Of Love and Arranged Marriages

(significant spoiler warnings for NOBUNAGA THE FOOL and The World is Still Beautiful, and a mild one for NO GAME NO LIFE ep.2)

In the current anime season that’s just wrapping up, three couples from two shows I happen to be watching are together because of political marriages.

Maybe it’s my age or maybe it’s just a sign of the times, but it’s been somewhat gratifying to see these pairs put in the effort to make their relationships work, and with a minimal amount of angst to boot.

Both Oda Nobunaga and his sister Ichihime in NOBUNAGA THE FOOL agreed to marry not for love, but for the betterment and protection of their province.

Nobunaga desired the power of the Regalia that Queen Himiko of Yamatai was offering. From what I recall, he made it seem like acquiring a wife in the process was just a fringe benefit. Regardless, he continued to value her as an ally and treated her with gentleness and faithfulness, even though he was obviously not particularly attracted to her.

When Ichihime accepted the marriage proposal from Gaius Julius Caesar, a foreign aggressor who had threatened their land and their people, it was as part of a deal so that he would halt any further attacks and offer his protection instead. In doing so, she left behind the man at home who loved her.

Ichihime was true to her vows and gave her all to the relationship. She worried about her husband when they were separated and even tried to save him when he seemed to lose his way.

In both cases, though, their spouses did not need to learn to love them back. Himiko was already in love with Nobunaga when she offered her Regalia in exchange for his hand in marriage. And Caesar was infatuated enough with Ichihime that he was prepared to alter his allegiances and potentially betray his own side.

The World is Still Beautiful featured a more traditional example of a politically-motivated arranged marriage, with the union of the young leader of the Sun Kingdom, Livius, and Princess Nike of the Principality of Rain. Neither of them knew each other beforehand. In fact, the Sun King didn’t even know which princess he was going to wed as Nike and her sisters decided it amongst themselves using a game of rock paper scissors!

Nike and Livius were both hard-headed and opinionated, so it predictably took some time for the two of them to get comfortable with each other. Before long, though, they started to trust and support one another. They even chose to stay together when offered an out.

Conversely, it seems as if romantic love has fallen out of favour nowadays. Stephanie Dola of NO GAME NO LIFE, upon realizing that she was inescapably in love, demonstrated the reaction of a contemporary anime girl by smashing her head repeatedly against a wall.

When she caught herself fantasizing about marrying the guy, she smashed her forehead again.

It’s understandable, really. I mean, any self-respecting girl would be wary to find herself trapped in such a vulnerable situation.

In a later episode of The World is Still Beautiful, Nike came to the realization that she was actually developing genuine romantic feelings for her husband. She responded by violently smashing her head against the wall.