When it comes to queer representation in anime, there’s a wide variety of both canon and non-canon couples that have continued to push the boundaries of what’s become “acceptable” in the medium.
While it’s true some series have a long way to go in terms of giving fans more of the characters that truly echo the everyday LGBTQ relationships we see in everyday life, there are a few couples that have positively nailed it, with romantic, wholesome love stories and backgrounds you can get behind.
Anime is becoming a more inclusive medium all the time, and these queer couples prove that it’s one that you should keep your eye on for both relationships and queer representation, period. These couples are exemplary of the medium, transcending the bondage of cultural stigma behind queer representation in Japanese culture.
Sailor Moon – Haruka Tenou and Michiru KaiouSailor Moon: Viz Media/Toei Animation
The iconic pairing of Sailor Uranus (Haruka) and Sailor Neptune (Michiru) is one for the ages. It’s been erased, swept under the rug, and even bizarrely transformed into a relationship between “cousins” to make it “appropriate” for Western audiences, but you can’t keep a couple like this one down, as their love is truly timeless. They’re destined to be together and complement each other nicely, with Haruka displaying several non-binary traits and Michiru comfortable in her decidedly femme presentation.
Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takeuchi never intended for these lovers to be hidden away or written off as being incidental crushes, and watching them interact onscreen is a treat for queer viewers—it’s absolutely clear they’re head over heels for one another, and now that Sailor Moon has been re-dubbed and re-released for a mainstream audience, we get a chance to see their relationship as it should be rather than what censors chose to allow us to.
Yuri!!! on Ice – Yuri Katsuki and Victor NikiforovYuri!!! On Ice: Crunchyroll/MAPPA
Yuri on Ice!!! is a sweet sports anime about the romance that blossoms between Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki and his relationship with idol and competitor Victor Nikiforov. Yuri and Victor have some of the most incredible chemistry ever seen in an anime series centering around a gay couple, and you can tell from the moment they meet there’s something very special about their union. Yuri’s family is nothing but supportive of his relationship, and it’s refreshing to see the romance between Yuri and Victor given weight and reverence, with flirting, wooing, dating, and surprise moments like Yuri’s proposal. It’s enough to bring you to happy tears immediately, watching these two men come together and revel in each other’s company.
Bloom Into You – Yuu Koito and Touko NanamiBloom Into You: Sentai Filmworks/Troyca
This gentle yuri series follows a young woman named Yuu Koito who’s never been told anyone liked her before. When a young male student finally does, she realizes she has no idea how to respond, as she doesn’t feel anything toward him. When she meets classmate Touko Nanami who feels largely the same way, they bond over feeling “nothing” toward their male classmates’ confessions. The two end up falling in love, and their relationship paves the way for others in the series to be honest about their feelings toward each other. It’s a wholesome, heartwarming series that feels like sinking into the couch while wrapped up in a big, cuddly blanket.
Sweet Blue Flowers – Fumi Majome and Akira OkudairaSweet Blue Flowers: Right Stuf Inc./J.C.Staff
Sweet Blue Flowers’ name implies exactly what kind of story it is. It’s especially sweet, following two young women and their sexual awakenings. Fumi had dated women in the past, always depending on her best friend Akira to keep her out of harm and to come to her side when she needed comforting. The two realize everything they’ve been looking for all along has been waiting right in front of them as they date others, learn life lessons, and come to terms with their identities while navigating student life. This particular couple is one that you could very well have been one half of in school, so they’re extremely easy to relate to.
Attack on Titan – Ymir and ChristaAttack on Titan: Funimation/Wit Studio, Production I.G.
In an apocalyptic future where enormous creatures called Titans roam around indiscriminately eating people, you’d think there wouldn’t be much time for romance. Yet, love blooms on the battlefield, despite the deep, dark secrets these women are hiding. While their motivations may not always be pure, their relationship is one that’s not stereotypical or sexualized in any way and given its fair due as a major, integral part of the Attack on Titan universe.
We see Ymir fighting tooth and nail to keep Christa safe throughout the series at all costs, even if it means putting herself in danger, and, in the end help, Christa to reclaim an identity she once left behind. Though the circumstances surrounding this situation are dire, the pair’s relationship is repeatedly shown to be just as legitimate and important as the show’s straight characters, which makes it even more difficult when tragedy strikes.