Any time a work has many characters involved, there would be some difficulty in keeping track on a character's relationship with the other, whether if they're friends, enemies, family or even just acquaintances from work, school or in that local hobby/sports club. Or how he/she is linked with a place or an item.
The Relationship Chart keeps track on how the person is related to another person, a place, event, organization or object by using arrows/lines (can also be done by String Theory) or arranging them in a chart, diagram or taped to some kind of wall or board closely together to clarify their connections, regardless if they have an important link or if they know each other as a coincidence. Sometimes, the mere connection between two or more persons already carries the risk of revealing information via First-Episode Spoiler.
They can be used by anyone who needs to have an organized line of thought when he/she needs to explain something with the use of visuals. This method is usually used by a Conspiracy Theorist, someone in law enforcement, military, intelligence or a journalist, although an Amateur Sleuth or a Private Detective are known to use a chart too. Someone who spends a lot of time studying materials and compiling them can also do this.
Expect this to be of All There in the Manual, which is usually used in a show/franchise's guidebook/website/etc, which is more prevalent in Asian-made/filmed TV shows, movies, anime/manga and video games. Sometimes, the chart will just be shown in the background of a scene or two as a plot or narrative device.
In video games, it can be used as a mechanism to either tell the story, explain a relationship between certain characters or to give buffs and item/stat bonuses.
See Love Chart and Love Dodecahedron as subtropes for any relationship between two or more characters if they're lovers or are part of a huge family that usually is very confusing to follow. Such a chart may form part of The Big Board.
Tech Tree is a similar trope, although this involves items and technology.
Also see One Degree of Separation, which would lead to a particularly complex chart as every character is tangentially related to every other character. Some groups of characters may be grouped together according to Cast Herd.
For use of this trope in-universe, it must be used when a character or characters actively use a relationship chart as part of the property's All There in the Manual, such as explaining a character/s relationship with a group, etc.
Please do not list every example of the trope being used in anime or Asian-made media if they're based on a property's All There in the Manual only.
Anime and Manga
- Banana Fish has Yut Lung use a relationship chart on Dino Golzine's relationship with the White House and the Pentagon when he confronts Dino on his knowledge that he plans to use Banana Fish to sell it to the American government for their black ops missions overseas. He commends him for doing his research.
- In Berserk, Puck runs into a severely weakened Guts and manages to scare off the spirits surrounding him. Then he has a thought process that goes "Puck > Monsters", "Monsters > Guts", and finally "Puck > Guts" that lasts maybe five seconds, at which point he meets one that isn't scared of him or his needles.
- The manga version of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex in the episode "PUBLIC SECURITY SECTION 9" has Togusa explain to the rest of Section 9 with a circular relationship chart on how the agent posing as a NAIPA official took advantage of the Japanese Foreign Minister's love for swapping cyber brains with a geisha when drunk. Batou makes fun of his detective skills.
- ID: Invaded has the Well team use a chart to explain the relationship of serial killers arrested to the show's Big Bad known as John Walker in potentially influencing them to kill.
- Narihisago himself uses a chart to investigate how Kiki Asukai is related to the serial killer who try to kill her while being in the hospital.
- Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has had several relationship charts throughout the series, most of them focusing on the evolving relationship of the members of the Student Council, although there was one that focused on the Shirogane family's views of Kaguya.
- The Millionaire Detective - Balance: UNLIMITED has Chosuke examine an organizational chart of Kambe Heavy Industries in looking for a suspect in the anime's Myth Arc on who killed Daisuke Kambe's mother.
- In Persona 5: The Animation, Sae Nijima is seen working on a relationship chart on various suspects and whether they have ties to a case involving Masayoshi Shido.
- The first season of Psycho-Pass has the PSB CID team use a chart to investigate Shogo Makashima's relationship with other suspects killed through Dominators (mostly) after Akane used a Memory Scoop process to get a clear image of his face.
- The second season has a chart made by Jyoji Saiga in order to determine how Kamui is tied to the new cases Division 1 is tied up, starting with Inspector Shisui going MIA after one of her Enforcers is killed all of a sudden with her own Dominator.
- A chart appears in volume 3 of Scott Pilgrim pointing out the various connections between the cast at that point.
- Agatha Christie occasionally included family (or other) relationship charts in her novels. For instance, Funerals Are Fatal included a family tree.
- In Dare to Disappoint, the protagonist's older sister comes back from college and shows her a relationship chart of her classmates.
- Beginning with The Last of August (second in the series by Brittany Cavallaro beginning with A Study in Charlotte), genealogical charts showing the family trees descending from Sherlock Holmes and Professor James Moriarty respectively appear at the front of the books, with minor annotations presented as by series protagonist Charlotte Holmes, Sherlock's modern-day counterpart.
- In the episode "A Wedding to Die For" in Almost Paradise, the Mactan Police is briefed on investigating a Hong Kong-based triad group known as the Qin Xiong Di since its leader is in Mactan to be in a wedding.
- In Arrow, in the episode "Unmasked", Dinah and Oliver with Rene are in an investigation on why Frank Cassaday aka the Mirror was hired to assassinate Oliver via chart to check on his relationship with Fuller after the latter meets with him in his club.
- Season 7 has Emiko Queen make one in her hideout to determine whether the death of her mother, Kazumi Adachi, is linked to a known criminal named William Glenmorgan.
- In the episode "Star City Slayer", the bad guy of the week makes a chart in his hideout that has Team Arrow tied together by String Theory in relationship to Oliver.
- Season 7 has Emiko Queen make one in her hideout to determine whether the death of her mother, Kazumi Adachi, is linked to a known criminal named William Glenmorgan.
- This is used in Blindspot when the FBI tries to investigation major criminal/terrorist groups in identifying and taking out key targets.
- The Blacklist has the FBI Task Force use relationship charts in analyzing the evidence they get from Reddington on a blacklister he wants them to keep an eye on.
- In the episode "Rectify" in Bull, Benny Colon creates a chart full of photos and photocopies of police reports stuck on a clear glass board with Chunk in an effort to exonerate an ex-juvenile delinquent accused of murder in 2002.
- In The Flash (2014) episode "Godspeed", Nora has a chart that has her investigate Cicada back in her time when her father went missing.
- In Hawaii Five-0 in the episode "Mai ka po mai ka oiaio", the Victim of the Week had a board with a relationship chart hidden in an unused room (hidden by bookcase) to his compiled evidence, which he used to determine how the evidence found his father, when he was an investigative journalist, on whether a high-ranking Dirty Cop was working with a corrupt forensic scientist to fake evidence. The victim and Five-0 were wrong on the cop theory. It was the scientist all along.
- The 2nd season of Jack Ryan has Jack doing a chart using white boards with post it notes, photo and map print outs and red arrow markers to determine the connection of Caracas with a South African arms dealer with an Interpol red notice.
- One episode of Lucifer (2016) has a journalist using a timeline-style chart to investigate Lucifer and his ties to certain characters like Chloe and Charlotte due to his claims that Lucifer's involved in something that seemed supernatural from his perspective or he uses drugs or something to explain his strength and powers.note
- In Nancy Drew (2019) via episode "The Sign of the Uninvited Guest", Nancy shows her friends the evidence she worked on when she shows a board with compiled evidence connecting by strings on Tiffany Hudson's death.
- NCIS: New Orleans uses the chart when Pride explains to the rest of the NOLA team on a case when they're investigating missing persons report of abducted women from someone he met when she was in a psychiatric institute.
- Finch in Person of Interest tends to use a glass window as his board to put up clues provided by the Machine and put in a chart to solve a mystery and find out why the Machine wants the team to investigate a POI or two. In one instance, the show's opening sequence shows the Machine making a relationship chart of HR in order to show its command structure. Initially, the pilot showed the relationship chart via matching a person with a Social Security Number while using String Theory to match them.
- Power Rangers: Beast Morphers, via episode "Believe It or Not", has Steele construct a chart made up of photos of important installations being protected by Grid Battleforce and their positions on a map while ranting about Evox returning. The team thinks he's gone loco. Until running in the woods for training shows that it's actually right.
- Riverdale has Betty and Jughead use a chart with strings to tie up cases or persons of interests in various episode arcs. Jughead uses this as an investigation tool to figure out the Stonewall Prep students after faking his death in order to investigate them without being blackmailed or threatened.
- SEAL Team has Mandy use a chart to explain to Bravo Team the structure of the Islamic State when they're deployed to snatch a known ISIL field commander in Liberia.
- In the Afghanistan arc, Bravo Team uses one in order to determine the command structure of the Halani Network and the identity of the Big Bad.
- Strike Back 's 7th season (Revolution) has the reformed Section 20 carry out an investigation into stolen British military intelligence and a stolen Russian nuclear missile by studying the command structure of the Shun-Ko Triads, a Malaysian-Chinese triad gang.
- Shots Fired has the two African-American Department of Justice investigators use a chart to investigate the shooting of a Caucasian college student by an African-American sheriff during a fatal shooting incident and whether they are tied due to racial motives or if something else was in play.
- In the first season of Sorjonen, Kari Sorjonen makes a simple square chart on the evidence the police found when he finds out that his daughter is framed for a crime she didn't commit.
- In S.W.A.T. (2017), Hondo's element is in a briefing session where they study a relationship chart that happens to be the command structure of Los Angeles' Kkangpae group known locally as K-Town in order to determine the high-ranking members to arrest/question/interrogate in "K-Town".
- "Good Cop" has a chart of a gang SWAT is helping to investigate with Street's face on it since he's infiltrating it.
- It's also used in "Bad Faith" when SWAT checks on the structure of a cult group known as Virgo's Temple since the bad guy of the week was the dead leader's wife.
- In The Brave, the SOG team conducts an investigation into Rainier Boothe and uses a chart to determine how he's tied to the Sinaloa Cartel since the former is a well-known arms traffickers in the underworld.
- In Titans episode "Origins", Dick stumbles into a relationship chart made by Kori when she was trying to investigate Raven's relationship with Trigon, which she hid inside a storage shed she previously rented.
- The third season of True Detective has the Arkansas law enforcement task force with the FBI to track down two missing children. They use corkboards to put down photos/key words and stick it to the board in groups
- Azure Striker Gunvolt 2's promotion has 2 small charts for Team Gunvolt and Team Copen that describes the relation of the members of each group.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War uses this as a gameplay mechanic when Bell is tasked to investigate how solid Perseus's ties is with the North Vietnamese government in 1968. It's eventually used to tie Perseus' plans to use a WMD to frame Washington DC as the bad guy in the Cold War. Accessing some side missions will require the use of a relationship chart and evidence seized during various missions to determine whether it can be accessed at all.
- The introduction cutscene in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) via Spec Ops single player mode has a chart linking all surviving Al-Qatala terrorists in Verdansk with Khaled Al-Asad.
- Civilization IV: The Foreign Advisor generates a colour-coded line diagram of all the civilizations' relationships with each other, such as declarations of war, vassalage, and alliances.
- Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn has one viewable at your base that details the (known) relationships between all known characters, and expands as the story progresses.
- Ghost Recon Breakpoint uses a relationship chart as a mechanic in seeing where to go next in terms of missions. When looking at the chart, a mission is usually tied to a person of interest linking to an event's major enemy and the hierarchy of the POI's relationship.
- The short indie game A Hand With Many Fingers uses this as its central mechanic: as you research people and events connected to a vast conspiracy, you're expected to pin up relevant clippings to a big corkboard and keep track of who's connected to whom.
- Left Alive has the trope used by a Character Diagram found in Koshka's database, allowing players to read a character's bio and personal data and his/her relationship with one or another character.
- A cutscene in Hitman (2016) at the end of the Freedom Fighters level has 47 examine a chart of personalities supposedly serving under Providence by the Shadow Client and the places where 47 has been.
- Path of Exile has the relationships of the members of the Immortal Syndicate represented on the Investigation Board screen via String Theory. They are divided into four tasks they're trying to accomplish which denote the different gameplay encounters the player can have with them, each member has a rank corresponding to the rewards they offer once their safehouse is raided and strings connect members who are either trusted and therefore likely to appear together in encounters or rivals who will hinder one another. Manipulating the different member assignments, ranks and relationships is key to maximizing rewards for the player when raiding Syndicate safehouses and building towards the encounter with the Syndicate Mastermind who sits at the top of the board.
- Phantom Doctrine has the use of a cork board inside a Cabal safehouse where the player can compile information taken from files or from intelligence the agents pick up during recon missions. You need to literally connect the info together by using string on the board and see which info makes sense in order to understand part of the game's story.
- Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon uses one of these as the means to recruit new Pokemon, instead of the traditional method of having a chance of recruiting Pokemon defeated in dungeons. As you complete missions for Pokemon, they will join your party and the chart extends to their friends, unlocking new missions to recruit them as well.
- Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon has Narumi using a chart with arrows as a narrative device when he discusses a case with Raidou.
- Resident Evil 2 (2019) has a corkboard with photos of Leon, Claire, Martin and Sherry linked together via String Theory in some gameplay images that shows the timer when you pause the game here.
- Resident Evil 3 (Remake) has Jill looking at a chart she made linking various persons to the conspiracy behind the Arklay Mansion case as evidence while being forced to stay in her own apartment while the outbreak was taking place.
- Both Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X have an "Affinity Chart" that shows the relationships of every NPC in the entire game with arrow paths pointing the general description of how one NPC feels about another. Meeting new characters, advancing the story, and the outcomes of quests can change relations. The main characters also share a similar affinity chart that raises or lowers depending on how well you work with them in combat, or what gifts you give them.
- World of Horror uses a relationship chart as a game mechanic. It shows that the cases the player can solve are tied to the supposed awakening of an Old God trying to wreck havoc in Japan.
- The webcomic Namesake has a great many characters, with an extensive relationship chart to match (http://namesakecomic.com/comic/namesake-relationship-chart). Notable connections include: Emma Ramos Sr. and Banshee are in "cahoots", Alice and Bird are "former teammfriates", and Anlise and Renge are "complicated".
- The paperback of Volume 3 of The Order of the Stick uses one of these to help introduce the characters. As a joke, Kevin Bacon is also on the chart, even though he doesn't appear in the comic (his only connections to other characters are that Sabine wants to screw him and that Elan has seen some movies with him in them).
- Justice League has The Question, a detective slash Conspiracy Theorist who uses charts to highlight each and every conspiracy he's trying to investigate. Even mundane ones.
- A chart appeared in the standalone app version of Gangsters in Love showing the relationships between the members of the Valentine gang.
- This method is used by actual police, military and intelligence agencies when someone needs to explains something that may be complex or hard to explain with just words.
- This is used in schools as a teaching method to help students learn about subjects/topics that may be hard to understand.
- One Piece has an official relationship chart on display in Tokyo Tower. Considering the amount of characters in the show, it is quite complicated. Here's a picture.
- Many large organisations have an organisation chart, detailing the hierarchy of that organistion, and hence the professional relationships between its members or employees.