Irina: Pretty much every anime fan out there is familiar with the concept of shipping. Essentially, it’s a double-edged sword. When done right, it could constitute a wonderful story on its own. When done wrong, however, the aforementioned story is comparable to the creepy book your least favorite teacher has carried around for months on end or to the atrocious movie tons of people paid good money to see and we all have to live with that fact now. Is it worth the risk?
If anyone is unclear on what the actual term means, shipping is initially derived from the word relationship and is defined by the desire felt by fans who believe two or more people, either real-life people or fictional characters (in film, literature, television, etc) should be in a relationship, romantic or otherwise. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to put doujin in a separate category since I consider them completely independent works that simply borrow well-known character names and designs to get exposure or as a jump-off point. In my experience, the stories are seldom integrated into the canon narrative and resemblances to the existing characters are merely superficial.
Remy: I’ll have to agree with what Irina said about doujinshi belonging in a separate category for the most part. The characters featured in said medium often do diverge from how they are depicted in the canon narrative. Of course, this is part of the appeal in doujinshi (you have the chance to see how the pairings you hope for, despite not being actually canon under most circumstances, click), but it also limits its inherent value for certain individuals who care little for anything that isn’t official. Just remember to keep canon and doujinshi separate and you’ll be fine!
Remy: So Irina came up with a lovely list of topics for us to touch upon as we discuss our personal opinions in regards to the merits and drawbacks of shipping as a whole. Feel free to follow along! Oh, and this our little debate will be split into two separate posts since it’s rather lengthy and we wanted to avoid posting the same content twice, by the way. She’s posting this first half and I’ll be posting the second half afterwards!
What is your stance on shipping? Do you remember your first ship?
Irina: I have never been much of a shipper myself; the only pairing I can recall coming up with all by myself is Kazane and Chronoire from Witch Craft Works. But that’s just because it’s such an obvious and natural couple. Let me explain, Chronoire is hot, Kazane is super hot, together they’re bound to be kdsufh*&$%vhgr?%F”$b hot. That’s the extent of romantic backstory I created for them. Hold your applause.
Remy: I’ve been shipping for over a decade and I would consider myself a rabid shipper who is beyond redemption.
My first shipping experience was back when I was 11 years old. I was reading Love Hina (yeah, it was probably a manga series that I shouldn’t have been reading at my age considering the frequent nudity) and I found myself being displeased with the main couple. The series established a lot of the modern romcom conventionalities and Naru was an example of a fiery tsundere who was prone to physically abusing the hapless Keitarou. She came across as being emotionally unstable and I started shipping Keitarou with Motoko, who seemed more disciplined and reasonable as a kuudere (but was still prone to assaulting our unlucky protagonist). She basically represented so many more attractive things for me compared to Naru. Keitarou, you goofed and let her get away!
Does shipping appeal to you? Why or why not?
Irina: Why can’t I see the appeal of shipping? Well, for one thing, I think creating a good character is difficult. Creating a bunch of them and having them interact in interesting ways is downright magic. How am I going to improve on that? Honestly, if a show is so poorly written that I can positively add to it off the top of my head, I should probably be spending my time watching better shows. (Then again, looking at my choice in anime as of late…)
Remy: Well, hold on. Shipping doesn’t necessarily require that much effort. If you’re creating doujinshi or writing fanfiction, then sure, you definitely made some convincing points there. Said content creators really do need to work at it in order to make fanon content enjoyable. But shipping can be a lot more passive and can be achieved by simply thinking, “these two character could be a nice couple because of this or that” and then celebrating vigorously whenever said characters actually interact, or by browsing the internet for fanart of your favorite ships.
With that being said, I’ll admit that mentally forcing characters together could be considered a pointless exercise. That especially goes for when the pairing does little for the plot of the anime series or doesn’t establish any sort of characterization or character development. I’ll also admit that shipping can indirectly imply that an individual can’t be happy alone, which is an unfortunate message that is simply inaccurate. Also, what’s with that last sentence? Uta no Prince-sama is clearly a masterpiece!! (Irina: only in its worst moments!)
Irina: Whoa – now if you’re just randomly pairing off characters like a toddler mashing barbies together, is it really shipping or letting your mind wander? (Also maybe the show isn’t all that engrossing…) In order to imagine an actual fully realized relationship between two people, you have to know them pretty well and have an idea about their aspirations and hopes for the future. You have to know if their hobbies are going to align. You also have to at least be able to picture what type of partner they are and would want. If I was to try and set up my friends, I would need to know them really really well before I could make a reliable recommendation. Point is, if you’re retconing a relationship that wasn’t there to begin with, a minimal amount of thought will have to be put in to get anything satisfying out of it.
Admittedly, you might have the talent to create viable fantasies with minimal effort and without altering the existing fiction, but I don’t.
Remy: Oh, no, I make sure they have good reasons to be together before I let my mind go wild (Hey, I ship because it’s engaging. If I didn’t like the characters or the story, I wouldn’t bother). I need to clarify that I believe there are multiple levels of shipping. I would only flirt with the idea of shipping character A with character B until a serious milestone occurs. One such event would involve one of the aforementioned characters really pouring his or her heart out and being emotionally open and the other character is either the reason behind said break-down or the one who listens and tries to reassure the distressed. If this ever pops up in a series, then that’s when I get really serious with the ship.
That being said, you do have a point about needing to know individuals pretty well before you can play matchmaker. Not only do the aforementioned type of moments show that the characters care for one another, but they also let the audience know exactly how the characters are underneath their facades and public personas. As such, these instances are the pivotal moments that convince me that the author is trying to express that these characters really care for each other as friends or more.
But if one character is affectionate towards another character from the very start, it isn’t very difficult to let your mind wander and imagine even if you don’t really know how things will pan out. Other fans are more gung-ho than me in that regard and will declare a ship to be 100% legit right after character A starts referring to character B by a nickname. That is really jumping the gun but I understand where these fans are coming from!
I also know what you mean when you say shipping is like retconning a relationship and that’s it’s difficult to do so without altering the narrative canon. However, shipping, to me, is sort of like a quiet act of wishful thinking. As a shipper, I only wish for two characters (or even three – threesomes are fine, too) to be together, basically. If they do get together within the canon narrative, then I’m ecstatic. If not, then I’m still content to imagine how things would be if they did.
But I’m not going to be insisting that character A and character B are definitely an item above all else. After all, some people may prefer different ships or may be unable to see the point of ships. In short, I believe what we see on-screen is the ultimate deciding factor. Different people will interpret the same scenes differently. Maybe other people will dismiss particular emotional moments as characters just being friends, but I will be the first to observe that said moments can and do feature romantic elements. If the subtext between two characters change into text via kissing or confessing, however, I better not catch anyone saying that they’re still just friends. It’s right there! They’re not just friends at that point!
I guess what I want to stress that respect is what’s key as a shipper. Respect the canon narrative. Respect others by not shoving your ships down their throats and by not bashing their ships if their ships conflict with yours. The people who sent out death threats after Naruto and Bleach ended because the official couples differed from their personal ships are the worst kind of shippers.
Irina: Beautifully written. But still not convinced what you just laid out there doesn’t require a bit of mental gymnastics. At least some mental water aerobics. You are still rerouting some of the effort you would be putting into understanding and interpreting the show, into changing it instead. I’m not saying this is everything that’s wrong with anime fans…in so many words.
Just kidding, I can fully appreciate your point but I think that when you are fully engrossed in a story, you won’t have time to presume love stories on the side. I know that when I truly get into a show I can loose track of who’s around me and how much time has passed. Maybe after I have fully digested the story can I begin to reimagine it as an homage but even then, I rarely find that I’m improving anything.
Remy: Fair enough. I will admit that shipping in a way that doesn’t conveniently alter the canon narrative requires a bit of mental finesse. Many of my daily thoughts are filled with ships, ships, ships. And I don’t know a single thing about Kancolle!
I hope you guys enjoyed this – please go read part 2 over on Remy’s blog!
Irina – I’m kidnapping this last paragraph without Remy’s approval to just say that I had a blast doing this collab. Remy was a lot to fun to “work” with and if all collabs are this enjoyable, then I really hope I get the chance to do more. And that amazing title is all him!
Thanks for putting up me!
38 thoughts on “To Ship or Not to Ship – That is the Discussion [A Collaborative Editorial] (Part 1)”
I like how I said I was going to post a comment here and never did Orz
Anywho, love this post, the topic, the SHIPS. I have to say that I’ve been shipping for so long now that my brain just kind of does it wo my permission. i think the canon universe is important and should also be respected but also, i ship my characters regardless of that world and therefore i live in the fandom world. sometimes i just ship them because of a quick interaction they had (and they never see each other again, yes i’m thinking AZ). sometimes i like to think it’s something more significant (yes im thinking sports anime and others). i don’t ever try to force these ships on anyone because if it’s not canon, im sure they won’t appreciate it. but if the canon relationship is sturdy enough, i find i don’t have the urge to ship. but also i know very few shows that pull off the main couple successfully so then my mind ships 😛
i guess another reason i ship is because there’s not much m/m content out there. and when i see two cute guys interact in a regular shounen/seinen/whatever show with lots of guys, i just want to ship them. especially when there’s fujoshi bait. like yes you got me now imma ship them
so your fanfics are easy to find or???
Mmm, kinda. Theyre not super popular so you wont find them too easily 😛
Oh I’ll find them… I might not do the shipping myself but I will consume it if available!
LOL, ok, i mostly post on ao3 now but i used to post on ff.net :3
Cool, i’ll let you know if you find them 😉
Haha the post we all need ^^ Shipping is love, shipping is life.
Loving the style of these collaborative posts. A great way to get involved with the other bloggers, keep at it!
Thank you – I know I’ve said it a billion times already but it was really tons of fun! I got super lucky!
*ships Irina and Remy*
That was fun to read.
I’m basically an aromantic, so I don’t get romantic relationship. Romance anime, nonetheless, are among my favourites, and sometimes I even find myself drawn into canon ships. It’s not so much that I want them to stay together forever happily ever after; it’s more that I want to see them overcome their inner obstacles and experience a moment of happiness. I think last season’s Tsurezure Childrens has condensed the very essence of shipping into a single a show and has cut anything that’s condusive to it. Not even I was immune to such concentrated power. But coming up with non-canon ships of my own? I can’t remember a single instance of that happening. (Since it’s the internet, and you never know who’s reading: my lead in was joke.)
Sometimes, though, I find myself a shipwrecker. Some romance anime are going for couples and try to sell them as a good idea and I sit here and think, years down the line this ends in trauma and disaster. Fans of said couple wouldn’t enjoy my… “fan”-fiction. (What do you call fiction that’s inspired by inspired by material you don’t like?) Sukitte Ii na yo, Ao Haru Ride, and Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso all fall under that heading for me.
There’s another aspect that tends to bother me about shipping, and that’s that an abundance of shipping leads to a situation where people associate any sort of intimacy automatically with romance which leaves no place for close friendships. Remy, there’s this sentence you wrote, and it’s a symptom of that: “Maybe other people will dismiss particular emotional moments as characters just being friends, but I will be the first to observe that said moments can and do feature romantic elements.” See the language? “Dismiss” as “just being friends”? There’s this ideal of a romantic relationship I just don’t understand. People are placing this type of relationship on a pedestal: it’s not just friendship, it’s special. Except friendship (a real one) is pretty much very special, isn’t it?
I know that’s just the language that surrounds the phenomenon. Nobody’s really devaluing friendship, and in real life “just friends” is a phrase that I might use myself as an anti-shipper’s shield. But in fiction, it’s a bit of a cliché. If two people of opposite gender get along really well, and if they’re both protagonists, they will end up together in a romantic relationship. It’s just the default. It’s not an active resistance to friendship; it’s just that the shipping impulse is too strong. In most cases, the writer has shipped them long before anyone else gets a chance to.
It’s not that I think anyone’s doing anything particularly wrong. Maybe I can phrase it like this? Every now and then I get really frustrated that someone sees a beautiful friendship and dismisses it as just romance.
Anyway, on to read part two. 🙂
Actually I do think people occasionally devalue friendship and I think that’s a real shame. In fiction especially, crafting an authentic touching friendship without the benefit of grand romantic gestures, is difficult and should be recognized for the feat it is. I 100% agree with you
I often hear for instance that Maka and Soul should be a romantic couple and anything else would be a shame but I think their friendship is phenomenal and their relationship so incredibly lovely as is….
Long story…mid length..I completely agree with you. Thanks for always making my comments section so interesting!
Oh, I’ll give you credit that a lot of people are quick to ship two people together if they have a sincere moment together. But that mostly applies to heterosexual couples from my experience.
The most recent example that comes to mind is Solork Ikta and Igsem Yatorishino from Alderamin On The Sky. There’s no sense of romantic tension between the two, but they were shipped together nonetheless. As you said, nothing is wrong with friendship at all, yet relationships can sometimes be seen as an upgrade of sorts even though it’s really not.
My statement was more geared towards people who claim that two girls are simply just friends despite evidence towards the contrary. The goal posts are pushed back whenever homosexual couples are brought up. I do believe people are still claiming that Victor and Yuri are not romantically involved despite the fact that two exchanged a kiss and matching rings.
That’s what I had in mind when I wrote that statement. You definitely do have a point and I guess I wasn’t considerate enough since I neglected to mention this. Sorry about that.
I hope I wasn’t being too negative. I don’t think you actually have anything to apologise for. It’s just something I like to point out now and then. Same-sex shipping complicates things, because there’s a difference between straight voyeurism and the queer desire to have their story told, too. And anime often doesn’t commit to a definite interpretation: there’s a yuri-tease genre, where you never quite know: maybe, maybe not. Take your pick. Interpretation, here, can never really be wrong and consitutes what’s going on in the first place. The audience shipping a couple, then, is what actually consitutes the couple: they’re Schrödinger’s couple. They hover in a state of uncertainty until interpreted by an eager audience.
What’s most annoying, though, is some of the arguments I see: I remember someone arguing for Madoka Magica that Homura must be romantically invested in Madoka, because why else would she do what she does. That sort of argument actively reduces the range of behaviours “allowed” for non-romantic relationships. It’s really frustrating. It’s not so much the shipping that bothers me here; it’s what people count as “evidence”.
(There’s really little room left to doubt Yuri and Victor, IMO. I do have a problem with how the show handled the intersection between romance and figure skating, and I think a lot of the problems here stem from the show insufficiently separating stage and off-stage personae for Victor, while making a clear difference for Yuri. As a result, everything interpersonal came across as suspect for me. And if others had similar experiences, I can understand why people wouldn’t take evidence at face value for this show. After the penultimate episode, though, it should be *very* hard. In any case, they’re not a couple I can ship. I hope I’m wrong, but I think it’ll end in tears. My thought experiment here is: if you take away figure skating from them, what do they have to give to each other? Personally, I’m drawing a blank. I like them both, and I wish them well, but I really can’t see them together.)
Schrödinger’s couple is a wonderful expression.
I completely agree with you on both points and I myself have often been more deeply committed and felt more connected to close friends than lovers of the moment. I IS possible to care for someone and really want their happiness without expecting sex in exchange. Isn’t it?
As for Yuri on Ice. Although I think there is little doubt about the romantic nature of their relationship I personally have never found it that…romantic. As you say, they never bother to develop their connection beyond the professional skating one. On the one hand, Yuri has a major case of hero worship towards Victor but seems generally exasperated by him otherwise. Once the shine of a new relationship wears off, I wonder how charming he’ll find Victor’s frivolous nature. As for Victor himself, he seems to flit from one passion to the next very freely and it’s difficult to tell what he actually likes in Yuri other than the fact that Yuri really likes him. I’ve always been a little baffled by how many people consider this an exemplary relationship, it seems riddled with red flags to me.
I think many people took the creators “ambiguity” as denial. “SayoKubo never stated that Victor or Yuuri is gay! That’s mean they’re only friends!” I think many western audience was used with creators confirming characters sexuality *coughDumbledorecough*
Take American cartoons for example. Many creators outed characters as gay/bisexual after the show ended (Korrasami, How to Train Your Dragon, Gargoyle, etc etc) But they won’t even bother to put it ON TEXT. So to know that these characters are gay/bi, you must read the interviews. And later they’re like “How come you guys didn’t realize that A and B was a gay couple? They looked at each other for two seconds in season 3. You must look at them through hetero lens. Btw, I said this 10 years after the show ended.”
Their basic mind is: no creators confirming relationship = not canon, even though it’s hinted on the show
Oh, you weren’t. Your comment was rather insightful and it felt like I had to address those issues since I wasn’t clear enough in either post. I appreciate it. This comment was also very perceptive.
Strangely enough, I took issue with someone making the exact opposite argument: that Homura held no romantic feelings for Madoka and that everything she did was out of friendship. Said individual would also praise a series by claiming it to be “fluffy and cuddly” and leaving it such lines as the selling points for recommendation, so perhaps expecting critical thought was too much. Be that as it may, such an argument struck a nerve with me since it seemed like the individual was intentionally ignoring some of the elements, which could be interpreted as romantic, in their relationship.
Yet I can understand how someone insisting that Homura held only romantic feelings for Madoka (when she really could have been helping Madoka out of platonic love and that the romantic elements merely represented friendship) could be frustrating. As you said earlier, they’re Schrödinger’s couple and the viewers are the ones who get to decide. It’s no fun when certain viewers decide they are the authority and that other viewers suddenly are incorrect if the silenced’s viewpoints don’t align with theirs. That’s the essence of elitism, isn’t it?
I think the best sort of compromise is to respect others’ interpretations and to not stubbornly insist particular lines of evidence points toward a platonic or romantic relationship between two characters without considering how other viewers may feel about the relationship between said characters. I kind of mentioned that in part 1. As with most things in regards to enjoying media, being open-minded and respectful is the best course of action.
(Oh, yes, I think Yuri and Victor are romantically involved, but I do think their relationship is doomed to be rocky due to their own personality defects. I can’t really /ship/ them, either, but I do believe they are together. Hopefully our pessimism proves to be wrong?)
Yeah, Homura-must-be/Homura-can’t-be are two sides of a coin that only buys you grief. I personally think seeing alternate interpretations that I wouldn’t have come up with myself is fun. For example, the scene near the end where Homura offers Madoka’s ribbon to Madoka’s mum takes on quite a different flavour for me. For most scenes, it makes little difference to me. But ultimately seeing a show in a new light is getting out more of it.
Great post and this proves you really DO learn something new every day. I had never even heard of this term before reading this piece. And because of the collaboration I now discovered your blog as well! Two cool things on one day 😀
Aww too sweet. Thank you so much!
I love collab pieces! <3 I don't really ship characters but this was fun to read 🙂
Thank you! It’s all good – a lot of AWESOME people don’t ship ;P
Even for a collaboration, I’m surprised neither of you are drinking to the game of ‘ships’.
…You are better at being me than I am…. I tip my hat!
I am not a drinker, too!
Now tip two hats!
Ahhh, sorry, I just woke up. I’ll post it right now!
Oh, shucks, there was nothing to put up with. I should actually be getting on my knees and begging for forgiveness, frankly.
This collab post was really great and fun to read. Working with you has also been wonderful Thank you once again! c:
aww stop that. No worries – anticipation just makes the dish sweeter! And the fact the people want to red more is a great sign right!
You do make some good points there. I’m happy to see that people are into it!
Can you give a link to his blog? This was great fun to read and I’d love to see part two.
I will as soon as he posts it 🙂
We live in different time zones…
This was a really fun read – thank you for posting it!
Thank you! I honestly enjoyed doing it a lot