It has always been a staple of stories to include a bit of romance. Stories are also generally fond of tying up the story so everything is neat at the end, except when they don't.
Point A plus point B put together means that any romance set up in the story will generally be resolved one way or another with characters either hooking up, breaking apart, dying or just walking away from the situation entirely.
But sometimes it doesn't work out like that. Sometimes the story sets up a romantic arc that never quite seems to get wrapped up completely
. There can be several reasons for this, of which the most well known is not wanting to upset the status quo
. Sometimes the author just wants to leave things open ended, or the author feels that resolving the romance would in some fundamental way work against the moral of the story they're trying to tell. The author just ''hints'' that the relationship may be forming.
The common point between all of these is that the romantic plot lines were temptingly laid out but never followed to their absolute confirmed conclusion.
Thus, there is No Romantic Resolution.
Supertrope of Maybe Ever After
, which implies a positive ending: the couple doesn't actually hook up but are extremely likely to.
Contrast Marry Them All
, where the romance is resolved but without choosing a single winner.
This is an ending trope. There are unmarked spoilers ahead.
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Anime and Manga
- Soul Eater has Maka and Soul, whose love interest is painfully obvious in the first episode. Heck, if you wear shipping goggles it's obvious in the opening credits. They are shown to be willing to die for each other, and Soul almost does, they actually go dancing in their heads (making them near Mindlink Mates), and Maka's dad continuously tries to keep them apart for fear that they may fall in love. At the beginning of the series, we worry that there will be no resolution because they were of opposite species, but the final episode reveals that Maka had been a human weapon all along. Do they get together? Nope. Not in canon, anyway.
- That's just the anime. The manga ends differently: In the final scene, Soul and Maka sit together and start talking about all that they have accomplished together, particularly in regard to their own characters. It seems like a classic Last Minute Hookup in the making, to the point that other members of the cast start to keep others away from Soul and Maka so that they can have their moment. Maka starts blushing profusely, but instead of going for the kiss 90% of the fandom was waiting for, she started shouting about bravery. The series ends on this note, without epilogue.
- In Ano Natsu De Matteru, while Kaito and Ichika are implied to be together at the end (as evidenced by her in the student film wearing a jacket his sister brought back with her on her trip), Mio and Tetsuro haven't seem to officially hook up yet. However, neither one of them seems to mind the status quo, and at the very least they're still hanging around with each other.
- Heaven's Lost Property: In the anime, Tomoki has sexual tension going on with all of the female cast members, particularly Sohara and Ikaros. He even goes on a date with Ikaros and Nymph, yet the series opts for the first option and doesn't ever come to a romantic resolution. The trope is even lampshaded when Mikako tries to hold a Shotgun Wedding and force him to pick one of the four candidates, only for the attempted wedding to be crashed by yet another girl (a little sister this time). Later, Sohara indicates that she really doesn't mind the status quo continuing for a while longer.
- In the Tokyo Mew Mew anime, Retasu's fate is left open-ended; while the guy that liked her went back to his home planet and the guy she likes is still around, there's no definitive love confession.
- Kyo Kara Maoh didn't provide any definite answers either, although if you want to ignore the Yaoi Guys aspect of it and just view it as a parody, that hardly matters. However, in this instance, Yuri's lack of a definite decision may be more to avoid the wrath of the fangirls than to avoid upsetting his harem...
- Code Geass ends without definite resolution on the part of Lelouch because he's probably dead.
- In the Mega Man Star Force anime, Luna and Harp Note at one point try to make MegaMan choose between them. In the original Japanese anime at least, Subaru (Geo) says "We're all just friends, right?" with which the girls are seemingly satisfied.
- To Heart 2: The Unwanted Harem is unresolved after thirteen episodes and four OVA episodes. Well, when you do have twelve women in your harem...
- Ranma ½ ends with none of Ranma's relationship issues being resolved in the slightest (with the implication that the situation is going to persist for quite some time). This is largely due to the author not knowing how to plausibly bring the situation to closure.
- Haruhi Suzumiya is currently in a Type 1 situation. All the girls explicitly and canonically want Kyon (though circumstances and Haruhi are keeping all the sexual tension unresolved for now), while Itsuki claims to be solely playing up the Ho Yay to keep Haruhi from warping him into actually being gay for Kyon (emphasis on "claims"). Also, there's a couple of yuri-laden sidebars in the harem (Haruhi/Mikuru and Yuki/Mikuru), just to complicate matters more. (Haruhi likes it complicated.)
- The anime for Trigun ends with Meryl waiting for Vash to return to her. She loves him, but it isn't entirely clear how he feels about her. Considering it would be a Mayfly-December Romance, it might be unlikely.
- It's implied that Vash sees Meryl as sort of an inspiration for him in the next to last episode. Sort of like a new Rem? Make of that what you will. So odds are even if he doesn't exactly return it, he definitely wants and needs her in his life.
- The manga is even more clear on their relationship. It is much clearer that Vash has some sort of feelings for Meryl all throughout the series, and especially as they kiss their knuckles and press them together (a kiss without touching lips) before Vash fights Knives. Then again when Vash makes his first ever promise to return to Meryl, and asks her to wait for him before he leaves to finish with Knives. Unfortunately the ending is left hanging with no further hints of romance but a Mayfly-December Romance would be less likely in the manga due to Vash apparently losing all of his Plant powers by the end. This may or may not mean he would age normally which could be why he would consider a relationship with her.
- The anime version of Kuragehime.
- Gundam 00 concludes without ever resolving Feldt's unrequited feeling for Setsuna. Which is especially odd considering how strongly the movie seemed to focus on it. The director claims he was trying to make yet another point about the difficulties of communication with that, basically that Setsuna still had big-time intimacy issues, and did not know how to properly convey his feelings (whatever they were) for Feldt. Even his accepting a hug from her prior to the final battle was a massive step forward for him.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! ends up this way for the protagonist, with the last chapter ending with nothing for him but Ship Tease and sunken ships for the three most popular contenders: Asuna, Nodoka and Yue. It's implied lightly that he hasn't settled down with anyone as of yet judging by the behavior of Makie and some of the other girls. The ending does confirm that he has feelings for someone. It just doesn't say who. Although Asuna, and following the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, Misora, who previously posed as the priest during Negi's time in the church confessional, was very surprised to hear who it was...
- Irresponsible Captain Tylor: The titular captain is a bumbling Chick Magnet with an array of love interests, with the most prominent being the android-spy Harumi and the young empress Azalyn. Nothing happens, however.
- The series was originally made as being anti-romance, but the anime adaptation (and later manga adaptations for that matter) of Slayers bring out romance anyway. What was thought to have been a romantic ending came about at the end of the second anime season: Gourry and Lina kiss in another dimension where the former saves her from the Lord of Nightmares, but when they return to the world below, they don't remember it. The final light novel also teases at the idea of romance when Gourry asks to accompany Lina to her homeland, but it's still ambiguous. There's also the Ship Tease between Zelgadis and Amelia, which was mostly left hanging when the new anime seasons were released.
- None of the girls in Infinite Stratos get to hook up with Ichika at the end of the anime, although Houki comes close twice, once at the end of episode 12 (which is ruined by the other 4 pissed off girls), and once again in the second half of the OVA (she confesses, but its muted out by some fireworks that go off at the same time, so he doesn't hear it, and is distracted by them). This, however, is a result of Infinite Stratos being an ongoing light novel, which the anime only showed a portion of. A second anime series is in production.
- Ghost in the Shell has a particularly painful example— despite increasingly heavy hints towards Batou and the Major having feelings for one another by the end of Solid State Society, no real conclusion is ever reached. The theatrical movies fare no better, with even more romantic subtext but no chance whatsoever of things ever ending happily for them.
- In the first season of Rinne no Lagrange, there are numerous hints that Lan gradually triumphs over Muginami when it comes to winning Madoka's affections. In the second season this appears to be reset though, and Madoka seems to like both girls equally. Despite lots of subtext (which even involves kissing), it never becomes quite clear whether the girls are merely friends or perhaps more.
- Runaways was apparently supposed to end with Chase being reunited with Gert, but the series was abruptly cancelled halfway through the last arc, so instead, he runs into a girl who may or may not be Gert, then gets hit by a car while chasing after her.
- Robin McKinley's Sunshine ends with the heroine showing romantic interest in both her long-term boyfriend and her new vampire love interest. There's really no clue which she'll pick.
Live Action TV
- While it wasn't the end of the entire series, Goren and Eames leaving Law & Order: Criminal Intent after the later takes a promotion and keeps it just long enough to protect the former from going through a lengthy trial (which will lead to him being sacked in disgrace) by firing him is played like this (Word of God says it was left open so the Broken Base can just pick the one they prefer).
- At the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's TV run Buffy is left without a resolved love interest. She is a cookie that is not done baking.
- My Name Is Earl had the Randy/Catalina Unrequited Love Switcheroo never play out to a conclusion despite teasing it.
- Firefly: While Kaylee and Simon finally get together in the Big Damn Movie, Serenity, the UST between Mal and Inara remains unresolved. Though she does say she wants to stay on the ship. For those two, even admitting they actually want to be around each other is a huge step forward in the relationship.
- Power Rangers Dino Thunder: An attraction was hinted at between Kira and Trent in the first half of the series, but nothing ever came of it.
- Happy Endings hinted very strongly at Penny's attraction to Dave but then Dave and Alex got back together (and broke up again) and the show ended without it ever coming to anything.
- The Replacement Killers has this pretty heavy, but it is due to a high degree to American audiences not really accepting an Asian romantic lead (Not even Chow Yun Fat). Sadly, this doesn't seem to have changed much even in 2012.
- The Woods has this, Heather and Marcy far from getting a romantic resolution, receive no relationship resolution at all; not even a hug or a verbal acknowledgement of the others' existence.
- Subverted in The Best Years of Our Lives. The romance between Fred and Peggy brews and brews and brews for much of the entire 172-minute film (almost three whole hours), only coming to a resolution with 45 SECONDS LEFT and the credits rolling.... Absolutely gut-wrenching to a first-time viewer.
- The ending of MirrorMask shows Valentine's counterpart in the mundane world is indeed real and has him enter Helena's life, but what their relationship will be or if he knows anything about the other world is totally up for grabs.
- Primal Fear seems to be setting up the defence lawyer with the prosecutor, and they do have romantic history, but they don't work it out by the end.
- In Snow White & the Huntsman, Snow White has chemistry with both The Huntsman and William, the character closest to the Prince role and they both kiss her at some point. She does kiss William, but it turns out to be Ravenna in disguise, and it is not clear from the ending whether she will end up with either of them.
- Green Hornet ends with the titular character having thoroughly alienated his potential love interest.
- The written text of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure contains no answer from Isabella in response to the Duke's proposal of marriage. Many theater companies choose to play this as a Maybe Ever After, but that's their own interpretation of the ending; other theater companies imply that she turns him down.
- All of the romances from Knights of the Old Republic 2. There are plenty of hints and other showings but the romances never really get off the ground. This is due to LucasArts's insistence on a very short deadline resulting in a lot of content getting cut. There is, however, cut content scripts and mods putting that content back in that affirms romances but regardless leaves romance impossible as the Exile leaves forever at the end of the game.
- In one route of Blaze Union, the Nessiah/Garlot/Siskier/Jenon love quadrangle winds up on hold when the issues that have been plaguing Aegina boil over and she takes center stage. (The other two routes, however, do each have some form of resolution.)
- Ace Attorney never tells us whether or not Phoenix and Maya end up as a couple after the Phoenix Arc. Or Phoenix and Iris, for that matter, though the fact that she's in jail for an unspecified amount of time probably doesn't help things...
- The Love Triangle between Vyse and his two female companions, Aika and Fina of Skies of Arcadia is never resolved, although some cutscenes late in the game hint that he has feelings for Fina.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni does not resolve the Rena/Mion/Keiichi love triangle. Rena has more subtext, Mion has more text text and the story opts to maintain the idea of friendship being most important. This means that Keiichi is still oblivious. However, while the VN doesn't advance anything, Word of God in an interview confirms that Keiichi and Mion will eventually become a thing.
- In Shikkoku No Sharnoth, the relationship between M and Mary does not evolve into a romance despite some hints. Whether M is even still alive is debatable until the webnovel continuation which clarifies that, but doesn't really resolve anything in regards to the relationship.
- Little Busters has this in the Refrain route, unlocked after every other route has been completed. While up until this point the story has been leaning towards primary heroine Rin and nearly makes her the canon heroine even in Refrain, at the end the situation is actually left ambiguous with Rin asking Riki which, if any, of the girls he actually likes. She doesn't get an answer. Which is good, since in Little Busters EX one of the new routes takes place after the end of Refrain.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes:
- Ant-Man and The Wasp loved each other, but could not actually pursue a romantic relationship during the first season due to his inability to admit his feelings. When Ant-Man found his pacifist beliefs in conflict with the other Avengers' violent behavior, he decided to quit the team, but Wasp did not follow his lead. Ant-Man eventually becomes an Avenger again, after assuming the crimefighting identity of Yellowjacket. His Split Personality seems to again hinder his and Wasp's chances of becoming a couple, but the viewers never find out if the two got over this obstacle, since they fall Out of Focus.
- Hawkeye gets implied early on to have a crush on Black Widow, who teamed up with him on several SHIELD missions. Although Widow soon lands Hawkeye in jail to prevent him from interfering with her infiltration of HYDRA, she eventually manages to make amends with him. However, Widow declines Hawkeye's offer to join the Avengers, and instead kisses him goodbye before running off to see if Nick Fury needs help with another secret mission. When she and the Avengers team up again in the Grand Finale, she and Hawkeye don't have an onscreen conversation with each other.
- The episode where The Mighty Thor meets Beta Ray Bill ends with Lady Sif implying to Thor that she has at least started to develop romantic feelings for Bill, comparing her admiration of Bill's courage and devotion to his fellow Korbinites to that Thor feels for Dr. Jane Foster's courage and devotion to her fellow Midgardians. This pairing never gets brought up again, because the arc containing this episode becomes an Aborted Arc.