Normally, I like to write a list that simply shows characters I would date in honor of Valentine’s day. Well this time I want to celebrate the actual relationships that happen (or almost happen) in anime and video games. I have certain friends that are currently in beautiful relationships, and it’s a very inspiring thing to be around. It’s utterly contagious, and I usually deal with my lack of a relationship by busying and immersing myself into my own nerdom. Well, I found that even amongst the games and anime I take solace in, there are relationships that have given me a great deal of hope about my own romantic life. These are relationships that empower me and motivate me. The kind that make me want to pick up my phone and call the girl I care about most and experience the same thing I just saw or played. I’m ranking them in order of my personal favorites, but all of these are worth looking into if you’re a fan of any type of romance.
*I tried really hard to write this one without spoilers, but it was impossible. So much of what makes these romances so strong involves some of the most climactic moments of their respective anime or game.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
10. Ginko and Tanyu (Mushishi)
Let’s start with the one that actually isn’t technically a relationship, but having so much history between the characters makes them seem like they’re perfect for each other. Tanyu is cursed by the Mushi, the same abstract spirit-like creatures that Ginko makes a living of interacting with. She must write stories about killing Mushi in order to rid herself of the curse, or else it will be passed on through her bloodline until one of her grandchildren eventually get it too. This curse has robbed her of her leg, and forces her to write about death and destruction her entire life. She first meets Ginko as he arrives to trade information. Tanyu offers previous stories for new stories, thus expanding the knowledge for all Mushi Masters in the world. Tanyu is hesitant because she doesn’t feel like hearing a sad story, and Ginko quickly rolls out another fun, adventurous story that ends with the Mushi living in peace.
Ginko is unique, even amongst the already rare Mushi Masters, because he is the only one who seeks to save the lives of every human AND mushi involved in a dire situation. Tanyu notices this and quickly grows to anticipate Ginko’s every visit in order to here his wonerful stories of peace and harmony. Whenever he visits, he picks her up and piggy backs her through the fields to a rock that they always converse at. It’s such a sweet moment of tranquility for both of them whenever they get to stop and talk to each other. In the latest OVA, Ginko obtains a Mushi artifact that may help Tanyu rid herself of the curse, and I really hope that going into season 2 next spring, Tanyu becomes something of a driving force for Ginko. I would love for the anime to finally acknowledge the perfect relationship these two could have.
9. Jackie and Jenny (The Darkness)
Now here we have something you rarely see: a nice, realistic romance in a first-person shooter. In the Darkness you play as Jackie Estacado, a member of an Italian crime family, and Jenny is your childhood friend and current girlfriend. The game sets up a rather tragic story about your enemies killing her in front of you, thus sending you on the vengeful journey through dark and twisted landscapes. Jackie’s primary motivation, and source of inspiration is always Jenny. She appears as a hallucination or her voice will sound in his head at random times.
What makes this relationship really unique is the way it’s presented to you in the game. Unlike most relationships in video games where you feel like an outsider looking in on the couple, The Darkness lets you actually spend quality time with Jenny. During one mission, you stop by her house only to get your next objective to move on, but that’s not your only choice. You can also choose to sit with her on the couch and watch tv shows together. You can literally sit with Jenny and watch the entirety of How To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s a subtle instance that goes a long way to make their love feel incredibly real.
8. Mustang and Hawkeye (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
This is another couple that you don’t get to actually see the luvvy-duvvy romance of. What you do see is that these two have a very special relationship that may or may not be their own peculiar style of love. Riza Hawkeye is Mustangs professional assistant who accompanies him on all sorts of life-threatening missions. She’s a sniper that watches his back. She’s constantly looking out for Mustang’s best interest and safety. They are so in tune with each other that they can speak in code right in front of the enemy.
It’s not until Riza’s life is threatened that you see just how much Mustang cares about her. Riza is almost a part of Mustang’s humanity, and when an enemy almost takes that away, Mustang becomes a monster. They are so devoted to each other that Mustang grants her permission to kill him should he ever stray from the right path. Inversely, Riza would also gladly sacrifice herself for Mustang’s ideals and plans for the world. Their whole relationship is steeped in a scary, yet endearing level of risking their lives for each other that it’s hard not to think of it as love. The anime never clearly depicts their relationship as romantic, but they sure as hell dropped enough hints to win me over.
7. Sora and Kairi (Kingdom Hearts)
The love that may not be love, but if it isn’t love, it might as well should be. Sora and Kairi as a romantic relationship is almost as elusive as Kingdom Hearts III itself. There are hints everywhere, but nothing that outright says it. However, what we do have are two people who care for each other on a wildly deep level. They are best friends, sure, but so are Kairi and Riku. What exists between Sora and Kairi is on another level, in my personal opinion. The moments between them such as the cave drawing or openly teasing the two of them being alone clearly shows that she sometimes thinks about them being in a relationship.
I feel like it’s kept ambiguous so that fans can ship whomever they please, but I would actually like Kingdom Hearts III to just come out and declare who loves who. Sora and Kairi already have an intimate enough bond with each other to warrant a full on confession of love. Until then, we’ll just have to keep gazing fondly at these two little heroes and their continued efforts to save the world and each other.
6. Okabe and Makise (Stein’s Gate)
Better known as Huouoin and Christina-zombie, this seemingly dysfunctional pair becomes quite the powerful expression of love. It’s a classic tsundere relationship pushed to the extreme. Their constant bickering between each other has so many clever hints at a deeper level of connection that you can’t help but wish for them to finally get together. As the anime progresses, the situation becomes significantly more dramatic and life-threatening, and their true feelings finally come to light. These two are truly, madly, deeply, with a little extra emphasis on the “mad” in Kyouma’s case, because he’s a self-proclaimed mad scientist.
The anime throws Okabe into a meat grinder of trauma and depression and then after witnessing countless atrocities that eat away at his personality, fate asks him to choose one life to save, out of two that he can’t quite imagine life without. Makise, upon realizing the dilemma, offers to be the one who dies, which sparks the confession of love between the two. It’s all so bittersweet that their love only reveals itself upon the notion of Makise dying. In the movie, you get to see Makise take the initiative when Okabe’s life is threatened. You witness that her love is so strong that even when all science and logic says that Okabe shouldn’t exist, she still remembers him. Their love transcends time and reality and serves as the unbreakable bond that keeps them together when thrown into a torrent of time and disaster.
5. Kirito and Asuna (Sword Art Online)
They have become the poster boy and girl for romance in anime. Many say the anime is over rated. Some may even say this relationship is over rated. I, however, and completely on board anything involving these two love birds. Their relationship is such a driving force for the anime that I don’t think I would have watched it without that level of emotion. Kirito is the bad-ass with a soft heart. It’s a simple archetype, but it’s portrayed extremely well. It also helps that Asuna has a burning personality, yet is still undeniably adorable. It’s the moments where Kirito fights for their love’s sake that truly make Sword Art a great anime. It’s enough to get any sob who enjoys romance to cheer on the fight.
Of course, no romance is really complete to me unless their is some drama or struggle, and you definitely get it with these two. After bonding to the point of confessing their desires to spend their entire life together, Kirito learns that Asuna has an arranged marriage with a disgusting older man that clearly harbors no true feelings of love for her. It nearly destroys Kirito and you see him weaker and more vulnerable than ever before. Kirito’s strength is directly related to his love and faith in Asuna. Should that ever disappear, Kirito might as well follow.
4. Yuna and Tidus (Final Fantasy X)
What might be the most famous love story in video games obviously gets a spot on this list. It speaks on the strength of the love portrayed in this game that it’s still one of first games people think of when this subject is mentioned. The long tale of Tidus and Yuna is a wondrous, and emotional journey. Tidus is lost in the new world he finds himself in, so he starts traveling with Yuna and her guardians on a pilgrimage that helps keep the world at peace. As they journey, Tidus grows more familiar with the world, and falls deeper in love with Yuna. She seems strangely reluctant at first, but eventually starts expressing interest back. It all swells warmly throughout the game until the truth is revealed.
Yuna’s pilgrimage, is quite literally the act of leading a lamb to slaughter. Tidus, being new to the world, did not know that Yuna’s pilgrimage was known by all except him to end with her death. It’s heart wrenching that the girl you’ve been trying so hard to protect is ultimately walking toward the same deadly fate you’re trying to keep her from. And it doesn’t stop there. The plot shifts toward discovering a way to complete the pilgrimage without her death, and it actually works, however, it’s no longer Yuna that’s in danger of disappearing…it’s Tidus. Finding out that Tidus was bound to this world by ethereal ties that would disappear upon completing the pilgrimage, Yuna has to witness her dream man fade away right before her eyes. It’s an amazing story wrapped up in a beautiful fantasy world. There’s no question as to why this game remains so high on people’s lists.
3. Mashiro And Miho (Bakuman)
Complete and utter devotion is what makes the love between these two so inspiring. Mashiro has had a long time crush on Miho and has hidden that fact from her. He also has a dream of becoming a mangaka, which his new friend also agrees to partner with him for this career. Miho also has dreams of becoming a voice actress. When Mashiro’s new friend makes him go to Miho’s house, the boast of love abruptly begins out of nowhere. Mashiro embarrassingly shouts at Miho as she’s about to enter her door that he’s going to make a manga so successful that it will become an anime, and that Miho will be the voice actress for that anime’s main heroine. On top of that, he asks, when both of these dreams come true, if she would marry him. And she agrees!
Yatta! What starts as a beautiful relationship full of dreams and wonder turns into a complex situation, mainly stemming from the fact that they agree not to see each other until their dreams come true. Mashiro expresses a lot of sadness throughout the anime that he can’t see her, and can only communicate via texts, but Miho always counters that sadness by reaffirming their love, and that alway gives Mashiro enough inspiration to keep working on his dream. It’s an incredible relationship where both are so supportive of each other that they know spending time together would only distract them. It almost makes me want to declare some ultimatum that decides the entire future of my romantic life.
2. Welkin and Alicia (Valkyria Chronicles)
It may or may not be a coincidence that my two favorite JRPGs of all time both have fantastic love stories. While Final Fantasy X’s story is bigger in scale and you see much more of it, the love that blossoms between Welkin and Alicia during their war is my favorite romantic relationship in a video game. What I love most about these two is that their love isn’t hinted at and teased all throughout the game. These characters are in the middle of a war, reluctantly fighting on the front lines when both of them just want the world to be peaceful. They start off as comrades, protecting each other’s lives and learning about the consequences of war together. They both watch their home town destroyed, but then promise each other that a beautiful new life will come to them.
Alicia has a harrowing experience that makes her realize she has something that only she can use to help win the war. The only problem is that this risks her own life. On the brink of finally winning the war, she has to sacrifice herself to give everyone the final victory, and Welkin simply can’t have that. On a war-torn battlefield, he proposes to her with a ring made out of a flower. The very same type of flower they were by when they saw their home town destroyed. He tells her that she doesn’t have to be a martyr, and that before she’s a tool of war, she’s a woman that he loves. It’s all so god damn beautiful that I tear up every time it happens.
1. Tomoya and Nagisa (Clannad)
I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this relationship. Tomoya, by the end of the anime, is a prime example of the type of man I want to be. He’s introduced as a lazy schoolboy who has no problem skipping class. He hates the city he lives in, the dad he lives with, and he has a very low opinion of himself as well. Then he meets Nagisa at his school. A shy, polite girl who has a simple dream that she’s afraid to attempt on her own, and that is to simply start a theatre club. Since Tomoya has no sense of responsibility and has nothing better to do, he starts helping her. It is here that you start to see what qualities Tomoya really possesses. Tomoya is actually an incredibly selfless man who’ll gladly put anyone else’s happiness before his. He starts meeting more people that all join the circle of friends and he starts helping all of them.
It’s during that school year that Tomoya realizes he has feelings for Nagisa. In a very strong moment, Nagisa gets slightly injured, and when a stranger comes to offer her help, Tomoya lashes out angrily at him only to protect her. He did it subconsciously and realized that he loves this woman. You then witness through the next couple years as Tomoya turns into a completely dedicated lover and starts to build his entire life around her. His first job is only enjoyable because it provides for her. His time is only worthwhile if it makes her happy. He gives her everything he can, and she does the same for him. And when their life is at the happiest moment thus far, which is the birth of their first child, she dies. What the hell just happened to my heart? Their romance is amazingly strong, yet devastatingly tragic. Needless to say, Tomoya’s amazingly strong characters almost falters completely, but then he starts to regain his happiness in life. It’s a strong moral that every hopeless romantic needs to consider. Death can affect almost anything, except love, if it’s strong enough. A true bond of love between people literally does mean forever.
While this list currently represents my favorite relationships now, I have a feeling it will change moderately once I start my next anime marathon because a few of them are known for their romantic interests. I guess I’ll save those changes for next Valentine’s Day! Regardless, I must thank anyone who took the time to read this. It means a lot and I hope everyone enjoyed their Valentine’s Day!!!