Even though the breakup rates among anime couples are notoriously high, like a Disney fairytale, we still expect that once our couples have overcome adversity, they will settle down and live a happily-ever-after marriage. But life isn’t always so easy (see Clannad’s possible future and Suzuka as examples). For many years, it’s been quoted that around 50% of marriages in America end in divorce. And although this statistic may be a little off, the emphasis remains true: marriage isn’t always, or even often, successful. In Japan, the rate is better, but is still at about 27%, and doubled in the last quarter of the 20th century.
So how will some of our favorite anime couples fare? Using the 50% statistic because, well, why not, let’s look at four of my favorite pairings (be warned, there are spoilers – fake and otherwise – for Love Hina, Kimagure Orange Road, Toradora!, and Clannad):
Couple Case Study #1
Pairing: Naru and Keitaro
Anime: Love Hina
When Last We Read: They were getting married
Naru and Keitaro have overcome every obstacle…or so they thought. What they didn’t realize is that “finding your meant to be,” “getting into college,” and “overcoming Keitaro’s (possible) perversion” aren’t really huge obstacles at all. Keitaro continues to be away from home on excavations, and Naru becomes depressed…and then angry. Post-partem hits her hard when the first child, Ura Urashima, comes, and Naru’s pent-up rage continues to develop as she serves as the primary caregiver.
Eventually, it all boils over when Keitaro visits his wife and child, only to let them know he’s on his way to another turtle dig. Naru lets go and punches Keitaro halfway to China, but the commotion leads the authorities to their house, and poor Ura is taken away. Naru is ashamed, and under the stress of domestic violence and the loss of their child to protective services, the relationship crumbles.
Couple Case Study #2
Pairing: Kyousuke and Madoka
Anime: Kimagure Orange Road
When Last We Saw: Kyousuke decided on Madoka over Hikaru
Kyousuke’s bumbling ways continue to annoy Madoka from time to time, but her personality continues to thaw. She grows more loving, especially now that she can guiltlessly love Kyousuke. The two marry, as Hikaru overcomes her heartbreak and serves as maid of honor. Madoka reopens ABCB as her own establishment and Kyousuke uses his esper powers to actually help people. They feel a sense of fulfillment from the things they do…but something is still missing.
Eventually, the two welcome their first package of joy…and boy, is little Hikaru a handful, learning from the time she could crawl to use “The Power,” often swapping bodies with her daddy. However, she brings untold happiness to the household, and the family adds two more children, as Kyousuke and Madoka, despite her business floundering, find joy in their family.
Outcome: Happily Ever After
Couple Case Study #3
Pairing: Taiga and Ryuji
When Last We Saw: Taiga and Ryuji reunite after her time away, as he officially confesses to her
Taiga…remains Taiga. She never fully gets rid of the tsun part of her personality, and when she gets nervous or frightened, still takes it out on poor Ryuji. But his love masks her wounds and shortcomings, and she also becomes more loving. They officially marry after high school.
But life is hard on the poor couple. Taiga works odd jobs (often getting fired for her…anger management problems) and Kyousuke must take a job as a janitor. Financial problems arise, but they work hard and despite being on the edge of divorce a number of times, continue to remember that love conquers all. Eventually, Kyousuke works his way up to “Chief Janitor of Japan” and Taiga is able to hold down a job as an undersized model; she also finds happiness in a most unexpected place – as a mother.
Outcome: Happily Ever After
Couple Case Study #4
Pairing: Tomoya and Nagisa
Anime: Clannad and Clannad After Story
When Last We Saw: They were living a happy life together and with their daughter
Life is hard…but good. Tomoya cherishes what he feels is a second chance, and surrounded by friends and family, the two work through financial difficulties to establish a happy married life. Fastforward about ten years: Ushio is now a teenager. However, Tomoya continues to work the same job. He hasn’t gotten anywhere, as the promotions and chances he felt were coming never materialized. The economy is poor and the job opportunities just aren’t there.
Although Nagisa continues to support her husband with love, he spirals into anger and depression. He starts taking out his frustrations by being short with Nagisa and Ushio. Nagisa decides to return to work to support her husband, and soon does well at her job as a receptionist. But when she gets a promotion to personal assistant to an executive, Tomoya becomes bitter and jealous. Although he hides behind the facade of saying that Nagisa’s boss wants more than her professional services, he really feels angry that he can’t support his family by himself.
Tomoya feels he can’t talk to Nagisa about his feelings…after all, it’s her he’s trying to support. He turns to an old friend to talk…Kyou, who in turn is feeling lonely. Tomoya finds something with her that he doesn’t feel at home – a kindred spirit – and for once thinks that he will do something for himself. One things leads to another…
Two of four. That’s just like it is in the U.S.
This wasn’t just an exercise in doing something fun, though it was enjoyable to do. Actually…it was enjoyable, and in a silly way, also heartbreaking. From the beginning, I knew what I wanted to do with Tomoya and Nagisa. They, to me, are as “meant to be” as any couple in anime. But fairy tales are fairy tales…and life is life. Even “meant to be’s” can end up breaking apart.
There are lots of reasons for divorce – some are reasonable, and some are not. “Irreconcilable differences,” unfortunately, often means that the mom and dad will divorce because they don’t want this married life any longer. They don’t want to be with their marriage partner.
Selfishness is a rampant disease. When we’re single, it usually effects few others than ourselves. But when we bring this disease into marriage, it effects our spouse and our children immensely. It seems natural and not at all like a disease at first – after all, aren’t we entitled to pursue careers and other interests? Aren’t we allowed to pursue our own happiness, like Tomoya does in my scenario?
Unfortunately, children are often seen in practice (if not in name) as just another add-on to a life of happiness. Just add them to the job, possessions, hobbies, friends and financial security. They help make us happy. This is totally the wrong way to live life, but it’s the way many do. So when things get hard, we let go of family as if they’re just a piece of the puzzle, and not the puzzle itself. If children and family are just one component of our lives, we can (albeit painfully) let it go. But if they’re our life itself, like they become for Kyousuke and Madoka, we’ll fight tooth and nail for it.
Most of you reading this probably don’t have kids, so I want to tell you: real life with real family is really hard. Most families get to the point (at least once) of divorce, like Ryuji and Taiga did in the scenario. The stress of life and family crushes us at times. So it’s easy to say none of these scenarios will happen to us – but they may and for some of us, they will. But in the end, we make the choice to love. God says that marriage was created to join two people as one. What God has joined together in union isn’t so easy to pull apart – at least it shouldn’t be. If we value family above all other interests – if the end goal of what we do is for family and not for ourselves – we can create a relationship that no man can pull asunder – not even when the one pulling is us.