Management: Originally an idea for a Crunchyroll post, I ended up translating it into a piece for my personal blog.
A part of me has always struggled with the idea of shipping characters, especially if that shipping involves a non-canon pairing. There’s this half part of me that wants to refrain from projecting myself onto a story, especially if it’s by a creator I respect. The other half of me can’t help mentally picturing characters as perfect together, even when I refrain from stating those hopes aloud. I usually end up rationalizing that tendency by shipping characters whose relationships seem all but certain to form based on narrative trajectory: Hikigaya Hachiman and Yukino Yukinoshita from My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, Aki Tomoya and Megumi Kato from Saekano, Ryuuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka from Toradora!, and many more.
But then there are those stories in anime where one potential couple is all but initially certain, another is expressly spurned at a pivotal moment, and one where the romantic match is something that will never be officially recognized: Naruto Uzumaki and Hinata Hyuuga in Naruto, Subaru Natsuki and Rem in Re:Zero, and Nanoha Takamichi and Fate Testarossa from the Nanoha franchise.
To an extent, I think fan shipping and fan fiction writing share a lot of things in common, and as someone who has caught the shipping bug and has written fan fiction in the past, I have one theory to explain why some people ship non-canon relationships. To put it simply, sometimes we as fans aren’t completely satisfied with everything the canon story gives us. We might find holes or loose ends in the stories that we otherwise enjoy. Writing fanfiction or shipping characters is a way for us to address the issues we have with stories, adding in our own own ideas of how things maybe should be.