Love triangles are the bread and butter of the romance genre. I mean, what better was to cause friction and drama between a couple than to bring some other poor sucker into the mix? But triangles are so… Pythagorean, you know? Where’s the love rhombus? The sweaty mass of pheromones that is the love hexagon? The eternal orgy that is the love icosagon?
Oh, they’re out there.
And they are not simple.
It is said that love triangles creat drama, but love polygons create comedy, and that is nothing short of the truth. Typically in a many-sided love shape, very few people ever get hurt when the main characters get together, as our fan fiction says they always will. Instead, you just have some abstract craziness to add another layer of comedy to a show. This is often why harem shows are not laden with unrequited girl tears, but rather fan service and humor.
Let us take a tour of some of the largest, most complicated, somewhat disturbing love polygons to ever be found in anime, shall we?
*Note: Most of these don’t actually form polygons. I’m sorry, I’ve failed you and mathematics.
As School Rumble has like 50 different characters, there is a huge opportunity for love polygons, compounded by the fact that the plot of the anime is essentially to get the desired person in your love polygon to notice you.
Rumiko Takahashi is the master of the love polygon (as well as series that go on, and on, and on), as you’ll see later with her ultimate work. However, things are kept relatively simple in Inuyasha. Simple enough that they form an actual polygon, a rhombus. Unless you count Miroku that just throws the whole thing off.
Also, thanks to Cherrytree for the idea!
Ken Akamatsu has some complex love polygons in all his series, Love Hina and Negima! Magister Negi Magi are his most popular. As the father of the modern harem, it is only natural that everyone loves everyone to the point where it is almost incestuous. However, if there a difference between harems and love polygons?
Technically, yes. A true harem is Characters, A, B, C, D, who all want Character E, who is not sure who he wants. In a love polygon, A like B, B likes D, D likes A, ect. Off hand, Clannad is the only true harem I can think of. They are surprisingly not as prevalent as would you think. It is always more dramatic to add in a few more characters for an easy polygon.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Not every love polygon has to be happy. In the case of Neon Genesis Evangelion, it was used to milk out every bit of angst by the director as well as an excuse to watch the main character spill his marshmallow fluff all over a girl in a coma.
Sometimes love can make you sad, and not for the usual reasons. Sometimes it is for creepy reasons.
Octopus. Berserk is one of those love polygons that looks really simple, almost triangular, right up until you start considering side characters. Particularly in the manga, which is likely to be addressed in the Berserk 2016 anime.
Nagi no Asukara
The love spiderweb of the anime world, except, if you organize it right, it is really a pentagon. Well, almost anyway. But really, though. If your an romance anime fan and want to feel really frustrated with all the one-sided love, this is the anime for you.
Ultimately Ranma 1/2 is so successful with the love polygon trope because they allow gender bending into the universe. Sure, they could have just made those characters sexually fluid, but the 80s-90s were a different time. Realistically, I probably missed some characters on this chart. For that, I am sorry.