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Week of Love: Depiction of Romance in Anime
Among the usual topics and themes that occur in anime, romance is one of the more common ones. From a character having feelings for another character to characters in actual relationships, and everything between. This also includes that annoying harem genre in which a bunch of girls unrealistically throw themselves at a guy who’s either not even remotely interested in any of them, has some bizarre phobia, or is socially awkward to the point of being painful to watch. Either way, anime provides a full color spectrum when it comes to romance.
Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, lets take a look at romantic relations between characters in several series. I realize this is a very small list and I have likely missed a few examples of romance done well, but these are a few examples that I thought would be good for discussion. And as a quick disclaimer, I will be discussing canon pairings only; so leave the head canon and crack pairings outside in the frigid, wintery wasteland. Thank you.
To start off, lets take a look at Edward Elric and Winry Rockbell from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. While there are several relationships from this show that could be used as examples, I’ve decided to only look at one per series. This couple starts off in the very classic boy and girl being childhood friends that grew up in the same town. Although I question if I can call Ed and Winry friends at the start, given how young Ed frequently gave Winry the cold shoulder with his abrasive personality. But over the course of Brotherhood, Ed and Winry grow closer together bit by bit. Through their words and actions it becomes clear that the two of them have feelings for one another, and they become an official couple at the end of the series. I love how smoothly this pairing was handled, and it never felt rushed or unrealistic. This adorable paring becomes a reality for viewers over the course of the show and is one of the best examples of romance done right in an anime.
Meeting a significant other in a video game is more common than you’d think. In Sword Art Online, Kirito and Asuna are a dictionary definition of this scenario of two people meeting and falling in love in a virtual world. Despite the unforgiving world that is Aincrad, Kirito and Asuna find one another and start off as strangers. But over the course of the good half of SAO, the two grow closer closer and start a relationship in both the real world and in-game. Although this example is not without its flaws. It was clear that Asuna and Kirito were likely going to become more than just friends, but nothing actually happened until Kirito was nearly killed.
This was when the train derailed. The first day of their relationship they immediately, well you know, go all the way that night. While it is only implied in both the anime and manga, the infamous light novel chapter 16.5 is canon. Google it if you are curious, but 16.5 is extremely not safe for work. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Moving on, the entire scenario felt unnecessary, especially the getting married part. I realize that there were some benefits to that decision, but it just felt like the characters were losing focus on getting out of the game. The transition had a few flaws, but Kirito and Asuna are a surprisingly awesome couple.
Now I realize this is probably a bit of a surprise, but this was one of the first couples I thought of when I was doing research for this article. When Dragon Ball Z first aired, no one could ever have predicted that Vegeta and Bulma would not only have a child but get married. Vegeta, the blood thirsty Saiyan Prince, somehow grew attracted to Bulma, an ordinary human woman with an insane IQ. Unfortunately the manga and anime never went into a lot of detail about these two, which is really disappointing. There are only a few moments near the end of the series in which either of these two show any concern for the other, and it is usually Vegeta. If they ever decided to do an OVA going further into the relationship between these two characters that would be awesome. This is one of those relationships that they could have done so much more with but all that potential went to waste in the end. What can I say? Vegeta and Bulma are the greatest arguing married old couple ever.
When she’s not fighting bizarre monsters or hanging out with her fellow Sailor Scouts, Serena can be found hanging out with her boyfriend and future husband Darien. They are what you’d call a timeless couple, as they were together during the Silver Millenium many long years before the events of the manga and anime. Though after Queen Beryl attacked, these two were separated and cast into the future where they would meet once again. Although at first they hated each other, they fell in love again when their memories were restored. Over the series, these two only get a few couple moments here and there. Usually when Darien does a Princess Peach impression and gets kidnapped, and this happens a lot more often that you’d think. In the manga, these two apparently do get married at the end and there is a dream sequence in the anime depicting their marriage. While I have absolutely no idea what Darien sees in Serena, they are actually not too bad of a couple.
Yamada and Kosuda from B Gata H Kei are a . . . unique example of a couple. I say unique, because Yamada was at first determined to have Kosuda be the first guy she goes all the way with. The entire plot of this borderline hentai series revolved around Yamada trying to get with Kosuda, while the two gradually develop feelings for one another. Despite her passion, Yamada is as green as grass and is awkward in her harebrained schemes to do the deed with Kosuda. Meanwhile, Kosuda is shy at best and the embodiment of social awkwardness with the opposite sex at worst. But in the end, the two of them acknowledge their feelings for one another and choose to pursue a relationship rather than doing the deed as soon as possible. The interaction between these two went from bizarre, to comical, to disturbing, all the way to cute at the very end. If they stay together I imagine they will have one heck of a story to tell their kids.
Any Gundam anime is notorious for characters not acting like real people, and the same goes with unrealistic or poorly implemented relationships. Gundam Wing had a few examples of this, but were so subtle to the point that they are impossible to discuss. Gundam Seed and Seed Destiny poorly depicted unlikeable characters along with a plot and relationships that were more convoluted and nonsensical than most fan fiction.
So the only example that was only sort of good would be the relationship between Lockon Stratos (Version two, as the original Lockon died in season one) and Anew Returner in Gundam 00. Lockon was brought in to replace his recently deceased brother, and he meets one of the crew by the name of Anew Returner. The two of them are seen interacting once in awhile, and then all of a sudden they are in love and in bed having pillow talk. It was insanely left field, only to have Anew bite the dust several episodes later and abandon any hope of further developments for this subplot. I mean I give them credit for trying to add some sort of drama and romance to what is otherwise just a bunch of awesome battles and explosions in space, but this relationship could have been handled so much better. They can’t just throw that kind of thing and expect viewers to buy it, its not even remotely believable even if suspension of disbelief is applied.
Like in any TV Show or Movie, anime has good and realistically depicted romantic relationships. At the same time, it also has bad ones as well. While they may be a small drop in the sheer amount of anime out there, these characters and their relationships are an example of how anime handles romance. I could have gone with countless more examples, but I feel these got my point across. I hope all you readers have a Happy Valentine’s day!