In the universe of female anime characters, there are many core character types creators can use to tell stories. Energetic younger sisters. Violent tsundere girls. The quiet, competent class president who secretly has deep emotional issues she’s working through. And of course, the classic anime childhood friend, which is osana-najimi in Japanese.
I’ll never forget the time I learned this word. I had referred to a boy my son has played with since the age of three as a “friend” (tomodachi), but my wife corrected me. “They aren’t friends, but childhood friends. It’s totally different. A friend is someone you choose to form a relationship with because of shared interests. A childhood friend is someone you don’t even think about, as they’ve always been there since before you can remember.”
In most every anime that has a romance component to it, one of the female characters will invariably be a childhood friend, which ads to the unique smorgasbord of girls the main character is presented with. On the one hand, childhood friends enjoy an emotional relationship with the MC at the start of the story, though they have to fight against the “Westermarck Effect,” which is the psychological tendency for people to be attracted to what is fresh and unique and repelled by that which is close and familiar.
Despite the “childhood friends never win” jokes shared online, they actually seem to win most of the time. Let’s look at some specific examples. Obvious spoiler warning.
Anime childhood friend character who “win”
- Ai Yori Aoshi. Perhaps the single best childhood friend romance ever.
- Tamako Market. The movie tying up the story is excellent and should be a requirement in the industry.
- Infinite Stratos. Childhood friend Houki wins in the end.
- Kimikiss Pure Rouge. If you like Amagami, look up this anime since the same staff did it.
- Fullmetal Alchemist. Say no more.
- Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san. The best childhood friend with the best forehead.
- The great baseball manga Touch. Minami chooses the lazy Tatsuya over his more capable brother Kazuya. Then Kazuya dies in an accident, causing some awkwardness.
- Robotics;Notes. At least there was some payoff for fans who made it to the end of this show.
- Naru from Love Hina. Another classic.
- Simba and Nala from Lion King.
Anime childhood friends who “lose”
- Ichigo from Darling in the Franxx. She also has the “blue haired girls never win” curse on her.
- Kaede from Shuffle! failed to make the cut in the anime.
- Noriko, the spoiled childhood friend from Scum’s Wish. She didn’t deserve Hanabi.
- And…?? I had difficulty coming up with other clear examples. I’m sure folks will tell me what I missed on Twitter.
Not properly resolved/other
- Mayushi from Steins;Gate “loses” in the first series, but who knows what the future holds? There are always other worldlines.
- Tsubaki from Your Lie in April might appear to “win by default” but I am holding out for Nagi, the motivated girl in twintails, to pick up the win in the end.
- No anime in history tears down its own tropes as well as Saekano, and Eriri is super aggressive at trying to steal Tomoya from the other two girls because she knows that “childhood friends never win.”
- Betty and Archie follow this trope. Childhood friend Betty is always worried she’s too familiar to Archie to be attractive compared to the flamboyant Veronica.
- Often hidden childhood friend relationships are used as a revel in stories, like Haganai or Kanon.
Who are your favorite anime childhood friend characters? Did we miss any important ones? Tell us on Twitter!