You know the drill. "A love so strong it conquered time!"(and took no prisoners!)
Two people love each other so deeply, and are tied by the Red String of Fate so closely, that they will meet and fall in love every time they reincarnate, lifetime after lifetime.
This is a very old trope. It is common in Shōjo (Demographic) stories and Eastern romance, where belief in reincarnation is more prevalent. This is sometimes used in Western stories to give Star-Crossed Lovers a second, more successful go after things go south in the story, an alternative to Together in Death for making a Downer Ending into the good kind of ambiguous ending.
It can get interesting if the genders reverse, or only one of theirs does. Infidelity is usually a complete non-issue; their love is so strong they may not even date at all until they meet their eternal better half... unless their reincarnating romance also tends to fall into the same bad habits. Things can get wonky if one of them is or becomes immortal: they end up having to wait decades orcenturies for their loved one to return in a strange form of Mayfly-December Romance. Only very rarely will one or the other honestly fall in love with a third person.
Even more complications arise if one of the two has been brought Back from the Dead via a Resurrected Romance, rather than through reincarnation.
Compare Amnesiac Lover. See also Eternal Love, which describes a different kind of very long-term relationship. When handled badly, this can very easily turn into Strangled by the Red String.
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Anime and Manga
Shirley Fenette in Code Geass invokes this image as she dies. There is no indication, however, that there is such thing as reincarnation in the setting, but since there are From a Single Cell-type immortals, it is nonetheless possible. To clarify, this had to do with a series of memory wipes—but the couple always ended up drawn together.
Of course... this is also only vaguely suggested to be reciprocated. Lelouch's behaviour doesn't seem to suggest that he cares for her in a particularly romantic fashion. He does care... but more in the sense that he wants her to be happy with someone else, thanks to their past history and stuff. Neither does the amnesiac Shirley. It's only when she regains the memory of loving Lelouch that she starts to love Lelouch again.
Deconstructed in Inuyasha, which includes a soap-opera grade Love Triangle between the title character, his first love, and her reincarnation - and it brings trouble to the three of them. Bonus for doubling as Resurrected Romance.
So of course now this trope is abused by fanfic writers. Hojo is very much not like the title character, but the dramatic irony was fun to play with before EVERYONE did it.
Played straight: Usagi and Mamoru, as well as Haruka and Michiru.
Played strange: in his previous life, Adonis was in love with the previous life of Sailor Venus, and so is in this, but where she does fall for him in this in the previous one Venus apparently didn't even know he existed (so Adonis claims), or at least that he loved her (implied by Artemis recognizing him).
Averted: in the manga, Sailor Venus and Kunzite used to be lovers in their previous life (hence why Venus didn't know Adonis loved her: he had seen that and decided to not interfere), but in this one they have little to no relationship and Venus kills Kunzite.
The novelizations of the American dub, that mix it with the manga continuity, provides a justification for all this: people who have had a relationship with each other in a life are naturally drawn to each other in the next and feel an echo of whatever feeling they had, but what happens next is up to them. Hence Usagi and Mamoru feeling drawn to each other but taking a while to actually fall in love due the Meet Cute, Haruka and Michiru actively avoiding falling in love for a while because it would be a distraction, the Sailor Senshi and the Shitennou meeting their respective groups, and the whole kerfluffle with Sailor Venus' love life.
Played with and possibly deconstructed in Genesis of Aquarion. Silvia is supposedly the reincarnation of Celiane, and she believes that the reincarnation of her lover, Apollonius, isn't the protagonist Apollo but rather her brother, Sirius. Much drama is milked from the trope until it's finally revealed that Sirius and Silvia are both the reincarnated halves of Celiane's soul, and Apollo is indeed her/their lover. Sirius reacts exactly as you would expect.
Aquarion Evol, thought it ALSO plays with it as well. Amata and Mikono are, indeed, the reincarnations of Apollo and Silvia. Except Kagura is also Apollo's reincarnation... and Apollo was never Apollonius' reincarnation to begin with.
If you get past the trans-dimensional science / magic amalgamation, this may or may not be what set off the plot of Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai.
Yukito and Misuzu in AIR are reincarnations of Ryuuya and Kanna, although their romantic relationship isn't overtly focused on. Yukito is also the descendant of Ryuuya and Uraha, their family line being dedicated to save the reincarnations of Kanna. It's also implied that after Misuzu's death and Yukito becoming a crow, that they were reincarnated again as the boy and the girl on the beach at the end.
Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Juudai and Yubel. Juudai swore in his first life to love him... her... ah, them forever, and not only did they hold him to it, but he held himself to it... once he got around to remembering he'd made the promise in the first place. It's iffy if pure romantic love was what he meant when he said he'd love only them, but that's definitely how they took it.
Considering he used the word "ai", which is effectively the strongest word the Japanese use for love, yeah, that's what he meant. It's also what Echo used for Amon and no one argues that she loves him.
Spoofed in Rinne, as all bets are off as to what you're going to reincarnate into. A centuries-dead soldier, unable to go on, haunts the girl whom he believes to be his reincarnated love and it turns out she was actually a turtle in her past life. His love actually reincarnated into a male gym leader. The soldier has no problem crossing over after that revelation.
Variation in Stray Little Devil. It's directly stated that the main character is the reincarnation of the devil king that her grandmother met and fell in love with. It's not explicitly said they were lovers and that the main character is in fact her own grandfather; but the angel she falls in love with is the reincarnation of the Devil King's rival; the Angel Queen.
Invoked and then avoided in Ikki TousenGreat Guardians. Chuubou is the reincarnation of Koukin's wife, and she actually confronts him about it and says she likes him that way too. However he is already in love with Hakufu, the girl who's the reincanation of The Hero (and his cousin), so he gently but clearly tells Chuubou to not let her past life rule her love life. She immediately says "I Want My Beloved to Be Happy" and backs off.
Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE favours both variants of the trope. Many alternate-universe characters retain the relationships they shared in their source series, with examples of both romantic and platonic relationships recurring in different dimensions and alternate continuities. Later on, the clones of Sakura and Syaoran are reincarnated together and marry.
Once an angel falls in love with someone in Wish, it's forever. And angels are immortal. It is ultimately revealed that God's edict for angels not to fall in love with humans is an act of kindness for this reason. Nevertheless, the main couple (an angel and a human doctor) do fall for each other, so God has to arrange for the angel to sleep inbetween their lover's reincarnation cycle, bound to a tree in the boyfriend's household.
At the end of Kobato., the title character reincarnates and is reunited with her beloved Fujimoto.
Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru has Luka and Yuki, complicated by the fact that as a Duras (basically a high-level demon) is immortal and must wait a long time for Yuki to be reincarnated. When Yuki is reborn, it's as a man instead of a woman - which doesn't seem to faze Luka in the slightest, but Yuki is also reborn without any memories of his past life, including Luka.
Actually, there wasn't much of a history. A somewhat better example would be Lucifer and Alexiel, although it is only the latter who constantly gets reincarnated, while the former stands by her side as an amnesiacEmpathic Weapon.
Possibly Alma and Kanda of D.Gray-Man. Alma is now a male akuma created from Kanda's girlfriend from his previous life.
Ultimately averted with France and Joan of Arc in Axis Powers Hetalia. He meets a young girl named Lisa who is all but stated to be his old friend Joan's reincarnation, but he treats her more like an old True Companion who has just come back home after a long time, rather than a prospect girlfriend.
Flowers of Evil: the manga starts off with the story of two lovers who are reincarnated as twins. This is what the twin protagonists like to believe has happened to them.
In the ending of part 6 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Jolyne and Anasui are finally happily together after the universe ended and restarted. They're completely different people and they don't remember each other, though their characters are still fairly similar.
Implied in the ending of Angel Beats!, between Otonashi and Kanade.
In Fantastic Children Grecian scientists try to invoke this to make it impossible for Tina’s Evil Uncle to use her body as a weapon. They are interrupted before the process is completed and only one of the lovers gets send to Earth’s Zone to be reborn. She comes back two times, subconsciously waiting for her lost love. Her third incarnation , Helga, regains her memories and still decides to wait for Soren. In a strange twist, the one who is reborn on the Earth is Seth, her former fiancé, even through this reincarnation was completely unintentional. He doesn’t get a girl. This is hinted that Tina finally is reunited with Soren during her life as Helga.
Played with in Bokura no Kiseki. Harusumi is the reincarnation of a princess, Veronica. His girlfriend Takao is the reincarnation of a female knight who was his primary bodyguard in their previous lives. After she remembers this, things get complicated. All Harusumi wants is for her to stop treating him like royalty and for their relationship to return to how it was; Takao, on the other hand, is convinced that Harusumi is really yearning to meet the reincarnation of Veronica's Love Interest, Glen, and that when Glen's reincarnation finally appears, she'll lose Harusumi.
Inverted by the two main characters, Fuuta and Kouko, who are fated to hate each other in each of their incarnation, and in most lives, one of them dies by the other's hand. In the current life, however, Fuuta doesn't bear any hatred towards Kouko, and is trying to solve their feud, while Kouko still hates him.
More like Reincarnation Friendship, in case of Fuuta's group of friends. Their roles vary in each incarnation, but they all always have a good relationship with Fuuta's incarnation. Sometimes other characters also gets included in the fray, although not always. The cause is explicitly stated to be because bonds endure even after death.
Schizophrenia has Raven and Beast Boy knowing each other in ALL of their past lives (because they had quite a few). Granted, they weren't romantically involved in any of them, but Raven's subconscious explains that they were slowly growing closer with each passing lifetime.
This happens a lot in Zutara fanfics, often the two are meant to be the reincarnations of Oma and Shu. It can be seen clearly in this fic
Deconstructed in White Devil of the Moon. Nanoha, who in this fic is the reincarnation of Princess Serenity, is a completely different person, to the point of despising her past self as irresponsible and selfish, especially with regards to her romance with Endymion. Nanoha, as a result, has nothing in common with Mamoru, resulting in their "date" going poorly and ending up with Fate after completely rejecting her past life. The author touches on this in an author's note.
In Sailor Moon, it is implied that because the Earth Prince and Moon Princess were lovers in their previous lives, they are destined to be lovers again in their current ones. I don't find that plausible. I find the interpretation presented in the Deverry novels by Katherine Kerr to be more likely. In those stories, two people with a strong connection to each other (positive or negative) in one life will be inclined to similar feelings if they meet in another life, but they aren't bound to it. Reincarnated lovers will be inclined to like each other when they meet, making it easier for them to become lovers again, and reincarnated enemies will be inclined to dislike each other, making it easier for them to find a new reason to fight in the current life, but these are not set in stone. Reincarnated enemies can resolve their differences. Reincarnated lovers can end up parting ways. One's previous lives might influence the person they become, but it doesn't define them absolutely. Nanoha is not Princess Serenity. Mamoru is not Prince Endymion.
Several Ranma/Sailor Moon crossovers have Ranma being the reincarnation of an extra Senshi, or Queen Serenity herself. Inevitably she was also the lover of one of the other Senshi; Pluto more often than not.
Happens in some Les Misérables fic that is set in the 20th or 21st century. Oftentimes the younger characters, namely Marius, Cosette, Eponine, Enjolras, Gavroche, and the rest of the Amis del'ABC are reincarnated as students in any given major city. Some may dream or remember the barricade of 1832. Often these fics still use the love triangle with Marius, Cosette, and Eponine, but resolve the situation by having Eponine end up with Enjolras this time around.
Souls Reborn plays with this — the official pairings for the Konoha 12 and the Suna Sibs before their deaths at the hands of Orochimaru were confirmed to be the standard four: NaruHina, SasuSaku, ShikaTema, and NejiTen. Their One Piece incarnations subvert this: Luffy is celibate, Kaya is in love with Usopp (Kiba's reincarnation), and neither Nami nor Ace have any attraction to each other. On the other hand, some are implied to be played straight, Zoro and Tashigi having massive amounts of Belligerent Sexual Tension, and Kohza and Vivi are Childhood Friends who are heavily implied to have feelings for each other.
The two strangers passed by each other once more, and the man couldn't help but wonder if it was fate.
In a Homestuck character blog, this was Feferi's answer when asked; "What do you do in the dreambubbles?" note The narration below is interspersed with a scene of her meeting Eridan in a different life, and agreeing to go on a date with him.
It's wonderful! We don't have to be afraid of death anymore. We can build new worlds! New lives... Together, we can all be together again. Meet again. Learn from our mistakes- or make new ones. But that doesn't matter. Mistakes are part of life.
Discussed in The Student Prince: Merlin wonders if Arthur, Gwen and Lance are destined to have the same Triang Relations as their mythological counterparts. It's averted, of course, since this is an Arthur/Merlin fic - unless you assume that their previous incarnations were also in love with each other.
Used in the Fan FicDo You Remember Love, in an interesting way. The fic states when using the Shadow Clone Jutsu, your soul is cloned and then stored. When your current soul dies, one of your cloned soul is reincarnated into an alternative universe at the time when the cloned soul was made. As Naruto spammed that Jutsu, he has lived 300 thousand years already and he just got past the first chapter of the manga. Every cycle, he marries that universe Sakura. One Sakura after learning of Naruto's past decides to learn the Shadow Clone Jutsu and keep reincarnating with him.
In the Good OmensFan FicFrom the Top (say your lines once more), this is Subverted in a lot of interesting ways. The main couple, Aziraphale and Crowley, will reincarnate as different genders, ages, races, nationalities, and species; Crowley remembers but Aziraphale does not; and often Aziraphale will die or marry someone else before Crowley can reach him.
Neo and Smith in Bringing Me To Life, after he dies Neo's reincarnated as Max Jameson who starts falling in love with Smith, even before finding out that he's a reincarnation.
Hawkman and Hawkgirl are reincarnated Egyptian nobles who were murdered but found each other again in modern times.
In fact, thanks to an Nth Metal dagger, they are both cursed to meet, fall in love, and die tragically in each life.
A graphic novel about the history of The Troubles gave this a nasty twist; Two Star-Crossed Lovers from warring Celtic tribes are cursed to forever be reincarnated on opposite sides of whatever the current conflict is, until Ireland is at peace.
This is the basic plot of Dead Again, complete with sex-reversal. Roman and Margaret reincarnating and finding each other again, only the fact that a murder separated their last lives causes the reincarnation to go a little off until they discover the truth. Plus, there's a jewelry MacGuffin that facilitates them becoming a Reincarnating Romance.
In the film Made In Heaven, there is a Reincarnation/Incarnation Romance. After the male lead Mike (Timothy Hutton) dies in a Heroic Sacrifice, he goes to Heaven and meets his One True Love: Annie (Kelly McGillis), a newborn female soul yet to be conceived on Earth. They fall in love and get married, but Annie is sent to incarnate for her first time on Earth; Mike chooses to reincarnate to find her, and is given 30 years to do so. They find each other just as the deal is about to expire.
In Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation of Dracula, a Reincarnation Romance subplot was added, between the title character and Mina Harker nee Murray.
Dan "Dark Shadows" Curtis beat Coppola to it with his 1974 TV movie version of Dracula starring Jack Palance.
They did this same thing in What Dreams May Come. He loves her so much, he's able to pull her out of Hell, something thought to be impossible, and they live together in heaven until they decide to reincarnate, and find each other again as children.
In an alternate ending for the movie (included on the DVD/BluRay release), their reincarnation is forced upon them as a kind of "atonement" for her condemnation to Hell. They both know going into it, however, that they're destined to meet and fall in love again — they even know the age they'll be when they die this next time around.
In Fright Night the vampire Jerry Dandrige believes that Amy Peterson is the reincarnation of a woman he loved long ago (mainly because Amy exactly resembles her, as shown by the woman's portrait). The movie doesn't make it clear whether he's correct or not, but the fact that he dies at the end indicates he was wrong.
African Prince Manuwalde, better known as Blacula, lives long enough to see his deceased wife Tuva reincarnated in the contemporary world as Tina.
In Embrace of the Vampire, the title character finds a woman who has the soul of a woman he loved centuries earlier and tries to turn her into a vampire. He also fails.
At the end of the Korean film The King and the Clown, right before the main characters commit suicide, it is strongly implied that they will be reborn and meet again in the next life.
Happens one-sidedly in Soultaker, a Mystery Science Theater 3000-victim movie from the 90s. The villain, one of the titular Soultakers, believes that the female lead (played by the screenwriter) is the reincarnation of his lover from the Old West - and whose betrayal is the reason he's a Soultaker in the first place. Rather than claiming her soul like he's supposed to, he tries to win her over, which doesn't work out too well.
In the Steven Chow movie A Chinese Odyssey, part of the hell sequence includes an aside where a man has been Star-Crossed Lovers with the same woman and dying because of the romance over several lifetimes.
Subverted in Chances Are. The husband Louie, dies, but concocts a way to be reborn instantly. Unfortunately, the hasty reincarnation means that his reincarnation, Alex, will still have all memories of Louie's life. 23 years after Louie's death, the memories come crashing down on Alex just as he begins a romance with Louie's daughter Miranda. He naturally cuts it off in favor of the mother/widow Corrine, much to the chagrin of Louie's best friend Phillip, who has loved Corrine this whole time and has helped her raise Miranda. Hilarity Ensues. However, Louie realizes that he's had his time with Corrine, and her clinging to his memory is stopping her from having a relationship with Phillip. Alex is accidentally knocked unconscious and during that time the angel that didn't get a chance to remove Louie's memories between his death and reincarnation catches up with Alex, performing the removal. When Alex wakes up, the last thing he remembers is kissing Miranda (which was literally right before Louie's memories emerged). He and Miranda get back together and Corrine and Phillip get together. Strangely, Corrine and Phillip know that Alex is Louie reincarnated, but are still cool with Alex and Miranda (who doesn't know) being together.
Hinted at in We Are the Night. When Louise talks about her own sire, she states that she was looking for someone with the same glint in her eyes, hinting at the wish to find a reincarnation of her former companion.
In The Fallen Ones (2006), the Big Bad, an evil Fallen Angel, declares the female lead to be the reincarnation of his lover. It is heavily implied that he's right, but she rejects him before he's defeated.
Trevor and Aeon in Ćon Flux, via cloning rather than mysticism.
Was used throughout movie version of Cloud Atlas (even more than in the book, where reincarnation is only implied), especially considering how many different roles each actor played, some of which meet in several of the 6 stories and fall in love. To list them all:
Jim Sturgess and Bae Doona play Hae-Joo Chang and Somni-451, whose romance ends in death, but Somni is confident they'll meet another lifetime. Immediately after she says this, it cuts to a previous life where they are married.
Tom Hanks and Halle Berry play Isaac Sachs and Luisa Rey - Isaac dies but Luisa doesn't. In the next life, Dermot Hoggins (Hanks) flirts with an Indian woman (Berry), and the two of them reincarnate as Zachry and Meronym two lives later (with them never meeting in the story inbetween), who get married and have children.
Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent play Robert Frobisher and Vyvyan Ayrs, with the former flirting with the latter and the latter rejecting it. Although they don't meet in the next lifetime, they do in the one after, as Georgette and Timothy Cavendish, who have an affair.
There are aversions as well, however; Robert Frobisher and Rufus Sixsmith never meet again, nor do Timothy Cavendish and Ursula, and nor do Vyvyan Ayrs and his wife Jocasta (although the latter two are both Prescients in the sixth story). And yes, in case you haven't seen it, there are a lot of Love Triangles in the film.
Highlander III: The Sorcerer. During his time in 18th century France, Connor was in love with an English woman named Sarah. She is reincarnated into Alex Johnson, who becomes his love interest in the present.
Kind of the central premise of Katherine Kerr's Deverry series. Only the point is to break the cycle. 'Cuz the lovers tend to mess up a lot along the way.
Interestingly, of the original Love Triangle, the man who originally won then lost the girl is the one who is not reincarnated but becomes immortal but not unaging, and so is too old for the girl each time she reincarnates (and repeatedly falls in love with his rival). Once the cycle is finally broken, both he and she die of old age and are now reincarnated and Happily Married. It's the other guy who's now unnaturally long-lived...
And there's the girl's brother who keeps getting reincarnated. Who also deeply loved her.
Done and mixed with Rape Is Love on Laura Esquivel's Law of Love. Apparently, if a guy brutally rapes you and keeps you as his Sex Slave, it means that he's your soulmate.
Peter David played with Arthur and Guinivere being this sort of love in Knight Life Series. When Arthur turns up in present-day New York, he finds a woman named Gwen Devere Queen. You can pretty much guess what happens from there, including her rat of a boyfriend Lance (soon to be a literal rat).
Birgitte Trahelion and Gaidal Cain in The Wheel of Time. Lanfear and Rand are an interesting aversion, as well. Rand is the reincarnation of the long-dead Lews Therin Telamon, who once had a relationship with Lanfear. She sincerely believes in their Reincarnation Romance despite the fact that she, in fact, is immortal and thus never actually reincarnated. He sincerely wishes that this crazy bitch would go away and stop calling him by someone else's name.
Though, if- as seems possible- Elayne is a reincarnation of Ilyena, this trope applies to them and technically Lews Therin had similar feelings towards Mirien when he was alive as Rand does to Lanfear, so this trope might apply to them too.
In Avalon High, there are elements of this. The characters are reincarnations of those from Arthurian legend, so the romances in Arthur legend apply to their reincarnations.
Creepy version from the Sammy Keyes series: Sammy's mom, an actress, gets a fake ID so she can claim to be younger. Unfortunately, her new birthdate is the day her boss's wife died, and he not only thinks she's a reincarnation of his wife, he's ready to kill them both to facilitate a Reincarnation Romance.
The novel Time and Time Again features this, with the added bonus that (a) the guy remembers all of his past lives while the girl does not, and (b) he murdered her in a past life. And can't get over it.
The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson: the romance that drives the plot, sending the narrator on a quest across the Mordor-like far future wasteland, is one of these, over a time span long enough for the earth to stop rotating and the sun and every star in the universe to die
There is a teen fiction novel by Suzanne Weyn aptly named Reincarnation. The two main characters are reincarnated (along with their two friends/enemies) over and over until they finally get it right in the modern world.
Done beautifully, mainly because she writes every single one of the couples' lives as though they were short stories. Of course there are gender and racial flips, they don't even die at the same time. One of the characters met the other as an old man as he had died, as a man, in WW2. It is really amazing.
Tom Holt's You Don't Have To Be Evil To Work Here, But It Helps features a spin on this in which every reincarnation ends up with Star-Crossed Lovers.
Spider Robinson used this in a short story about what happens when you combine reincarnation with cryogenics (with some Wife Husbandry mixed in).
This applies to almost everyone in Memory by Linda Nagata. Each person is bound to one and only one person, who they must track down again and again after each death and reincarnation. When members of such relationships meet up, the physical attraction is so strong that they're forced to love each other. For complicated reasons, the main character has two partners, one of them an imperfect match. Her brother, who had no past lives and will apparently never reincarnate, probably doesn't have any partner, and the same goes for anyone whose partner is Deader than Dead.
In the Heralds of Valdemar, Stefan turns out to be the reincarnation of Tylendel, who died tragically when both he and his lover Vanyel Ashkevron were in their teens. Several decades later, the reincarnation successfully courts the semi-legendary Herald-Mage Vanyel when the latter is around forty. They are finally united permanently, as ghosts.
Notably, in the series, lifebonds are sometimes known to last beyond death, and the Gods' penchant for reincarnating people all over the place means that this sort of situation pops up every now and then. The above example is heavily implied to be purposeful meddling on the part of the gods to ensure that Vanyel would stay alive and something resembling emotionally stable long enough to save Valdemar from an otherwise unstoppable magical threat.
Traci Harding has done this to death. Every. Single. Book.
The Night World has this halfway. Vampires who are soulmates with a human tend to find that their soulmate is an "Old Soul", a person who reincarnates. In the case of Thierry and his soulmate, this is confirmed, and in the case of Ash and Mary-Lynette, we just get the implication, as he notes that both Mary-Lynette and another old soul have the same look of age in their eyes, and then walks off happily. In theory, there is probably at least one pair of two old souls, but the readers aren't shown any. This is slightly different than their The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle novel counterparts.
In Alyson Noel's Immortals series, Ever falls in love with Damen everytime she reincarnates. Justified in that Damen, being immortal, actually seeks out each of her new incarnations.
Subverted in The Mists of Avalon: Viviane and Uther would have been that kind of lovers, but they didn't meet until it was way too late, and didn't like each other much. They were however lovers in a previous incarnation. ... also, Uther and Igraine (Viviane's younger sister) were also lovers in a previous lifetime, and this allows their relationship to take an upgrade after a very short time. Uther-in-his-previous-lifetimes got around.
So the gods changed them into an ironing board and a small brass bollard, respectively.
They were also born on different continents. It's a testament to the power of their love (which never happened) that people still remember...er, speak of it.
Played straight in Christopher Pike's The Midnight Club.
The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller combines this with a Conspiracy Thriller plot (which is smashing) and with a mystery involving the main character being murdered in her last life (which tips its hand a little bit too much).
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter, Maria, Eramus's first wife tried to invoke this with her immortal husband. Unfortunately, he was so caught up in The Mourning After that he was always cruel to her until she no longer wanted to deal with him.
The Allan Quatermain novels Ancient Allan and Allan And The Ice Gods reveal that Allan and Luna, Lady Ragnall were previously Count Shabaka and Princess Amada in Ancient Egypt, and Wi and Laleela in One Million BC. Interestingly, Quatermain and Lady Ragnall don't have a relationship in the present day; in fact Allan finds his vision of Shabaka and Amada so awkward that he avoids meeting her again.
In J. R. R. Tolkien's world, this is the norm for elves. They are immortal within the lifespan of the world, and their souls are designed to stay alive, in bodies, forever. Being a devout Catholic, Tolkien considered marriage to be "for life" and when your life is meant to last for all time, death is unnatural and doesn't interrupt marriage. As described in "Laws and Customs of the Eldar", elves generally get reincarnated with full memories if they die, and previously married ones inevitably feel drawn to their spouse. Refusing reincarnation and remarriage is a big deal and can cause serious problems.
Done in Midnight Bayou, with Declan and Lena, who were Lena's great-grandparents a few generations back. Though they are surprised to find out that Declan was Lena's great-grandmother rather than great-grandfather.
In Dorothy Gilman's The Clairvoyant Countess, Joe Painter's song is about a tragic example, prophecied to end in tragedy three times before they get their happy ending. A fortune-teller tells the man in question that their current incarnation is a tragic one.
Wolves of the Beyond has Fengo and Stormfast, who eventually get reincarnated as main characters Faolan and Edme respectively. Strangely, they took different numbers of reincarnations to get there.
Shecodifies this trope and plays it for horror. The titular character, Ayesha, is an egotistical, psychopathic Yandere who murdered her lover in a jealous fit, then became immortal so she could wait for him to be reborn. Unfortunately, he did not remember her (it's left ambiguous whether this trope was really occurring, or it was all in Ayesha's head) and hooked up with someone else. Ayesha...was not pleased.
A reciprocal example is Lenobia and Martin. They met as teenagers in 1788 note As detailed in the prequel Lenobia's Vow, but Martin died soon after Lenobia was Marked as a vampire fledging. Around 200 years later, he was reborn.
In The Participants by Brian Blose, Hess and Elza meet at the end of the first world and then spend the next 144 worlds finding one another to continue their relationship. This is complicated when Hess suppresses his memories following torture.
Saul and Ellen in Battlestar Galactica. Twist: they're passionately in love but also bad influences on each other! Their equivalent of foreplay is borderline spousal abuse. She induces him to alcoholism and his presence tends to bring her manipulative and ambitious sides out. The interesting twist comes from him meeting and falling in love with another woman because he thought Ellen was dead. You can guess how things went when it turned out she's a Cylon and resurrected.
Subverted with Tyrol and Tory. Despite being engaged and madly in love the first time around, he shows no interest in her during the series. In fact, when he finds out that she killed Cally, he kills her on the spot.
Partially subverted in Dark Shadows. Barnabas, the immortal vampire from 1795, falls in love with various reincarnations of his star-crossed love Josette. His attempts at romancing all of them except Kitty fail, and Barnabas is ultimately unsuccessful at reuniting with Josette.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine played with this trope occasionally with Dax and the other Trills, humanoid aliens with slug-like symbionts. When one host body grows old and dies, the slug can be implanted in a new host, bringing along the accumulated memories and personalities of the old hosts, to merge with that of the new host. A couple of times, slugs who fell in love with one generation of hosts will meet up generations later and fall in love again, occasionally with gender switches. Led to Star Trek's first (awkward and narm-tastic) girl-girl kiss.
Possibly subverted by the fact that relationships between future hosts of the same symbiont pair is forbidden by Trill law, and breaking that law means that the symbionts will not be transferred to new hosts when their current ones die, greatly discouraging Reincarnation Romance and ensuring that it will only occur once per couple if it happens at all, which is odd when you consider the recurring theme that there aren't enough Trill symbionts to go around to begin with.
Arguably a Trill-symbiont law that the humanoid half of the society accepts as the symbionts' right to decide for themselves. Surely the slugs have the right to determine their own species' rules?
OTOH, that rule was a major law in one episode, and never mentioned before (or since?). It had been broken more than once before it showed up, including in the first Trill episode (The Host, TNG).
The whole reason for the episode was that the writers wanted to create an LGBT-issues episode in The Nineties, despite full in-story acceptance of LGBT in everyday Federation life. So the in-universe argument became about a written-in issue in Trill culture about not romantically associating with partners from past lives, framing it for a decidedly human audience by gender flipping only one of the new hosts.
Colombian soapLa Otra Mitad Del Sol, which also involves the protagonists getting matching jewelry who were from their previous incarnations/lives, in this case a split sun-shaped medallion from which each lover has one half.
Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena and Gabrielle are soulmates who will find each other in every lifetime. They even get married in one of their modern incarnations.
Friends plays with this regarding Monica and Chandler. While not a reincarnation romance, there's an alternate universe episode where both characters, despite significant differences, still fall in love and end up together. So they've been together across time, rather than through it. On the commentary Word of God states the episode showed "they were meant for each other."
The X-Files episode "The Field Where I Died" has a scene where Mulder, under hypnosis, recounts that he, his sister, Scully, and Cancer Man have been reincarnated into each other's lives over several lifetimes and are always related, and Cancer Man is always evil. Mulder's supposed soul-mate-in-every-life is a woman named Melissa who also channels a guy called Sidney and Lily, a little girl. It's kind of wierd that they are supposed to be that close all the time, and here she's one off character who's hard to relate to. This kind of falls apart when Mulder talks about being a Jewish woman and Cancer Man being a concentration camp guard in WW2. Being in his fifties/sixties in the '90s means Cancer Man would have already been alive during the war, as either a child or a teenager and could not have been in the big evil guy in the concentration camp. However, there's also no stated rule that reincarnation is strictly linear in this case - it's possible he was reincarnated into a body that was born several years before the last one dies. Timey-wimey.
While we don't see one on-screen, the Minbari of Babylon 5 believe that groups of souls can be bound together to relive great relationships or repair bad ones.
In an episode of Blood Ties, Vicki is hired by a teenaged boy who's looking for his reincarnated lover. They always die together in every life, and they have a deal to meet up at a certain tree in the next; the tree has been replaced by a shopping mall, and he can't find his lover. Turns out the car accident that killed her past self put his past self in a coma for several years before he actually died, so she was reborn years before he was; since he never showed, she's married another man and is pregnant with his child.
The reincarnated Knight in The Wanderer discovers that his true love, the Lady Clare, has also returned. Unfortunately so has his bitch-sorceress of a wife.
Charmed had Piper and Leo falling in love in a past life. Leo didn't tell Piper since it would be awkward. Especially since, in the past life, they were broken up and she was dating a past life of her current boyfriend. In that episode it was a problem since Phoebe's past life was turned evil by an immortal warlock whom was feared to follow her in all future lives, as it was belived to be true love, and turn her evil. So they cursed her to die young.
The Vampire Diaries: Stefan and Elena's relationship on the show series is primarily built from this trope, mostly because of their novel counterparts, which feature Stefan/Elena as the destined pairing in the books tied together by a silver cord of destiny, indicating that the two are soul mates and have reincarnated lifetime after lifetime. This is even more emphasized in season five, when it is discovered that they are spawned from an ancient true love story of over 2,000 + years between their ancestors, Silas/Amara.
The Secret Circle: Similar to that of Stefan/Elena from The Vampire Diaries, Adam and Cassie are said to be destined or written in the stars. This implies that the two have reincarnated in lifetime after lifetime and have spent many lifetimes together as soulmates.
Brazilian soap Alma Gęmea had this as its primary theme. The story begins when Luna, love interest of the male protagonist Rafael, is shot and winds up reincarnated as the female protagonist, a biracial indian named Serena, who eventually ends up in the city the story takes place in and falls for Rafael. In the end, Serena and Rafael both die, but fall in love everytime they reincarnate.
Averted with River Song, who writes in her diary in "The Eternity Clock" how excited she was to use time travel to go and meet the Doctor's previous incarnations, apparently expecting to be in love with all of them, and being eager to see 'the face of her beloved in his first incarnation'. She discovers to her horror that not only does she not have any sexual chemistry with the First Doctor (an extremely rude old man she compares to Albert Steptoe) but that he isn't even fun, living in a scrapyard and hanging around with schoolteachers and his granddaughter, which she claims not to be ready for. Later entries in her diary indicate that her opinions of each incarnation of the Doctor go up and down - for instance, she seems to rather like the Fourth Doctor (or at least she likes his hair), hate the Second Doctor (she wishes he'd choke on his recorder) and really get on with the Third, with whom she swaps fashion and hair tips.
Dollhouse has the sci-fi variant with Victor and Sierra. No matter how many times their personalities are deleted, no matter who they're programmed to be, they fall in love with each other, every time. This serves as powerful evidence against the Dollhouse's claim to be able to programme genuine emotions — at one point Victor breaks up with the woman he's programmed to be in love with, because even though this incarnation has never met Sierra he knows there's somebody out there who he loves more.
Si-Joon Lee and Mu-Yeon Park from the ManhwaPig Bride are the reincarnations of their ancestors, Si-Baek Li and his wife Lady Park.
In The Tarot Cafe, Aaron turns out near the end to be Nebiros's angelic (and previously female) lover reborn. It seems to help them reconcile after being estranged in their first focus story.
The Dream Theater album Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory tells the story of Nicholas, who goes to a hypnotherapist to learn about his past life. In a previous life, Nicholas was Victoria, who was killed by her lover Julian in a murder-suicide. Then we find out that the hypnotherapist is the reincarnation of Victoria's other lover, Julian's brother Edward, who is the real killer of both Julian and Victoria. And the hypnotherapist kills Nicholas to continue the cycle. Maybe he's still angry that Victoria left him?
"Next Lifetime" by Erykah Badu is about meeting a love-worthy man after she's committed to someone else, with the chorus suggesting that perhaps their timing will be better next time. The music video, however, plays the reincarnation theme more strongly, where she and her love interest are shown together in multiple time periods, including Ancient Africa, the Civil Rights Movement, and the distant future.
Implied in the video for Taylor Swift's "Love Story," with the two lovers meeting in Regency England, and then seemingly recognizing each other in the present.
Shiva's first wife Sati committed suicide by burning herself alive (because her father did not approve of her marriage to Shiva) with hopes she would be able to remarry Shiva in her next life (she does).
Another example is the death of Kama, the god of Love, because he interfered with Shiva's meditation. His wife pleads with Shiva who promises her that he would be reincarnated. He is reincarnated as Avatar Krishna's son. Ironically, Kama had interrupted his meditaton to get the catatonically depressed Shiva to notice and fall in love with Parvati, whom he was ignoring.
From our own Twin Cest page: An old Japanese myth says that if two star-crossed lovers commit dual suicide, they get reincarnated as twins.
There is, apparently, a Wiccan spell that makes it so that you and your lover will be together forever (Marriage is considered temporary, since it's only till death). Thus, when you two get reincarnated, you will be together, again and again (well, if it works, anyway). The problem is, it's very hard to reverse, and a person's personality changes when they get reincarnated. This is not recommended, especially if you're only dating, since it pretty much screws you over in your next life. Of course, that doesn't mean people wouldn't be stupid enough to try it.
Norse Mythology: Poetic Edda says that the valkyrie Sváfa/Sigrún/Kára and her lover Helgi were reincarnated three times as lovers, always meeting a tragic end.
Irish Mythology: The Wooing of Étaín tells how Etain, the wife of Midir of the Aos Sidhe, was turned into a fly which was accidentally swallowed by the wife of Etar. She became pregnant by it, and gave birth to the reborn Etain. Midir eventually recognized his wife and took her with him to the land of the Sidhe.
It's not uncommon for innerwalkers in Feng Shui to fall in love with past and future incarnations of love interests, or vice versa.
Happens with Solars and Lunars in Exalted. All Celestial Exalted reincarnate after death (well, it's a bit more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it), and every Solar is bonded to a specific Lunar and vice versa. Such pairs are referred to as mates. Despite the name, it doesn't have to be a romantic relationship; any strong emotional bond can apply, ranging from close friendship to intense hatred. If they're even remotely compatible with one another, though, chances are good that it'll be this. Of course, this isn't exclusive to Solars and Lunars; all Celestial Exalted have memories from past lives, and it's entirely possible to run into a reincarnated lover.
There are also a number of subversions. For instance, each Lunar may be bonded with a Solar Exaltation and serve as that incarnation's boon companion... but half those shards have been corrupted by the Neverborn or the Yozi, meaning their mate is now bent towards hideous atrocities. However, this has been reconstructed, in that Abyssals (the ones corrupted by the Neverborn) can fight for and protect their Lunar mate without suffering Resonance, and it's been suggested a number of Infernals (the ones corrupted by the Yozis) will drop their masters' plans like a hot potato once they run into their Lunar mates.
Also, the most outstanding example in canon for a Solar/Lunar pair reunited by time is Swan and Lilith. Thing is, Lilith lived through the intervening time period, and remembers everything that Desus, Swan's past incarnation, did to her...
Alchemical Exalted likewise get a background that allows them to remember the past lives their heroic soul lived before it was put into a Champion of the State. It often allows them to reunite with old friends and lovers, and helps to resist the encroachment of Clarity.
Made even better by the fact that the ending is part of the framing device of the show (people are milling around a modern-day museum with Egyptian artifacts) and the audience has pretty much forgotten about the beginning in the wake of what they expect to be the Downer Ending. As such, when Aida and Radames die, the audience thinks the show is over...until the curtain rises on the museum and their reincarnations meet.
Xenogears is actually a Deconstruction; though Reincarnation Romance sounds beautiful and wonderful, it has an inherent horror - it revolves around people's loved ones DYING.Fei and Elly have found each other over again for millennia, lived together blissfully for years or even decades. However, Big Bad Miang is reincarnating endlessly as well, and each of Fei and Elly's incarnations ended up pissing her off by interfering with her plans, resulting in her killing them in horrible, violent ways over and over again for millenia. Only by defeating her once and for all can they live happily, which they achieve at the end of the game. One of the people that helps them do it is their daughter from a previous life.
Absolutely applies in Neverwinter Nights 2 Mask of the Betrayer. The PC is carrying around the spirit of Akachi, who tried to bring down the god of death to save his beloved Nefris, who survived to the present and split off an aspect of her personality to form Safiya (curiously Safiya got all of the parts of Nefris that Akachi loved best), whose romance is implied to be the canonical plot ending for a male spirit eater.
Castlevania has the pretty widespread fanon assumption that just as Soma Cruz in the Chronicles of Sorrow titles is the reincarnation of Dracula, Mina Hakuba is similarly the reincarnation of Dracula's two previous wives, Elisabetha Cronqvist and Lisa, with the primary "proof" being that her name is an obvious take on Mina Harker, Dracula's reincarnated wife in Bram Stoker's Dracula. People who aren't fans of the Soma/Mina pairing understandably have an issue with this.
Locke D'Averam and Princess Andria from Revenant are revealed to have been lovers in their previous lives late in the game, though this crosses over into Resurrected Romance, since only she is a proper reincarnation, while he is, well, a revenant.
In the first two DS Harvest Moon games everyone is an Identical Grandson of the characters of AWL]. In terms of the valley people, they fall in love with previous love interests. However the town people don't have feelings for their grandparents lovers apparently.
FinalFantasyXIII-2 shows just how bad things can get if this trope is combined with Mayfly-December Romance. The one who dies young keeps coming back because she wants to be with the other, but the immortal one is eventually driven completely insane from watching his loved one die young over and over again for millennia. What makes things much worse is that said immortal is, according to Word of God, the most powerful villain in the entire franchise.
Oracle Of Tao, Anideshi is basically affected by a spell that causes her to remember her reincarnations, and keeps meeting her beloved. Supposedly, when the game starts this is her last incarnation before they pass on. Also, both of them are girls.
In BlazBlue, Hakumen's long-lost lover was an alternate version of Tsubaki Yayoi, and bad things happened to the two after the timeline was modified. In the present, the normally super cold and Lawful Neutral Hakumen is shocked when he sees Tsubaki, and asks her to get up close so he can see her face clearly...
Deconstructed in Umineko: When They Cry; Kinzo's delusion that his and Beatrice Castiglioni's love is forever even after her Death by Childbirth caused him to attempt to carry on that love with their daughter, who couldn't understand or return her father's feelings, and raise her by telling her she had the soul of a witch. It's all but outright stated that Kinzo raped her after deluding himself into thinking she was her mother's reincarnation. Beatrice III happened as a result.
Magically done, one sided and not played for romance in Tsukihime. Whenever Roa reincarnates, he lures Arcueid to him. He thinks he hates her, but actually loves her. Arcueid actually falls in love with a third party, who stops the whole reincarnation thing and making this Reincarnation Stalker with a Crush.
YU+ME: dream ends with Fiona and Lia deciding to leave Nod. The problem is that both of them are dead in the real world, so Don finds a loop hole that technically "kills" them in Nod, but sends their souls back to Earth, where they can reincarnate and find each other.
The second to last page shows that though they haven't met up in the real world, in their new lives, yet, they can still see each other in Nod until they do.
Alex and Alison from My Life In Blue qualify as a platonic reincarnating love.
This is a facet of Arthur, King of Time and Space. The characters exist simultaneously in multiple time periods, but most of the romances are the same in all of them, including a few cases where one or both partners is gender-swapped. (For example, Tristram and Isolde are always a couple whether Tristram is male or female.)
Referenced by the ghost of Victorian Helen in Narbonic ("kindred souls reborn many times over in similar guise. It's terribly H. Rider Haggard"), although she fails to explain how present-day Helen can be her reincarnation when she still exists as a ghost.
Homestuck: Zig-zagged. The Trolls all have ancestors which they share genes with. Many of the ancestors' relationships manifest in different forms in their descendants. note Darkleer spared the Disciple, and in the present Equius and Nepeta are in a pale-rom. The Sufferer and the Disciple were in a relationship powerful enough to transcend the quadrants, but in the present Nepeta's crush on Karkat is unrequited. The Condesce had a crush on the Psiionic prolonging his life and suffering with her power, Sollux and Feferi were in a relationship. This is invoked where Vriska and Eridan read about their ancestors relationship and try to emulate them, but it quickly falls apart. Mindfang had a relationship with the Summoner who killed her, Vriska attempts to emulate this with Tavros and she kills him. The biggest connection would be the Maryam-Serket one. Aranea and Porrim were in a relationship that ended after a year, which Aranea doesn't want to talk about The Dolorosa was raped by Mindfang in the backstory causing Mindfang to become infatuated with her, and Kanaya has a one sided crush on Vriska.
The Descendants has a pair of villains who were originally "bound by chains of Fate and pinned to the wheel of resurrection", allowing them to have this. But in the present, the spell has degraded so badly that they absolutely hate each other and yet are still drawn to each other in every lifetime and usually end up killing each other.
Shousetsu Bang*Bang has a short comic, 25 lives, about a pair reincarnating again and again. No explanation is given, and there are lifetimes when one kills the other, or one doesn't exist, or they just miss each other.
Even though each time, I know I'll see you again, I always wonder. Is this the last time? Is that really you? And what if you're already perfectly happy without me?
The Twine story All That We Could Ever Be depicts a couple reuniting for the final time after an extended reincarnation romance. Describing itself as an 'anti-romance', it quickly turns into a deconstruction depicting the loss of identity and individuality shared by the two.
One day, I'd like it if you could look at me with pride. Like I had accomplished something(something more than finding you again). But I spend too much time chasing you to be anything more.
Family Guy and its power couple, Peter and Lois have apparently been reincarnated several times from the stone age to now. The most prominent are Nate Griffin and Lois' ancestor (meaning that in some way, Lois and Peter may be blood related), and Griffin Peterson and Lady Redbush (which may or may not have the same conspiracy).