Exploring the Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime

Exploring the Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime
Credit: Brain's Base

Exploring the Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime
Credit: Brain's Base

As a longtime romance and shoujo anime fan, I frequently root for the second male or female lead to end up with the main lead. It’s a weird feeling, but also thought-provoking, as viewers are expected to support the main leads. This is called the Second Lead Syndrome in romance anime, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

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What Is the Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime?

What Is Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime?
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Credit: Production I.G

In a nutshell, Second Lead Syndrome, or SLS, refers to the viewer's unusual desire for the second female and/or male lead to end up with the main lead.

We basically want the second lead to have a happy ending with the main lead rather than his or her intended partner, despite the fact that we know it will not happen.

We also apply it to ourselves, in that we want to end up with someone who is more like the second lead than the main lead from a romance anime.

This is happening not only in anime but also in movies, TV shows, and, most notably, K-dramas. Although it primarily affects women, male viewers are not immune to the syndrome.

When the second leads establish themselves as the ideal partners for the main leads, the SLS begins to affect viewers. At this point, they have everything a woman or man would want in a partner.

Interestingly, the second leads are always written in a way that contradicts the main leads. They also step in to fulfill the main leads' shortcomings for their partners.

Furthermore, the SLS is frequently seen in romance anime with love triangles.

This is why anime fans rally behind their best girl or boy, spawning memes, fanfiction, and even petitions on social media, forums, and online communities.

It also creates a huge schism in the community, with both sides listing their arguments and rebuttals.

Why Do We Keep Having Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime?

Why Do We Keep Having Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime?
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Credit: TMS Entertainment

We continue to have a second lead syndrome for a variety of reasons: the second leads are better written, more ideal, more entertaining, and more precious; we feel their pain; and they deserve a happier ending than the main leads in romance anime.

There are also several factors that contribute to this syndrome: the main leads are obnoxious and have no interest in either the female or male lead; the second lead is doomed from the start; and by the end of the anime, the second lead will simply accept his painful fate and move on.

This in turn motivates us to become their advocates in the hope that they will be treated more fairly.

Why Do We Keep Having Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime?
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Credit: TMS Entertainment

Have you ever seen Fruits Basket? Or perhaps you finished the romance anime Ao Haru Ride? If so, you may have liked the second leads on both of these shows at some point.

Yuki Sohma is the second male lead in Fruits Basket, following the main lead, Kyo Sohma, whereas Kikuchi Toma is the second lead in Ao Haru Ride, following Kou Mabuchi.

What do they all have in common? Yuki and Kikuchi are both excellent choices for the main female leads.

They are the polar opposite of the main characters in that they appear to be knights in shining armor for the female leads.

They are kind, soft-spoken, chivalrous, protective, and the list goes on, in contrast to the primary male leads, who frequently hurt the female leads' feelings and get on their nerves.

And because of their endearing personalities, we frequently root for them rather than the main character.

After all, we want the best for the female leads because they deserve more than what their main partner can offer or provide.

The same can be said for Hotohori of Fushigi Yuugi, who gave so much of himself for Miaka Yuuki only to be hurt in the end.

He loved Miaka more, and he would go to any length to make her the happiest girl on the face of the earth.

He would also do anything, including sacrificing his life, to protect his special someone. He values her more than anything else in the world.

This means that Hotohori embodies everything we look for in a man in real life. We can't help but root for him in everything he does in order to win the love of his life.

We sympathize with his anguish and wish we could hug and console him on behalf of the female lead.

What Are the Symptoms of Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime?

What Are the Symptoms of Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime?
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Credit: SHAFT
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There are numerous symptoms of SLS, some of which are obvious but others of which I was completely unaware.

For instance, I'm always looking forward to a scene involving the second and main leads. I'll watch it again and again, wishing that this scene would never end.

Another symptom is when viewers find themselves smiling whenever the second lead rather than the main lead is in the spotlight.

This happened a lot to me after watching Food Wars (which isn't a romance anime, by the way) because I wanted Megumi Tadokoro to end up with Yukihira Souma rather than Erina Nakiri.

We also tend to question the main lead's decisions and agree with the reasoning of the second lead.

We will, of course, rally behind them because we know they want the best for the main lead.

Obviously, we also get frustrated and disappointed by the time the main leads have their happy ending. This only means that the second lead will either be devastated or forgotten.

In some cases, we also tend to drop the show and move on.

How to Cope With Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime

How to Cope With Second Lead Syndrome in Romance Anime?
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Credit: Telecom Animation Film

There are many ways to cope with SLS, one of which is to share your pain in online forums and discussions.

Another option is to watch fan-made anime videos starring your OTPs (one-true pairings). You can also read fanfiction and leave the rest to your imagination.

At the end of the day, the second lead will always have a place in our hearts that the main lead will have no chance to replace. We chose them, and unlike the main lead, we will treasure them as they should have been from the start!

Better yet, watch another romance anime with a love triangle in the plot to repeat the same cycle!

To name a few, we recommend Orange, Ouran High School Host Club, Hana Yori Dango, My Little Monster, Bokura Ga Ita, and School Rumble!

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