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Gotta Ship 'Em All

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Most TV shows have about four or five popular ships. Bob and Alice are the golden couple, Steve and Carol are the Beta Couple. Small but noteworthy contingencies of fans ship Bob and Carol, Bob and Steve, or Alice and Tom, but in general, the fandom is in consensus that Bob/Alice and Steve/Carol are the pairings.

Well, This Is Not That Trope.

Occasionally, you'll come across a show where every character is shipped—by a significantly-sized and active fanbase—with just about every other character. That is this trope.

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This situation is most common stories with an Ensemble Cast, particularly television shows. If it is unclear at the beginning which characters will be the Official Couple, this can result from Wild Mass Guessing. If this is the case, even once it does become clear which characters are on their way to being paired off, a significant number of the non-canon ships that emerged maintain a following. It can also result from Pair the Spares when the fandom can't agree on which spares should be paired. Usually, a small handful of these ships will exhibit Unresolved Sexual Tension and receive meaningful Ship Tease, while the vast majority will simply be Ships That Pass in the Night, and the result of viewers wearing Shipping Goggles. In these fandoms, if two characters have been in a scene together, it's a safe bet that people are shipping them. This often results in some pretty vicious Ship-to-Ship Combat.

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Requires the fandom to collectively adopt an Everyone Is Bi mentality. A variation on the Launcher of a Thousand Ships where almost every character is the launcher of a thousand ships. May cause, be caused by—or both—Ho Yay, often Foe Yay, and sometimes Incest Yay. Compare Dating Do-Si-Do, which is the In-Universe version where nearly everyone in the cast canonically dates everyone at one point.

The pure origin of this phrase is clearly Pokémon, the rumour being that a standard discussion about Jessie/James Rocketshipping was ongoing when another fan heated the discussion with a comment on Pokémon shipping between different species. Another fan jokingly replied "Pokémon, gotta ship 'em all," and began the Memetic Mutation.


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Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Love Live! School Idol Project: Each of the nine main characters can be considered a Launcher of a Thousand Ships, and while some ships like Nozomi/Eli Nico/Maki or Hanayo/Rin are the most popular, one can find fanwork about any combination between µ's' members , some threesomes, or "one of the girl x everyone", with any of them at the center of the harem. There are also pairings involving other characters like Eli and Honoka's little sisters, or the members of A-Rise.
  • The Lyrical Nanoha series is like this, thanks to most characters seemingly having no interest in (explicit) romantic relationships, yet having a lot of Les Yay teasing going on between them.
  • My Hero Academia has this due to Loads and Loads of Characters and a Launcher of a Thousand Ships Main Character; there are 20 recurring characters of which at least half can be paired with Midoriya without putting it in Crack Ship territory, and that's completely ignoring the ships that can be created without Midoriya such as Bakugou/Ochako, Ochako/Tsuyu, Yaoyorozu/Jirou, Hagakure/Ojiro, Aizawa/Toshinori, Todoroki/Yaoyorozu, Iida/Mei and so on. The manga/anime itself enforces No Hugging, No Kissing, which only encourages the rampant shipping, since there are no official relationships to get in the way other than maybe Midoriya/Ochako (and don't bring that up in front of anyone who ships either of them with someone else).
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! has a few large core ships, but even beyond those, the fandom has experienced pretty much any variation between the relevant characters.
  • Naruto. Just... Naruto. Literally speaking, everyone has been shipped with everyone, and we do mean everyone, in this series.
  • Pokémon has nearly 27,000 formally named and recognized pairings. Here's the ever-growing list from all Pokémon media
  • For the same reason as Nanoha, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has every pairing of the main 5 characters covered, with the possible exception of Mami/Sayaka because they never have a private moment together without Madoka. (Though Mami/Sayaka/Madoka is pretty common.) The Movie bolstered some previously unpopular ones like Homura/Mami, Homura/Sayaka, and Mami/Charlotte. Even Hitomi, a minor character, gets dragged into a few pairings. The only unambiguous Official Couple (not counting Madoka's parents) is Hitomi/Kyousuke, and that's probably the least popular pairing in the fandom.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!. There exists more than one website with the sole purpose of listing the names of ships between even obscure side characters or pairings one would never otherwise imagine. Mostly dedicated to the original series, but also for later spin offs such as GX, or even crossovers between series.

    Comic Books 
  • ElfQuest: Being canonically the kind of series where everyone has sex with everyone else, it has a similarly open-minded fandom.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • In the Harry Potter series, most of the central characters (Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Draco, Neville, Luna, etc.) are shipped with a lot of other characters, including all of their mortal enemies, teachers, siblings, parents of their classmates, and characters who are only mentioned by name a couple of times within the series. For instance, Hermione is sometimes shipped with Theodore Nott, whose name is mentioned less than 12 times throughout all seven books, and Blaise Zabini, who was a minor enough character in the first five books that many readers mistook him for a girl. Additionally, a lot of minor characters, such as Ernie Macmillan and Hannah Abbott, are also shipped together.
  • Similarly, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, in large part due to the author's love of messing with the fans' minds and the loads and loads of characters. And the fact that so many of the mains are sympathetic and charismatic — take a look at their entry in Launcher of a Thousand Ships.

    Live-Action Television 
  • The end of one episode of Community played with this when they acknowledged that, essentially, nothing was truly off limits and there would always be some degree of tension between unrelated characters. It then went around the table, pairing everyone with everyone else. Sometimes to the characters' interest, sometimes to their surprised interest, sometimes to their disgust and shock.
  • CSI and its spinoffs are full of this. Pick any character and you can probably find fics paring them with every other character if you look hard enough. And a few crossing between franchise members.
  • Doctor Who and its spinoffs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures fuel this:
    • In Who proper the Doctor is shipped with almost every single one of his companions (most of whom were strictly platonic friends) over the course of the show's 50-odd year existence. Other companions from different eras are shipped together regardless if they've ever actually met. One-Shot Characters are all shipped with random companions, the Doctor, and other one-shot characters. The Doctor's daughter/Opposite-Sex Clone Jenny deserves a special mention for being a Launcher of a Thousand Ships despite appearing exactly once and having previously met none of the people she's most commonly shipped with (Jack and Luke-see below-being the most common targets for this).
    • Everyone Is Bi is actually canon for the Torchwood cast, so you have Extreme Omnisexual Jack's canonical infatuation with the Doctor, weird pseudo UST with Gwen, and relationship to Ianto to play with, on top of literally any combination of his Torchwood team as well as anyone he or his team have ever said so much as "hello" to.
    • Sarah Jane gets shipped with the Doctor and previous companions Jo Grant and Harry Sullivan, as well as several other former companions we never see her interact with on screen, the man she almost married in "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith", and the older version of her young neighbor Maria. Her son, Luke, is another can of worms because he never had an onscreen love interest.
  • Discussed in Glee, to the point that the characters inadvertently give everyone more ships. Most likely a case of Ascended Fanon because Ryan Murphy lurks around the Internet. Not to mention all the Crack Pairings that end up canon (Santana/Brittany, Kurt/Blaine). Helps that Puck and Santana are launchers of thousands of ships.
    "look at all the pairings we've had:
  • On House, M.D., the only character who weren't shipped with every other character by at least a handful of fans were Foreman, who was really only shipped with Thirteen, and Taub, who wasn't shipped with anyone. One of the more common non-canon pairings was Cameron and Thirteen, two characters whose time on the show barely overlapped and who never spoke directly to each other.
  • On NCIS, Gibbs, Tony, Ziva, McGee, Kate, Abby, and, to a lesser extent, Jenny, are each shipped with all the others by fans. The Ziva/Kate ship is particularly jarring, considering Ziva didn't even come on the show until after Kate had died. This leaves only Ducky, Palmer, and Vance who aren't commonly shipped with anyone (though you do occasionally see Ducky/Gibbs or Palmer/someone), perhaps because Ducky is about thirty-five years older than almost everyone else, Palmer doesn't have a substantial amount of interaction with anyone other than Ducky, and Vance was married his first few seasons on the show.
  • On Once Upon a Time, not only is every character shipped with just about every character they've ever had a scene with, but they are also shipped with characters they've never met, who are currently living in other realms. It doesn't only extend to series regulars either. Recurring characters, such as Mulan and Jefferson, often find themselves wrapped up in a tangled web of shipping as well. The only real exceptions to this are Snow and Charming, who are generally only shipped with each other, though you do occasionally see Snow being shipped with Ruby or Charming being shipped with Hook or Ruby.
    • Ast the end of season three, Elsa had only been in one scene. It was about thirty seconds long, there were no other characters present, and she didn't have any dialogue. By the time season four started, she was being shipped with Regina, Ruby, Mulan, Hook, and Emma.
    • Rumpelstiltskin and Belle mostly avoid this. Belle is occasionally shipped with Ruby or Jefferson, and Rumple with Emma. Although most Emma/Rumple shippers disappeared after season 2.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Due to the fact that the crew is trapped on the other side of the galaxy with decades between them and home, the various members of the crew of the USS Voyager get shipped with everybody else on the ship (pun unavoidable). This includes Naomi Wildman, who by rights probably shouldn't be shipped.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Every character is shipped with at least three people, and it doesn't help that most characters have gotten stuck in love triangles at some point on the show.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney: EVERYONE has been shipped with everyone else, and each pairing has a loyal following. It doesn't matter if they've never met, they're bitter rivals, they're the same gender, they're closely related, one of them isn't alive (or one of them isn't alive), there's a huge age gap between them, they've explicitly denied being in a relationship, they're clearly just best friends, or it doesn't make sense in some other way, someone has shipped them.
  • The fandom of Corpse Party can get pretty rampant with pairings involving the 9 main characters (from class 2-9) , as the fans almost always try not to leave anybody alone except Yuka; for example, if there's SeikoxNaomi, there must also be AyumixYoshiki, YuixTsukasa, MayuxMorishige, Satoshi with somebody of other school (or with an OC if needed) and Yuka either is usually left alone (a ton of people won't ever pair her with her brother Satoshi, but some do) or shipped with Satsuki, a close friend of hers.
  • Fire Emblem has a faction of proud multishippers, some of who wish the games had allowed threesome marriages or every character to support with every character.
  • Kingdom Hearts: There are 156 possible pairings between the original members of Organization 13, and each and every one has a group of fans dedicated to it. They are just sketched out enough to create interesting relationship dynamics, but lack detail so you can plausibly pair anyone with anyone.
  • Monster Prom has a fairly large cast, with 10 main characters (Four playable and Six dateable), aside from a considerable amount of support characters some of which turn out to be Secret Character and there's not really any limitation of shipping since Everyone Is Bi, and in fact, many couples are teased.
  • New Danganronpa V3 had this situation pre release. Since the characters hadn't had their personalities established and neither their relationships with each others, with this, fans randomly decided to pair characters off with anyone they felt like it, causing ships that would come to be forgotten when the actual game showed several of their guesses incorrect.
  • In Overwatch, nearly every hero is shipped with at least one other hero, many of which are done regardless of whether the characters actually would reasonably have interacted in the story.
  • Team Fortress 2: While there are fan favorite ships and Valve teases a more-than-friends camaraderie among various classes both in game and in supplemental materials, technically there's only one 100% official pairing (RED Spy/BLU Scout's mother). With 9 classes on each side (and classes can be interpreted as archetypes rather than individual characters), as well as a large supporting cast, the Combinatorial Explosion potential is huge.
  • Touhou. With one or two exceptions, the extremely large cast is entirely female, and just about everyone has been shipped with someone else. And while none are canon, the fandom has accepted most of them as Fanon, so there's at least one pairing per shipping trope (Foe Yay, Bodyguard Crush, One True Threesome...).

    Web Animation 
  • The RWBY fandom is wide and voracious where ships are concerned. The sheer number of ships is mind-boggling, with characters that have had next-to-no screen time already being shipped with other characters. note  Every protagonist has several other people they are commonly shipped with, along with a number of somewhat less popular ships, as well as admittedly crack pairings. note  The saving grace is that, apart from a few very divisive pairings, the fandom hasn't really devolved into shipping wars.

    Web Comics 
  • Axis Powers Hetalia has more than 80 ships with their own wiki page. Out of five characters you can get around 75 ships (with the other four and themselves, with everyone's Gender Flip version and with everyone's Dark version).
  • Homestuck has a huge number of ships, due both to the canon Love Dodecahedron and Loads and Loads of Characters, almost all of whom have a large number of associated elements and hobbies that make it easy to find commonalities between them. For a good example, take the Shipping Olympics, a popular fandom challenge where people sign up for their favourite ship and then compete with other ships through creating themed fanart. Most fandoms get less than ten teams to represent the main ships. One year, the Homestuck Shipping Olympics had well over 50 teams, including an 'other' team who were allowed to write about any ship not already covered by a team. To make things worse, the in-universe creatures the trolls canonically have four different kinds of romance, and people commonly like to apply those to their ships, often with very strong opinions about why they ship pairings in one quadrant but not another.
  • Canon example: In order to prove that all of the characters in Sonichu are straight, author Christian Weston Chandler paired up each male character with a female character (except for villains and a few exceptions, and they will be paired later). Except for the two central characters Sonichu and Rosechu, who were already romantically paired, all of these pairings happened seemingly simultaneously. There is exactly the same number of male characters as there are female characters (again, except for villains), though it's unclear if this was intentional or not.

    Western Animation 


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