Earlier tonight I was really craving ice cream. I mean REALLY craving ice cream. So across the street to the grocery store I went, blindly following my instincts to the closest ice cream acquiring location. As I walked in the door, my senses were suddenly assaulted on all sides: PINK. RED. PINK AND RED. BALLOONS. CHOCOLATES. BEARS. AHHH. Covering my eyes in confusion, I fled from the store, unsure of what I had just been subjected to. Winded, I collapsed against my giant bookshelf and stared at it, my eyes running over the hundreds of manga haphazardly stacked within (they really need a sorting). “Ahhhh.” It suddenly dawned on me as I stared at the PINK spines of some of my favorite shoujo manga. “It’s corporate LOVE day again…”
Yes, Valentine’s Day is in a mere week, but love is everlasting (or so cliches lead us to believe). I know there are fictional couples that ring within my heart for now and for always – love stories I will always look to for my impossible standard of romance and affection. With Japan’s traditional reserved way of expressing themselves and their feelings, the way love stories in manga are presented are long winded and intense. As you wait for THE KISS or know that the characters love each other before they know themselves, you get really emotionally involved. And I love it. So here are my top 5 picks for the best couples that manga has immortalized on highly emoted ink and paper.
Hideki and Chii from Chobits
Who HASN’T always wanted a computer that thinks she’s a girl that can only say her own name? Oh… that’s just me…? Ahem, regardless, Chobits is an adorable (albeit pervy) love story. Boy finds girl shaped computer tied up in the dumpster. Boy brings home naked girl computer and “turns her on” (quite literally). Girl computer comes to life, has the intelligence levels of a kitten and can only say her name (“Chii? Chii…”). As girl computer “grows up”, she begins learning other words and developing a personality… and Hideki falls in love with her. Even though this love story is a bit on the weird or (dare I say it?) creepy side, the slow progression of their awkward life is quintessentially Japanese and altogether absolutely charming.
Miaka and Tamahome from Fushigi Yuugi
Miaka Yuki wants what every middle schooler wants: to get into an awesome, competitive highschool. But what she gets instead is transported to another dimension, where she is a priestess bestowed with the role of saving the celestial kingdoms. Hefty order? Add love in there, and suddenly Miaka’s focus in life seems to be shifting slightly… Miaka and Tamahome’s love story is a pretty persevering tale of coming of age, first love, and the unrelenting power of love to overcome all obstacles (be they magical or not).
Ash and Pikachu from Pokemon
STOP IT, IT’S NOT LIKE THAT YOU SICK FREAK (even though some fan fiction would have us think otherwise… shudder). Pokemon has been a staple in the world of manga and video games and was actually very pivotal in its role introducing anime and manga to the Western world. Thus, most people my age (early 20s) have essentially grown up with Pokemon… and therefore we saw the adorable friendship between Ash and Pikachu unfold. Ash: 11 year old boy off on his very first “coming of age” adventure. Pikachu: the stubborn “different” adorable electric rat Pokemon who refuses to get in a Pokeball and does its own thing. Their relationship and journey together is the central theme of early Pokemon, and their bickering and intense loyalty and love for one another is iconic. I still remember reading/watching the part where Ash had to say goodbye to Pikachu… I don’t even think I cried that hard when my ex boyfriend dumped me.
Sakura and Syaoran from Cardcaptor Sakura
We’ve all had that time in our life when we had feelings for someone who didn’t have feelings for us – it’s a poignant sort of pain that’s kind of indescribable unless you have experienced it. Well, Syaoran is the king of manga friendzoning – despite initially being competitive with young Sakura for what he feels is his destiny (capturing the Clow Cards, a magical series of cards that can harness elements and magic), he slowly falls in love with the optimistic girl. But she has intense feelings for someone else, so he steadfastly stays by her side, comforting her around every turn while she remains oblivious to his affections. Finally, he confesses his feelings to Sakura (much to the reader’s relief!!) and the two of them go on to protect the world from dark magic together. Now if only all those sad foreveralones crying on Reddit had the same happy ending…
Utena and Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena
Utena and Anthy’s love is the typical damsel in distress story – except the prince is a badass woman (well, technically she gender identifies as a man but that’s neither here nor there). Anthy has an abusive significant other and Utena steps in and protects her. They are unique in that they are a very early example of an “open” lesbian relationship in manga… and the book itself is a great read, full of magic and combat and beautifully drawn art.
Choosing just five couples for this list was harder than picking a favorite puppy breed. I went with the ones that ignited the most “AWWW!” and warm fuzzy feelings within me. Happy month of love, and may everyone experience love at least partly as epic as comic books or manga portrays!