Discussion – Shipping in Shounen: Fighting the Losing Battle

This was a bust.

This was a bust.

I am one of those crazy people who enjoys a thing called shipping. For those of you that immediately thought I have an odd obsession with UPS, you should know that the word has another meaning. Shipping involves supporting a couple in simple terms. An example of this would be saying that I ship Kenshin and Kaoru from Rurouni Kenshin. I use them as an example because I assume that many people support that couple. Unfortunately, this can be a pretty masochistic habit. Why is that? Well, couples that you support may not be fully supported by the series in question. What I will be going over today is a genre of anime that really hates shippers and that is shounen. Even if a series that I mention isn’t completely shounen, please bear with me. This is a discussion and I welcome comments after you have read the article.

They spent way too much time on these two to throw it all away.

They spent way too much time on these two to throw it all away.

A very popular series is Prince of Tennis. Even though the story is about tennis and the guys that play it, there was some other stuff going on. As I watched the series, I did come to enjoy the relationship between Ryoma and Sakuno. I wasn’t the only one because the series would push it at times. There are even several episodes where the focus is clearly on the couple such as the one where Ryoma takes Sakuna to Haritatsu’s shop and the farewell at the airport. Unfortunately, this relationship never really got any sort of closure. This is a problem that we see in a lot of shounen series. The focus may not be on romance, but don’t add plot lines that you aren’t going to resolve. There was clear focus on this romance, but the writers failed to follow through with it. The continuation of the series, New Prince of Tennis, basically ignores Sakuno. I hate it when a series throws out stuff like this and Prince of Tennis is not the only guilty party here.

Those girls were a little dependent.

Those girls were a little dependent.

Here is another type of series that has even less of an excuse to shy away from the conclusion of a romance. Harem series often give great focus to couples. Unfortunately, it almost seems like they are writing the series for guys that like 2D girls because the main guy usually sucks and nothing ever really happens. Let’s take Shuffle! for example. There was plenty of romance between Rin and the various girls. There were a lot of major events that occurred throughout the story, but the follow through was not there. Don’t tell me that the relationship between Rin and Asa is a follow through. Yes, there was a kind of conclusion there, but they could not leave it at that. No, the writers had them break up and the story continues. They didn’t even write in a good breakup. It just happened. A lot of harems give us the ambiguous ending where either nothing happens or the guy ends up with one girl, but none of the others are set free. Instead, you watch the other girls mindlessly hold onto the hop that the guy will one day become available again. Honestly, it is just sad at that point. Before everyone gets on me about this by saying that a lot of harem series give us a couple at the end, I will tell you that a good portion don’t and that having the rest of the girls not moving on is bad as well. If you supported one couple that did not win out in a harem, then don’t make the girl pitiful at the end. Give us a better conclusion for everyone. No big stories are needed, but a sign of self-worth would be nice.

This may have been the greatest romance of my childhood.

This may have been the greatest romance of my childhood.

Here is something that really only matters if you need that big conclusion. A lot of series give us an implied romantic ending. What does that mean? Well, I will use Zoids Chaotic Century as an example. I know that I am not the only one that supported Van and Elisi. Well, they are a prime example of the implied ending. In the anime, the two were clearly set up for a great romance. They traveled together for years and it made some people quite jealous. At the very end of the series, we see the two staring off at the horizon after an emotional battle. It is basically implied at that moment that the series was getting its fairy tale ending. The bad guys were gone and the couple lived happily ever after. Is this an acceptable way to tie up the romantic storyline? I guess, but it may not be good enough for a lot of people. Implying that they lived happily ever after and giving us a kiss scene are two totally different things. Is this one making something out of nothing? Well, I would say that we are dealing with much more than nothing, but only supporters of the couple would complain about this one.

Who didn't ship this?

Who didn’t ship this?

Obviously, these are examples that have counters to them. There are harem series that have an alright end game and shounen series that give us a romantic ending. However, the lack of a conclusion is far too common for me to be silent. The biggest problem that I have with things like this is the fact that there are unresolved plot lines. Do I love romance in anime? Of course I do, but I don’t think that a series needs romance in order to be good. Aside from stuff like what is going on with Ussop and Kaya, Oda clearly said that he didn’t want to write romance in One Piece. People will ship things, but it is a quality series without a focus on a couple. If you aren’t going to follow through with a plot line that gets a good deal of focus, then don’t include the plot line at all. That is all I am saying. I will wait to see if this trend continues because shounen has started to evolve quite a bit since I started really watching anime eight years ago. If Fairy Tail fails to deliver in this regard, then all hope is lost.

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