We all know what shipping means, right? Ok, in case you got here while shopping for refrigerators or something, shipping is when fans of an anime (or anything really) decide to attribute a romantic relationship to two characters. Usually this relationship does not exist in the source material.

Anime fans seem particularly notorious for this practice. 5 minutes into a brand new show and you can probably find some suggestive fanart of two random characters that might not have even met yet. The first NSFW fanfic will probably be out before the end of the episode.

dragonball vegeta shipping
see, this what happens after the ship sinks…

I am a renowned non shipper myself. I found out through the anime community that I’m apparently not as interested in random smut as I thought. Although I have no issue at observing random teenagers’ sex life, I draw the line at speculating on it. It’s a super weird line to draw. I can’t justify it in any way. I just know that I find non canon couplings uninteresting for the most part. That’s just me.

It’s not to say that there aren’t some phenomenal fan works out there. I can understand the appeal.

I feel you

What I have noticed though, is that beyond my lack of interest, I find the practice occasionally annoying and I think it’s because of the unspoken implications. I’m going to disclaimer myself here. These implications are in my head and I am not what anyone should consider a reliable narrator. Not only do I firmly believe that what I’m about to talk about is not the intentions of the authors of these fanfics but the outcomes may also be entirely in my head. We’ve gotten to Irina isn’t even pretending anymore to know things….

Shipping, especially of main cast members, annoys me because it seems to devalue any other type of relationship. There’s this sort of unspoken agreement that the friendship, mentorship, rivalry (whatever else it may be) would be improved if the relationship was romantic instead. Like something was missing without it.

Now don’t get me wrong, well done romantic relationships can be very exciting and rewarding to see, but they aren’t the only type of relationship worthy of exploring. Friendships can be just as intense and satisfying. They are just as worthy a catalyst as romances are. After all, you don’t just drop all your friends every time you get a lover, you would have no friends left that way. So those are the people who know all the sides of you and who’ll stick around even after the passion dies down.

cute witches
except if they’re attractive, then obviously they should be in looooooove

As for professional, familial and even confrontational relationships. They’re fascinating and don’t get examined as often so there’s still a lot of potential surprises in them.

Now I know what you’re thinking. There’s nothing stopping a romantic relationship from also being a mentorship. Heck these are fanfics, they could be familial as well… In theory you’re not wrong but there’s still something fundamentally different about the way we interact with our significant others. That’s kind of the point.

And in practice, having read a few doujin in my days, most people only know a handful of ways to portray romantic couples. You end up seeing the same actions and reactions played out against different backdrops, over and over again.

sometimes you just NEED to post a pic

All of this is not to say shipping or fanfics devoted to it are bad in any way. A lot of people seem to like them. I have read a few good ones myself. There’s even one I would recommend. But that doesn’t mean anything that doesn’t involve physical attraction is not worthy of our interest. Not everything is made better by injecting sex into it.

Wait…who said that? Did I actually say that? It does not sound like me at all. Assume someone took over my computer for a bit.

Let’s try this again. Sexy stuff is great and you should enjoy it as much as possible (sensibly and fully consensually) but variety is also great! And in the interest of trying something new, I have a challenge for all of my readers who also happen to be fanfic authors. I’m not sure there are any…

wait, is that one there?

Next fan creation you make, be it art or fiction, try focusing on a non romantic relationship. Maybe two characters that have no real connection can meet and one of them gives fantastic advice and this slightly hero worshipping friendship develops. Or maybe one teaches the other one to play guitar. Or they compete for highest grade in class, and don’t get the hots for each other in the process but inspire one another to try harder, even if they don’t interact that much…

Oh, oh, for extra points, you could take an established canon couple and rewrite them with a completely different dynamic (and not just to pair them off with different people, I see you coming!)

I understand that the recentish popularity of certain titles have made fanfiction synonymous with soft core mommy pron, and as such a lot of readers turn to the medium for that specific experience. A completely platonic adventure might not be able to draw in as many eyeballs to your creation. But you can make it really short. A haiku or something. And that way you can prove you have range.

p.s. this post is an exaggeration. There are in fact well written and fascinating fanfics that don’t feature any prevalent romantic plot points. However fandoms also do have a tendency of frantically pairing up every character out there and it can be a bit exhausting at times. It’s ok if the two traumatized 11 year olds aren’t constantly thinking about getting into each other’s pants, you know?


38 thoughts

  1. True!! While I do enjoy a good ship sometimes, I personally prefer reading about friendship and family relations a lot more.
    Kimi to Boku for that reason remains one of my favourite slice of life manga.
    A lot of slice of life manga and webtoon would have been so wholesome if the story wasn’t obsessed with trying to make the main characters canon….

  2. Thanks for explaining “shipping”. As an old git I don’t understand modern slang speak so 95% of today’s comments by the youth on the Interwebz might as well be written in Greek… 🙁

  3. … Did you pick my brain a bit and actually articulate my thoughts in a cohesive post?

    I use to be a massive shipper. Nearly all my fan fictions were relationship ones. The few ones I didn’t write romantically, usually didn’t do too well statically. That didn’t discourage me too much but I guess that’s why I stopped writing. There’s only so much romance I could churn out with my own limited experience at the time.

    I’ve found a handful of fanfics and doujins over the years that aren’t romantic but they are increasingly hard to find. I agree with you for sure, that variety is the spice of life and lately the romantic spice has been overused.

  4. I’ve been guilty of shipping characters in the past, but only if the show itself heavily implies that there’s some kind of romantic chemistry there between the characters (even if nothing explicitly romantic comes from it in the end).

    Otherwise, I try not to ship characters just because I think they’d be a good pairing because… Like you said, variety is good and there are so many different types of relationship characters can have with one another. I feel like a lot of people put too much value into their desired OTP that it can sometimes look like every other type of relationship in the show is meaningless because it’s drowned underneath all the shipping chat. But that’s just me, people can do what they want I guess.

    Great post here Irina.

    1. Thanks. I guess I left out that a lot of fans are at a very hormonal age so sexy stuff is on their minds a lot

  5. Ahh, I do enjoy shipping characters, though not all and not in every anime I watch. It’s part of my having fun watching. What I hate about it isn’t shipping per se, but the shipping wars. And there’s a looot — Naruto fandom being the first tragic one I encountered. Shipping wars just kills enjoyment of others and it can make discussions about the series ugly. For me, shipping should be a fun activity for those who do them.

    1. I’m not involved enough in any fandom to be a veteran of any shipping wars. A lot of people have mentionned them. Sounds rough

      1. They are (esp canon vs non-canon ships or straight vs yaoi ships). I don’t partake in any because it’s just stressful; it’s already draining my energy just by reading some people’s exchanges. I only know about them because I see some arguments here and there (esp in Tumblr).

  6. Oh, how I can relate. Shipping annoys me less these days, and I think it’s because I’m seeing less of it. The most annoying thing, though, isn’t the shipping so much, as it is the arguments that surround it. If character A weren’t romantically interested in character B they wouldn’t go to such lengths. What? What about, you know, a very close friendship?

    Also, off-topic, you posting a picture of Sasami san made me remember the show with surprising fondness. I didn’t like it that much while watching, but I apparently am still quite fond of the show. This sometimes happens.

    1. I liked the light novel but I never got around to the anime. Maybe I’ll give it a shot. Liking anime in hindsight is something that happens to me a lot

  7. “Sexy stuff is great and you should enjoy it as much as possible (sensibly and fully consensually) but variety is also great!”

    I think there’s a lot to be said for variety. One of the things I like so much about The Devil is a Part-Timer is that Sadao and Emi have a decidedly not-romantic relationship.

    Or even better is the relationship between Yatorishino and Ikta from Alderamin on the Sky. They shared an unshakable trust and a powerful emotional intimacy, but it was nothing sexual.

    “A completely platonic adventure might not be able to draw in as many eyeballs to your creation.”

    Maybe, but as you said, variety is great!

    1. You know, it’s well documented that most people go through more effort to look good (as in come off as good people) towards strangers than towards loved ones. So yeah, I think characters can care deeply and make efforts for someone they’re not attracted to

  8. Waifu wars I can understand (even if they are kind of stupid) but I never really got shipping. People getting angry about who would make the best couples in a show or game, acting like competing matchmakers for characters in a story? I’m all about escapism, but that’s a bit much for me.

    That said, everyone knows Alice/Marisa is where it’s at, Reimu/Marisa is total nonsense!

  9. I mostly enjoy shipping in reverse harems. I think the only time it really bothers me is in Harry Potter. I’m more opening to shipping in webtoons and anime. I don’t know why it is different in my mind.

    1. Cause it’s pictures whereas Harry Potter has actors which we can see as very little children? That would be my guess.

    2. I’ve LOVED Totoro ever since I was a tiny child and actually own the movie but I haven’t seen the others. Spirited Away is another movie by the same company and it’s AWESOME as well!!! I recommend it.

  10. I don’t really “get” shipping anywhere other than where it’s already clearly implied in the source material. The most prominent examples I can think of from my own personal experience are in the Neptunia series (Nepgear x Uni is clearly a thing, even if they still haven’t made that completely 100% explicit) and throughout the Senran Kagura series, where a lot of the structure of the narrative is based on “pairings” — and many of those pairings cross a line into romantic and/or sexual interest in one another.

    Where I fall off is with, say, what the more crazy end of the MHA fandom does on Twitter. As an outsider to this series (though I’d like to watch it at some point), the crazy MHA fans appear to be the epitome of “these characters get along or looked at each other once, they must be bumming each other senseless at every opportunity” and I always feel a bit like that sort of undermines the actual relationship as depicted in the original work.

    I’m a bit of an outlier case, however. I don’t like looking at context-free porn of characters I’ve got to know through their games or visual novels, except where their original context is an erotic game. And even then I prefer it in that original context rather than… just out there. And if that original context is suggestive rather than explicit — hello, Senran Kagura — I don’t even particularly like it crossing that line. That’s just me though.

    1. MHA is a good example. For some reason I get a lot of Twitter about the Love Live series where apparently they are all lesbians to the point where I serious thought it was an Hentai for a while. Back in the day I had the same thing happen for Madoka where there was so much shipping I thought it was a straight forward lesbian romance show – I was suprised there was a magical girl aspect to it.
      The questionnable shiping almost made me skip out entirely on Monster Girls which would have been a shame.

      1. Love Live is pretty damn gay, to be fair — although again, it’s more implied than made explicit. That show is so wholesome; I really should watch Sunshine sometime.

        1. I only watched the first series and I didn’t really see it… then again I tend to not see those things. Hence the post

          1. It gets a bit more pronounced in the second series. The first series is a very slow burn as it introduces all the characters. The second season is where they kind of get the “plot” (such as it is) moving somewhat.

        2. Yeah, I actually have a couple lesbian friends. They’re pretty cool but apparently last night, at the Valentines Dance, she was bullied. I only got this from friends closer to her because the music was so damn loud. I tried to cheer her up but no ideas came to help. I might be getting a slight crush on Anna but I’m not really sure. I’m still obsessing over my High-School crush.

      2. I’ve seen a Gacha video on YouTube where there’s a girl who tries to get a girl to become with the guy she sees him with by killing every opponent without letting the guy know and be alarmed. She called that shipping. It’s actually kind of funny, though I don’t always like things with death. My mom actually discourages me from watching Gachaverse videos now. Gacha videos are cute anime videos too.

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