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When the writers make it clear that there will be no romance between any of the lead characters. A notable amount of writers avoid specific pairings in a story because it tends to overtake the plot intrusively more than anything. There are a few ways around this. You can give the characters offscreen significant others, remove one gender, or make the characters a figurative or literal family group, and/or siblings.
Doesn't stop Shipping in any way, shape, or form. In some occasions, the writers change their mind along the way and decide to reward fans with an intimate relationship, but they don't actually illustrate it and don't decide to do it until the very last second.
Compare and contrast Ship Sinking.
Anime and Manga
- Despite being a melodramatic shoujo series, Revolutionary Girl Utena 's director found Shipping an annoyingly common Plot Tumor; many of the relationships in the show are either ambiguously complicated if not morally uncomfortable. The Movie, in contrast, has just enough time crunch to give the fans what they want for the lead characters.
- In an extreme example, Dragon Ball follows the lives of several characters who marry and start families, although we're not shown much of the courting period at all, however there was a pretty noticeable build-up to both Goku/Chi-Chi and Gohan/Videl. This mostly came out of the creator's fears that he was terrible at romance.
- Eiichiro Oda of One Piece fame openly declared that there would not be any romance in the series, and instead focuses on the series theme of friendship, stating that romantic scenes would ruin the exciting, party-like mood in the story that appeals to boys or the boyish at heart. One Piece may have some characters who are in love, but Oda's never going to write romance into the story because it would ruin the mood it's established. According to Oda, if you want that kind of thing you should probably read a girl's manga.
- This trope is parodied in an act of the relationship between Luffy and Hancock. When Luffy hugs Hancock, she believes it is something that married couples do, and that he just proposed to her. Nyon later sets the record straight.
- He did, however, refer to Rayleigh and Shakky as a "cute married couple", but whether they're actually married or just close friends hasn't been made explicit.
- Usopp does have a potential Love Interest, Kaya, waiting at home for him, but they hadn't yet reached the point of Official Couple when he left. Also, he hasn't seen her in over two years, and definitely won't for the rest of their adventure.
- Mr. 9 and Miss Monday were shown to have a kid in a cover page.
- Naoki Urasawa's Monster is probably the only anime that can regularly feature a relationship/connections chart between its Loads and Loads of Characters without even one romantic relationship.
- Eva had a few minor ones. None of them ended well.
- There was a man and a woman in a town Tenma went through that were implied to have developed a relationship after he left. A very old and man and woman.
- Johan disguised as Nina seduced intel out of a young detective with pure romance in volume 11.
- Gundam Wing was written with no romance in mind at all. In an interview, the director specifically stated that he considered the political and symbolic relationship between the show's two leads more important than any potential romance.
- Despite that, there are some rather obvious romantic overtones in the Duo/Hilde relationship, and Heero and Relena even actually do share a kiss in the only canonical manga spin-off, so make of that what you will.
- The most seriously built up romantic connection, in the sense that it would be really cruel to take these two apart, and they build an emotional link and seem to fit together and all that, is Trowa and Quatre. It doesn't have to be sexual, but it's sure as hell romantic.
- English dubbing of anime, especially those targeted at younger demographics, at times tends to remove or change overtly romantic-sounding dialog with something more friendship related. For example, compare the scene at 1:47 to 2:30 of this clip of episode 32 of Bakugan Battle Brawlers with the same scene in its original Japanese. Or occasionally it goes in the opposite direction - adding it in when such context is not in the subbed version, for example in Axis Powers Hetalia and Gensoumaden Saiyuki.
- Word of God: "There is no romance in Lucky Star." They go so far as to have a scene that sets up what looks like a love confession, and then it turns out the guy wanted to talk to Kagami so he could beg her Yatsuhashi doll off of her.
- While Fullmetal Alchemist is very romance-heavy, to the point of No Loves Intersect, an arguable example of this trope in action is the 2003 anime version. Both Rose and Winry in this version are implied to be in love with Edward - and it's been implied that Edward likes Winry back just like in the original manga (with Rose it's more ambiguous) - but Ed is too focused on his brother.
- Nelvana's Cardcaptors dub managed to, amazingly, turn a romance-heavy anime into a No Hugging, No Kissing series. This isn't just about the controversial stuff; even the most acceptable pairs (mainly Syaoran/Sakura) became devoid of romantic interest. This became particularly bad in the Sakura Cards arc, in which Syaoran's feelings towards Sakura sometimes got 50% of an episode. In the dub, all the romantic scenes are cut out and the dialogue is changed to some more generic subjects (fighting the forces of evil, etc). To fill in the minutes of lost footage, many flashbacks were added. For example, while Cardcaptor Sakura last episode is an intense, emotion-filled finale, Cardcaptors last episode is almost a Clip Show.
- The author of the Slayers novels stated that there would be no romance in his series at the very beginning, but the anime ignored this, pairing Lina up with Gourry, at the very least Ship Teasing Zelgadis and Amelia, and throwing in a few others for good measure. The author of the novels later admitted that while he intended to make Slayers No Hugging, No Kissing, the characters fell in love on their own.
- In the Pokémon anime it seems like the only couples allowed consist of minor characters. None of the main characters are in relationships, and the only one who seems to want to be is Brock. Although, since almost none of them have hit puberty yet, this kind of makes sense. This doesn't stop the fandom from having vicious Ship-to-Ship Combat over which girl Ash should end up with, though.
- Several manga for the series avert this rule, though the source games fit this trope somewhat. Romance is implied, even with the protagonists, but it's never going to go anywhere.
- However, in the original soundtrack, 2 B. A. Master, there is a love song which implies that Misty has very strong feelings for Ash.
- Word of God for the anime has said that Ash won't be involved in any romantic relationships because the focus of the series is the relationship between Pokemon and their trainers and Ash having romantic relationships would distract from this.
- Despite the relationship between Rosette and Chrono being a major part of Chrono Crusade, the word 'love' does not appear in the manga, in any context, ever. It's also open to debate whether or not the two ever kiss (the angle on their final scene on the Pandaemonium leaves it ambiguous).
- In one of the author freetalk sections in the first volume of Natsume Yuujinchou, the author mentions that she wanted to "make a supernatural manga without much of a romantic element."
- The only display of romantic affection in Claymore has so far been the single kiss Clare gave to Raki just before leaving him for good. Everything else never goes beyond I Owe You My Life sentiment and Vitriolic Best Buds relationship, much to the frustration of the considerable Yuri Fandom of the series.
- Despite how deep most of the relationships tend to run in Soul Eater - with Soul and Maka being the most canon example - according to Ohkubo in an interview he doesn't plan on taking any of them to a romantic level. Though he also tends to troll his fans so whether or not he's being honest is unsure, and the Ship Tease isn't helping.
- The Lyrical Nanoha series has almost no romance onscreen, although quite a lot is implied. Aside from Nanoha's brother and his girlfriend, the only confirmed relationship is between Amy and Chrono, and these characters mostly vanish after the second season, and even when they were a part of the show nothing actually happens onscreen. There are several character pairs that have romantic overtones, but none of them are ever explicitly shown to be more than friendship.
- Probably the reason Hunter X Hunter is a total sausagefest. Any women in the series are minor characters who don't stick around long. The two main characters are also prepubescent.
- According to Word of God, Daily Lives of High School Boys isn't so much about romance than teenage boys (and some girls) doing things. In fact, the closest things to romance the series have are the Literature Girl and Emi's crushes towards Hidenori, and even then they are one-sided (and in the latter's case, it was even grounded by Surprise Incest).
- Tintin has this in spades, no major characters have shown any interest in romance whatsoever. The only exception is Professor Calculus, who has an innocent crush on Bianca Castafiore.
- According to the book "Tintin: Herge & His Creation", Snowy would have been a female human and love interest for Tintin had the Tintin stories not been originally published for a conservative Christian newspaper. Apparently conservative Christians look down upon romance between unmarried couples.
- Awkwardly done in Weird Science, in that the two teenagers, despite having created a woman of their complete desire, make no explicit attempts to even try to have sex with her. Somewhat justified in that Gary and Wyatt go pretty quickly from being in awe that they actually created Lisa to being absolutely terrified of her, once she displays her Reality Warper powers.
- Played for Laughs in The Princess Bride. When Westley has to leave and he and Buttercup start a romantic kiss goodbye, the young boy to whom the story is being read complains "Is this a kissing book?" In response, the narrator switches to the part where Westley is murdered by pirates. The boy comments: "Murdered by pirates is good." However, by the end, the boy allows Westley and Buttercup to have a romantic kiss, without complaint.
- In the film adaptations of both The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, the romantic subplots between Langdon and Sophie and between Langdon and Victoria are scrapped altogether (it was stated that this would make the film less realistic). Langdon does give Sophie a friendly peck on the forehead, but that's about it.
- The Mothman Prophecies, apparently to its detriment:
This is a film too bad to be good & too good to be so bad it’s good. DULL is the watchword, unless watching Richard Gere’s Shatnerian reactions to a phone ringing is your idea of edge-of-the-seat horror. That Mothman never makes an appearance would be fine if the film gave us something else, or kept a mystery worth keeping- but nada. & this is perhaps the only ‘action’ film I can recall where a gratuitous love story would have improved the tale. Laura Linney’s Connie is the only character developed to any emotional or deep extent, or which induces any concern. She radiates a down-home sensuality, yet John never makes a move, even after saving her. Not even a peck on the cheek. Loser!
- In the made-for-TV film Path of Destruction: Katherine Stern and Nathan McCain apparently go on a date at the end, although they never hug or kiss.
- H. P. Lovecraft's stories do not focus on even the slightest bits of romance or affection. Even when the protagonist mentions a wife, it is usually in a rather offhand manner. The story The Thing on the Doorstep involved a marriage as a plot point but it wasn't the marriage of the protagonist, but that of a friend. Even then, no acts of romantic affection between said friend and his love interest are ever described, and, said marriage was actually just a way for an Eldritch Abomination inhabiting the woman to keep the husband close at hand since said Eldritch Abomination wants to eventually take control of said husband's body. Even friendships are subject to this since Lovecraftian protagonists often describe friendships in a detached manner.
- R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books often assign the protagonist a best friend of the opposite sex. No one ever seems to address the topic of romance between the two; in fact, there's virtually no difference between male and female characters at all. Differences between the sexes are only important when the characters are teenagers, just as said differences tend to be in real life. This is most likely because the books are aimed at prepubescent kids, and he wants both genders to be able to relate to it.
- Though he did avert it in one book, "How I Learned To Fly," in which the male protagonist actively wants his relationship with his female friend to be romantic.
- Daisy Miller: The 19th century European aristocracy strongly adhered to this rule. Americans did not so much, however, and Daisy refuses to change her ways and (literally) do as the Romans do when in Rome. She finally becomes an outcast among her fellow American tourists when she commits the unforgiveable crime of strolling down the street on the arms of two men!
- Deliciously inverted in The Ambassadors.
- Redwall: The word "love" is almost never used except for family and friendship types of love. (Making the throwaway line in The Sable Quean where a female Mook declares "I loved him" and vows to avenge her slain mate even more striking.) Martin and Rose, the most famous couple, are never described with the word "love", and barely even hold paws onscreen, but it's still clear that they're very important to each other, and still heartbreaking when Rose is killed.
- Several novels by Isaac Asimov. Asimov himself openly acknowledged his (at least perceived) inability to write interpersonal relationships, let alone romance, and on several occasions lampooned himself for it. There are married couples in his books, but their relationship seldom plays a large role in the narrative. With the ironic exception of The Gods Themselves, written in part as a response to criticism that his books didn't have enough aliens or sex, which featured alien energy beings having the least titillating (to a human audience) threesomes in history. Which are absolutely essential to the plot.
Live Action TV
- Power Rangers had three on-screen kisses in seventeen years, often taking Will They or Won't They? to painful levels.
- Not to mention those kisses were all done by the same couple. That couple was Kimberly and Tommy. Which means that all three kisses happened between Tommy's debut (middle of season 1) and Kimberly's departure (middle of season 3) That amounts to three kisses in roughly the span of two seasons, out of what is now 19 seasons and nearly 20 years.
- Executive Meddling forces may have been at work, too. According to SPD executive producer Greg Aranowitz, higher ups demanded as-low-as-possible levels of romance in the series, since it's targeted at little boys and all (he only said that about SPD, naturally, but who knows what goes through the minds of Disney).
- CSI torpedoed the UST between Grissom and Sara via the episode "Butterflied," where Gil's monologue about an older man pursuing a younger coworker pretty much annihilates Sara's enthusiasm. However, two and a half seasons later, they're revealed to be in an intimate relationship that they've kept completely hidden from everyone else.
- Doctor Who took this one to the point where a noticeable section of fans believed (and still do) that Time Lords are asexual, and have contrived extremely elaborate Fan Wank to make this a biological viability. A form of this supposed asexuality is Canon in one Expanded Universe novel series, based off plans script editor Andrew Cartmel had for the Seventh Doctor -- but the Expanded Universe isn't part of the TV show canon.
- The new series very quickly made efforts to dispel this aspect of the original series, with the Doctor and Rose having a slow-burning relationship climaxing in a kiss at the end of the first season. By now, the Doctor has snogged or been snogged by Cassandra, Reinette, Astrid, Joan, Martha, Donna, Amy, River, Catherine, the freaking TARDIS and Captain Jack (and Rory in the comics), all for various reasons. Naturally, many of that first section of fans dislike the new series for precisely this reason. However, the writers are quite respectful towards the fans who'd rather see the Doctor be chaste, and always leave room for a bit of denial. (As for the Rose thing: he leaves her behind forever so she can go live happily with his mortal clone. Problem solved!)
- At one point (particularly in the Davison era), there was a No Hugging, No Kissing, No Touching between the Doctor and his female companions, to dispel the notion of "hanky-panky" going on in the TARDIS. (Ironically, it just made fangirls think he was gay for Turlough.)
- Averted when Nyssa leaves. She gives the Doctor a kiss on the cheek.
- There were a couple occasions where Five was allowed to hug his female companions, such as after he rescued Nyssa from George Cranleigh on the roof of a burning building in "Black Orchid", after Tegan is released from the Mara in "Snakedance", and when Sharaz Jek intimidates Peri in "The Caves of Androzani".
- The Doctor's first companion Susan wasn't originally his granddaughter, but was redesigned as such to forestall any potential implications about an old man travelling around alone with a young teenager.
- While Corner Gas isn't completely devoid of romance, the level is incredibly low for a show about six single, middle aged characters (and Oscar and Emma), and the few episodes do deal with romance bring up pairings just to dismiss them.
- 30 Rock is very clear about this: Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy will never get together. Never. Not once. (Although they were married for one episode, due to a technicality, for what it's worth.)
- Warhammer 40000 and all of its spinoffs, including the role-playing games, tend to gloss over or completely avoid the subject of romance and love, bar that love and desire feed one of the Gods of Chaos. It's understandable, given the settings' all-encompassing emphasis on war and mayhem, but even in the books, offhand references at best are the rule, with exceptions few and far between.
- Very mildly averted in the Ciaphas Cain novels, where Cain is a devoted pursuer of women, and there's a few other relationships mentioned when they cross his path. It's mostly offscreen, and mostly implied, but it's there.
- An example of Executive Meddling in Bionicle. There were hints of romance in the early flash animations and online games, but these were decanonized when the Lego Company decided to eliminate romance on the grounds that the core demographic (5-12 year olds) would find it "icky." Greg Farshtey, the lead story writer for Bionicle, also refuses to explain how new beings come into existence. To paraphrase Farshtey:
"If I say no, I open one can of worms. If I say yes, I then get dozens of questions about the sex lives of plastic toys."
- And then one of the movies went ahead and had an Unholy Matrimony plot. Farshtey had to handwave that one as merely a kind of political alliance, the same way kings would have their children married to strengthen bonds between royal houses (which to be fair is very much Truth in Television).
- The rule is now and forever more broken, officially. In the final novel of the entire saga, Kiina confesses her feelings toward Mata Nui by hugging him, and riding away in tears... and she was a feisty Action Girl who barely displayed any deep emotions like this up to that point.
- Kingdom Hearts has no professions of romance of any sort, or any confirmed relationships. There are, however, a great many professions of enduring friendship - which has lead to perhaps one of the greatest of all pairing wars in the history of Squeenix video games. There is a heavily implied romantic interest between Sora and Kairi in II, but it doesn't go any farther than that.
- Knights of the Old Republic II (which the lead quote refers to), by itself, isn't a very violent offender, although the romantic element is clearly downplayed compared to the first game and doesn't have as much impact on the main plot.
- Link and Zelda's relationship in The Legend of Zelda has almost never been romantic, barring a few exceptions and hints.
- The Expanded Universe manga adaptations of the games completely defy this and openly show Link and Zelda having feelings for each other (though usually more Link than Zelda). Much of the less canonical material, such as the American cartoon, the American comic that ran in Nintendo Power, and the CD-I games, also place them a lot closer together (though the cartoon turns it into Slap Slap Kiss).
- On the other hand, every female of appropriate age (and one that's not) in Ocarina of Time seems to be hot for Link. Princess Ruto even becomes engaged to him.
- Possibly, there are two females of inappropriate age for Link in OOT, given how Saria can't grow up (unless you're into Toy Ship). Still, OOT Link does have a surprisingly large number of girls who show interest in him, given how other Zelda games usually only have one or two.
- Zelda in The Minish Cap is giggly and openly flirty with Link (or as openly flirty as you can be with someone who doesn't really give feedback).
- At the end of a linked Oracle of Seasons/Ages game, Zelda kisses Link on the cheek, and a heart appears above his head.
- Marin in Link's Awakening seems to be the closest to an actual love interest Link has, doing all but hugging or kissing (or directly speaking about their feelings).
- Ilia in Twilight Princess matches Marin in that you can tell they're close even though they don't physically show it (there's even a Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone gag).
- Towards the end of Spirit Tracks, after Zelda gets her body back, she hugs Link (he blushes at this) and after you've beaten Malladus the camera zooms in on Link and Zelda holding hands.
- Phantom Hourglass made Link and Tetra act... very, very sweet towards each other (yeah, even Link, he even had some face-expressions that were only used for cutscenes related to Tetra).
- While Skyward Sword plays it mostly straight between Link and Zelda with nothing more than the standard mild Ship Tease between the two, there's a surprising aversion involved in one sidequest. The NPC running the Item Check, Peatrice, unambiguously becomes infatuated with Link as his patronises her stall at the bazaar, and dialogue options allow Link to return her feelings if the player so chooses. It culminates in an open declaration of love between the two before she picks up on the fact that Link is kinda busy with something at the moment and decides they should wait until he's finished up this business to tell her father the good news.
- Betrayal at Krondor has no romance, Disregarding Owyn's crush on Gamina or references to James's one-night-stands. This is facilitated by all six of the main characters being male.
- Obsidian Entertainment's later Neverwinter Nights 2, in comparison, avoids it almost completely (save for a single scene under the moon), and whatever sexuality-related themes are there are mostly played for laughs.
- Similar to the Zelda example, the relationships in the Super Mario Bros. games seem mostly platonic with Mario and Luigi only receiving kisses on the cheek for the reward to each rescue. Surprisingly, Luigi is asked about Mario and Peach's relationship in Super Paper Mario, and he admits that it is confusing but they seem to be just friends. Additionally, Super Mario RPG employed joke kisses (where Bowser and Booster could accidentally wind up kissing Mario on the cheek or each other on the lips while trying to steal a kiss from Peach). Aside from that, the series just teases potential pairings such as Luigi/Daisy and Yoshi/Birdo.
- Freelancer makes it very clear that Trent and Juni start out as brothers at arms to end up as close friends, but nothing more.
- Touhou has no romance whatsoever. Hell, only a literal handful of characters even have known family members.
- Dynasty Warriors was pretty bad with this, despite the canon couples such as Liu Bei and Sun Shang Xiang, then Sima Zhao and Wang Yuanji, most notably on the latter, which has both of them act like close friends instead of being a couple, at least.
- The closest to subverting this trope is Wu's ending on DW7, with Sun Quan carrying Lian Shi (both are an example similar to Zhao and Yuanji). Koei, you really need to to make these relationships believable.
- As mentioned in the anime, there's little romance in Pokémon other than implications and subtext.
- Wild Arms 3 has no romance subplot at all whatsoever.
- Love and sex are never mentioned in Dark Souls. The only marriage ever mentioned is off screen and neither character involved is personally encountered. It might just be that the world sucks so much no one can really bother thinking about such things, or that the Dark Sign is also Sterility Plague.
- In Something Positive, Davan and PeeJee have been friends for years, helping each other through bad times. (Davan had a crush on PeeJee for a while, but told her that he got over it.) The author has specifically stated that they will not get into a relationship (and that the woman PeeJee is based on would hurt him if they did). As of this writing, Davan has just found a long-term girlfriend, and the story is eight years into a planned ten-year run, so it looks like this trope will be upheld.
- While there were hints of possible mutual interest between the two leads in Disney's Fillmore, there was nothing really overt between them. All other positively romantic relationships in the series were limited to couples smiling, holding hands, and giving each other meaningful looks. It should be noted that most of the characters in the series are in middle school.
- The closest thing to romance in Invader Zim is Gretchen's implied crush on Dib, Tak's brief and incredibly violent "relationship" with Zim (motivated by revenge and SCIENCE!, respectively), and GIR's very obvious interest in Gaz.
- The first two seasons of Re Boot, strangled mercilessly by Executive Meddling, made sure to ruthlessly stifle any impression that Bob and Dot were romantically linked, or were at all interested in each other in that way. Needless to say, once cut free, the creators quite happily rectified that.
- Despite the many love songs and possible Incest Subtext in The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan, the lives of Mr. Chan and his children were decidedly romance-free (on camera, anyway). The only romantic subplot ever was between the family dog and a one-episode canine character.
- My Little Pony in general tends to not have any on-screen romance.
- Lauren Faust specifically noted that My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic was not a show which would contain romance of any kind for the mane cast. Despite this, Rarity is initially attracted to Prince Blueblood (she got over that quickly though) and Spike has a Precocious Crush on Rarity herself which she is apparently aware of. All other romantic scenarios happen to minor characters, so there is still a Valentines' Day episode and "A Friend In Deed" has Cranky and Matilda. And dare we mention Shining Armor and Princess Cadence? By the end of their episode they've both hugged and kissed.
- Averted in the romance heavy My Little Pony Tales. Also averted in My Little Pony and Friends - one episode featured a mutual crush between a mare and a Big Brother Pony. The toy line attempted to avert up until G3, where all romance was dropped.