Rooting for fictional romance to happen, or even on a lesser scale, rooting for a platonic friendship to arise between rivals or enemies, is one of the biggest ongoing discussions and forms of engagement in entertainment. For many, it’s an emotional connection between viewer and character(s), to the extent that even the viewer can fall in love with one (or more) of the characters. But that’s not really shipping, per se, so let’s just focus on the reasoning behind wanting two (or more) characters getting together in romantic ways.
The appeal of wanting characters to “click” is an understandable feeling. Seeing them exchange glances and have one shy away while the other acts befuddled is generally a hint at something akin to an unrequited love, with the implication that it will go somewhere… eventually. Once a warm interest is presented the impression that they will develop a relationship is formed. Romantic developments are obviously the center focus of “romance” genres, but they can also become an emotional anchor (if done well) for otherwise “non-romance” type stories.
I can’t speak for everyone, so I’ll just speak for myself and some of the characters I’ve shipped (still ship). It’s not an activity I incorporate into my viewing / reading experiences a lot, but when I do, it comes from either well-done overt suggestion of a romance between two characters (Kanna and Saikawa), or heavily implied subtext between two characters being stronger than other potential relationships for them (Deku and Ochako).
Remembering back, I think the first pair of characters I ever shipped was Gohan and Videl (unless we’re extending to cartoons, in which case possibly Kim x Ron, or Danny x Sam). The Cell Saga was the peak of Gohan’s development in a lot of ways: having to fight Cell while still wrestling with his fighting nature and his scholarly ambitions, witnessing the death of 16, maturing after experiencing a taste of acting cruel to Cell and realizing there’s no reason they need to fight, and losing his father (again). Skipping years into his adolescence has him fumbling about and to the disappointment of many; a lot less cool. But, I’ve come to terms with that side of Gohan as it being who he really is, and while Videl’s attraction to him at the beginning stemmed from curiosity around his secret identity as the Saiyaman, she also admires that other side of him.
Their relationship has been a pleasant development between their characters. Initially, Videl is closed-off from her father and others. Her time with Gohan progressively shows clear signs of her simmering down and becoming more open. Videl discovering it was really Gohan who defeated Cell, and not her lying father, lights up her world. And Gohan, with all the baggage he’s had since childhood, needs someone like Videl to tender to his other nature. And when he loses it after witnessing Videl’s fight with Spopovich, and the trust Videl shows when he hands her a senzu bean, it’s pretty much cemented at this point they care deeply about one another. Seeing them together now, married and with a daughter (Pan) is something special that I really appreciate from Dragon Ball.
Nagisa and Kayano is a bit of an odd ship, since they don’t have much in the way of chemistry compared to others, but within the context of there not really being anyone else for either of them, they’re sort of perfect for each in that way. Plus, that c-c-combo kiss! (Followed by Kayano’s embarrassment and unrequited love).
More recently, the relationships in Kobayashi have me back on the shipping boat. Of course, the obvious ship being Kobayashi and Tohru, since the show keeps hammering in how much they’ve improved each other’s lives and opened themselves up to new things. But, the I can’t overlook the adorable young (suggestion of) love between Kanna and Saikawa. They’re moments together are so tender, innocent, and heart-warming it’s almost impossible not to go “Awww” with every moment they share.
Saikawa’s reactions every time Kanna touches her or does something adorable (which is Kanna’s constant state of being) are emotionally rewarding and uplifting. Their moments together, like in class, when Saikawa challenges Kanna to an arm-wrestling match, and instead of taking her up on her challenge and trouncing her, Kanna cries and says she wants to be friends (awww). Saikawa’s taken aback and nervous admittance that she wants to be friends too is a funny delight. Their walk home together, where Kanna let’s out an sincere “I like you” and Saikawa’s heart melts with her face lighting up in bliss is an endearing development between their characters.
I could continue to list the rest of their interactions together and why they’re such a treat to watch, but I think I would just end up repeating myself and re-use the word “adorable” too much. Even if it just remains a friendship, it’ll remain a lovely one at that. Though a little more would be a refreshing progression, I’m very happy watching the show as it is.