UPDATE: We’ve added a couple more couples from Fall 2013 shows that carried over into Winter 2014, bringing the total to 24, not 22.
1. Mine x Tatsumi
Akame ga Kill! – At first it seemed like Tatsumi’s love interest would be the titular Akame, while Mine was someone he merely constantly bickered with. Yet their chemistry only got better in time, and after both saved each others’ lives multiple times, they finally clicked, and got to say what needed to be said before Mine tragically succumbed to her battle injuries.
2. Esdeath x Tatsumi
Akame ga Kill! – Another romance involving Tatsumi that started out as a joke but grew more serious as time and circumstances with the war progressed. Esdeath proved that while she was a monster, she was also still a human being, which meant sought someone to give her heart to and share her life of death and destruction with, and Tatsumi literally checked all of her boxes. I only hesitated to list these two because Tatsumi never really seemed interested in Esdeath beyond superficial titillation, but Tatsumi did basically offer himself to her if she came over to the rebellion.
3. Haru x Tokaku
Akuma no Riddle – While this list is mostly boy-girl pairings, that doesn’t preclude other combinations as long as they were interesting, and Haru and Tokaku’s certainly was, with both girls in turn taking up the “protector” role as conditions warranted, and even Haru’s dark secrets not swaying Tokaku from her side.
4. Kisara x Rentarou
Black Bullet – Rentarou was adopted into Kisara’s family, but while that technically makes them siblings and thus not couple material, that turns out to be the least of their worries. Let’s get one thing out of the way: Rentarou and Kisara love each other, and it goes beyond standard familial love; they’re devoted to one another, with a bond forged in the hellish fires of the past. What dooms them, in the shows somewhat curtailed ending, is Kisara’s descent into darkness, choosing to become an even greater evil to destroy the great evil that infects the world…starting with Kazumitsu, her brother by blood. It’s a road Rentarou can’t follow her down, and she knows that. It’s also quite sad.
5. Rikka x Yuuta
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – Well…duh. You didn’t think these two wouldn’t be on this list, did you? I mean look at them…bloody adorable. But that’s not to say they were just a couple of cute faces. They went through some things, including trying to parse out what their relationship is and what its pace should be, as well as overcoming a feisty rival.
6. Hilda x Roselie x Chris
Cross Ange: Tenchi to Ryuu no Rondo – Yes, I know, this is a trio, not a couple, but I’ll allow it. Arzenal is many things, and ‘women’s prison’ is one of them. As such, the ‘weak’ (either physically or emotionally) ally themselves with the ‘strong’, be it in the skies, the mess hall, or boudoir. These three comprised Troop Captain Zola’s harem, and Zola looked after them both on duty and off. When she was killed in action they carried on with Hilda in her place. Then Hilda deserted, and it was just Chris and Roselie. When she’s recaptured, Hilda claims she was just playing around with them…but I wasn’t convinced she was being totally honest with herself.
7. Nagi x Kyoutarou
Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – Yes, the show wants to give all the girls possibilities with Kyoutarou, and seems to want to nudge him in the direction of Tsugumi in particular, but I’ve always found this pairing to be the most compelling. They have a past, and spend the most time together, often with no pretense or tension. The only problem is they share the same father. Whoops…
8. Rin x Shirou
Fate stay/night: Unlimited Blade Works – Rin and Shirou are far from an official couple, but it can’t be argued that they have a certain romantic tension in their interactions, which have varied from verbal to physical/magical altercations to sharing dinner and spending the night under the same roof (though not in the same room). They’ve been enemies, and they’ve been allies, and there’s the constant indication that the alliance is temporary and they’ll be enemies again before too long…but in the interim, they make a good team.
9. Kazumi x Ryouta
Gokukoku no Brynhildr – This is another case (there were many this year) when I wasn’t as interested in the show’s intended ‘main’ couple of Ryouta and Neko. Kazumi was a way more dynamic character and she and Ryouta have some great dramatic and comedic scenes together.
10. Tomoyo x Jurai
Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – There are cuter and more precocious (Chifuyu), taller and more voluptuous (Sayumi), lovey-dovier (Mirei) and more familiar (Hatoko) women in Jurai’s life, but none ever clicked quite so well as he and the crimson-headed Tomoyo. They bicker a lot, but out of mutual interest in and affection for each other, not loathing.
11. Satomi x Shinichi
Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – File Satomi and Shinichi under 2014’s Most Doomed Couples, despite their mutual affection and brilliant natural chemistry…well, when Shinichi isn’t making scary faces, yelling at her for no reason, or tossing puppy carcasses in the garbage.
12. Rurumo x Kouta
Majimoji Rurumo – You can’t tell a book by it’s cover, and the rather childish-looking MMR had a surprisingly rich and mature romance at its core, which rightly took center stage, rather than the magical milieu. Ruru even shelves her original purpose for contracting with Kouta, because completing that would separate the two (via his death), something neither of them want.
13. Chisaki x Tsumugu
Nagi no Asukara – I loved Miuna to death, but for most of the second core when she’s a main character, her’s was a one-sided love. No, the best couple in this show were the two I thought least likely to pair up, only it happened anyway due to circumstances and time. Their relationship is threatened by Tsumugu’s future and the awakening of their friends, but by the end it endures. They just fit, as the photo above indicates.
14. Kosaki x Raku
Nisekoi – Sorry, Chitoge, but Kosaki was here first! Not only that, Raku liked her and she liked him first. They were on the cusp of connecting when Chitoge arrived, and no matter how much progress she and Raku made towards becoming less of a fake couple and more of a real one, Chitoge still felt like an interloper. Of course, that’s partly on Kosaki and Raku, for not having the guts to come right out and confess to each other. The show itself didn’t seem to want them together, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were the best fit for each other.
15. Kaori x Yuuki
One Week Friends – There were times on this show when you weren’t sure whether Kaori’s was a real brain condition caused by her accident, or if it was a psychosomatic process she went through in order to avoid getting too close to anyone. In any case, it made her a tough nut to crack, but Yuuki put the work in and devised a way for her to remember him even when she forgot, regardless of the reason. It was a bumpy road, but immensely satisfying.
16. Erika x Kyoya
Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – One of the upstart surprise of the year, Ookami’s general premise of ‘guy treating girl like a dog’ naturally had me pre-turned off, worried it would be demeaning towards women. It turned out to be a lot more nuanced and likable, as were Erika and Kyoya, despite their many flaws and missteps. I’m not sure if any other couple had quite so many obstacles to finding happiness, but they navigated them all with grace and humor.
17. Aoi x Naoto
Rail Wars! – Aoi is constantly telling Naoto he’s not tough enough for railway public safety, dubbing him “Stringbean” and such. But the truth is, Naoto was a lot tougher than he looked, and never let her down when they were in a spot. They developed a good working relationship, but the more death-defying adventures they shared, the closer they became, to the point where Aoi is unashamed to be officially in the fight for Naoto’s heart along with the other girls, and Naoto is not opposed to the chase.
18. Tensai x Juugo
Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – While these two were never an official item, they shared a mutual respect and admiration that would sometimes veer into the realm of romantic affection/attraction. They’re rivals who keep one another on each other’s toes, but when they come together – Tensai’s brains and Juugo’s brawn, they can accomplish great things.
19. Yuu x Haruka
Sakura Trick – This show mostly focused on one thing and one thing only—the budding relationship between two young people in love for the first time—and did it damn well. Perhaps no other show this year captured that unique joy and excitement that comes not just from finding the right one, but knowing that person thinks you’re just as right for them. That, and the thrill of making out in places where one could get caught.
20. Kaori x Kousei
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – I considered putting Tsubaki and Kousei here, because despite having different callings (athletic versus musical) they seem to be the more natural match due to time and proximity, which are tried-and-true reasons two people come together. Kaori and Kousei, meanwhile, have the look of a more idealistic, star-crossed couple. Kaori is amazing and everything, but she’s also dying, as we the audience know better than the other characters.
But at the end of the day, Kousei is in love with Kaori, not Tsubaki. He’s said as much to Kaori, though he could have been clearer and she has yet to clearly respond. Still, there’s nothing else on TV, animated or not, quite like watching these two make music together. Yes, music music…get your head out of the gutter!
21. Chiharu x Mitsuo
Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – Pilot’s Love Song had some issues…chief among them, it didn’t really, um…end, so much as stop. But one thing it did well was introduce perhaps the quickest but most compelling and moving romances of the year, between the affable Chi and kind Mitty, both side characters in this meandering tale. Like so many other couples who suddenly find each other in the midst of war, that war ends up tearing them apart prematurely, in one of the most heartrending scenes of the year.
22. Yui x Sou
Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – Aside from her super-romantic (and heartbreaking) confession/kiss/farewell in the street where Sou had just narrowly escaped death-by-bus, a kiss immediately proceeded by her no longer existing in his universe, the time-traveling Yui’s love story was often overshadowed by future Sou’s obsessive quest to save Kaori, but always present, to the point where Yui started as a means to save Kaori, but then a safe Kaori became a means for Sou to one day create Yui anew. Still with us…?
23. Kouko x Banri
24. Mako x Ira
Kill la Kill