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Ambiguously Related

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Two characters can look alike (or even identical), share a last name, and behave in a way befitting of siblings or cousins; but that doesn't mean they necessarily are either of those things. This trope covers characters who behave in a way consistent with their being relatives, but whose status as such is never truly confirmed (or is in fact unconfirmed, but in so hard-to-spot a fashion that casual viewers still misunderstand).

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To keep this trope objective as opposed to Wild Mass Guessing, non in-universe examples should have one or more of the following:

  • They often appear together, especially when it would signify something.
  • They have strong similarities in appearance and background.
  • They refer to each other or act as relations that may or may not be metaphorical or credible.
  • In-universe claims or suggestions of relation are vague, incomplete, or questionably credible.
  • Official out of universe sources refer to or hint at a relationship.
  • They have established relations in other continuities, adaptations, or works they draw influence from.

Compare Inexplicably Identical Individuals, which often goes hand-in-hand with this trope, and Viewer Gender Confusion, for another aspect of characters' identities that a show doesn't make as clear as it thinks it does. Also compare Luke, I Might Be Your Father and Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe. Contrast Long-Lost Relative for when the relationship is confirmed.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Variation in Lyrical Nanoha regarding Nanoha and her older brother and sister. The series spun off from Triangle Heart 3: Sweet Songs Forever, where Kyouya was her half-brother, and Miyuki was her first cousin. It's never made clear if this still applies, or if they're all full-blooded siblings.
  • Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew: Sir Aaron resembles Ash Ketchum in appearance and aura such that Lucario initially mistook Ash for Aaron. That they both have the rare ability of Aura only deepens the possibility of Aaron being a distant relation. The main anime has Riley, another Aura user who's training to be a Aura Guardian like Aaron and has an even stronger resemblance in appearance and wardrobe. More coincidentally, there was another Aura Guardian with a Pikachu that Ash was mistaken for who's feat Ash duplicated.
  • This is used as a plot point in Yuureitou. It's revealed that Satoko's mother slept around a lot, meaning that it's impossible to know whether Marube is her biological father or not. Satoko is deeply upset when she learns this and it's the final straw that gets her to run away from her abusive father.
  • Dragon Ball Super: Universe 11' fighter, Dyspo from the Pride Troopers, has an uncanny resemblance with the Gods of Destruction Beerus and Champa, with the difference of being a bunny instead of a cat. Champa notices this and say both Dyspo and Beerus have narrow faces, but nothing is ever classified why they look alike. It's a common theory to believe Dyspo is part of their race before they became Gods of Destruction.
  • In DARLING in the FRANXX, Zorome meets a kindly old lady who helps him after he got lost in the city. Their dialogue and interactions seems to point to the fact she maybe his mother.
  • While still unconfirmed, it's become very widely believed in the My Hero Academia fandom that the villain Dabi is related to the Todoroki family. The most common interpretation is that he is the eldest brother, Toya, who was only ever shown in a flash back and is the only sibling currently unaccounted for, but other interpretations exist such as him being an illegitimate half-sibling or a more distant relative such as a cousin. While genetic evidence extends only to his fire quirk (which the Todoroki's are famous for but do not have a monopoly on) and his eyes being the same color as the family patriarch, Endeavor, the circumstantial evidence is extensive: having an abusive father who is also a pro hero falls perfectly in line with his motivations, he is covered in mysterious burn scars, he deliberately avoids revealing his real name to people, even saying that it will be revealed "at the right time" as if it's somehow significant, and has been kept away from any situation where it might forcibly be revealed such as when the hideout got raided. Tying his appearance into the family is difficult as he is very disfigured, but in flashbacks we see that Endeavor's hair was virtually identical to Dabi's at his age. Support for this theory ramped up significantly during the camp raid arc, in which he gave Shoto a lengthened look and commented "Shoto Todoroki, how sad...", and a similarly significant-feeling encounter happened between him and Endeavor sometime later, ending with a promise that they'd meet again.
  • Naruto:
    • The series has always been intentionally vague on whether Hinata and Hanabi's Missing Mom was a Hyuga before marriage. She's only shown in one anime-only photograph where she has her eyes shut, making it impossible to know whether she had Byakugan or not. Her hair is unusually blue (which Hinata inherited), with most Hyuga characters having black or brown hair, which might hint she's from outside the clan. Muddling this more, Boruto reveals that not all Hyuga have Byakugan and that some people with Byakugan don't have the standard milky eyes.
    • Sasuke and Itachi's parents also suffer from a vagueness on whether they're related or not. They both have the dark hair and eyes associated with Uchiha (and Itachi was apparently in love with someone in the clan, so apparently romance between distant relatives isn't too frowned upon), but it is never specified. An anime-only filler has their parents going away to visit their maternal grandparents, implying they live outside the Uchiha compound.

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin's Thomson and Thompson are so alike that many readers unthinkingly assume they are truly twins, but their different last names make this unlikely. Although could they be cousins? Half-brothers? Maybe "Thomson" and "Thompson" are actually unusual first names, and they share an unknown surname?
  • Moby Duck, a supporting Duckverse character who had his own title back in the day, may or may not be Donald Duck's uncle. In his first appearance, Donald didn't seem to know him at all, but numerous later stories had him employing miscellaneous cousins of Donald as ship-mates, and considering how incompetent they all are, the only plausible reason he'd hire them would be that they are family. And indeed, Moby has been included on some Duck family trees, but only some (and never in the same place, either).

    Comic Strips 
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    Fan Works 
  • Mass Effect The Equestrian Equation is a case where they become Ambiguously Related. It's revealed Equestria was simulation à la The Matrix that regularly tapered with their memories and many ponies, including Rarity and Twilight Sparkle's parents were but programs. Rarity bring up the question of who there actual parents are and gets tested to determine their relationship with her "sister" Sweetie Belle. Complicating this is that the equestrians small population mean all of them are to some degree related. The test results are kept confidential even from readers, but Rarity doesn't let them change her relationship with Sweetie Belle.
  • Once Upon a Time in Canterlot is a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Fan Animation. In it, Derpy Hooves goes Mama Bear on changelings that try to hurt Dinky and Amethyst. Dinky is undeniably supposed to be Derpy's daughter, however Amethyst's relationship to Derpy is the one in question. Despite their lack of resemblance, it's not uncommon to see Amethyst and Derpy written as mother and daughter (either adopted or biological) because one episode depicted Amethyst and Dinky going to the Sisterhood Social. Then again, their relationship isn't clarified in the short, so many in the comments believe that Amethyst is Dinky's babysitter, not her sister.

    Films — Animation 

    Literature 
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events's Count Olaf becomes the guardian of the Baudelaire children through claiming he's a close relative of theirs. There is never any evidence to support this claim, but it's mentioned that his hoodwinking of the law on this issue relied on convincing Mr Poe that "closest-living relative" means "the relative who lives closest"... suggesting that he may still genuinely be a distant cousin.
  • The Vampire Chronicles has an in-universe example, where Jesse's narration shows that she really isn't sure how "Aunt Maharet" is actually related to her or whether she's just an odd family friend. It's ultimately revealed that Maharet is a Time Abyss vampire and her great-grandmother by roughly 6000 years worth of "great"s.
  • The Wicked Years:
    • Melena and her husband Frexspar both fell for a quadling glass blower named Turtle Heart. It's left ambiguous throughout Wicked whether Elphaba's sister Nessarose is Turtle Heart or Frex's daughter. The family tree in A Lion Among Men reveals that Nessarose is Frexspar's daughter..
    • Throughout Wicked and Son Of A Witch it's a question whether Liir is Elphaba's son. Elphaba fell into an Angst Coma after Fiyero's death and wasn't sure if she birthed Liir or not. Liir is Elphaba and Fiyero's son.

    Multimedia 

    Music 
  • Vocaloid: Len and Rin Kagamine are frequently marketed as a package and have similar gendered designs. They have been called twins and mirror images of each other at different points by Crypton Future Media, who has since retracted both positions and considered their relationship up to fan interpretation.

    Video Games 
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Wario and Waluigi are the Evil Counterparts to twins Mario and Luigi. However, their relationship is unspecified. It's unknown if they're also brothers.
    • Peach and Daisy have a passing resemblance and it's not unknown for real-world royal families to mingle. At least one strategy guide has mentioned them being cousins, but it's not a canonical source.
    • Peach and Rosalina. They share similar blue eyes and blonde hair. Despite not officially being a princess, it's implied Rosalina is of royal blood. She wears a crown on her head and has worn it since childhood. She has also apparently lived near (or in) a castle as a child. It's possible that Peach is a descendant of Rosalina's through her brother. Early in the development of Rosalina, the two were related somehow, which explains their similarities.
    • Bowser was originally the Koopalings' father. By Bowser Jr.'s introduction in Super Mario Sunshine, this had been retconned away. Their relationship status is ambiguous, with the current official consensus being they're not related.
    • Are Toad and Toadette siblings or love interests? No one knows. Nintendo changes stances often.
  • Kirby:
    • Lololo and Lalala are almost never seen apart, and their only differences are their colors and Lalala's bow. While the games never elaborate on the relationship between the two, the characters they were based on, Lolo and Lala, are in a romantic relationship. The anime (which is in an Alternate Continuity to the games) has the two as separate halves of one monster, Fofa, who was split apart for having a useless ability and not wanting to fight.
    • Whenever Meta Knight's mask is removed, he's revealed to look identical to Kirby, suggesting they are at least the same species. The implications of this, given he's opposed Kirby as often as allied and seemingly wants to keep this hidden (Meta Knight flees immediately after loosing their mask) remain mysterious.
    • Kirby Star Allies:
      • The 3 Jambastion Mages are described as "sisters" in Hyness (their boss') Flavor Text. However, in the Japanese version, they're mentioned to be nuns, i.e another meaning of "sisters". Note that Hyness himself is called an "Officiant". Later, Nintendo Switch's Kirby Star Allies Channel acknowledged the 2 meanings and they deem it as a "mystery" akin to Kirby and Meta Knight's own ambiguous relation.
      • Due to lines in the villain's Motive Rant and the Wham Shots that the Final Boss Void Termina has, it's implied that said Final Boss is related to Dark Matter (an old reoccuring villain; Void Termina's core can transform into something resembling it), Zero (Dark Matter's "boss"), the "ancients" (who made the Master Crown, and Void Termina can make a replica of it), and even Kirby himself (its core primarily displays a face similar to Kirby's, helped by its pink coloration).
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Done infamously in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War with Claud and Sylvia. They both have the same Heroic Lineage (Braggi blood), and Claud mentions in a conversation that he once had a sister who he lost contact with and would be about Sylvia's age if she were alive... the, ahem, strange part about this is this conversation sets the two on the path to becoming love interests. The developer has stated that they're merely "distant cousins", but whether this is an attempt to dodge the issue is unknown.
    • Nino's supports with Canas in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade imply that he might be her uncle, as both Canas' wife's sister and Nino's mother were named Iris. Canas also points out that they could simply be two women with the same name, so neither of them know for certain, but they both think it would be nice if it were true.
  • Cuphead: Elder Kettle is stated to be the caretaker of Cuphead and Mugman, but it's unclear if he's actually their father, grandfather, foster parent, or otherwise. Considering that he's an anthropomorphic kettle, and they're cup-headed people, they do look somewhat different, although it could still be a considered a Strong Family Resemblance compared to the other characters in the game.
  • In SNK happens this with two different characters from different ages but with the same surname: Shiranui. There's Gen-An from Samurai Shodown, a goblin-like creature with a big claw as weapon, and Mai from Fatal Fury, a busty Ms. Fanservice ninja. Since SNK never stated something about those two until now, is unclear if they're relatives (being Gen-An an ancestor of Mai) or simply is a coincidence between surnames.note 
  • Animal Crossing has Tom Nook, Timmy, and Tommy. They look like they could be related and have similar names, however it's suggested that Tom is their adopted uncle. Even that is vague because the Japanese term (oji-san) they use can also be used to refer to any man you respect.
  • Popo and Nana, the playable characters from Ice Climber, are depicted in Super Smash Bros. as having a very close lover-esque relationship, described as "rarely seen apart". The Melee intro at one point even shows Popo and Nana giving each other a high five, with a heart coming out where their hands meet. However, given that they look and sound like children (too young to be lovers), and that they have identical features, many believe that they are actually siblings. Word of God states that the nature of their relationship is up to the player's interpretation. However, the Japanese title of Event 21 in Melee roughly translates to 'Those Who Interfere People's Romance', and an update to the Japanese Melee website explains that they're "more than friends, but not quite lovers".
  • Silhouette Mirage has Armageddon refer to Shyna Nera Shyna as "Sis". They also have the most similar character design, are both creations of Edo, are the rare individuals possessing both Silhouette and Mirage, and are its most powerful wielders. Whether they're only related by being products of Edo's experiment or anything more is, like much of the games ending, left ambiguous.
  • In The King of Fighters, Hotaru Futaba keeps calling Gato her "brother", although he denied it. Both of them fight with a form of kungfu, and their backstories involve a torn-out family, but it's never confirmed if they're actually related or not.
  • Harvest Moon 64:
    • 64 has this between the protagonist and all the bachelorettes. Pete is the Identical Grandchild of the protagonist from the first game. All of the bachelorettes are related to bachelorettes from the first gamenote . This means that one of them should be your cousin. The problem is that none of them ever mention being your cousin. It can't be Elli since Ellen isn't your grandmother, which leaves the other three girls. Karen and Ann are options because Eve and SNES Ann had at least two kids, which is possible in the original game, but it isn't obligatory. Either way, it's to be assumed that your wife is the one who isn't your cousin.
    • It's never mentioned whether Karen's mother (unnamed in 64 but named "Sasha" in future titles) or her father Gotz is Eve's child. It's more-so implied to be Sasha due to her having dirty blonde hair.
  • Zack and Jess in JumpStart Adventures 6th Grade: Mission Earthquest. At least Uncle Eli seems to be uncle to both of them.
  • In BlazBlue: Central Fiction, if you read between the lines or dialogue and foreshadowing, Naoto Kurogane may in fact indirectly be the uncle of Ragna, Jin, and Saya. Their mother (a Prime Field Device) is implied to be based on Naoto's sister, Saya Terumi. It is never explicitly spelled out for the audience.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Pokémon: Ariana from Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver has a striking resemblance to The Rival of the game. The two share the same red hair in the same hair style. Ariana is a Team Rocket Executive and Silver is the son of the former Team Rocket leader, but whether they're related is never specified.

    Western Animation 
  • Debate rages on as to the nature of Chip 'n Dale's relationship. Are they (possibly twin) brothers, friends, or even something more? Official media can't seem to make up their minds either.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The background ponies who participate in "Sisterhooves Social", "Brotherhooves Social", and "The Cart Before the Ponies" are paired with foals of varying degrees of resemblance. The main characters participating have done so with established biological siblings (Rarity and Sweetie Belle, Applejack/Big Macintosh and Apple Bloom) and honorary (Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo), leaving the nature of those pairings open to interpretation.
    • Cloud Chaser and Flitter often appear together, have the same blue pelts, similar eye colors, and similar mane colors. It's not clarified if they're fraternal twins, of another relation, or just similar-looking friends.
    • In "Pinkie Apple Pie", some genealogical records appear to reveal that Pinkie Pie is a distant cousin of Applejack's, but one of the names is smudged on the relevant page. Pinkie goes with AJ's family on a journey to the Apple family historian to clear the issue up—but those family records are smudged as well. At the episode's end, Pinkie and AJ still don't know if they're related, but decide Pinkie can be a member of the Apple family if she wants.
    • In "Grannies Gone Wild", the stage magician Jack Pot looks and acts a lot like a male version of Trixie, and he's old enough to be Trixie's father. For what it's worth, the Loose Canon "My Little Pony: Ultimate Guide" does specify that they're father and daughter and it came out a year before the episode aired. Word of God is that the implications were intentional but "Hasbro may decide to change their minds down the line somewhere."
  • The short A Kitty Bobo Show stars a cat whose parents are two dogs. It's unclear if dogs can have cats in this universe, if he's adopted, or if one of them is a step-parent.
  • In Invader Zim, Irkens are born in Uterine Replicators and don't seem to have parents or families of any sort. That said, the co-rulers of the Empire, Almighty Tallest Red and Almighty Tallest Purple, are identical save for their titular eye color, and based on "The Trial," seem to have hung out together since their youth. Are they some kind of twins or clones?
  • Steven Universe: Gems don't actually have families, but the Diamonds are extremely close, and fans debate on how to define the dynamics. Are the four like sisters, or is White Diamond sort of the mother of the others, or are all three older Diamonds sort of co-mothers to Pink? The latter is the most conducive to those who see Yellow and Blue's relationship as more romantic than familial.

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