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Implied Love Interest
Who knows?

Our hero certainly spends a lot of time rescuing that princess, so he must really care about her. And it's a safe bet that she really cares about him, so it's only natural to assume they're more than Just Friends, right? But wait... had anyone actually said that the two of them are together, or are you just assuming? Is the character denying the truth or stating it when he says "She Is Not My Girlfriend"? Is it Not What It Looks Like — or is it? We could ask questions all day.

The Implied Love Interest is when one character fills the role of a Love Interest to another character in the narrative, or otherwise has a lot of tropes related to being a Love Interest surrounding them, but nothing explicit in the narrative or from the creators is ever stated on the matter. One reason for this trope is in a serial work, it allows the author to gently cover their bums when it comes to either Ship Sinking ("Hey, the ship never set sail in the first place") or Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends ("The potential was there from the start"). The writer may state that they Hooked Up Afterwards, or leave it to the reader's imagination. Expect there to be at least some fans who pair the couple up regardless.

Naturally, this goes hand-in-hand with Ship Tease. If the relationship is left ambiguous because the characters are of the same gender, it's Hide Your Lesbians.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 
  • InuYasha: Rin's observations and Kagura's thoughts imply that Kagura's in love with Sesshoumaru. Mouryoumaru's comments and Toutousai's observations confirm that Sesshoumaru's got feelings for Kagura but Rumiko Takahashi leaves the nature of their relationship open to interpretation.
  • Tower of God: Baam chooses to follow Rachel where ever she may go, even if that includes fighting sea monsters even though he had to be taught why people would use violence at all few months prior. Many note that this has a romantic notion to it and the author (of course) hasn't said a thing about their relationship status. She could be a mother figure, big sister, best friend or love interest.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Natsu/Lisanna, though Lucy throws this one into rather gray territory, leaving Natsu with two implied love interests and nothing solid.
    • Lyon/Sherry, though this was later busted for Lyon falling for Juvia and Sherry and Ren.
    • Lucy has multiple potential love interests, the most prominent being Natsu and Loke.
    • Gajeel and Levi, especially in later arcs. Almost constantly together, invested in each other's well being, etc., yet it still has not been clarified if they're a Beta Couple or Platonic Life Partners.
      • It's subverted later on when the romance, especially on Levi's side (Gajeel remains Oblivious to Love) is much more played up.
  • Mazinger:
    • Mazinger Z: Kouji and Sayaka were the Trope Codifier for Belligerent Sexual Tension, spending most of the time together and were very close at each other, and after the Final Battle they traveled to America together, but they never became a couple. The anime makes Sayaka's feelings very explicit, but downplays Kouji's ones and showing him getting pervy about other women, but both manga versions (especially Go Nagai's original story) are more explicit about them wanting to pursue a relationship. They never quite reach the Official Couple status, but most fans take that status for granted. In other continuities they did become Official Couple on panel, though.
    • Great Mazinger: Tetsuya and Jun did not get together on panel, but there were tons of Ship Tease throughout the series. Jun spent the whole series chasing Tetsuya as he was Oblivious to Love, and he got jealousy when Jun got some suitor or he thought she would leave him.
    • UFO Robo Grendizer: Duke and Hikaru clearly cared for each other and loved spending time together, but it was never explicitly stated they were together.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has tons of Unresolved Sexual Tension between Shinji and Asuka, together with Luminescent Blushes, Belligerent Sexual Tension, Like an Old Married Couple, First Kiss situations... and they clearly show they care for each other (Shinji leaping into a volcano to save Asuka, Asuka visiting him into the hospital after being swallowed by an Angel, Asuka trying warning him about Unit 03's pilot...). However, the nature of the show makes they are completely oblivious to each other's feelings, and any attempt to establish a connection ends up in misunderstandings and trauma for both. Nonetheless, the final scene of End of Evangelion hints maybe they finally shall open up to each other; with some spin-offs like Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days dropping the "maybe".
    • In Rebuild of Evangelion, Shinji's Implied Love Interest is Rei instead of Asuka. She's still a clone of his mother in this continuity.
  • Romance between Tai and Sora of Digimon Adventure was taken for granted back in the early days, however the show itself treated them as very close friends, and one of the OVAs that had them as dating also had them as squabbling over something incredibly petty, and none of that was ever mentioned again. So when the second season pairs her with another character, with Tai's full support, screen canon wasn't broken but the world's headcanon was. The rage still hasn't died over that one.
  • Pokémon
    • In several adaptations Misty was this for Red/Ash,note  though the games themselves have Red and Misty being buddy-buddy in at least one official art.
      • It's a point of controversy in the anime: the original writers stated that the two are too young to recognize their feelings, and most of the dialogue implying attraction in the Japanese version leaned more towards Platonic Life Partners than romance. The English dub just bluntly promoted her to All Love Is Unrequited - many instances of dialogue were rewritten in an attempt to push the couple, and more notoriously, Misty's farewell sequence had the scenes depicted in the flashback completely changed (the original focused less on her as a Love Interest, and more on her as a trainer and as a friend).
      • The first 4koma had Red drooling over Misty a few times.
      • Satoshi in Pokémon Zensho is implied to be attracted to her, even using a heart when he talks to her once.
    • Jessie and James in the anime. There have actually been a few hints that James does have feelings for Jessie and vice versa, but the nature of their relationship is vague enough for fans to go either way.note 
  • Setsuna F. Seiei of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has two; Rebellious Princess Marina Ismail and Bridge Bunny Feldt Grace.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia is a confusing case. While there are undoubtedly several potential pairings who get enough Ship Tease to justify calling it this, some characters are involved in more than one of these pairings, which leaves a situation where a character can have numerous other characters where a hook-up would have received enough subtext to not come as a surprise.
  • While possibly not the case with their counterparts in Go Lion, Keith and Princess Allura in Voltron are widely considered the show's Official Couple, but their feelings for each other are never stated to go beyond friendship. It's possible that they are in love with each other and just don't realize it, but aside from a ton of Ship Tease the show doesn't really portray them as a couple.
    • As mentioned before, comic adaptations and the successor Voltron Force are rather blatant that they are.
  • Suzuna and Sena of Eyeshield 21. The two have a meet cute introduction to each other, people often think they're a couple, and Suzuna states that she doesn't view Sena as a little brother (unlike Mamori). Sena's feelings for Suzuna are left rather ambiguous as well, other then the fact that he's rather protective of her.
  • CLAMP has hundreds of characters, dozens of pairings and barely enough actual couples to count on two hands.
  • In every Yu-Gi-Oh! series, the main group has exactly one female character the protagonist's age, and there are occasional hints of feeling between her and the main protagonist, but the show emphasis on The Power of Friendship means it has never been confirmed as canon. Examples include Anzu from the original, Asuka from GX, Aki from 5D's, Kotori from ZeXal, and Yuzu from Arc-V.
    • Jack and Carly. Carly canonically has feelings for Jack, and Jack has something for her. However, very little of their relationship after the Dark Signers arc neither confirms nor denies Jack's feelings for her, nor are they brought up.
  • Patlabor: The Mobile Police: The exact status of Noa and Asuma's relationship is difficult determine because the writers were so ambiguous about it, that fans have continued to debate the subject over 20 years later. In-series, their squadmates are convinced that their partnership goes deeper than "just friends" and even Hana noticed it, during her brief stint with the SVU2. Several episodes even show them going out while off-duty and the last 2-3 episodes imply that the nature of their relationship may be changing, if it hasn't already.

    Comic Books 
  • The Harvey Comics Casper the Friendly Ghost series has Casper and Wendy, when the two cross over, as inseparable best friends who have been so since time out of mind. The two are both good members of races that the world thinks are Always Chaotic Evil (in this comic, Our Ghosts Are Different makes ghosts just one more of the Enchanted Forest's fantasy races, not dead humans or dead anything. Witches are also a Witch Species, though magic must also be learned. Usually, ghosts scare people and witches play magical pranks and both treat their job in life - yes, 'life' applying to ghosts too in this case.) Of course, we never get confirmed non-platonic-ness.

    Film 
  • Zach and Magenta in Sky High. They're frequently together in scenes, both like to snark at the rest of the cast, dance together at Homecoming (after snarking about how stupid school dances are), and he even compliments her legs... while she's in guinea pig form.
  • Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in Star Wars: A New Hope. The original advertising even said that she and Luke were "in love", which, given how that worked out, is now Hilarious in Hindsight. Even today, people who haven't seen all the Star Wars movies tend to assume that she is Luke's girlfriend.
  • In Megamind, Roxanne mentions that she was never in a relationship with Metroman, despite the public assumptions and the way he kept saving her from Megamind's schemes.
  • In the DVD Commentary for Beauty and the Beast they say there seems to be a spark between Maurice and Mrs. Potts, though they're just standing next to each other.
  • Pacific Rim: Mako Mori and Raleigh Becket, as it's unclear whether they are this, Like Brother and Sister, or Just Friends. The ending leaves it ambiguous when they share a Headbutt of Love instead of the expected Big Damn Kiss.
  • X-Men:
    • X-Men: First Class:

      The relationship between Magneto and Mystique is a little vague.

      Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost; his term of endearment for her is "love," and he calls her "the most exquisite thing I've ever seen in my life." There's also this line:
    Emma Frost: If that telepath gets inside your head, he won't be as much fun as I am.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past:

      Much like Last Stand, it's left rather vague whether or not Bobby and Kitty had anything going on or not. Come Cosmic Retcon, Bobby is back to being in a relationship with Rogue. Kitty and Colossus co-teaching a class may mean something between them as well.

      Erik and Raven. When she's holding a spike to his throat, he just quips, "It's been a while since we were this close." There is also a hint when Charles asks Erik for the second time, "How is she [Raven]?", and Charles' facial expression when he hears the answer basically reads, "Oh god, he has slept with my sister."
      Erik: She was... we were... I could see why she meant so much to you.

    Literature 
  • In the ColSec Trilogy, there's nothing to unequivocally establish Cord and Samella as an Official Couple. That said, it's pretty clear by the end of the trilogy that Cord is in love with Samella, and there are hints that Samella probably reciprocates.
  • In Thieves Like Us, the exact relationship between Con and Motti is difficult to pinpoint. While the two mostly interact as friends and co-workers, there is one part in the first book where Motti looks after Con while she has a Heroic BSOD and admits he feels something for her, but suspects she wouldn't reciprocate. When she wakes up, she tells him she heard some of what was going on around her, and adds that he is the sort of guy she could be with. Even after this though, the two never actually share romantic scenes and show no indication that they might do so.
  • In Speak, there's a vague implication regarding the relationship of David Patrakis and the protagonist Melinda Sordino. David and Melinda share several classes, are lab partners in one. He is one of her only true friends (her being an outcast in school), Melinda even refers to him as "her hero", and they seem a bit protective of each other. It's more prominent in the book, with a few cute moments on Valentine's Day and mention that David watches her when he thinks she doesn't notice. For rather understandable reasons, though, it never really goes anywhere.
  • Ciaphas Cain keeps the exact nature of the relationship between Cain and Amberly Vail deliberately ambiguous, what with Cain writing the stories and Vail editing them. The attraction is definitely there, and it's heavily implied they have a sexual relationship on the odd occasions they meet up, but anything more than that is in the realm of speculation. The closest it ever gets to confirmation is when a Slaaneshi sorceress projects a Glamour that makes Cain see her as Vail, while the others with him see someone different, and afterwards he concludes that the glamour made the target see someone they care about.

    Live Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • Generally assumed for Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, as well as Ben Jackson and Polly. Ian and Barbara were eventually made canon by a throwaway line in The Sarah Jane Adventures, which revealed that they had married.
    • Despite being No Hugging, No Kissing the original series has several of the Doctor/companion relationships possessing a romantic tinge, namely Three/Jo, Four/Sarah Jane, and especially Four/Romana. Four/Sarah Jane was finally made canon after thirty years in the New-Who episode "School Reunion", in which the Tenth Doctor told Sarah Jane that his Fourth incarnation had loved her but chosen not to pursue the relationship for various reasons.
    • The Doctor and the Master are widely assumed to have either a highly dysfunctional relationship or a romance that went sour. Not at all hurt by the new series laying on Ship Tease so thick it could be cut with a chainsaw.
    • The Second Doctor and Jamie, mostly because the actors both thought it would be fun to play them like this. Keep in mind that this was in the 1960s, when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain (although by that point barely ever prosecuted).
  • In an alternate future of Star Trek: Enterprise, the now elderly Captain Jonathan Archer is being cared for by T'Pol. However, an injury prevents him from remembering all that's happened since he was last on the Enterprise. T'Pol says to him that she fully understands that he might consider all this to be an illusion or an elaborate deception. To alleviate his fears she tells him the story of an old girlfriend he wanted to marry back on Earth. The stunned Archer wants to know just what kind of 'relationship' he and T'Pol have that he'd ever tell her the story. She'll only say their relationship has "evolved".
  • Blake's 7 did this to various degrees for Blake/Jenna, Avon/Cally, Tarrant/Dayna, and Avon/Soolin.
  • Key West only managed to last 12 episodes, but in those 12, Seamus O'Neill and Savannah Sumner would flirt with each other in every single scene they were in together. And this was way above and beyond the normal flirtatious manner that Savannah had due to her being the show's resident Hooker with a Heart of Gold. Fans of the show assumed they'd eventually hook up. The show was cancelled before anything concrete happened unfortunately.

    Music 
  • Jim Stafford's song "My Girl Bill", despite its name, uses Exact Words to imply that the (male) singer is in a relationship with a man named Bill, who he is calling "My Girl Bill." At the end, it turns out that he and Bill are competing over the same woman; the singer has been saying "Don't get between me and my girl, Bill."

    Video Games 
  • The best example would have to be Mario and Princess Peach from Super Mario Bros., and it may extend to Princess Daisy from Super Mario Land. No romantic connection was made explicit, yet everyone assumes. Lampshaded by Luvbi in Super Paper Mario, and it's shown that the other characters seem to be just as clueless about whatever's going on between Mario and Peach, which leads Luvbi to think it is an unrequited crush. The Paper Mario game before that seem to have NPCs throw out plenty of Ship Teases, and the things Peach says while in captivity seem to imply that she thinks of Mario as a lot more than a friend, however the interaction with Luvbi is probably the only time where Mario and Peach's relationship is explored beyond the two knowing each other, unless you count Bowser accusing Mario of "trying to get between he and Peach". The various games and other sources seem to go back and forth with how "official" Mario/Peach is; some outright confirm their relationship, others only imply it.
    • Luigi and Princess Daisy are also implied to be a couple, or strongly believed to be one. In addition to various bits of Ship Tease between games, Daisy's SSBM trophy mentions that gamers believe her to be "Luigi's answer to Mario's Peach". While in Mario Power Tennis, if Daisy wins the trophy, Luigi will be the one who presents it to her - to which she says: "Thank you, sweetie!" (seen @1:19-1:43). They also act as each other's caddies in the Mario Golf series, further suggesting they may be a pair.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Pokémon
  • In Kingdom Hearts, it is implied Riku has feelings for Kairi. Nevertheless, he lets Sora and Kairi be together.
    • In an inversion to the official status of the Cloud, Tifa, Aerith situation, in Kingdom Hearts, Aerith is implied to be Cloud's love interest, while Tifa is the manifestation of his inner-light.
  • Disgaea has a few of these, the most telling is the ambiguous relationship between Laharl and Flonne. While Laharl repeatedly claims to not like her, his actions in the game suggest otherwise, going as far as to attempt a Heroic Sacrifice. At the time, she was Not Quite Dead in the canon ending while in the normal ending he really does go through with it.
  • Persona 3 is quite heavy with two of the Love Interests, Yukari and Aigis. Yukari gets quite a few scenes with the protagonist in the beginning of the plot, though it dies down eventually. Aigis is a full-blown Stalker with a Crush, justified that she sealed Death into the protagonist but doesn't remember it consciously for most of the game. It should also be noted that the protagonist dies in Aigis' arms in all versions of the game with the exception of New Game Plus in the PSP version. In both cases, completing the girl's Social Link makes her relationship with the protagonist overtly romantic, but since that's also the case with every other female Social Link in the game, none of whom are mutually exclusive, the issue of whether there can be said to be a canon Love Interest and, if so, who it is continues to be a subject of debate in the fandom, with Yukari and Aigis as the two most likely contenders.
  • Persona 4 manages to avert this for the most part. While one of the companions, Rise, has a blatant crush on the protagonist, and is seen calling out an anguished love confession during the ending movie as the protagonist rides the train out of Inaba, no one character is given more in-game moments than another. That was, until the Updated Re-release, Persona 4 Golden, introduced Marie. She holds a connection to the protagonist that none of his other friends do, she's frequently placed into She's Not My Girlfriend moments, she's one of the few love interests to actually kiss the player character and the climax of her story carries a lot of romantic undertones regardless of whether or not you actually pursue a romance with her.
  • Persona 4 Arena, being a sequel to both 3 and 4, quite notably adds some elements of this to two characters, one from each game:
    • From Persona 3, there's Elizabeth, whose driving goal in Arena is finding a way to slay Erebes so that the protagonist's soul can be restored, as he will no longer need to act as a seal against Nyx, and who has a notorious strongly-implied sexual encounter with the protagonist in Persona 3.
    • From Persona 4, Naoto Shirogane interacts with Yu Narukami in a number of ways that make a lot more sense if one assumed Yu pursued her romance path in Persona 4.
  • Yellow Thirteen and Yellow Four in Ace Combat 04. It's heavily implied after Yellow Four is shot down by you.
  • Beyond Good & Evil fans, thanks to the continued non-existence of the sequel to confirm or deny their theories, are still debating what Double H means to Jade. On one hand, he's extremely devoted to her, treats her with chivalrous kindness, and even gets to kiss her once. On Jade's side, she gets in a He Is Not My Boyfriend moment. One could interpret certain parts of the ending as him moving in with her. On the other hand, he's more than a decade her senior, and while they do grow very close, the lack of any real statements on the nature of their relationship (Battle Couple, or just Fire-Forged Friends?) will leave fans debating until the sequel actually (if ever) arrives.
  • Done very well in Cave Story, where the protagonist and his female counterpart Curly Brace are almost never seen in particularly romantic situations, but it's still clear that they care about each other in some way.
  • Liara T'Soni in Mass Effect. In Mass Effect 1 she was the only character who could be romanced by both genders, and by later games she gets upgraded to being "Shepard's closest companion" regardless of how you actually treated her in conversations. Most damning enough is that, before the extended cut of Mass Effect 3, she was always the player's final thoughts as Shepard dies unless they romanced Ashley or Kaidan. Regardless, it's a contentious subject amongst the Bioware fanbase.
  • Edge in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War is obsessed with Blaze (that's you, bub) and at the end she has a child. The obvious indication is Edge was with Blaze, assuming the player is male.
  • Fire Emblem
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series generally avoids the subject of romance, aside from Amy's unrequited crush on Sonic, but there have been implications between Knuckles the Echidna and Rouge the Bat, and Sonic and Blaze the Cat.
  • Ribbon from Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is the closest thing to a love interest in the Kirby series. If you get the good ending, which requires 100% Completion, Ribbon will give Kirby a kiss, making him blush. It depends on whether you interpret the kiss as a romantic one or just a simple "Thank you" kiss. This is probably why Ribbon is so popular despite only being in one game.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Aerith was drawn to Cloud, whom she was strongly implied to have feelings for due to the similarities to her previous boyfriend, Zacknote . Though the Lifestream Event and Word of God confirmed Tifa as his official love interest.
  • Final Fantasy X does this with Lulu and Wakka. She previously dated his brother Chappu who died in battle. Tidus simply suggests to her that she get with Wakka instead at one point. She does share a tender moment with him in the middle of the game but it's left vague. The sequel is two years later and they're suddenly married with a baby on the way.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 also gives Rikku one as well. A lot of the scenes with Gippal are optional and if you miss some of them, it's this trope. If you get all of them (for 100% Completion) then it results in a Maybe Ever After.
  • All of the player characters in Final Fantasy XII. Vaan and Penelo have grown up together and they're certainly quite close. They are implied to be together by the end of the game. Balthier and Fran have also been partners (as in sky pirates) for years and there are obvious signs of flirting - as well as a handful of tender moments between them. Ashe and Basch do have an interesting relationship and this line from Penelo "I know Ashe misses Basch" implies some kind of romantic connection.
  • Kasumi and Ryu Hayabusa in the Dead or Alive series. Ever since Dead or Alive 2 came out plenty of fans deemed them to be the Official Couple of the series due to their interactions in the game forgetting about Ryu's original Love Interest Irene Lew. (Back then Irene was basically all but forgotten about at the time, aside from a brief mention in the first game.) However after when Irene became an Ascended Extra in DOA Dimensions and Ninja Gaiden 3 she regains her position as Ryu's Love Interest.
  • Revan and Bastila in Knights of the Old Republic. So implied, Star Wars: The Old Republic went and canonized it.

    Western Animation 
  • Rai/Kim from Xiaolin Showdown is a very popular ship on FF.net, and while there are indications that they might like each other in the series (Rai dreaming about being on a date with Kim, Rai being the only one of the guys that Kim kisses on the cheek, the third season episode "Dreamstalker" confirming Rai's side), it is never outright stated whether Kimiko reciprocates or not.
  • On Fillmore!, Fillmore and Ingrid.
  • Did anyone ever watch Handy Manny and not assume he and Kelly had a thing for each other, despite no real evidence?
  • Raven and Beast Boy in Teen Titans, despite Word of God that the team (barring Robin and Starfire) view each other Like Brother and Sister. Bumblebee and Cyborg come at a close second.
  • Spongebob and Sandy from SpongeBob SquarePants. It's occasionally implied SpongeBob has a crush on her, but nothing has been confirmed.
  • Mac and Goo from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Admittedly Goo's first appearance was filled with She Is Not My Girlfriend and a few bits of Mac accidentally Ship Teasing himself with her, but throughout the rest of the series their relationship seems to be completely platonic. Though this dynamic could be justified by them being all of 8.
  • Adventure Time deconstructs this with Finn and Princess Bubblegum. Sure, Finn has a Precocious Crush on PB and he frequently rescues her, but she only thinks of him as a close friend at most. They come very close to confirming their ship when she is de-aged, but it's thoroughly nixed when she returns to her original age. One episode involved him singing a song about how confusing it was ("What am I to you? Am I a joke, your knight, or your brother?") that also includes his sentiment that it doesn't really matter as long as they are at least friends and get to hang out. He eventually gets over the romantic aspects when he meets Flame Princess, although he makes a few attempts to re-kindle something with PB after that relationship ends.
  • Aerrow and Piper on Storm Hawks are close friends and have several intimate moments throughout the series. Their relationship never goes into anything explicitly romantic, but you could hardly be faulted for assuming it was intended to be. Then again, they could just be Platonic Life Partners.
  • Fred and Daphne in the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! cartoon may very well be the Western Animation Ur Example. In the original series, none of the characters were romantically linked. The closest the series came to outright Ship Tease was occasionally having the pair dance together. This was enough for the general audience to assume they were couple. It's become so synonymous with the franchise that many many future adaptations have took the subtext and just ran with it.
  • Mulan and Captain Li Shang in Mulan. They blush around each other and Mulan asks the captain to stay for dinner, but no one outright says that they are a couple. Subverted in the 2nd Mulan movie when they get married.
  • Rudy and Penny of ChalkZone.
  • Steven Universe sets up a lot of romantic tropes around Steven and Connie, including Steven working up the courage to talk to her followed by a Crash into Hello, but it isn't clear whether or not their relationship itself is actually a romantic one or "merely" friendly.


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