My brother is one of my best friends. Like anyone else who doesn’t have bad blood with their siblings (and I feel bad for the people who do), he knows me better than any of my non-blood friends ever have or ever will. As adults, we’ve been living together for five years now, and while it was originally out of financial convenience, our bond has only strengthened as we’ve been each others’ room mates. We don’t get along all the time, and there are some things we distinctly disagree on, but it all works out so that we can take a week long vacation from our jobs at the same time without wanting to kill each other. Which I hear is kind of rare.
Because of this bond, I’ve always had my eye on the various sibling bonds that I’ve encountered through my years of watching Anime. Some of it was bullshit, and most of it was at least tolerable, there have been a few pairs that made me feel a variety of strong emotions. They make me happy, they make me nostalgic, or hell, some of them just leave me on the edge of my seat waiting for the other shoe to drop. Today, I’ve decided to list ten of my favorite Anime sibling pairs that I’ve encountered. They really spoke to me, for one reason or another, so I’m paying them tribute.
To narrow down the list, especially after getting way too many suggestions from the English Dubbed Anime Lovers Facebook group, I’ve come up with a series of rules that each entry on the list must follow.
1: Blood relation is not necessary.
2: I have to have seen the show personally.
3: No incest. At worst, it can be implied through gags, but incestual sex and incestuous crushes from either party is grounds for disqualification.
4: The characters have to need each other. If they stand out mainly as individuals, and could carry a series without the other party, they’re out.
5: No video game characters.
6: Screen time, development and a dynamic are a must.
7: Two to three siblings per entry.
8: I will not be avoiding spoilers in this post.
Before we begin, here are some family units that didn’t make the cut!
Kyosuke and Kirino, Oreimo: If I could isolate the first season and pretend the second one didn’t exist, I might have considered these two. But I can’t, so I didn’t.
Luffy and Ace: Sorry, I’m way too behind on One Piece to comment on these two.
Ryusuke and Maho, Beck: I was going to put them in, but I realized I had nothing to say about them, so I replaced them at the last minute.
Misaka and her sisters from A Certain Scientific Railgun: They’re awesome, but no. I was able to stretch the definition of sibling a few times for this list, but this one was just a bridge too far.
Karin and Yuzu from Bleach, Ryou and Kyou from Clannad, Yui and Ui from K-on, Liz and Patty from Soul Eater: They’re not all that interesting, guys.
Olivier and Alex from FMA Brotherhood, Ryuko and Satsuki from Kill La Kill, Anna and Johan from Monster: I considered adding these, as they’re all really cool characters, but they shine far brighter as individuals than as pairs. I couldn’t think of anything to say about their relationship or dynamic.
Ruby and Yang, RWBY: not an Anime, I just wanted to take this opportunity to point out that “I’m so proud of my baby sister” is Yang’s only distinctive personality trait.
Sokka and Katara from Avatar The Last Airbender: Also not an anime, but it would have made the top five if it was.
And now, on with the list!
10: Shiro and Sora, No Game No Life
As an infant, it was discovered that Shiro was a child prodigy. She was gifted with excellent problem solving and calculation skills, which is why when she met her older step brother Shiro for the first time, she immediately knew how empty his smile was as he told the adults what they wanted to hear. They bonded quickly over their mutual mental quirks, and when their parents eventually passed away, that bond strengthened to the point that they were two halves of the same person. Of course, they’re still both incomplete people, so they naturally holed up at home and spent their long days and even longer nights becoming one of the most dominant forces in the world of online gaming… So much so that they were selected to be ripped from their own world and into a parallel world where life itself is a game.
Okay, so I have to say it: This is the closest thing to incest that my list will come. There are a lot of icky problems with this show, from Shiro’s constant panty shots to the fact that their relationship is distinctly more of a lonely male viewer fantasy than a lonely female viewer fantasy, but if you can look past all that… Which you don’t have to, to be fair… It’s totally worth it. Sora and Shiro share such an intense, co-dependent connection to each other, and while it does slip into creepy incest fantasy a couple of times… I could have done without those moments, few as they were… I still really enjoyed their team work and banter.
Neither of them is portrayed as a normal person. Other characters have to overcome huge hurdles just to like them. They’re both weird, agoraphobic freaks, but they make perfect sense to each other, which is really all that matters. They work off of each other well in their downtime, but in combat, they’re two haves of one complete person who suffer severe mental breakdowns whenever they’re separated. I thought that was really cool, and it overshadowed the few problems I had with the story throughout.
9: Kagami and Tsukasa, Lucky Star
Tsukasa Hiiragi is a social butterfly, making friends through her easygoing and ditzy nature. She’s a bit of a space cadet, and she’s not especially academically gifted, excelling rather in the typical moe fields, such as cooking and finding the good in people. Her older twin sister Kagami is the exact opposite, excelling in academics and responsible behavior while lacking in the social skills that her sister inherited. In most shows, these two would be more enemies than friends, engaging in a low stakes melodramatic feud and not realizing how much they love each other until the more negative of the two is won over by the power of friendship. But in Lucky Star, they have each others backs right from the get-go.
I said in the rules that I valued siblings in fiction that need each other, and while Kagami and Tsukasa don’t take this to such a huge extreme as Sora and Shiro do, they do exhibit it in a much healthier way. Without Kagami, Tsukasa would be an absolute mess. She’d never study, she’d never get up on time, she’d be disorganized, and she’d probably have to repeat multiple grades in school. Without Tsukasa, Kagami would be the victim of her own cold, stand-offish demeanor, pretending to be friends with people in her class that she has little to no connection with and breezing through school without ever developing a basic social life. Tsukasa needs her older sister’s notes and example, just as much as Kagami needs her younger sister’s company and circle of friends. Tsukasa keeps Kagami down to earth, while Kagami keeps Tsukasa above water.
But above all, I just love how funny they are. Put a doe-eyed moe girl together with a fox-eyed Tsundere, make them twins, and you’re bound to engage in some good old fashioned classic straight-man-goofball comedy(except in Clannad). Tsukasa’s slip-ups and Kagami’s reactions to them are among the funniest moments in Lucky Star. The constant Anime references and boring plot points of this series never really impressed me, but the relationship these two share… As well as the role that the series star Konata Izumi plays with both of them… Is one of the things that keep me watching it and loving it.
8: Kamina and Simon, Gurren Laggan
Young adolescent Simon is a digger, using his cherished drill to explore the vast underground cavern of Giha to help expend it’s territory. He has no family to speak of, and his only real bond is with the rebellious older boy Kamina, a fellow orphan who has big lofty dreams of reaching the surface world and leaving the claustrophobic underground cave behind him. As that dream finally comes true, they wind up facing a harsher world than either of them had ever imagined would be awaiting them there. No matter how dark things get, they’ll have each other for support, as they combine their strengths, battle for Yoko’s heart, and finding their place in the struggle for worldly domination, right up until…
Remember earlier when I said that blood relation is unnecessary? Well, as it turns out, neither is legal adoption. Since neither of these two bottom feeding bro-hams have living parents, there was never an official adoption of either character, but when you think about it, they kind of adopted each other. I’d like to make a Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn comparison in regards to that, but I don’t really remember those books well enough to say whether or not it’s applicable. Either way, their bond is a really fun and energizing one that is no doubt the heart of the series.
I know I said I wouldn’t be avoiding spoilers, but I should still warn you about one that I have to go into. As I mentioned above, Kamina and Simon both fell in love with the same girl, Yoko Littner. She picks Kamina, probably because he was closer to her age and the most awesome thing since bacon(and who can blame her), which forced the jealous Simon to confront the fact that Kamina was everything he wanted to grow up and become. But before he could resolve that issue, Kamina died in episode eight, forcing him into a nose-diving depression that he would have to gradually overcome in order to develop and become the adult that would be worthy of carrying Kamina’s inspirational legacy. The mark he left on both Simon and the viewer is beyond evident.
7: Yu and Ayumi, Charlotte
The Otosaka children live together, away from their parents… For some reason. While Yu hasn’t done much to keep house, his eleven year old sister Ayumi has picked up his slack, giving him more time to focus on getting good grades and manipulating people through the use and arguable miss-use of his supernatural power, the ability to take over a person’s body by making eye contact with them. Ayumi doesn’t make too much of a fuss over his aversion to pulling his own weight, as she seems satisfied with just taking care of him. He finds her a bit weird, with her obsessive tendencies and teenybopper fanhood over a local pop idol. He even resents her a bit for inserting their family’s famous pizza sauce into every single one of her recipes. But as the old saying goes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and when a power she develops leads to her untimely demise, Yu finds himself in an emotional downward spiral that only a close friend can get him out of. Given the opportunity, how far would he go to bring her back?
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really care all that much for this pair during the early episodes of the series. They were quirky and different, and I appreciated it, but it never really struck me as a standout sibling pair. That all changed when Charlotte hit the first of it’s many literally earth-shattering plot twists, with Ayumi dying under the rubble and debris of her own school. Any viewer who’d been following the series was devastated by this twist, but we didn’t even feel a fraction of the devastation and loss that Yu felt, as he began to miss everything about his sister that he had previously found annoying.
Without the one person that he loved, without her voice and her smile, he fell into a sharp downward spiral, holing up at home and eventually running away, using his powers to make a name for himself in the gang scene of a neighboring city. He revelled in the ability to inflict as much pain as he’d been through on others, and if it wasn’t for Nao Tomori giving him a sorely-missed taste of his sister’s terrible cooking, he’d have wound up a hopeless drug fiend and thug. He does eventually get the opportunity to go back in time and fix his mistake, and it’s revealed that they had an older brother they’d forgotten about, but none of that entered into my decision to include them on my list. If you love your sibling, then even the things that bothered you about them will always be close to your heart when they’re gone. Charlotte portrayed this feeling of loss better than any Anime I’ve ever seen.
6: Eren, Armin and Mikasa, Attack On Titan
As a child, Mikasa and her parents were attacked by human traffickers that were attracted to them by their status as the perceived last Japanese people left alive, which gave them an exotic appeal. After they killed her parents, Eren saved her, and she was officially adopted into his family, where she took on the lifelong mission of protecting him in order to pay him back for saving her life. Also, they became close with a neighborhood bully-target kid named Armin, and the three of them formed a close trio that would be tested many years down the road when the walls surrounding their city came tumbling down, and the eldritch horrors waiting outside finally came pouring in to get a taste of humanity. All three of these young heroes took positions in the military, working to their own personal strengths to protect each other and bring humanity back from the brink of extinction.
There are two problems I had to overlook when I decided to include these characters. first of all, yes, they all shine brighter as individual characters than as a group, with fans understandably divided between them. Yes, I’m stretching the rules quite a bit by including Armin, their kinda-sorta surrogate younger brother and the brains over braun member of the group who doesn’t engage in nearly as much action and Titan killing as the two legit siblings he’s being paired with. But that was before I took into account what I’ve heard from many different sources… These three, like Sora and Shiro, are all equal parts of one whole. And no, that whole isn’t complete without Armin.
See, the way I’ve heard it, Eren represents the spirit, Mikasa represents the body, and Armin represents the mind. Armin brings intelligence, logic, and strategy to the group. Eren brings heart, belief and emotional power to the group, and Mikasa brings the raw killing power and physical prowess that complete the triad. In a world that’s under constant threat, where humanity’s survival depends on all three of those qualities working together in tandem, the bond between these three characters is perhaps the most important and vital that I’ve ever encountered. Without spirit and body, we’d be cowards, unable to make a move. Without body and mind, we’d be suicidal, and without mind and spirit, we’d be cold blooded killers who are just as bad as the Titans are. Luckily, we have all three with these siblings.
5: Kaoru and Hikaru, Ouran High School Host Club
As children, Hikari and Kaoru were heavily influenced by their maid, a devious thief who taught them how to read and manipulate people… Also, she instilled in them a belief that nobody would ever be able to understand them or tell these two twins apart. After she fled from their lives, they grew up cold and distant, relying on and trusting nobody but each other. While the wealthy rube Tamaki Suoh was able to get them with a lucky guess, thus inducting them into his bizarre host club, it was Haruhi Fujioka who was able to guess not through luck, but through understanding, shattering their preconceptions about other people and cementing herself as one of their most precious friends.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Top Ten Siblings list before, but if there have been any others, these two masters of mischief are almost certainly on it. As members of the illustrious Host Club, they play their clients like fools, exploiting their fascination with Boys Love by pretending to have more of an intimate relationship than they actually have. They evolved by leaps and bounds after Haruhi wormed her way into their life and pointed out some key differences between them that even they weren’t aware of. This has led to them strengthening their relationship, but it’s also challenged it.
When the two of them are fighting, it’s difficult to tell if they’re being sincere about it, or if they‘re just acting in order to play a joke on the people around them. In other words, if they really are fighting, then they can just pretend as to the latter once they’ve made up, saving face. Through all of their ups and downs, these two are the perfect example of Ouran’s ability to portray both comedy and drama near-flawlessly, and when they don’t have you laughing along with their games, they’ll have you worried about whether or not they’ll be able to recover their relationship through each feud. It’s really hard not to love these two, and they don’t even have to manipulate you for it.
4: Seita and Setsuko, Grave of the Fireflies
Seita and his little sister were growing up in Kobe, Japan during the final months of World War 2. After their single mother died from severe burns during a bombing strike, they’re left to live with their overtly pragmatic aunt, who came to resent them and consider them burdens more and more as the war raged on and rations became increasingly scarce. Seita decided to leave her house, vowing to take care of Setsuko himself, believing fully well that he was equipped with the strength and tenacity to care for a small child by himself. They struggled, facing impossible odds… And failed. Setsuko died sick and hungry in her brother’s arms, and Seita died later on at a very specific date, whereupon his body was just treated as yet another statistic.
We’ve all seen movies where our heroes fight valiantly to survive the harsh situations they’ve been saddled with, and their struggle is eventually rewarded. As for me, I prefer tragedies, stories where the inevitable is exactly that, and the best intentions can’t measure up to reality. It’s hard to decide what side of Seita’s decision to leave their aunt you fall on… There’s no ambiguity as to the fact that his decision was ultimately what killed the two of them, but it still feels a lot more believable and understandable than a similar decision that was made in Angel Beats.
In Grave of the Fireflies, the inevitability lies in Seita’s pride and naivety. He wants the best for his little sister, and he loves her enough to make any sacrifice for her, as long as it doesn’t involve entrusting her to someone who won’t care about her as much as he does. His ambitious belief in himself falls far short of his abilities and what little mercy the world is willing to deal him. And Setsuko? She loves him and trusts him completely. With so many stories out there painting grand risks and self belief, it’s important to have stories that show you the tragic consequences that may befall you when these risks don’t work out. Nobody watches this movie without telling Seita to swallow his pride and go back to their very human aunt. It’s a heartbreaking story that stays with you long after you watch it, and it all revolves around these two young siblings.
3: Mion and Shion, Higurashi When They Cry
There’s been an ancient tradition in the Sonozaki family, dating back untold generations. If the new heir to the family is born with a twin, then the one bearing the mark of the demon is to be strangled in their crib. Fortunately for these sinister sisters, that antiquated practice was ignored by their grandmother, who instead kept one child and gave the marked one to a boarding home over in the city. They met a few times over the years, but it wasn’t until they were in their mid to late teens that Shion was able to escape from her boarding home and move closer to her sister… And closer to the dark secrets of her family.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that the Sonozaki Twins share a slot as my favorite character from the Higurashi franchise. And of course, my favorite story arc from that franchise is the Eye Opening chapter, which goes into their backstory, explaining a lot about a certain previous arc. After settling down in town, Shion falls in love with one of Mion’s best friends, and after some… Stuff… Happens, he disappears under suspicious circumstances, leaving Shion broken, paranoid, and unable to trust anybody in her family… Including her estranged twin sister. The idea of twins switching places with each other for nefarious purposes was touched on with the Hitachis, but the lengths that Shion Sonozaki takes it to are far more serious, with consequences and terrifying implications on the plot.
Hell, it’s even hinted in the manga(I haven’t played the games) that when they were children, Mion was brought to the boarding house to meet her sister… Who tricked her into swapping clothes and hairstyles in a game of dress-up so she could trade places with her and steal her position in the family. The story between these two is one of the juiciest out there, and it vastly overshadows any depth, significance, or positive messages that I’ve been looking for throughout the rest of this list. The Sonozaki story is a nail-biter for me, and even after multiple watches and having the secrets of the story long since explained to me in Kai, I still feel every single turn of the parallel roller coaster rides that Shion’s psychosis and her family’s mystery take. It’s my favorite horror Anime, and they’re a prime reason for that.
2: Tomoko and Tomoki, Watamote!
We all know the story of Tomoko, the awkward lead character from Watamote: She’s unpopular, and she will blame everybody she possibly can rather than admitting her own faults to herself. She has very few people she’s comfortable enough to talk to about her problems, and the one she turns to the most often is her younger brother, Tomoki, who… As it turns out… Would just as soon grab her face and squeeze until it’s been reduced to a diamond than help her. But unfortunately for him, she threatens to kill herself, leaving him no choice but to hold nightly talks with her to… Wait,. what?
Okay, I’m going to level with you, I shouldn’t like this sibling unit. I can’t stand stories that make light of suicide for humor, and there’s nothing particularly likeable about either character. I guess what it comes down to is just how normal they are. Okay, to be fair, Tomoko is not a normal person… A strong representation of severe social anxiety, sure, but the only normal feeling thing about her is her relationship to her younger brother… Yes, she’s the older one, and I’m pretty sure that’s not an incidental detail. Whether intentionally or not, their relationship is the antithesis of the ever-present imouto trend.
This is why it doesn’t bother me when Tomoko makes a couple of passes at Tomoki… It would be gross in a different context, but it’s clearly not something she’s serious about. It’s a matter of pride for her, because… As the games she’s addicted to have told her… If you’re popular enough, even your siblings will fall in love with you. This is more a satirical shot at otaku tropes than a genuine invitation. But that’s all just why I appreciate these siblings so much… Why I love them is something entirely different.
Tomoko and Tomoki have nothing in common. They tolerate each other, and they have occasional uses for each other, but for the most part, they’re perfectly happy to go about their own lives and not cross paths… Unless of course Tomoko starts to bother him for help with her problems, despite the fact that his help gets her absolutely nowhere. This excuse for interaction is flimsy at best, but it still gives her an excuse to have human contact and dialogue with somebody who knows her better than anybody else. They’re so rotten to each other, but they still begrudgingly cohabitate… Just like most normal sibling units. Siblings, in most cases, are lifelong friends who you didn’t choose and can’t get rid of, no matter how much you get on each others nerves, and I’ve never seen that expressed so well in an any show that wasn’t Daria. There’s little to like about these two as individuals, but I just couldn’t imagine putting them any lower on the list.
1: Edward and Alphonse, Fullmetal Alchemist
The Elric brothers were prodigies at the ancient art of alchemy, and showed the promise that they inherited from their father at an early age. After their mother passed away from a long term illness, these two naive children decided to try what no alchemist had ever accomplished before… Human transmutation, to bring their mother back from the dead. Of course, since two inexperienced children couldn’t possibly outsmart the years and years of alchemic development and experimenting that came before them, this attempt backfired, as they summoned a monstrous creature at the cost of Ed’s leg… And Alphonse’s entire body. With a newfound understanding of alchemy and the world in general, Ed attaches Al’s soul to a suit of armor, and vows to do whatever he has to, going any distance and making any sacrifice, to return his brother to humanity. And thus, these two brothers set off on the adventure of a lifetime.
Be honest, you saw this coming. I’m not the first person to write a list of their top ten favorite Anime siblings, but one thing you’ll find to be constant is that they ALL contain the Elric Brothers, whether based on one or both of their serial adaptations. For me, they’re right at the top, and it’s not just because they’re the protagonists of my favorite Anime of all time, but because they have what I believe to be the strongest brotherly bond of all time. It’s hard to not consider them great siblings just based on the fact that they’ve willfully intertwined their fates, working together towards a common goal while offering each other strength and support. It’s another to say that they offer each other purpose.
See, there’s a lot going on throughout this series. There’s post-war issues, political power struggles, villains attempting to use them for their powers… But through it all, the one thing that each Elric brother cares about more than anything else is his brother. For Ed, it doesn’t matter if he becomes the hero of Amestris or wins Winry’s heart, or even if he’s able to get his arm and leg back… What matters to him the most is getting his brother’s body back and returning their lives to some semblance of the innocence they’d lost. For Alphonse, he doesn’t follow Ed on his adventure just because he wants his body back… Far more than that, what he cares about is protecting his big brother through said adventure. He acts as his bodyguard to keep him from getting too hurt, and as his conscience to make sure his ambitions don’t lead him down too dark of a path. They both selflessly want what’s best for each other, and in pursuit of it, they don’t go through the story without some serious blood on their hands.
These two brothers are so important to each other that throughout the series, their only serious fight occurs when a third party convinces Al to doubt whether they’re childhood memories are really real, setting him off on a downward spiral of emo paranoia. Even then, he doesn’t need any actual proof of his existence… All he needs is a single sparring session to jog his memory(and not some ugly cartoonish sight-gag). And even more unique is the fact that Alphonse sacrifices himself to save Edward’s life at the end of the series, whereupon Ed immediately returns the favor, trapping himself in an alternate reality for years before they could finally be reunited. A lot of people say that the Shamballah movie wasn’t very good, and it cheapened what was otherwise a perfect ending, but I actually prefer the idea that the two of them are continuing their journey together in a strange world where no alchemy exists, exploring and experiencing our world together.
But moreso than the end of their journey, it’s the journey itself that makes me love them as much as I do. They travel through the fantastical country of Amestris, getting involved in problems much bigger than themselves, and finding solutions through their mutually exclusive perspectives. They play, they fight, they bicker, they banter, they battle side by side, they support each other, they learn, they grow… They come into the series very much as children, and leave it feeling far more mature than the few years they’ve been active would actually imply. Their story is a full, rewarding one that I keep coming back to time and time again, which is more than enough to make them my favorite siblings in any Anime that I’ve seen.