Coupling (CP) is a term used within the doujinshi community in Japan that is as popular as the term “Shipping” is in the English-speaking fan community. Both words are used to describe the desire to see two fictional characters in a romantic (and often also sexual) relationship. Coupling/Shipping contributes to and drives most of a fandom’s creativity—both in the doujinshi community in Japan and fandoms in the English-speaking fan community.
The word Coupling (カップリング, read as “kappuringu”), often shortened into カプ (“kapu”) or CP, is the Japanese equivalent to Shipping. Quite obviously, it is derived from the English word “couple,” indicating a romantic relationship. Shipping is the verb variation of the word “ship,” which is derived from the word “relationship.” The earliest use of this word dates back to 1996 within fan communities.
Coupling (in Japanese) and Shipping (in English) are equivalent terms. However, the technicalities of how they are expressed are quite different. Coupling originally only refers to two fictional, same-sex characters in a romantic or/and sexual relationship. It is written by either separating the characters’ names with an ‘x’ (for example, Yamada x Takuya) or meshing the syllables of their names together to make a coupling name (for example, YamaTaku). The character mentioned first, or positioned on the left, is assigned the role of seme while the character written second, or placed on the right, is the uke.
Shipping, especially in fandoms based on Japanese popular media, is similarly expressed as it is in Japan. However, for fandoms with strong Western influence or based on Western popular media, a ship is also referred to by separating characters’ names with a slash symbol (for example, Yamada/Takuya).
Fans have used the slash symbol since early fandom history dating back to the 1970s to refer to slash relationships (romantic relationships between men). Yet, in these cases, the order of the names doesn’t necessarily imply who is the top or bottom.
The reason why there is such a difference perhaps is that in doujinshi communities, which is more commercialized than English-speaking creative fandom, the “top x bottom” style helps fans navigate fanmade contents when buying them.
Coupling (CP) and Shipping: Modern Usage
While doujinshi communities initially used the term Coupling (CP), it has also become more commonly used in popular media to show what kind of relationship a story depicts. For example, when looking up BL manga, you might find a manga advertised as “Puppy-ish Seme x Overly-serious Uke.” Not only that, even though initially the term is used for same-sex characters in a relationship, nowadays, it is also commonly used for opposite-sex characters in a relationship.
Shipping remains a common and popular term in English-speaking fandoms, and recently the word has also made its way to the Japanese fan community. However, it seems that it wasn’t able to gain ground as compared to Coupling. It continues to be an umbrella term to describe the action or desire to see two fictional characters in a romantic and/or sexual relationship.
So what are your favorite coupling or ships? If you’re curious to see which couples are popular among the titles in futekiya, head out to check our recent poll on everyone’s favorite couple!
About futekiya: BL manga subscription
In 2018, futekiya began as a Boys’ Love manga news and culture website operated by FANTASISTA, INC., a CG/VR production studio based in Tokyo, Japan. futekiya transformed into a budding global distributor of officially licensed BL manga in 2019.
futekiya launched as an online subscription service for officially licensed BL manga on July 8, 2019. Determined to connect fans around the world with English-translated BL legally and conveniently, futekiya empowers readers to support creators and the manga industry.
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