Ships from straightforward romcoms, action-fantasy series, and harem shows usually dominate the selection of a typical anime season. However, unlike most seasons, Summer 2022 is instead filled with a number of unique ships with both trouble and fascinating dynamics to explore and unlike the usually popular ships we see. Despite the lack of big name sequels, big name source adaptations, and less anime released, I still largely enjoyed this season for its interesting ships.
Like my prior ship rant articles, I will preface that when I am analyzing these ships, I only speak as an anime watcher. I rarely, if ever, engage in any source materials, and I believe that anime as a medium should be able to exist and portray the relationships separate from anything the story is originally based on. In this season’s ship rant corner, I will dissect four different ships and explain why they stand out to me — for better or for worse.
Kiyotaka x Kei from Classroom of the Elite Season 2
Classroom of the Elite takes place in a school where classes are divided by your overall performance as a human being. The school considers characters’ grades, personality strengths and weaknesses, and special skills to decide where to divide them. Kiyotaka is the unassuming protagonist who’s placed in Class D, the lowest class. He’s unaware of both his kindness and intelligence as he continues to provide help to those who ask him until the end of the first season reveals it was all an act. Throughout the plot, Kiyotaka sees his classmates as nothing more than pawns to complete his own end goal in this school system, including the classmates who genuinely care about him as a friend.
Thanks to the enthusiastic LN readers commenting our posts with sexually appealing art of Kei, the class alpha girl who is currently dating the most popular boy in Class D, I knew a relationship would eventually bloom between Kiyotaka and Kei. In fact, I was looking forward to both the second season and the relationship. It’s a sign of character development for Kiyotaka to actually desire a relationship outside of just using people, and, because I couldn’t imagine how Kei would end up with him in the first place, I was curious to see how a relationship happened.
Imagine my disappointment to see an abusive relationship instead. Their overall relationship begins by Kiyotaka expertly manipulating her then-boyfriend to reveal they were fake-dating and why: Kei was a victim of bullying in the past, and she learned that latching onto the most popular person would put her out of harm’s way. Kiyotaka takes that information to promptly arrange a group of girls to bully Kei somewhere closed off, record the entire exchange without her knowledge, mock her for her weakness, then gaslight her into believing only he could protect her and to do everything he orders in exchange for his protection.
Many shippers claim that Kiyotaka’s manipulative and abusive behavior is because of his past, something I don’t doubt happened to him. However, that doesn’t excuse him for his actions. Anime featuring toxic relationships are also commonplace and is another excuse shippers will make to defend this relationship. However, there is a difference between toxic relationships and abusive relationships. All abusive relationships are toxic, but not all toxic relationships are abusive. Abuse is only present when there’s an explicit motivation to hurt another person. Kiyotaka consciously chooses to hurt Kei by manipulating her into listening to him, which makes him and the relationship directly abusive and not just unhealthy.
While I’m not concerned with the writing of Kiyotaka’s manipulative behavior as it is his more casual villainous actions that makes him an interesting protagonist to follow, I am concerned to see a large amount of the fanbase support the relationship. Comments praising the relationship often point to how Kei “accepts” Kiyotaka for who he is — an abusive and manipulative mastermind — as the basis of love between them. Perhaps that is why whenever shippers applaud the couple, they often attach pictures of Kei alone and not the two of them together. She’s the ideal girl who’s willing to accept all flaws of a man — including when the flaws directly hurt her and lead her to getting tortured.
Kou x Nazuna from Call of the Night
Moving from Classroom of the Elite Season 2’s portrayal of an abusive and toxic relationship is an example of a non-abusive relationship but still carries some signs of an unhealthy relationship. That would be Call of the Night’s primary ship: Kou and Nazuna. Kou is a middle school boy who lost motivation for life. He skips school, and he only leaves his home at night. During one of those night escapades, he runs into Nazuna, a beautiful vampire, where he learns that if he falls in love with her, she can turn him into a vampire. Thus, their relationship begins.
This ship is fascinating. For one, the story so far has largely hinted that Kou is aromantic, which means he doesn’t desire romantic relationships. In fact, his entire pursuit of Nazuna isn’t to fall in love with her — he just wants to become a vampire. This fact is lampshaded by many characters multiple times. Other vampires note that their supernatural abilities usually compel their targets to fall in love, so the fact that Kou continues to remain human despite being bitten by Nazuna multiple times befuddles them. An investigator directly wonders if Kou is capable of feeling romantic feelings at all. Kou himself repeatedly admits that he doesn’t understand why people care about romance and notes that it’s always been easy to make other people fall in love with him, even though he feels nothing in return.
The unhealthy aspect of this ship stems from this perspective. Though not explicitly stated, Kou’s situation insinuates he’s struggling with depression as he shows many similar signs to people dealing with depression such as feeling no hope for his future, lacking motivation to do anything, secluding himself to his room, and breaking off from all his friends, including two kind childhood friends. After meeting Nazuna, he believes that transforming into a vampire would give him a purpose in life. In other words, he becomes obsessed with the idea of vampirism as an escape without considering the consequences of turning into a vampire — including immortality.
In turn, Nazuna is using Kou to escape from her vampirism. Immortality is lonely, repetitive, and in her eyes, meaningless. His mortality and inability to turn into a vampire draws her to him, and they continue to use each other as just temporary solutions to the misery they feel in their separate lives. It’s unhealthy, but it’s not abusive since neither of them have any intent to hurt the other.
If anything, these two are emotionally supportive of each other. Nazuna never lies, never hides, and never vaguely answers any of Kou’s questions about vampirism. When he starts to doubt about becoming a vampire, she empathetically and responsibly tells him not to become one and to listen to his feelings. Kou understands Nazuna’s listlessness and helps her with finding joy in simpler things — a type of joy she’s forgotten. Their relationship is interesting because, even if they are using each other to run away from their personal problems, they’re also kind and good to each other. I cannot say they’re not a good match, and for all the reasons I’ve explored, I find this ship to be endlessly intriguing if nothing else.
Ayano x Shu x Kisara from Engage Kiss
To compel me to write a ship rant about a love triangle means either the character ends with a person I wholeheartedly disagree with or there are layers to the love triangle I didn’t expect. Luckily, the love triangle from Engage Kiss is the latter and introduces the never-ending philosophical debate about what the correct way to love someone is.
Shu is a young man who’s obsessed with clearing his family’s name and finding his sister. After his family was killed in a catastrophic event, the government blames his family for it as well. However, Shu believes his younger sister is still alive. He forms a contract with a demon, Kisara, and powers her by sacrificing a bit of his memories through an exchange of kisses. This decision clashes badly with Ayano, his longtime girlfriend, causing their relationship to fall apart. However, just because Ayano broke up with Shu, it doesn’t instantly erase her love for him as they were together for years by the time Kisara entered the picture.
Ayano and Kisara both have feelings for Shu, but the way they treat him cannot be any more different. Both of the girls are aware that Shu is self-destructive, but they have different views on dealing with that self-destruction. Ayano firmly believes that if you love someone, if they’re making a bad decision, it is your responsibility to stop them and force them to take the healthier route. However, Kisara sees that as imposing your own ideals onto an unwilling person. For her, the best way to help someone’s self-destructive tendencies is to help them reach their goal faster so that they can move on in their lives.
The problem with Kisara’s argument is that every time Shu gives up his memories, he loses pieces of himself. The demon contract ensures that memories about Kisara stay intact, thus causing Shu to become a person whose entire existence revolves around Kisara. Additionally, Ayano is also wrong to force what she thinks is right onto Shu against his will. Forcing anyone to do something regardless of good intentions will often foster anger and resentment. Further complicating Ayano’s stance is the fact that she already broke up with him because of his self-destructive actions.
The two girls fighting over Shu aren’t relegated to petty actions. They’re fighting over the correct method to save Shu from himself, and it’s an understandable struggle. It feels wrong to do nothing when someone you love is driving slowly towards a cliff. However, do you push someone aside to take wheel and make their decision for them? Or do you try to lead them closer to their destination in the hopes they’d stop before they throw themself off the cliff?
Chisato x Takina from Lycoris Recoil
There isn’t too much to rant about when it comes to these two girls. They’re one of the healthy ships this summer season with a relationship built on mutual respect, support, development, and love. Despite meeting as girls with completely opposite personalities and dreams, they grow together to become partners who always have each other’s backs and understand each other in an emotionally intimate and subtle way.
However, a common misunderstanding I’ve seen from comments about the inclusion of this ship is relegated to a lack of knowledge on how friendships work between girls. Many have remarked that Chisato and Takina are just friends, and many have pointed out that, “girls are more physical with each other than guys are, so their physical closeness do not indicate anything romantic.” I do not doubt that girls are generally more physically affectionate as friends compared to guys, but I do find it necessary to clarify that there are still lines drawn when it comes to platonic physical affection between girls, and these two have crossed it.
As a cis straight woman who grew up with mostly girls as close friends and is usually the most physically affectionate one of her friend groups, I can say with absolute certainty that we do not touch each other’s chests for fun like anime will make you believe. It is common to see girls “bonding” in anime by remarking on the size of one’s breasts, rubbing each other’s breasts against each other, or straight-up groping them in the bath in jealousy. That is wholly inaccurate to real interactions. The chest is one of the most untouchable parts of the body for girls, and it doesn’t matter how close two girls are. The chest will not be touched unless for physically intimate moments between romantic partners.
Lycoris Recoil does not fall into the inaccurately-portrayed-friendship-of- girls-through-boob- touching group of anime due to the setup of that moment. When Takina first tries, Chisato immediately tenses, backs away, and physically stops Takina from touching her. Even after Takina confesses that she wanted to feel Chisato’s mechanical heart and verify that it doesn’t beat despite working, Chisato still doesn’t allow Takina to touch her. Eventually, Chisato shares an emotionally vulnerable moment and permits Takina to lower her head to Chisato’s chest to try to hear her mechanical heart, and they remain in this position until the end of the episode. This emphasizes their growing emotional closeness that culminates to vulnerability and physical intimacy all in one, beyond just friendship.
Additionally, the original concept of Lycoris Recoil is written by someone who writes lesbian love stories. The official illustrator tweets artwork of Chisato and Takina they’ve drawn using the rainbow emoji, which is a universal symbol for the LGBTQ+ community. The last episode features Takina and Chisato wearing wedding bracelets that eagle-eyed Japanese viewers noticed. To say that Chisato and Takina are just friends would be simply incorrect.