Let’s face it: looking for romance in Shounen (i.e. a genre geared especially for boys) is like searching for traces of warmth and humanity in someone like, say…
Maybe not that bad, but it’s pretty difficult. After all, the biggest titles in the genre– Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach— are more concerned about themes such as
bromance particularly intimate camaraderie among men, evolving into more awesome versions of themselves, and defeating their One True Rival.
And in scenes where women are present, Shounen seems to be trapped in the dichotomy of Mary and Eve: women are either virginal princesses that need to be saved, or scheming seductresses who exist to titillate the male characters (and by extension, the readers) with their erotic ways. Worse, women seemingly exist only to make scenes like this possible.
Like, we get it: boys don’t understand a female form, particularly how it reacts to things like gravity and mathematical proportion. But, seriously, dude. DUDE.
Thankfully, there are the pairings in Shounen titles that defy the genre expectations… or at least executed the cliche enjoyably. I picked out my top 14 most enjoyable anime shounen couples (canon and semi-canon) that you can comfortably line up with the best shoujo pairs out there.
As always, I’ve based these on shows I’ve personally seen. I’m also as dense as the typical shoujo lead, so I’m bad at filtering spoilers– proceed at your own risk!
Top 14 Shounen Couples (As Romantic as Shoujo Ones)
1. Riza Hawkeye / Roy Mustang – Full Metal Alchemist
The Lowdown: Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye is Colonel Roy Mustang’s most trusted bodyguard and officer. She acts as his “babysitter”, nagging him to do his admin work or reining him back when he acts too impulsively. But they trust each other to such extent that he has tasked her with executing him should she find that he has strayed from his path. In return, she vocally expresses her willingness to die if ever she is forced to do such thing to him.
What Makes Them Great: Both characters are consummate professionals and goddamn competent at their jobs. Their oft-unspoken devotion and affection for each other never kept them from doing what they ought to do for the country. The unshakable faith they have in each other is also enviable, and you gotta love how they can understand each other without having to use words, as shown in this scene:
Favorite Couple Moment: Roy nearly losing his mind as he’s forced to choose between saving Riza and having to do a forbidden transmutation. Later, he charges towards his hemorrhaging lieutenant, uncaring of the fighting going on. Upon learning she’s going to be saved, he does the most adorable thing in the world that a concerned superior has no business doing to a mere aide.
No wonder so many people wanted to get under the seemingly invincible future Führer’s skin through this woman!
2. CC / Lelouch – Code Geass
The Lowdown: Exiled secret prince Lelouch Lamperouge makes a geass contract with a mysterious woman named C.C. (probably not named after the famed e-mail feature, because she has apparently been alive during the Hundred Years’ War, among many other historical events). C.C. becomes his partner-in-crime as he takes on the mask of Zero to avenge himself and his beloved little sister.
What Makes Them So Great: They’re not canon, but I find her the best match for cunning Lelouch among all the members of his harem. They’re both smart, cool, and clandestinely in pain because of their fates. When the whole world turned against Lelouch at one point, it was C.C. alone who stayed by his side and comforted him. Whenever C.C. leaves Lelouch’ side in order to save him, he furiously comes to get her back every time. It was him and her against the world, all throughout the series.
Favorite Couple Moment: Many to mention, but this is the first moment that made me think C.C. and Lelouch CAN be a thing. It started with their first serious argument, then Lelouch’s incredulous reaction when she walked away from him, and finally, his awesome rescue of her from Mao’s clutches.
3. Eren/Mikasa – Shingeki no Kyojin
The Lowdown: Eren and Mikasa have known each other since they were kids, as she was informally adopted into his family after the tragic death of her parents. For saving her life back then, Mikasa has pledged to protect Eren with her life, even if it means following him to the military and coming face-to-face with the ferocious, man-eating monsters called Titans.
What Makes Them So Great: Admittedly, I’m a big Mikasa/Levi shipper (I’m a weird fangirl, I know), but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate how great Eren and Mikasa are together. Mikasa’s devotion to Eren is unquestionable: she capitalizes on her superhuman strength to protect Eren like how he did to her back when they were little, and she doesn’t think twice about laying down her life for him. Eren also looks out for her, as proven by how his Titan form saved the suicidal Mikasa. They may argue like siblings, and at times, it seems Mikasa’s feelings may be unrequited, but their significance in each other’s lives leaves no doubt.
Favorite Couple Moment: Young Eren placing his scarf around Mikasa’s neck to keep her warm. This gesture was what saved Mikasa from falling into despair after seeing her beloved parents killed violently right in front of her eyes. No wonder she had it always on her since then.
4. Soul/Maka – Soul Eater
The Lowdown: Soul Evans is Maka Albarn’s weapon and partner. They don’t always see eye-to-eye, especially in terms of who’s protecting who, but the two always have each other’s back to rely on. Their biggest motivation to grow stronger is born out of their desire to protect each other.
What Makes Them Great: The series author may currently have no interest in writing them together as a pairing, but that doesn’t diminish the kawaii factor of this pairing at all. I love how solid their friendship and trust in each other are, and how far they’re willing to go to protect each other. They also complement each other well: book-smart competent fighter Maka borrowing the power of the easygoing combat-inclined Soul in order to prevail in battles.
Favorite Couple Moment: The scene where Soul saved the falling Maka by cushioning her with his body would have to be my utmost favorite. It shows the extent of care these characters have for each other, to the point that each one’s willing to put themselves in a world of pain if it meant keeping the other person safe.
5. Vegeta / Bulma – Dragonball Z
The Lowdown: Vegeta is the proud prince of Saiyans, while Bulma is the sassy genius inventor and heiress of the Capsule Corporation. When Vegeta ends up staying in Earth out of profuse desire to defeat Cacarot (a.k.a. Gokou), he also ends up staying in Bulma’s residence. After a couple of episodes, Future Trunks appears, proclaiming BxV as his parents.
What Makes Them Great: Let’s get one thing out of the way: Bulma and Vegeta getting together is a plot device in order to support the Super Saiyan pipeline. Nonetheless, it’s fun seeing Vegeta come face to face with someone (other than Gokou) who isn’t scared of him (at least in the post-Frieza arc). I can think of no other woman (Earthling or not) who can pull off a relationship with this socially awkward, egoistical Saiyan.
Favorite Couple Moment: Bulma tricking the almighty warrior into wearing a pink shirt. It was the beginning of their couple-ness.
6. Ran/Shinichi – Detective Conan
The Lowdown: Childhood best friends Ran Mouri and Shinichi Kudo are separated one fateful day when the latter chooses to run after a couple of suspicious characters. He gets caught and ends up drugged, turning him into a child. In order to restore his true form and protect Ran in the process, he adopts a new name: Conan Edogawa, a junior detective that ends up staying in the Mouri residence.
What Makes Them Great: It requires a special kind of suspension of belief to accept that Ran cannot recognize her childhood best friend now that he’s in his kid form. It’s the Clark Kent Glasses syndrome all over again. Nonetheless, you gotta admire how devoted Ran is to Shinichi, waiting for his return from the “case” that he can’t seem to quit. And Shinichi/Conan protecting her in the best way he can, never wavering from his mission of defeating the shady organization so he can go back to his real body and finally be together with his lady love.
I also love the little moments in between: jealous Conan, embarrassed Conan hearing Ran vocally admitting her affections for Shinichi, the cute flashbacks of their childhood friendship/romance, and more.
Favorite Couple Moment: The Detective Conan movies always have a lot of squeal-worthy scenes, but let’s take my favorite scene from the more canon storyline. In Chapter 621, Eisuke Honda talks to Conan about his plans to confess to Ran. Naturally, our boy isn’t too happy about this.
That’s our Shinichi! Staking his claim clearly on his love since Day 1!
7. Akane / Kogami – Psycho Pass
The Lowdown: Akane Tsunemori is a rookie Inspector who leads a team of Enforcers, including jaded former Inspector Shinya Kogami. Their job is to hunt down prospective criminals (as measured by their Criminal Coefficients), but Akane’s idealism and strong sense of justice conflicts with the way the society implements its justice system.
What Makes Them Great: I love the bond and mutual respect that these two form in the series (which at times, border on sexy romantic tension). They’re hell-bent on protecting each other in the ways they know. And in the end, despite choosing deviating paths, she is still the first and last person he reaches out to, as if wanting to reassure her of his safety as well as formally dissolving their partnership.
Favorite Couple Moment: I’d have to choose the movie. Despite being on opposing sides of the fence, Kogami finds it a wee too hard to let go of his old, protective habits. 😉
8. Victorique/Kujou – Gosick
The Lowdown: Victorique is a brainy, acerbic detective who lives at the top of the library tower, while Kujo is a kind-hearted transfer student from Japan who ends up befriending her. Together, they solve supernatural mysteries, some of which may have the possibility to change the course of history.
What Makes Them Great: Quoting my previous commentary on this pairing: “It starts as typical mystery with a dash of very loose historical English take, but as the series progresses, the romance becomes a more pronounced part of the show. Victorique and Kujou’s relationship evolve from adorable tsundere mistress- henpecked hubby to knight and princess, and the episodes clearly show how the two have come to depend on each other.”
Favorite Couple Moment: Episode 17, when Kujou carries Victorique and runs while a big wave chases after them, ala-big budget action movie. The usually abrasive and lone wolf Victorique finally, willingly holds Kujou and pleads to him:
To which, he says without hesitation:
9. Oreki / Chitanda – Hyouka
The Lowdown: Hotarou Oreki is a brilliant logic guy whose quiet, peaceful, and “energy-conserving” high school days are disrupted by the wide-eyed curiosity of the beautiful and kind heiress, Eru Chitanda. He gets dragged along in one mystery after another, and in the process, begins to see life in a bit more colorful lens.
What Makes Them Great: It’s fun to watch the typically stoic Oreki lose to Chitanda’s bright-eyed optimism. She alone is the sole reason he would move to do anything. On the other hand, he is the person she respects and trusts the most, as proven by how he was the first person she approached about something as important to her as as her uncle’s memory. There’s no jealous third party or wacky misunderstanding here: this is simply a coming-of-age story between two individuals brought together by fate.
Favorite Couple Moment: Tons! But the moment where I mashed the Replay button the most would have to be the Valentine episode. After Ibara’s chocolate for Satoshi gets stolen, the usually cheery Chitanda speechlessly retreats from the room. Oreki suddenly moves to catch up with her, and blocks her way.
Oreki, who usually hates confrontations, unusually refuses to budge.
Chitanda bursts that she is responsible for the missing chocolate (and Ibara’s unhappiness) and that she would look for it in the whole school, even if it’s the last thing that she would do. She then sidesteps him and prepares to leave.
Ordinarily, that would have been the end of conversations for someone like Oreki. BUT…
A startled Chitanda looks up at Oreki…
And her rarely seen tears, on the other hand, affects Oreki more than he would care to admit.
He proceeds to tell her that he may not feel for people like she does, and then tells her something that a commitment-phobic lazy-ass like him will never say.
Of course he delivers, and more. Despite the culprit ending up being his best buddy Satoshi, he doesn’t hesitate to lay it all down to him. When Satoshi tries to say that it was all a “joke” (it’s not), here’s what our white coat-wearing knight has to say.
Never underestimate a lady love’s tears, y’all!
10. Sousuke/Kaname – Full Metal Panic
The Lowdown: Sergeant Sousuke Sagara is assigned to protect Chidori Kaname by posing as her classmate. Initially, he ends up committing various wacky acts of danger in order to do so (which Kaname is quick to punish him for by slapping him with her fan). But as the story progresses, the two start to grow closer to each other. Duty eventually gives way to feelings as Sagara and Kaname fall for each other.
What Makes Them Great: Despite his military prowess and tools, Sousuke is a hopeless dork. Kaname, on the other hand, proves to be more than a princess that needs to be rescued every time. She is gutsy and honest, and can beat the hell out of a war veteran. So naturally, no protocol can stop the military specialist from falling in love with his ward.
Best of all, they are not a maudlin idiot couple (which is great, because they are central to what makes FMP’s humor, action, and romance tick!)
Favorite Couple Moment: Thinking Kaname has died, Sousuke BSODs, and we get a peek of how empty and cruel this soldier can be when deprived of his newfound hope for living. But typical of FMP, it segues into a funny, touching reunion in the end.
11. Van/Hitomi – Vision of Escaflowne
The Lowdown: Van Fanel is the prince of the fallen kingdom of Fanelia and pilot of the mythical dragon, Escaflowne. He first meets Hitomi Kanzaki in the Mystic Moon (i.e., Earth), and ends up bringing her along with him. Initially, he finds her indispensable due to her tarot cards and dowsing ability, but eventually, he realizes he feels something deeper for her. Meanwhile, Hitomi becomes attracted to gentlemanly Allen Schezar for he reminds her of her unrequited love back at Earth. As the story progresses though, she starts questioning who she really cares for.
What Makes Them Great: Because I’m lazy, let me quote again from my previous coverage of the couple.
Van and Hitomi are immensely likable, whether separately or together. They quarrel like married couples at times, but in the end, they’ve got each other’s back. [BEGIN SPOILER] Van’s gradual realization of his feelings for Hitomi was one of my favorite parts of watching the show. I love how he still chose to stand with Hitomi, while respecting the relationship Hitomi and Allen had. And when he fetches Hitomi back from the Mystic Moon the second time, you can really see the yearning and affection he has for her. BTW, I am still salty about the need for Hitomi to leave just when the two had become open with their feelings for each other. [END SPOILER]
Favorite Couple Moment: Van screws up his confession. (Granted that fate was messing up with them but still, even sans that factor, I wonder if the Van at this point of the story could have really successfully pulled it off)
12. Kaoru/Kenshin – Rurouni Kenshin
The Lowdown: Kenshin Himura is a wandering swordsman with a bloody past. Kaoru Kamiya is the owner of the Kamiya Dojo who meets and takes Kenshin in after he saves her from a Battousai impersonator. The series follows Kenshin’s path to redemption by helping people with his reverse-edged sword.
What Makes Them Great: While they never explicitly express their feelings towards each other, their actions speak volumes. Whether it be Kaoru defying the spell placed on her by Jin-e in order to stop Kenshin from becoming a killer again, or Kenshin choosing to say goodbye only to Kaoru during the Shishio arc, you can really feel how much they love each other.
Favorite Couple Moment: The Kenshin vs Jin-e arc, where Kaoru stops Kenshin from reverting to his Hitokiri Battousai persona by breaking the spell Jin-e placed on her. This is where we get the first glimpse of how much they’ve grown closer to each other since the first time they met.
13. Kousei/Kaori – Your Lie in April
The Lowdown: Due to a tragic memory associated with the piano, former musical prodigy Arima Kousei has refused to play again. One fateful day though, he meets a spirited violinist in the person of Kaori Miyazono, who drags him back to the world of music.
What Makes the Couple Great: There’s something about the blend of the quiet, unrequited love that Kousei has for Kaori (whose eyes seem to be cast on his buddy), and the timeless beauty of classical music that makes their love story even more poignantly beautiful. Near the end, your dread grows as the inevitable rears its ugly head, and you know this ain’t a Disney production. But you still see this pairing through anyway–for they deserve nothing less.
Favorite Couple Moment: When oblivious Kaori suddenly touches Kousei’s hand and says, “See? I think your hand likes this!”, nearly giving our poor boy a heart attack.
14. Sakura / Rinne – Kyoukai no Rin-ne
The Lowdown: Mamiya Sakura has been seeing spirits since she was a child. One day, she meets her classmate, Rinne Rokudo, who not only seems to see spirits, but also have the ability to send them to the Wheel of Reincarnation to be reborn!
What Makes the Couple Great: Unlike Rumiko Takahashi’s usual female protagonists, Sakura is calmer and more reserved, and more importantly, NOT a Tsundere, so the pairing dynamics is refreshingly more likable.
And while InuYasha and Ranma 1/2 love stories develop mostly from the more emotional Kagome and Akane perspective, Rin-ne’s is told equally between Sakura and Rinne’s POVs. There’s the usual harems and reverse harems that make for a vintage Takahashi comical setup, but the romance between the lead characters is undeniable. Even the simple hand-holding scenes are romantic AF.
Favorite Couple Moment: As I’m a sucker for jealous guys in denial trope, this is one of my most favorite moments.
Loyal cat servant Rokumon reports to his Master Rinne that Miss Sakura is walking home with another boy.
They track Jumonji and Sakura incognito, but are repelled by the former’s sacred ash attack. Rokumon cries that Rinne should not allow other men to steal Sakura away from him, to which he responds that Mamiya Sakura does not belong to him.
His unaffected cover doesn’t last long, as he unwittingly walks off to the edge of the roof and crashes to the ground.
- Heero / Relena (Gundam Wing) – Still my favorite Gundam pairing to date. Stalker-ish as Relena Peacecraft may seem in the series, you gotta admire her courage and stomach for politics– just a couple of the many splendid things that may have converted Heero Yuy from her would-be assassin to her most devoted protector. If you didn’t shriek in the penultimate episode when Heero and Relena said their goodbyes in the space dock…… or when Heero ended up saving Relena from the rubbles despite his initial claims of wanting to kill her (hereby making him question himself)…
… then you seriously need to take a rabu-rabu pill.
- Shana / Yuji (Shakugan no Shana) – The initial seasons did not make me warm up to the pairing, but the final arc (where wimpy Sakai Yuji becomes the Big Baddie) is full of swoon-worthy moments. I particularly liked this scene (don’t let the YouTube title mislead you. The uploader misunderstood the context of this scene)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8yJq0yHI8c
- Rosette / Chrono (Chrono Crusade) – Chrono promising to keep Rosette alive no matter what = <3https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xLzPjgIAGA
- Ash x Misty (Pokemon) – PokeShipping is still my OTP, more than a decade after I saw them on TV. I love these two little tsunderes, and while Misty is hardly mentioned in the storyline anymore, I can’t see any female lead besting our favorite Cerulean Gym Trainer in the heart of the wannabe Pokemon Master. Proof? Check out their moments:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC7My545Nlw
Did I miss any Shounen love pairing? Let me know in the comments!