five stages of love, as told through anime

From toast to nice boat, a guide to love, anime-style.

Stage 1, The Toast Collision

Besides short skirts, big eyes, giant mecha, teenaged heros, harems, massive trope recycling, incomprehensible jargon, meido, and bad jpop, one of the pillars of anime is the typical harem opening where the typical loser male lead collides with the haremette. Never fails. Could be Ayu headbutting U1. Could be Belldandy crashing through a mirror onto K1. Could be Kirino dropping eroges as she collides with onii-chawma. Could be Shinji running into Rei with toast in her mouth. Never fails. Also never fails? Typical loser male always gets a sneak peak or grope in the process.

(Real life version of Stage 1? Chris Lee, Brett Favre, and Greg Oden sexting shirt-less/pants-less man-camwhore images of themselves to their objects of affections. Stay classy, guys!)

In anime land, this is where 95% of relationships are stuck at. The characters meet, they have some interest, but they can’t express it. Some characters just sit idly by (I’m looking at you, Kyou and Ryou), others mull over admitting their feelings (how’s it going Nymph?), and others are just non-starters (poor Shirley). There’s a lot of longing. A lot.

The best (that I could think of in five minutes) example? Sister Princess. Damn right I went there, but it could really any typical harem setup. Just with Sister Princess, all twelve sisters are stuck perpetually in this state because (1) he’s their brother, even though for Chitose, Karen, and Sakuya, it doesn’t seem like much of an issue (2) they’re competing against each other (poor Aria) (3) they just want to share onii-chama (4) ADV licensed this show and promoted it with a “If you had 12 sisters, what would you do?” advertising campaign.

Stage 2, Catch You Catch Me

In anime, the typical harem male lead cannot be corned into a relationship unless he has like seventeen nubile schoolgirls begging him to. So basically, stage 1 repeats itself for all the haremettes, and then the lead is in stage 2, where’s he is basically avoiding the girls out of either commitment fears (probable), disinterest (probable), terror (most likely), or sexual preference (quite likely). It’s definitely a rich man’s problem… “Oh noes, I have so many awesome and attractive girls vying for my attention… what to do? HIDE!!!”

As an example, have some Sora no Otoshimono where the self-proclaimed pervert who invented “The Tomoki Tower” has absolutely no interest in the four hawt Angeloids living with him, the fifth Angeloid who admitted she likes him, the childhood friend/next door neighbor, and the evilly sinister club president slash mafioso princess. What. The. Heck?

The king: Tenchi Muyo. Manages to string along two princesses, a space pirate, a mad scientist, and a police detective… and, uh, ends up dating the personality-less Sakuya. This is like going picking Darko over Carmelo, Wade, or Bosh in the 2004 NBA draft. Or picking Fuko over Kyou, Ryou, Tomoyo, Nagisa, and Kotomi-chan.

Stage 3, 好きだ

If there’s any kanji you should know by now, you should know this blog’s namesake. Sheesh. Anyway, the next step? One of you just admitted their feelings. Maybe even stayed up late to make him a teddy bear. The other reciprocated. Life doesn’t get much better than this. You’re a walking Beatles tune. Unless you’re Ararararagi, and you reciprocated partly because you’re afraid of getting your Johnny sliced off. Irregardless, it’s time for celebration. Fireworks? Big musical parades? Concerts with magic? Repelling alien invasion? World peace? All possible with the power of love.

The champion of all male anime leads? The Capturing God, who takes love ’em then leave ’em to a whole new level by wiping their memories so he can go mack on more women. But there’s another worth mentioning… one of anime’s greatest moments was when Chihiro tells Renji, “Renji-kun… how could I ever forget you!” as she finally breaks free of her memory loss and embraces Renji’s love and pain. Awesome. Poignant. And I still wish Shaft animated that damn sheep breaking free of its chain and running wild. She loves you, yeah, yeah yeah.

Stage 4, My Drill Will Pierce The Heavens

The best part of any relationship. You’re feeling each other out. You like discovering new things about her, from her Kirby tattoo to how she enjoys farting in the shower. You irrationally like all the music she sends you, even if it’s The Bravery or (shudder) Miley Cyrus. This phase can last anywhere between a few hours (drunken hook up with the crazy, but hot, chix0r) to a few decades (that soulmate who always has a trick up her sleeves).

Rarely does anime do this. Maybe for Kare Kano‘s Arima and Yuki, whose honeymoon lasted exactly one day. Or Amagami‘s Ayatsuji and Junichi, which probably lasted until a Johnny got sliced off.

In general anime, this time is when the characters discover that extra gear, like how Simon fucked up the space-time continuum to save Nia, how Van turned from a hot-blooded and wild pilot to an efficient killing machine for Hitomi, how Keitaro finally passed his Toudai exams thanks to Naru, how Kira and Athrun became even more powerful together than apart, how Sagara tamed the Lamdba Driver with Chidori, how Sugata tamed The King’s Pillar thanks to his feelings for Takuto, how Shizuru became even more powerful after seducing Natsuki, and how Shichika became the ultimate blade thanks to Togame.

This is where most anime end. In a few spots, either because of plot points or franchise milking, the move onto either Stage 5A or Stage 5B.

Stage 5A, NICE BOAT!!!

Since we don’t really get to see relationships falling apart in anime, pretty much every break-up centers around a noble sacrifice or as a plot point (i.e. Kimikiss, which had the two most unrealistic break up scenes ever). Yoko loses both Kamina and Kittan because they sacrificed themselves to save her. Mahoro self-destructs to save Suguru. Nagisa dies to give birth to Ushio. Kana Iriya dies fighting the martians to save her boyfriend who was too busy looking at pr0n while she was getting sexually assaulted. Simon gives up Nia to avoid abusing spiral power. Hitomi gives up Van to bring order back to his world. Taki never comes back to Saki in a head-scratching writing decision. Lulu gets impaled to save Suzaku (and Nunnally), which is probably the greatest sacrifice for love in anime, just because I’ve been milking this joke for three years, and, honestly, I think I can milk it for three more.

Bottom line: in anime, true love ends as a noble sacrifice. Or ends with knife dripping blood and a nice boat.

The saddest (that I could think of in five minutes) example? Saikano. I guess I could have picked a few things for this one, but I’ll go with Chise and Shuuji just because it was the saddest. Not that Chise sacrificed herself… just that every time a spark of hope appears, it was quickly snuffed out. That’s what made Chise and Shuuji so tragic. Their love couldn’t save anything in the end… especially Chise’s humanity. Ouch. Not a happy end.

Stage 5B, More Tea?

… or as I like to call it, “The Keiichi Morisato and Belldandy.”

11 Responses to “five stages of love, as told through anime”

  1. “how Kira and Athrun became even more powerful together than apart…” o wait, did i spot something wrong here?

  2. …and them you have Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora, whose ending caused some to rage despite it being a perfectly realistic one (once you set aside the existence of magic).

  3. Stage four should include the level of physical intimacy they are allowed to achieve at this stage: they can hold hands.

  4. 1. It’s sad how I’m reading this on Valentine’s Day (aka Single Awareness Day), and
    2. It’s sad how I understand every anime reference you mentioned without using Google.


  5. Welcome to Singles Discrimination Day, in which we all wish we had our very on Mikuru Asahina (adult version) but desperately try to avoid the Sonozaki twin…

  6. You know I’d say the saddest breakup would be when Nagisa died. I know, not a conventional breakup, but it is a couple being split. That, and i ;_;’ed hard.

  7. I really wish more anime made it to Stage 3 at the least. I feel that people can only be teased so long before they give up caring.

    Do any of us really care about the harem anime characters? No. It’s only the characters that grow and move forward that move the audience. Fluff anime should be a niche, not the standard.

  8. In anime, the typical harem male lead cannot be corned into a relationship unless he has like seventeen nubile schoolgirls begging him to.

    Taka: Stage four should include the level of physical intimacy they are allowed to achieve at this stage: they can hold hands.

    Both so true.

    The only actual breakups that seem to happen in anime happen before a series starts. In fact the only two counter-examples I can think of off the top of my head are both from the Clannad extra episodes, Ryou and Tomoyo.

  9. I’m sure most of the readers here understand the ‘nice boat’ reference but you actually didn’t mention or explain it. How could you forget to mention the worst (harem)-anime ending in the last 5 years? Yes I’m talking about school days. But its true, saikano is sad example too.

  10. It was always difficult for me to get too misty eyed about Saikano because of the utter absence of context about the setting.

    I didn’t think they needed like a full exposition, but for a story like Saikano which has every character directly affected by the whole destructive world war setting, I would’ve felt some kind of context toward their situation would’ve given me an empathetic connection to their plight instead of feeling like I was watching a series of terrible events happen to a bunch of people in some kind of weird fake world that existed solely to make them unhappy.

  11. Is that picture from Toradora? Just asking.

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