Happy Valentine’s Day! (or singles appreciation day, as the case may be!) Have you given or received any cards, chocolates or flowers? If not, don’t worry; they’re all worthless, superficial commercial products. Instead, you should give your lover a list of the reasons you love them. In celebration of true love, I give you a list of the top fourteen anime / manga couples of all time!
I’ll note that I’m not including do they / don’t they couples where they oscillate back and forth and never come to a decision. First, the runner-ups, in no particular order:
Akira Okuzaki and Takumi Tokiha (Mai-HiME)
They’re just both too cute. And their relationship really has plenty of time to develop— Takumi isn’t even aware of Akira’s gender until around the halfway point of the show, and Akira only becomes aware of her own feelings slowly. And she’s a ninja.
Tomoe Kashiwaba and Jun Sakurada (Rozen Maiden)
Ok, well, they aren’t technically lovers (otherwise they would be ranked higher). Jun at least seems to care deeply for Tomoe since she spends so much time with him and puts up with him. But Tomoe and Jun really have great chemistry— they are able to communicate without words in a medium that is dominated by none-too-subtle blushing and confessions of love. Plus, they (sort of) have a cute daughter together. I’m sure that in a few years they will officially be a couple.
Firo Prochainezo and Ennis (Baccano!)
The star-crossed meeting of a homunculus and a suave suit-wearing gangster, what’s not to love? Their chance meeting and Firo’s quest to return her button lead Ennis to offer to sacrifice her life for him, and Firo eats something that must have tasted absolutely disgusting. They’re just both so likable.
Volken McMarney and Mirepoch Finder (Book of Bantorra)
I’ll confess, I have a slight bias towards all things Volken as evidenced by this site’s banner. Volken is my favorite male character in any anime – in the world of Bantorra, filled with moral ambiguity and confusion, Volken walks the straight and narrow path even when it contradicts everything he has believed since he was a child and requires him to give up everything he has. Even when he reunites with Mirepoch and realizes she has drunk to erase all her memories of him, he doesn’t hold it against her- just smiles and walks away, and continues to trust her. Mirepoch is cool too- she has good taste in men. Unfortunately, Volken dies an untimely death and was not able to progress his relationship into the next level where he would have made the top fourteen.
And now for the top fourteen!
14. Chikane Himemiya and Himeko Kurusugawa (Kannazuki no Miko)
This show has the dubious distinction of improving immensely over the short course of its run. The first half is about Ookami (in the upper rankings for most annoying male protagonist) and giant robots driven by neko-mimi-nurse-maid-lolis. But in the second half, Chikane rapes Himeko and the show transforms into an intense emotional rollercoaster, leaving Chikane and Himeko’s relationship as one of the most passionate I’ve seen.
13. Shuunpei and Nui (Oh! Edo Rocket!)
Shuunpei answers once and for all the age old question: can mathematicians have girlfriends? The answer is a resounding yes, although said girlfriend may be an animal.
12. Kraft Lawrence and Horo (Spice and Wolf)
Lawrence and Horo’s banter and flirting is so enjoyable to listen to. There’s none of this lovey-dovey crap and they actually just enjoy one another’s company.
11. Renji Asou and Chihiro Shindo (ef – a Tale of Memories)
My appreciation for tragic romances has been somewhat spoiled by my attempts to watch Key shows. On Kanon and Shuffle I made it about halfway before I gave up in disgust. Air I finished since it was only one season, and Clannad I managed to sit through even though it was painful (although, the Tomoyo and Kyou OVAs were excellent). The problem is that it takes two to make a couple, and Key shows really only have half of that. The male characters have no faults (or personality) except for the fact that they are man-whores. And the tragedy is generally superficial (car accidents, disease, turning into foxes) that seems to happen only to introduce conflict which can be overcome by magic and the power of “love”. However, Renji is certainly not a whore, and I found his relationship with Chihiro rather touching. It also manages to one-up Key on the level of tragedy by having Chihiro forget her memories every single day. The ending was a bit of a cop-out, but still, this is a tragic romance done well. Strength needs to come from within and not from some magic sparklies.
10. Yuukiteru Amano and Yuuno Gasai (Mirai Nikki)
I prefer couples who manage to overcome conflicts with each other, where everything isn’t always rosy in lovey-dovey land. Yuukiteru and Yuuno certainly have enough conflicts between them. Yuuno ties Yuukiteru to a chair and tortures him for over a week and tries to kill his parents. She lies about who she is and is a creepy stalker. Yuukiteru (quite understandably) pushes her away and fears her. And yet they still manage to forgive and love one another.
9. Atsushi Hayami and Mai Shibimura (Gunparade March)
Gunparade March doesn’t seem to be that popular, but I really loved the series (let’s pretend Gunparade Orchestra never happened). There are so many mecha shows with similar premises, but none of them have the same authenticity in the relationships of their characters. Atsushi and Mai fight all the time and really have to struggle to understand each other – their is a huge gap between them, but they are able to bridge this gap and appreciate their differences. But the part that really sold the show for me was the episode where Atsushi knocks Mai unconscious so that he can carry her on his back through the show while chanting to safety. It’s common to have a strong character in the relationship who needs to protect the weaker one. It seems at the beginning of Gunparade March that this is Mai – she is much better at fighting. But it’s only Atsushi who is able to move safely through the wilderness and not feel hatred for the beasts. Mai and Atsushi are truly codependent, and this makes for what is a relationship between equals.
8. Yorito Morimiya and Matsuri Shihou (sola)
C.S. Lewis categorized four kinds of love – Storge (affection), Phileo (friendship), Eros (romance), and Agape (unconditional love, the greatest of loves). In anime, the first three are common, but Agape is relatively rare. On this entire list, I would say that the only characters who really demonstrate Agape are Volken, Chikane, Ellis and Iriya. But the strongest example of Agape is from Yorito and Matsuri. They feel an Eros love for one another – usually, this is the highest calling and trumps all other considerations in anime. Yorito and Matsuri, on the other hand, are willing to throw all this away along with their lives for the sake of Aono.
7. Dominic Sorel and Anemone (Eureka Seven)
First of all, their confession scene takes place UPSIDE-DOWN falling from the sky. That’s pretty much enough in and of itself to make this list, but all the difficulties they went through to get there are the icing on the cake. This is one of the few points in an anime which made me cry (along with 6, 8 and 14). This is a relationship between two deeply flawed people, and it is their ability to love one another in spite of this which makes them so heart-wrenching. It’s a shame that Eureka and Renton couldn’t make nearly the same impact….
6. Naoyuki Asaba and Kana Iriya (Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu)
The best tragedies are about overcoming yourself, not some external thing like sickness, injury or class. The thing which really sells this relationship is how Iriya and Asaba’s romance doesn’t go smoothly at all – not only is Iriya going to die and being chased by the army, she fights with Asaba, and after she’s raped they won’t even talk to each other. It’s the way they overcome this and not the aliens or army which makes Iriya no Sora truly heartbreaking. It’s a selfless love as well – in the end, they care more for each other than for their relationship. (also, I have to give props to the army guy, because even after what Iriya does he manages to steal the show)
5. Jinto Lin and Lafiel Abriel (Crest / Banner of the Stars)
I’m a sucker for relationships which span differences of culture, race and other adversities, and Jinto and Lafiel are one of the best examples of this. Their relationship (and love itself, among the Abh) is a social taboo but they are able to proceed in spite of this. We also see the same issues of co-dependence as in Gunparade March- in space, Jinto has to rely on Lafiel, but on the surface it is the other way around. Plus they’re just so cute together in the coffin.
4. Seiji Amasawa and Shizuku Tsukishima (Whisper of the Heart)
Whisper of the Heart is my favorite Studio Ghibli movie. It manages to capture the innocence of first love so well. It isn’t too realistic; in reality, they’d probably break up after a couple months, but hey, I’m a cynic. Shizuku begins the story not being aware of Seiji at all, and the way it shows her slowly warming up to him as it is revealed that he already liked her really drew me in. It also helps that I’m quite partial to the music.
3. Fakir and Ahiru (Princess Tutu)
This is one of the few relationships in an anime that I absolutely did not see coming. I think that’s great – things are less boring that way. Ahiru really matures over the course of the show, transforming from someone bound by the superficial desires prevalent in shoujo manga to someone able to form relationships on a much deeper level.
2. Claire Stanfield and Chane Laforet (Baccano!)
Best. Confession. Ever. PERIOD. Rail Tracer and Chane really take the phrase “love at first sight” to its logical conclusion, even if your lover is pointing a knife at you or completely drenched in blood. This one was even less predictable than Fakir and Ahiru.
1. Kanji Sasahara and Chika Ogiue (Genshiken)
Sasahara and Ogiue just work so well together as a couple. The reason is that the manga really takes the time to develop them and their relationship. Ogiue isn’t even introduced until halfway through the manga, so Sasahara has plenty of time to develop as an individual. He seems boring at first, but has plenty of worthwhile qualities when you look past his calmness and permanent half-smile. Ogiue is well developed by herself as well – she hates otaku, and I initially had no inkling at all that she would end up with Sasahara. The amazing part is how the manga takes these two separate people with little in common and gradually shows how well they complement each other and slowly realize their mutual attraction. Many romances tend to gloss over how or why people fall in love and use tricks such as love at first sight, a pre-existing relationship or convenience. Genshiken excels at showing how the attraction and trust in Ogiue and Sasahara’s relationship begins and develops.
Are all you singles feeling depressed now? Well, don’t worry, I’ve included a bonus just for you.
Top One-sided Crushes
Since each one-sided crush has only half as much love, I’ll only list half as many crushes.
7. Paraietta → Neviril (Simoun)
I had a hard time picking only one relationship from Simoun, which had so many amazing ones. Most of the best relationships in the show (Kaimu and Alti, Simone and Dominura) aren’t really lovers, so I settled on this one. I should begin by saying that Neviril is an arrogant little prick. I can’t stand her and she irritates me to no end. But a great character incites great passions, and Neviril is certainly a great character. The way Paraietta is willing to do so much for Neviril in spite of the fact that she is a jerk just speaks volumes. The fact that Neviril doesn’t return her feelings at all, and that Paraietta realizes this, makes it truly heart-wrenching.
5. Harunobu Madarame → Saki Kasukabe (Genshiken)
Most of the things I mentioned about Ogiue and Sasahara for how their relationship developed apply here as well. I love how Madarame is unable to give up on Saki in spite of how hopeless he knows it is.
4. Yakumo Tenma → Harima Kenji (School Rumble)
Eri was a close second in my choice from School Rumble. But Yakumo and Harima just have so much in common that they would go well together. It’s a shame Harima likes her stupid sister.
Feel free to mention your favorite couples / crushes in the comments section! (also, ghostlightning has a post on his favorite love stories.)