Image © Studio Gokumi; Source: Tumblr
For shoujo and romance fans, one of the most important pay-offs to sticking with the series is seeing the heart-melting, squeal-inducing cinematic kiss that finally comes when the two love interests confess their love and get together. In other cases, the kiss is the confession itself. After all those episodes of unresolved tension, the characters look each other in the eyes and can't hold back the instinct to lock lips and progress with their relationship. It's moments like these that fans live for when they are looking forward to the culmination of the true love they've been supporting all season.
But sometimes— quite often, in fact— the longed for kiss never comes. As soon as the perfect moment arrives, the heroine's brother walks in. Or the phone rings. Or maybe the right moment never comes along at all, and the characters maintain a relationship without making it physical. Or maybe the characters get married and start a family and presumably do all of their kissing off stage. But the real question lies in whether or not the closing kiss is necessary in romantic comedies and dramas, or if it should be the characters themselves that carry the weight of the relationship, and not their romantic actions.
Image © Sunrise Studio; Source: Wikia
The more the emphasis is placed on the “will they or won't they?” aspect of the relationship, the more excitement is built in anticipation of the final kiss. After all, the less stable the relationship seems, the more the audience relies on a physical sign of affection to prove that the feelings do exist. Inuyasha and Kagome from InuYasha, for example, tend to fight like cats and dogs (pun intended) and let the former existence Kikyou stand in the way of their present day feelings for each other. Kaoru and Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin also suffer from a similar trope, although their feelings for one another are a lot more civil, and it's generally Kenshin's cluelessness and desire to keep her safe that stops their relationship from progressing sooner. In both cases, the couples don't end up with an anime or manga kiss, although the filler OVAs and movies give into the pressure from fans for the couples to get some action.
For InuYasha and Rurouni Kenshin and other similar titles, the missing kiss holds a bit more significance. Both series are long and place just as much tension into the relationships between the characters as they do into the main plotline. After being so invested in the characters and their struggle with their feelings for so long, it naturally feels as if some reward is due by the end of the series. Of course, the two titles end with the relationships being realized, and Kenshin and Kaoru even have an adorable son together after a time skip. But all the same, I for one was a bit disappointed that the sweetest moments of the requited love were never directly shown, especially after following both series waiting for the much-teased loves to come to fruiton. Thank goodness for fan art, right?
Image © CLAMP, Madhouse; Source: Anime Galleries
On the other hand, in many of the greatest anime relationships, the question of whether the couple will get together or not is not the most important issue regarding their feelings for one another. Chi and Hideki from Chobits, for example, have greater concerns then being able to seal their love with a kiss. On Hideki's part, he has to figure out for himself if it's acceptable to be in love with Chi in the first place given that she's an android with each of her reactions and “emotions." programmed into her body. For Chi, there is also the awareness that if she fails to make her “person just for me” fall in love with her, she'll be in danger of suffering a pain so harmful that it may cause her to break. The climax of their relationship does not exist within their physicality, but in their choice to fall in love in spite of everything they have to lose by risking their hearts.
Image © ASCII Media Works; Source: Pop Cultrue Historian
Similarly, the romantic tension which exists between Holo and Lawrence in Spice & Wolf is founded on Holo's awareness of Lawrence's mortality and her own eternal youth. Having both these pairings enjoy an on-screen kiss would hold a certain sweetness, but a kiss isn't the solution to the relationship barriers the audience is invested it.
Image © Feel Studio; Source: Anime Trader
Also, the frequent occurence of the almost-kiss can often be played for laughs and make the focus of the audience more interested in what new obstacle will prevent the lovers from making their desired kiss happen. Kaichou wa Maid-sama uses this trope on a regular basis, as does Love Hina, Ah! My Goddess, and Eureka Seven. In each of these cases, the feelings between the characters are evident, and the major factor serving as an obstacle to them is their environment. Either the people around them conspire against their relationship, or else fate itself seems to have a grudge on them and sends regular distractions to prevent their love from reaching a physical stage. When this happens, the inability to kiss becomes even more entertaining than a kiss itself would be. The embarrasment, anger, or annoyance following each failed attempt gives the characters extra incentive to make sure the next time they try, they'll definitely get it right. And though sometimes it never seems to work out, at least they have the assurance that the person they care about likes them enough to let them get close enough to try.
Image © Kyoto Animation; Source: Kurogane
For other characters, the different ways they show emotion other than kissing make up for the lack of any physical manifestations of their feelings. Tomoya and Nagisa from CLANNAD, for example, are unconditionally supportive of one another, and the potentcy of the emotion they display just by talking to each other or being in the same room makes it easy to forget that they never share an on-screen kiss in the anime. Tomoya and Nagisa's truly beautiful moments happen during occasions such as when she soothes him after they visit his father and when he takes care of her whenever her illness relapses. To ask for more would just be selfish; the show already gives us so many ways to witness the tenderness of their love.
Image © CLAMP, Bee Train; Source: Wikia
Certain mangaka also seem to enjoy playing with the trope of denying fans kisses. CLAMP in particular has several manga series in their catalogue, and only one or two of them culminatie in an actual kiss. Even Syaoran and Sakura, one of CLAMP's most often repeated pairing, never bump lips in the manga despite having a love which spans memory loss and the dimensions of spacetime. Sakura does have a moment where she kisses Syaoran's eye, giving a shout out to CLAMP's favorite body part, but their visable physical relationship never extends further. However, CLAMP creates notably intense relationships where love is displayed by sacrifice that is both physical and deeply emotional. When Syaoran agrees to permit Sakura's memories of him to be taken away, he is essentially allowing their relationship to return to square one after having shared a loving and moving childhood together. By making this choice in order to save her life without a second thought, he is putting her safety and happiness above his own, a pure and very romantic gesture.
Other of CLAMP's deepest relationships include Koboto and Fujimoto, Subaru and Seishirou, Kendappa and Souma, and Kurogane and Fai, and each have given up eyes, arms, time, blood, and even their lives for their loved ones without needing to share a visible kiss.
In short, a true romance does not need to rely on the cinematic kiss to be successful. Though it brings closure and satisfaction in many cases, the greatest relationships can portray love in so many different ways that the kiss becomes a small detail in a romance that transcends adversity, fate, and even spacetime.
Article Thumbnail copyright Bee Train
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