Friendships play a big role in anime and manga. They sometimes play an irreplaceable part in the plot, or they are important to the characters but not necessary to the plot. Friendships are also important to the audience, who may enjoy these interactions and see their own friendships reflected in them. Here are just a few of my favorite manga friendships.
1. Gon Freecss and Killua Zoldyck from Hunter x Hunter
These boys first met at the Hunter Exams, where they instantly connected and became friends. Later, Gon saved Killua from his family, and Killua decided to help Gon search for his dad. They were merely always together, with very few exceptions, and they depended on each other’s strength.
However, they slowly developed an unhealthy codependency. Due to his past, Killua put Gon on a pedestal, wondering if it was okay for someone like him to be friends with Gon, who shone so brightly. Gon, for his part, also depended on and expected Killua to be by his side. Neither had malicious intentions toward the other, and they undoubtedly cared about each other. But the way their friendship was structured and the way their personalities and desires interacted with each other made it into an unhealthy codependency.
This was mostly due to 3 factors: their age, their parental figures/role models, and that they’re traveling without an adult for most of the series. Gon and Killua were about 12–14, so they were not fully mature. This caused problems because they didn’t communicate, perhaps because they didn’t know how, and they couldn’t always talk the other down from doing something dangerous or reckless. Killua also came from an assassin family who told him he wasn’t allowed to have emotions or desires, which, naturally, messed with his emotional maturity and capability. Gon had a good role model in his aunt, but she was all he had. And there was no adult around to help or guide them. They just did what they wanted, and this got them in a lot of trouble.
2. Kuroko Tetsuya and Kagami Taiga from Kuroko’s Basketball
They met during basketball tryouts at Seirin High School, and they almost immediately became starters on the team. They were opposites, as Kuroko was quiet and showed little emotion, while Kagami was loud and had a lot of emotions (usually anger) that he had to express. This translated to basketball, too: Kuroko was in the shadows trying to get the ball to Kagami or another team member, and Kagami would score. They worked together efficiently to achieve their goal of becoming the number one high school basketball team in Japan.
In the first season, their codependency on each other’s basketball skills and styles hindered them. They made it pretty far, but when they were soundly beaten, they realize that they needed to change. This created temporary tensions in their friendship, but they had to grow separately in order to better work together. They won the Winter Cup tournament at the end of the third season, so it definitely worked out.
They also provided a lot of comedic relief. Kagami would often get worked up, and Kuroko would be deadpanned, telling him to calm down or calling him an idiot. Kuroko was also one of the few people who could talk sense into Kagami. In turn, Kagami provided emotional support for Kuroko, who had complicated feelings about basketball (though he did still love it) because of what happened in his past.
3. Bokuto Kōtarō and Akaashi Keiji from Haikyu!!
Their dynamic was a little like Kuroko and Kagami’s. Bokuto was loud and energetic and usually cheerful, while Akaashi was more quiet and reserved. They were both starters on the Fukurōdani High School volleyball team, and they worked best together. Bokuto was the ace and one of the top high school players in Japan, and Akaashi was the setter, whose intellect and analytical abilities made him a formidable player.
Bokuto had mood swings where he could go from cheerful to depressed (what the characters call his “emo mode”). Akaashi was the best at pulling him out of them and returning him to his normal state of mind. That being said, he also wasn’t afraid to call out Bokuto or the ridiculous things he said and did. Bokuto was very passionate and enthusiastic about volleyball which inspired Akaashi and made him want to work harder.
Their friendship started when Bokuto kept dragging Akaashi to help him practice after learning he was their new setter. So in a way, it was partly a friendship of convenience, though that doesn’t make it any less genuine. They worked well together, and their play styles blended well. Akaashi knew when and how to send the ball to Bokuto, and Bokuto would find the best way to score a point—usually using direct aggression. They likely wouldn’t have worked so well together without Bokuto’s insistence on practicing. They also would have been more casual friends than close friends, like they were with the rest of the team.
4. Kashiwagi Sora and Mii-kun from How to Keep a Mummy
Sora’s father sent him a mummy while in Egypt. He had sent Sora many strange things before, so Sora was wary. However, the mummy (later named Mii-kun) was a small, adorable mummy who just wanted to stay by Sora’s side. Sora was initially hesitant and didn’t want Mii-kun, but he quickly became attached.
Mii-kun could somehow understand Japanese, though he couldn’t speak at all. And while he had eyes, he didn’t have a nose or mouth, or even eyebrows. He had to use gestures and body language to communicate, and Sora usually understood what he said. (It often looked like a crazy game of Charades, and half the time, I couldn’t tell what Mii-kun was trying to say.)
Both Sora and Mii-kun had a fear of abandonment. Sora thought people could get up and leave him behind at any moment, perhaps due to his parents. There wasn’t information about his mother, and his father was an adventurer, always exploring somewhere and leaving Sora behind. Sora lived with his aunt but she had a nocturnal schedule, so he rarely saw her. Mii-kun’s past was unknown, but he cried a lot whenever Sora left for school. That may be why they took to each other so quickly—they finally had someone who wanted to stay with them.
5. Kuronuma Sawako, Yoshida Chizuru, and Yano Ayane from From Me to You
Sawako struggled to make friends due to her similar appearance to a character from a Japanese horror series. But shortly after the series started, Yoshida and Ayane befriended her and made her feel less alone. Their friendship wasn’t perfect, and they all struggled with miscommunications (or lack of communication in some cases) and misunderstandings. But they always worked it out, and they tried harder to be better friends and support each other. For example, Yoshida and Ayane helped Sawako make friends and get closer to her crush, and Sawako helped them study and do better academically.
One of the themes in the series is communication. In the beginning, they all had issues with communication, as many high schoolers do. But their friendship was stronger each time they overcame miscommunications, and it gave them valuable skills and experiences so they would communicate better in the future.
They are a good example of a strong female friendship, which is fairly common in shōjo. They wanted the best for each other, and they worked on building the others up and being positive. Their friendship was also an integral part of the story—taking it out would alter the plot, all for the worse. It wasn’t just a fun little side of the plot or something that was included but mostly glossed over. One might even say it was the heart of the story.
Friendships can make it break a manga series, especially since friendship is a very common theme. For these series, friendships were very important, and I think the creators did a good job of getting them across.
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