.) > > "I see you have mastered the element of wind." (Puns! Puns are fun; a vicious conqueror wouldn't waste time with turns of phrase like these in most cases.) > > "Let us throw rocks at them and laugh." (I love this line too. Such a schoolgirly thing to say, but delivered with just enough edge that she maintains her stately demeanor. From a prestigious school! It's another instance of her just having a little fun with this whole process.) > > "Everyone, your future empress is leaving the fight. Okay, carry on." (This is delivered in such a way that it's like, you can just imagine everyone rolling their eyes and ignoring her, and she just takes it in stride and imagines they're listening in awe. Another humanizing little quote.) > > "Line them up! I will bend their knees." (This is sort of like saying "Follow me to glory!" She's again including herself with the team, making herself the glorious commander who will strike awe into the enemy and pave the way to victory.) > > "If they want to worship me, hmph, I will not stop them." (Not demanding! Just saying she won't turn it away.) > > "In Ixtal we call them calmune: soon to be mud." (Sharing her language with new companions over something she knows they have in common!) > > "No more hiding in the wilderness, I demand to be seen." (Another line I love. It shows that she's willing to take the inglorious steps to set up her conquests, but only for so long. Eventually, she has to reach for her glory. There's a purity to this line. Just a raw love of glory and recognition that I really appreciate, because it kind of cuts past the bluster to the heart of what she wants.) > > "Of course I've mastered fire... I just don't like to show off." (ANOTHER line I love! Man, there are a lot of these for a champion I was sure I'd hate. This is textbook "modern tsundere". It's not that I can't do something, I just don't want to make you feel bad. You just _know_ she hasn't actually mastered fire, but she delivers the line without missing a beat. Completely unaffected by anything that would shake her confidence, yet at the same time, this line shows she's not perfect and somewhere deep down, she knows it.) > > "I know what they are thinking: "there goes Qiyana, she is so much better than all nine of her sisters; I can't believe she's not our queen." (Showing that she wants the adoration of her people, not their fear. And also that she believes she already has it.) > > "I do not lack empathy, other people just need to be better." (I think she means this. She's proven with some of her lines to allies that she's willing to accept support and include others in her sphere of influence. She just has high expectations of those people.) > > "Oh mini bosses, the real boss needs to be carried. Yes, thank you." (This is from a skin, but still, thanking your servants for their hard work!) In summary, I don't believe Qiyana is as bad as she seems. Many even portray her as "evil", and I think that's off the mark. Not all who conquer do so for destructive purposes. She wants to grow her empire. She understands that the adoration of her people is necessary to keep that empire stable. She accepts the aid of those who prove themselves worthy. The only people who need to fear Qiyana are those who oppose her right to rule. For all intents and purposes, Qiyana is a form of tsundere!
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