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8 Alternative Couples Sure to Touch Your Heart

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Right Stuf's licensing arm, Nozomi Entertainment, added Princess Knight to its line-up this week, joining its two other progressive shōjo properties, Revolutionary Girl Utena and Rose of Versailles, the first I watched voraciously and the second I'm ecstatic to own. I've viewed a lot of anime featuring "alternative" romances over the years, and similar to any genre, some stuck with me long after the last episode wrapped. Here are eight couples whose love for one another and strength in their identity left me moved long after the fact.

Mild spoilers ahead

8. Koshiro Saeki and Nanoka Kohinata (Koi Kaze) I've watched a fair amount of romantic comedies featuring almost-siblings, butKoi Kaze's display of pain and human drama outdid itself. Raised apart, Koshiro and Nanoka discover they are siblings after sharing an emotionally intimate moment at an amusement park. Putting aside the queasy age difference between the two (Nanoka is 15, Koshiro is 27), the series treats the couple's feelings seriously as well as the inevitable pressures from society once their intimacy crosses the point of no return.

7. Kaworu Nagisa and Shinji Ikari (Neon Genesis Evangelion) Shinji and Kaworu are a staple of fan-shipping but not without reason. Kaworu establishes himself in Shinji's life as a stalwart beacon of compassion in a cast filled with dysfunctional adults and peers. At the very least, he stirs a curiosity in Shinji, an idea reinforced by official art and the well-known hotsprings scene. The fate of their relationship is decidedly tragic, but the short time the two spend together is refreshing compared to the selfish interactions between the rest of the cast. After watching Shinji languish for 20-some-odd episodes, I couldn't help but want him to be with the one person who appeared to care about him unconditionally.

6. Touya and Yukito (Card Captor Sakura)

Manga authors CLAMP never shy away from featuring alternative couple pairings in their stories and Card Captor Sakura is a prime example. Touya's love for his best friend Yukito draws out some of the best emotions later in the series. He manages to be caring without being possessive while Yukito may be "softer" but his gentle kindness is never displayed as a weakness. Touya's own sexuality is fluid. While his heart belongs to Yukito, this is not presented as incompatible with his previous relationships with women.

5. George and Yukari (Paradise Kiss) Human relationships are rarely straightforward. Paradise Kiss' cast exemplifies this, illustrating that even though the series' lead couple doesn't *gasp* ride off together on a white horse, it doesn't mean that one has to be the bad guy. George's bisexuality, a fact that is more prominent in Ai Yazawa's manga, is a non-issue. He pushes lead diamond-in-the-rough Yukari to become an independent woman, bringing out a creativity in her she was unaware she possessed. For me, ParaKiss exemplified sexual and creative acceptance.

4. Juri and Shiori (Revolutionary Girl Utena)

Juri and Shiori's relationship was doomed from the get-go. The ensuing complications of unrequited love and Shiori's low self-esteem, jealousy and manipulative nature serves as a cause of major stress for the relationship. Juri is a well-rounded character, displaying an aloof strength and a romantic vulnerability simultaneously. The two feel like some of my old friends. Juri, the girl desperate to be strong for the woman she loves and Shiori, equally pulled by her need to shine.

3. Haruka and Michiru (Sailor Moon)

Yuri power couple Haruka and Michiru are a genre staple and my first exposure to a lesbian couple in anime. Their relationship is slightly more ambiguous in the manga, where Haruka and Michiru's dialogue is less flirtatious than it is in the anime counterpart. The two's undying devotion for one another rivals lead couple Usagi and Mamoru, and their death scenes in the 3rd and 5th seasons are had me in hysterics. Haruka and Michiru's display of unquestionable loyalty to one another as equally balanced lovers and partners was an inspiration.

2. Yasuko Sugimoto and Fumi Manjome (Sweet Blue Flowers)

Fumi is a sensitive girl with a crush on the confident Yasuko. The drama between the two struck a cord with me, as both are attempting to recover from past break-ups, something very easy to relate to. The series treats the topic respectfully, as most relationships do not begin with a clean slate. Both characters carry their own baggage, and ultimately it proves too much for the two but not before both girls learn a lot about themselves and one another.

1. Shuichi and Yoshino (Wandering Son)

The gay cross-dresser stereotype in anime is an obvious one, usually depicting an unshaven man in drag and bad make-up. Thankfully, the heartfelt Wandering Son anime series takes a different approach. Shuichi is a pre-pubescent boy who wants to be a girl and enjoys dressing in feminine clothing. He isn't gay, per-say, initially attracted to tomboyish Yoshino. Yoshino wants to be a boy and is attracted to other women. The series deals with complicated relationships and societal standards facing transgender people and the emotional stress puberty brings to individuals born in the wrong body. Shuichi's situation isn't unabashedly accepted by his peers, but he finds solidarity in Yoshino and others like him. The series is a small, but firm cheer for those living outside society's preconceptions of "normal" and gave me a newfound understanding about the many shades of gray existing in human nature.

The new poll: Club culture is a major part of the Japanese school experience. Several series focus on reviving a club, or creating a new one while others feature activities far from the expected. Tell me readers, what unconventional after-school club you'd like to join?

The old poll: Last week, readers weighed in on which currently running Weekly Shonen Jump title most deserves an anime adaptation. Fans of Yūsei Matsui (Majin Tantei Nōgami Neuro) came out in full force, declaring his latest manga, Ansatsu Kyōshitsu (Assassination Classroom) the victor! Here's the full results:

  1. Ansatsu Kyōshitsu (Assassination Classroom) by Yūsei Matsui 28.75%
  2. Kurogane by Haruto Ikezawa 21.97%
  3. Nisekoi by Naoshi Komi 20.74%
  4. Cross Manage by KAITO 6.37%
  5. Haikyu!! by Haruichi Furudate 5.54%
  6. Takamagahara by Jūzō Kawai 5.13%
  7. Koisome Momiji by Tsugirō Sakamoto and Tadahiro Miura 3.90%
  8. Saiki Kusō no Psi Nan (The Disaster of PSI Kusō Saiki) by Shūichi Asō 3.70%
  9. Retsu!!! Date-Senpai by Shinsuke Kondō 2.67%
  10. Renai-ginga-ku Ishikawasō by Kyōhei Miyajima 1.23%

Alright everybody, see you all next week! I look forward to your input in the comments and feel free to follow me on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

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