Ask John: Why is Romance Between Cousins Common in Anime?

I’m curious about cousins as a love interest in anime. It seems that a lot of harem or romantic anime feature the main character’s cousin as a possible love interest. Why is this? Is marrying your first cousin or developing a relationship with them not considered strange in Japan? Rarely does it appear that such a love interest is treated with any kind of disgust by other characters.

The frequency of romantic relationships between cousins in anime actually may be more revealing of American traditions than Japanese ones. Allow me to cite a few facts from America is the only Western country that has legal prohibitions preventing cousins from marrying, and marriage between cousins is legal in more than half of the United States. There is no proven scientific evidence suggesting that marriage between cousins drastically increases the odds of procreating children with birth defects. Marriage between cousins is legal in Japan, and is four times as common in Japan than it is in America. So compared to much of the rest of the world, it’s actually America’s objection to marriage between cousins that may seem weird.

Marriage within an extended family may be slightly more common in Japanese society and anime because there are fewer social taboos prohibiting it, and the Japanese social system may make communication and interaction easier between people who already have existing relationships. Romances between siblings and childhood friends may be more common in anime than relationships that form between co-workers or complete strangers. Furthermore, in certain cases, marriage with a single extended family may also be inspired by a desire to insulate a single clan or extended family, possibly to protect status or wealth.


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