I’ve been thinking of communications in anime a lot lately. Relationships in general as well as the most common and repetitive form – friendships. Even when it’s not about teenagers, but includes adult characters, the theme of friendship and companionship is always somewhere close at hand.
What does friendship stand for?
It can be a lot of things, some more open and general, some more specific. What I like about friendships in anime is that they always include a lot of depth to it. Layers upon layers of human emotions and thoughts. Mostly I feel closer to male friendships and group friendships, as they seem to have less fuss to it. At the same time anime like to include a lot of discord and opposing along with friendship. Looking back, as a kid I was never a tom boy, but it was easier for me to connect with boys and create friendships with them. To see some of what I have experienced in anime as well is always nice. Though not everything about friendship is easy and fluffy. From friendships as represented in anime, the ones that touched me and left a lasting impressions were in Code Geass, Tokyo Ghoul, Free!, Nanbaka, Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Durarara!.
Why I find friendships interesting?
Anime has a way of presenting relationships that can completely suck you in and make you invested and caring for the characters. Something about the way they are drawn and the whole scenery makes them more relatable to me, then usual TV show characters. What gets my attention are the emotions. The way they present them and the dialogs they come with. Being a girl who always prefered boys club over girls squad, I feel like I can relate to their way of friendships a lot more. They way they can have fun or fight, but in the end still go grab a beer and put the bad things behind them. Or maybe just the way they overcome threats and difficulties, solving problems together.
Male friendships in anime
Male friendships are presented with a lot of care to detail. Maybe this is also a result of Japanese culture in general, who knows? Males are generally known as not showing many emotions in public, but maybe that sticks for Japanese more than others? Not everything is just having fun, doing stupid stuff together and such. The layers of characters personalities are usually really well-developed and we get a special dynamic out of these interactions. Usually a lot of the actions in anime are based on that. For example, Free! was dominated by the group friendship – where one of them went the others followed. Free! may be a great example of true friendship. They encourage each other, help each other, support each other even though they might end up as competitors. They have their fights, misunderstanding, but still, in the end – the friendship prevails. True, Free! doesn’t really tackle any serious issues.
It gets a lot more interesting when we talk about friendship that is surrounded by war, crime, famine and other more serious and painful topics. For example friendship between Lelouch and Suzaku in Code Geass or Kaneki and Hide in Tokyo Ghoul. Or a deep connection between brothers, like with Fullmetal Alchemist’s Edo and Alfonso.
Lelouch & Suzaku
These two start the top three friendships that left a lasting impression on me. They have met as kids and grew up together, even though Suzaku is the son of Japan’s last prime minister and Lelouch a Britannian prince. Britannia’s invasion of Japan breaks them up and they lost contact, believing the other might be dead. They meet again when in high school, but things quickly turn from idyllic meet up to secrets, lies and in the end open battle between them. They both get involved in the politics of Britannia, first one as the leader of the rebellion and second one as honorary military member. Their friendship is the saddest thing to see in this anime, as they battle each other, help each other. As much as they want to protect the people they love as best they can they end up in pain and alone.
Kaneki & Hide
In a world where humans live alongside with ghouls, two little boys met and became best friends. What they never expected is that one of them will be turned into a ghoul. No longer able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life as he used to Kaneki tries to deny his new nature. Kaneki turns into a creature that can ultimately be dangerous to his own best friend and he tries to isolate himself, but Hide won’t let him. Hide is super observant and sees the changes in Kaneki. He pieces clues together, but rather than running for his life, stays with him. The only true and pure relationship Kaneki ever had in his life was this friendship. Ending of season two really brings out all the feels and is in this regard simply heartbreaking.
Edward & Alphonse
These two deserve to be the top three male friendships in anime, at least for my personal preference. Maybe the reason is because this was the first anime that really got me connected to the whole anime world, or simply because it had such a deep and emotional effect on me. Edo and Alphonse may have a deeper bond then others as they are also brothers, but they are true friendship goals, if you ask me. In a failed attempt to use alchemy to restore their mother’s life they lost almost everything. The concept of alchemy by itself is selfish, as it mostly focuses on self-empowerment. The show places them against a greedy self-centered characters. Their struggle to stay friends, even when they disagree with the others actions is very visible. The friendship is tested again and again, but in the end it blossoms up.
Friends for life … or not?
Most of us had or have at least one friend that made a huge impact on our life. Even if you were or weren’t a part of a friendship that lasted for years, that withstood many trials, involved self-sacrifice or survived any other horrors like wars, you can still appreciate the link that was created between you and someone else. Stories about effortless friendships are scattered in many anime genre. The ones that are most interesting to me are the ones that went through hell and back again. It’s a powerful tool pushing the plots forward, explaining characters and through their relationships telling a story, a deeper story, a meaningful story that will reach your heart.
Have you felt like friendships in anime impacted your life as well? Or maybe your point of view on them? Which friendships in anime would be your top three and why?