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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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?