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Spend your Valentine’s Day with manga’s best couples

We reflect on manga’s best romances.

It’s Valentine’s Day and that means love is in the air. Well, either that or you forgot until just now, in which case your clothes are in the air on their way to the front lawn. Whether you’re feeling romantic or just curious about what a relationship that isn’t dysfunctional looks like, I’ve made a list of the best couples in manga, in no particular order, so you can compare your relationship to theirs.

Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane
Kaguya-Sama: Love is War by Aka Akasaka

Kaguya and Miyuki are on the student council together, they’re the top students at their school and they come from respected families. They’re also in love with each other. The problem is that they’re both too proud and too controlling to be the one who admits it; instead, they wage a battle of wits where they constantly try to gain the upper hand and force the other to be the one to admit their feelings. However, in spite of the battle they fight, it’s clear that they really do love each other.

Bulma and Vegeta
Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama

Dragon Ball is second only to One Piece in popularity, and the entire story is set in motion by 16-year-old prodigy Bulma’s quest to find a boyfriend, going as far as to create a device to track the titular Dragon Balls so that a nigh-omnipotent  dragon will grant her wish for one. While she initially dated Yamcha and Toriyama toyed with pairing her with the oblivious main character Goku, Bulma eventually ended up married to the reformed villain Vegeta, the only one of Goku’s rivals able to keep up with him. Despite his cold exterior, Vegeta proves to be a loving husband and caring father to their two children.

Akane Tendo and Ranma Saotome
Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi

I could have chosen any of Rumiko Takahashi’s couples to be on this list, and to be honest so many of them were so good that I could have chosen more than one and not felt guilty about it. Akane and Ranma don’t want to be together at all at first; their parents arranged their marriage without their input for the sake of the school of Anything Goes Martial Arts. As the series progresses the couple fight more and more battles for each other, but despite their clear affection for each other they never stop bickering the way they began in the first chapter.

Utena Tenjou and Anthy Himemiya
Revolutionary Girl Utena by Chiho Saito

This is a bit of cheat because Utena and Anthy don’t have a romantic relationship in the original manga; it was added to the anime. Part of the wave of magical girl titles launched in the wake of Sailor Moon, Revolutionary Girl Utena walked a line between playing the genre straight and turning the tropes on their heads. Though the series has mainly been overshadowed within its niche in recent years by the anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Utena and Anthy’s relationship stands the test of time. Though the two share romantic feelings, Utena fights for Anthy not because she wants to keep her close but in order to set Anthy free to make her own decisions.

Naru Narusegawa and Keitaro Urashima
Love Hina by Ken Akamatsu

Love Hina isn’t the first harem manga and Naru isn’t the first tsundere love interest, but they’re certainly the most iconic examples to most people. Love Hina is a lot of things, but it’s mostly the story of how Naru and Keitaro will go to any length to fulfill a promise they made to each other as children, one that they themselves don’t even fully remember the details of.

Rinko Yamada and Takeo Goda
My Love Story!! by Kazune Kawahara

Takeo Goda is a hulking beast of a high schooler, towering over his classmates and scaring away any potential romantic partners. When he comes to the aid of Rinko Yamada on the train, she sees that despite his size and unconventional looks, he’s a soft and loving person and falls head over heels for him. Because this is a shojo manga, instead of endless chapters of will they/won’t way, we instead get to watch them navigate the ins and outs of being in love and we see how they grow as a couple.

Hanako Koyanagi and Taro Kabakura
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku by Fujita

Wotakoi is a story of three couples in various stages of a relationship: Ko and Nayoa haven’t even realized their own feelings, Narumi and Hirotaka have just started dating, and Hanako and Taro have been a couple for years. While the story is ostensibly about Narumi and Hirotaka navigating a new relationship, the couple’s senpai Hanako and Taro steal the show. Because both characters are tsundere, they seem like a typical bickering couple but they’re also the most affectionate and loving. They get some of the funniest scenes in the comic, and also some of the most romantic. It’s just so hard not to love both of them.

Saki Kasukabe and Harunobu Madarame
Genshiken and Spotted Flower, by Shimoku Kio

Kasukabe and Madarame aren’t a couple. Kasukabe is actually in a relationship with Makoto Kousaka, Madarame’s friend and junior in their university’s titular Genshiken club, or “The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture.” Madarame comes to fall for Saki, who he initially disliked, over the course of the series. After he graduates from university, he gets a job nearby so he can have an excuse to see her from time to time. After a self-aware harem arc where multiple women compete for Madarame’s affection and he rejects them all, he finally confesses his love to Saki and she gently turns him down since she’s still in a relationship with Kousaka. While that was happening, Shimoku Kio was also writing Spotted Flower, a story about Kasukabe and Madarame after they’ve become a couple that never entirely confirms that it’s actually in canon. While fans thought it was showing how the second run of Genshiken would end since it was written at the same time, it turned out to just be a potential future that never happened, at least until we see a third series of Genshiken.

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