"He loves me, he loves me not, she loves me, she loves me... NOT!"
In simple words,“friendzone” is an imaginary border line that separates affectionate friendships from romance. The “depth” of friendzone varies from case to case and depends on how close of a relationship both friends have. For a relationship to qualify as friendzone, there has to be some sort of love confession from one friend to another in which the romantic feelings are not returned. Whether the confession was a direct proposal or a vow of a life-long loyalty to their friends, all these characters inevitably ended up in the friendzone, having to resign to their romantic feelings and settle for a plain and simple friendship. In this article, we’re giving a shout-out to those heartbroken anime characters that were clearly left in the friendzone by their love interest but still chose to stay friends even after a romantic rejection.
Warning: As it is needed to explain the relationship the characters to better understand the status of the friendzone, this article contains spoilers.
10. Taiga Aisaka from Toradora!
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2008 - March 2009
Taiga’s friendzone starts before the beginning of the series, exactly a year before in the timeline of the story. In the past, it’s a fact that Kitamura was in love with Taiga and confessed, but it ended up in rejection. During Toradora!, Taiga is introduced as being in love with Kitamura and she explains to Ryuuji that since that time she rejected Kitamura, she couldn't shake him off her head and thus started her crush for him. Life went on and Kitamura got over Taiga, falling in love with the student council president and for this reason (and maybe a little revenge) Kitamura rejects Taiga when she confesses her feelings for him, but, left clear he wants to be friends.
Half of Toradora’s plot consists on “friendzoning” as not only Kitamura friendzones Taiga, Ryuuji is also friendzoned by Taiga’s best friend Minori, and Ryuuji friendzones Ami, the new transfer student; Minori is later friendzoned by Ryuuji because of Taiga… Aaaaaany way, you get the point and you probably know how this story ends. Taiga’s crush for Kitamura slowly fades and is replaced by Ryuuji… call it destiny, cute romance or rebound, but if Kitamura wouldn't have had friendzoned Taiga, none of Toradora would have ever happened.
9. Naruto from Naruto
- Episodes: 220
- Aired: October 2002 - February 2007
From the start of the series, it’s clear that Naruto has a huge crush on Sakura but his feelings were always taken as a comedy relief for the series. Naruto’s affection towards Sakura never wavered, even when Sakura purposely said hurtful things towards Naruto. After a long time and with some maturity, Sakura became friendlier with Naruto and cared fondly for him, but no matter what Naruto did for Sakura, he would always come in second to his friend Sasuke. One of Naruto’s main motives to search for Sasuke was to heal the pain in Sakura’s heart; even if this caused him great pain emotionally.
Naruto and Sakura spent many years together; as teenagers, their bonds strengthened, Sakura protected and cared for Naruto more than ever. This would make any guy in the friendzone super happy but it killed Naruto inside, because he knew it was not the affection he sought from her, it was all temporary until Sasuke’s return. At one point, Sakura tried to mend Naruto’s heart from the damage she herself caused and confesses to Naruto that she liked him. She told Naruto she’d leave Sasuke in the past —but— it was not a sincere confession, she felt pity for Naruto and not love... ouch. Naruto’s feelings for Sakura had a slow and painful death, but in the end, he stayed good friends with Sakura for years on end.
8. Misty from Pokémon
- Episodes: 276
- Aired: April 1997 - November 2002
“Unintentionally”, Ash is shipped with all the girls that accompany him on his journey, and sadly, because of the genre of the anime, Ash MUST be oblivious to any romantic feelings, thus leaving every girl in the inevitable friendzone. Although most of Ash’s relationships end in a blur, AshxMisty, also known as PokéShipping, is the biggest, oldest and most supported relationship by the fandom.
Their relationship starts with a debt, Ash’s Pikachu destroys Misty’s bicycle and he needs to pay for it. Misty decides to follow Ash around until her bike is paid, but ends up falling in love with him, fast. Ash is a kind-hearted kid that loves pokémon above all, and maybe his kindness is what conquered Misty’s heart even if she was clearly older/more mature than him. Their age was one of the many factors that made Misty fall in the friendzone; a 10-year-old kid who just became a pokémon trainer has no time to discover what romance is.
For many years, Misty’s love has been one-sided as Ash never showed romantic affection towards her but there are many undertones that show that Ash might have feelings for her. During Misty’s departure from the group, they both get really emotional, everyone cries, especially fans, because Ash clearly states that he likes Misty… as.. his.. best.. friend, RIP.
7. Akemi Homura from Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2011 - April 2011
Being beautiful, intelligent, having strong magic abilities and even trying multiple times to rewrite history to save Madoka, won't save Homura from being friendzoned. No one can deny the Yuri atmosphere that surrounds Madoka and Homura, especially when Homura seeks not only to save Madoka’s life but her happiness, even at the cost of her own life. At one point, after a long time, Homura reveals that her reason to save Madoka was love, a feeling that evolved from the admiration and appreciation she initially had towards her cheerful friend. We never get to fully understand whether Madoka returns Homura’s romantic feelings at any point in any timeline, but what is clear is that Madoka will always openly accept her as just… a friend.
6. Jun Satou from Working!!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2010 - June 2010
Jun is the head chef in the restaurant Wagnaria!! where the protagonist Takanashi works. Jun and the waitress Yachiyo share a professional relationship as co-workers, but during Takanashi’s first working shifts, he starts noticing how Jun is extra kind towards Yachiyo, discovering Jun’s ‘secret’ crush for her.
For all the employees in Wagnaria, it’s no secret that Yachiyo only has eyes for the manager Kyouko and everyone sort of knows that Jun is and will forever be in the friend zone. Sometimes, Jun’s friendzone is taken as comedy relief for the series because Yachiyo is too oblivious to his feelings for her.
5. Naruko Anjou from AnoHana
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: April 2011 - June 2011
Being friendzoned because your friend likes someone else is understandable, but being friendzoned because your friend can’t let go of his feelings for his childhood friend, even after death, is kind of harsh. All her life, Anjou has been in love with Jinta but she clearly knew that he was especially fond of Menma, the glue of the group of friends. When Menma passed away, everyone was devastated, even Anjou, but this also meant her ‘rival’ in love was gone. Even when attending the same school as Jinta, and trying as much as possible to keep in touch with him, Jinta never looked her way and even more so when he started seeing Menma’s ghost.
Even when having many guys chasing after her because of her beauty, and even when being asked out by another close friend, Anjou always stayed by Jinta’s side, helping him in whatever she could - even when that also meant harvesting Jinta’s feelings towards Menma. From beginning to end, she assures that Jinta has an irreplaceable spot in her heart, and she will stand by him in good or bad, even after confessing her unrequited love.
4. Satoru Fujinuma from ERASED (Boku dake ga Inai Machi)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2016 to March 2016
When Satoru jumps back in time with his “Revival” ability, he intended to save Kayo and several other children from being murdered, in order to change his current present. Satoru cared for Kayo a lot and developed a more intimate relationship with her. Satoru didn’t become attached and devoted to the personal life of Hiromi, or any of the other kids he saved, unlike he did for Kayo. He could have saved Kayo without boasting her with affection or he could have saved everyone giving them the same attention and affection! Right!? But, he didn't, this stirred the curiosity of many fans wondering if he had feelings for Kayo.
Satoru sometimes thought to himself that “he was an adult” and he shouldn't be doing the things he did (or feeling the way he did) with a 10-year-old, so, there was never a REAL confession; but that one episode where he takes Kayo to see the Christmas tree, speaks more than a thousand words. In the end, Satoru didn't know the price to pay in order to save Kayo’s life and all those years in coma certainly did a number on the relationship of these two. Kayo got married to Hiromi and had a baby, this gave Satoru a huge mix of emotions that ended in tears when they reunite, hiding behind the excuse that his tears were —just— “joy of seeing her well”.
In their sort of melancholic reunion, there are a few things to point out in favor of SatoruXKayo feelings and friendzoning: first, they always met alone. Kayo always met up with Satoru alone even when Hiromi was also his friend; why is this? Clearly, all three know that without the coma situation, who would have married who. Second is that one of the first things Kayo points out is the guilt of “leaving him behind” and “becoming happy without him”, why would she say this? And later why would Satoru look so down because of his mother mentioning Kayo’s baby? In conclusion, Kayo decided to keep her newly formed family with Hiromi, so she had no choice but to friendzone her “hero” and childhood love.
3. Rem from Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO - Starting Life in Another World-)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2016 - September 2016
Rem’s crush for Subaru starts just like a fairytale: her life is saved by a chosen hero. But unlike fairy tales, the damsel in distress doesn't get the ‘happily ever after’ with her her knight in shining armor, instead, she gets friendzoned. Even when knowing deep down that her feelings won't be returned, Rem decides to stay by Subaru’s side no matter what. Although nothing official has been released and the series sort of makes Subaru and Emilia a canon, millions of fans are cheering for Rem. For now, only time will tell if she ever gets out of the friendzone and her current condition.
2. Ume Kurumizawa from Kimi ni Todoke
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2009 - March 2010
Kurumi has been in love with Kazehaya ever since middle school. She worked all her life to become the perfect girl for him, she got into his same hobbies, she liked everything he liked and was always in constant contact with him to the point that other people thought they were a couple. Kazehaya always thought of her as a friend, whilst Kurumi was completely in love —or borderline obsessed— with him and was just waiting for the perfect moment to confess her feelings, confident that he wouldn't have any excuse to say no.
She was brilliant, beautiful, friendly but had one flaw, she’s ugly on the inside. All her life was a facade, strategically planned so that Kazehaya would only see her beautiful side. But, Kazehaya has no interest in exterior beauty, he loves genuinely gentle and bright people and this is what makes him fall in love with Sawako in the first place. Because of his obvious crush for Sawako, Kurumi enrages and lashes all her “hidden” bad side on Sawako, hurting her feelings to the point of making her tremble and cry helplessly. After a certain turn of events, Kurumi confesses her lifelong crush in tears, but this doesn't waver Kazehaya as he clearly rejects her and eagerly runs to Sawako’s arms. To make everything worse, Kurumi’s friendzone finale is what triggered Kazehaya to confess his feelings for Sawako.
1. Suwa from Orange
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2016 - September 2016
Would you rather be friendzoned or a substitute for someone else? This is what Suwa needs to decide when dealing with his friend and crush, Naho. If you could peek into your future, would you? Sure you would! And Suwa couldn't look away either when he receives a letter from his future self. This letter told him that in the future, he ends up married and having a family with his beloved Naho, good news, right? Not exactly. His future self also begs to save three people from a hurtful future, Kakeru, Naho and himself. In the future, even when Suwa seems happy on the outside, he is greatly troubled because he cannot bring his wife, Naho, true happiness as she has been forever hurt and depressed by the fact that she couldn't express the feelings she and Kakeru shared, before his suicide.
Even when he loves his family, future Suwa decides it's best to fix the past and give up Naho so that she can find true happiness next to the person she really loved the most; and as hard as it sounds, past Suwa needs to understand this in order to save his own heart. After a huge emotional struggle, past Suwa decides that it’s best to force himself into the friendzone, for the sake of a better future for everyone.
If you’re ever feeling down about a rejection, just think about these characters; yeah, they were friendzoned but most of them had happy endings, maybe one day you will have yours too. To be honest, this list could easily continue for ten more characters, but many lost their positions to characters in big anime titles. Other friendzone mentions could be Chidori from Kiznaiver, Kaname from Nagi no Asukara and Sanae from Kuzu no Honkai, if you want to extend your list a little. We invite you to the comment section below, where you can tell us your favorite friendzoned character. Whether it's the traditional friendzone, imouto-zoned, species-zoned or any other crazy derivation of “friendzone” you have seen in anime, we want to know!