I think I’m always fated to like the one who loses in the love triangle. I’m a fan of the Betty more than I am of the Veronica in most love triangles, though not necessarily because I think they should end up with the main character by the end. It doesn’t help that the promotional posters and art are pretty blatant about who wins.
It all boils down to the fact that the most important aspect of a story to me is characterization. I can stand an outlandish artstyle, I can stand a nonsensical plot, but what I can’t stand are badly written characters.
The girl who loses has a more interesting story arc to me, because she went through many flags of her own for the love of her beloved, and possibly even got close, only for all of that to be for naught. It’s interesting seeing the inner struggle of a character who is willing to sacrifice their own happiness to make someone else happy, be it the guy, the girl, or both, in most cases. Of course, most girls who “lose” have similar personalities. Remember how I said I liked the Betty over the Veronica? The Betty tends to be the reliable and kind girl, to the wild and manic Veronica. This applies to most romance anime as well.
The non-main girl tends to have a very general pleasant sort of personality, i. e.(friendly, reliable, energetic, athletic,childhood friend) with very few obvious negative traits, if any, but don’t have an obvious trait for the MC to clash with, like Taiga from Toradora’s messy tsundere personality to Ryuuji’s neatfreak responsible personality, Yukino from Oregairu’s cold and detached attitude to Hachiman’s angry and snarky attitude, or Kaori’s almost fairy-like energy to Kousei’s stagnant passiveness. In other words, there’s nothing for the MC to fix for her, or something for the girl to fix for the MC, at least not in the way the other would really want. It depends, obviously, but this is most usually the case. The love becomes more platonic and sisterly instead of romantic.
Oregairu’s Yui Yuigahama, as an example, is aware of how average she is as a person compared to her two best friends with issues, Yukinon and Hachiman. She’s always part of the group, but never someone you talk to out of it, usually. Despite that, she is the most well-adjusted and kind of the two, the one who can blunt their sharp words and warm their cold hearts. It’s exactly this kindness, however, that prevents her from doing anything that might hurt them in the short term.
Minori, my favorite character from Toradora, is another example. Her thing is that she’s energetic and goofy,and juggles an insane amount of activities and jobs. On the surface, she doesn’t have the attitude problems that Ami and Taiga have. This general goodness is what Ryuuji finds attractive. However, her energetic nature is a facade that hides a much more perceptive and lonely personality, one that prioritizes the happiness of other over herself, sometimes to a fault. She has a bit of a complex about being helpful, to the point of being uncharacteristically moody when things go sour.
Tsubaki, from Your Lie in April, is Kousei’s childhood friend who simply cannot spit it out. She’s everything Kousei is not. She’s very friendly, energetic, athletic, and headstrong in just about everything except her feelings towards Kousei. However, it’s this refusal to commitment with Kousei that allows her other lifelong friend, Kaori to get in the middle of them. Kaori is a wild, impulsive, and playful fairy, and manages to drag Kousei into her rhythm, to Tsubaki’s hidden dismay, especially since she was the one who introduced Kaori in the first place. I could go on with a lot of other examples from other series, but there is one uniting factor in all three of them.
Every girl I’ve mentioned is too nice for their own good, against a rival who is in pretty dire circumstances. They likely have as much of a chance as the other girl in the fight for MC’s affection, and usually even start with a distinct advantage over the main girl. Yui is the first girl to bring Hachiman on what was basically a date (like she initiated and everything , and also the first girl to give him cookies. Ryuuji actually LIKES Minori romantically at the start of the series. Tsubaki has known Kousei for literally all her life.
However, their rivals are all forces of nature in the protagonists’ lives, girls that challenge the MC’s views and personality. Not only that, they have issues that make the best girl feel very guilty about “winning”. Taiga and Yukino are abrasive, lonely, friendless and have family issues right from the start. Kaori is obviously not those things, but you’ll just have to watch Your Lie in April to understand. By winning, these girls would knowingly have taken an important anchor to their rivals’ lives, something they deem is much more impactful to these girls than their own selfish romance.
It’s a rock and a hard place for them, and yet that is why I love these characters so much. I admire the courage and sacrifice it takes to give up your own happiness for somebody else. Their defining traits are loyalty, perseverance and warmth, things that I find are rare in people these days. The fact that you know even if they lose, they will always be there for the couple and supporting what they end up doing, is something that I find is worth as much as the love that the main girl has for the MC.
Who is your favorite romantic runner-up in anime? Comment down below!