Red String of Fate

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Now available in a three way version, for when one destined love interest just isn't enough.
My red hair became my red string of fate.
Kushina, Naruto

A common concept, especially in series dealing with romances, is the Red String of Fate (akai ito or unmei no akai ito). The concept is that two people who are destined to be together are attached by an invisible red string bound from a male's thumb to a female's pinky finger (generally, though not always, at the first knuckle from the fingernail; also, nowadays it's become more common to show both parties attached at the pinky).

It is an East Asian belief originating from Chinese legend, with people claiming many different countries of origin and/or religions for it, but the usage is clear regardless. The trope is so pervasive that merely holding up the thumb is used as shorthand for girlfriend, and holding a pinky up would indicate a boyfriend.

Akai Ito (written with the kanji kanojo no chi, or "Her Blood", given the reading of akai ito in furigana) is also the title of a 2004 Dating Sim by Success. The actual red string concept figures into some of the art as well as the story.

The real question is: If it's invisible, how do we know it's red? What color is the heart? Sort of purplish, actually.

Warning: Choking Hazard. May be related to the Pinky Swear. Usually involved in Reincarnation Romance. See also Fate Drives Us Together and Forgotten First Meeting.

Examples of Red String of Fate include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Played straight too many times to mention, the concept is used for comedic effect in the Tenchi Muyo! series Tenchi in Tokyo, where Tenchi is connected by red strings to just about every major character. For the unlearned, that's around 7 strings total. There's a reason there's a trope named after him...
  • In one episode of Ranma ½, Shampoo attempts to use an actual magical red string to bind Ranma to her romantically.
    • A possible variation occurs in a late manga story revolving around the Tanabata, where Ranma and Akane will supposedly be destined to marry if two leaves with their names on them remain intact and bound together, but they will never be if either one is destroyed. Cue Ranma having to go through hell, including Tatewaki Kuno suddenly coming out of nowhere with a steel-bladed katana, to ensure that the leaves aren't destroyed or tied to the leaves of other people.
    • In the song "November Rain" from one of the albums (which is basically an angsty subversion of the Umbrella of Togetherness trope), the lyrics strongly imply that Ranma and Akane are bound together by the Red String of Fate, even though it is currently, as Ranma puts it, "loose."

Ranma: With the red thread, loose as it is, we are walking.

  • Toward the end of the Urusei Yatsura movie "Remember My Love", notorious lech Ataru is shown to have multiple red strings attached to every one of his fingers. It's implied that he might like to be faithful to Lum, but...
  • In episode 5 of Excel Saga, "The Interesting Giant Tower", Watanabe is surprised (and annoyed) to find his roommates applying for jobs at the same office building he's gone to, and Iwata quips "We must be joined together by the invisible red string of destiny!" Watanabe flips and hits him, declaring, "The red string is for boys and girls only!"
    • In the same episode, Watanabe finds that Hyatt, his love interest, is at the same place selling refreshments. She gives him a drink for free, and as she walks away, Watanabe muses, "...the red string!" Sumiyoshi looks at the drink and remarks, "It's green."
    • Spiritual Successor OVA Puni Puni Poemi parodies this with Poemi, who's attached to her friend Futaba. At that moment, Futaba and her sisters are being taken hostage by incredibly horny aliens, and as they get dragged away in a net, Poemi is forcibly dragged to them herself.
  • Appears in a flashback of Juri's recollections of her time spent with Shiori and an unnamed male character in Revolutionary Girl Utena.
  • In an episode of Chou Kuse ni Narisou, a gay teacher who mistakenly develops a crush on Nagisa suggests to her that there's a Red String of Fate connecting them. Nagisa can actually see the string, and yells at the teacher to cut it out....
  • Poemi follows the red string tied to her finger to find her friend Futaba after she is captured in Puni Puni Poemi.
  • Used as an unseen force in Ai Yori Aoshi that binds Aoi and Kaoru together. It was part of the premise that their relationship is so unshakable that neither Kaoru's Harem nor Aoi's old fashioned and powerful family can pull them apart. It was featured in the opening sequence and referred to as Enishi (The bonds that tie) in a conversation between Aoi and Kaoru in the second season.
    • Also, when Mayu first sees Kaoru again, she talks about them being bound by the red string of fate (she's been nursing a crush since their first meeting years earlier). Alas, The Masquerade prevents Kaoru from telling her his string is already tied.
  • In Nana, Reira writes a song about her seedy relationship with Shin by describing it as taking the red string off someone's finger.
  • Tachikawa Megumi's one-shot manga Music Box of Spring used this; in the end, the characters' hands are cut and bleeding, and the main character's perspective shifts, seeing the blood as the red string.
  • Mamotte Shugogetten has an episode with mystic threads that bind the fingers of the first two people to pick it up. Although they don't behave much like the threads of the legend, the reference is clear, as the first one to be used is red.
  • In the manga's 139.5 omake of Gakuen Alice, the hands of baby Mikan and Natsume are seen as connected by a (Likely red) string.
  • Detective Conan: The Time-Bombed Skyscraper concludes with Ran selecting which color wire on a bomb to cut; the bomber had designed the bomb to go off if the red wire were cut, having overheard that red was her favorite color, but Ran couldn't bring herself to cut it, seeing it as the red string of fate between her and Shinichi.
  • Reversed in Noir, as Mireille (a Corsican) muses on the connection between herself and Kirika.

"The thread that binds you and I is the color black, of this I am sure. Blacker than pitch...blacker than night...blacker than the darkness itself."

  • Yu Yu Hakusho: Kuwabara claimed that the way he found his love interest, Yukina, was simply by following the red string tied to their fingers. The anime provides a visual; in reality, he probably just sensed her spirit energy.
  • In an episode of the "alien arc" of Sailor Moon (R) Usagi states to her love rival En/An/Ann (urgh, transliteration problems) alias Natsumi Ginga that she is connected to Mamoru by the red string of destiny. Which appears on screen, only to have Natsumi cut it.
  • Kannazuki no Miko's opening features the two heroines tied by a red string. It appears in the show itself in the form of Himeko's bloodied bandage which twirl around the arms of both females as the gods take Chikane away in the last episode.
  • The opening of Potemayo has Mikan wearing a literal red string that supposedly attaches to Sunao, and she makes it clear during the series that she believes she and Sunao are "tied" to each other.
  • In Kimagure Orange Road, as Yukari sings Like a salvia flower onstage she takes a long red ribbon and playfully wraps a part of it around Madoka, throwing the other extreme to Kyouske. Here is the video
  • In the first ending theme of the anime adaptation of Kekkaishi there is a line which roughly translates to "there is a red string which connects two people", in apparent reference to Yoshimori's feelings for Tokine.
  • Mononoke contains a variation involving a red cloth between an unborn child and their parents. A much more traditional example appears in the OP, with a red string tied to the pinky finger.
  • The first ending to Zoku Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei contains lyrics mentioning this, in their usual depressing way:

I could see the red stings connecting everyone to you... I was a blue thread.

  • In the manga Wish, when the main character Shuichiro confesses to his adoptive mother that he loves her, she tells him that she is not the one meant for him and that he needs to find the person on the other end of the string on his finger.
  • Essentially the basis of Bound Beauty, only that the characters can see the other strings of fate (White, Blue, Yellow, and Black, in addition to Red). Leads to some very surreal battle scenes.
  • In Toradora!, the class' Professional Wrestling show for the School Festival (don't ask) involves them threatening to cut their Christmas Cake homeroom teacher's red string of fate to threaten the heroine. The teacher is naturally upset at witnessing this and tries to attack the play. The audience assumes it's All Part of the Show as the stage hands carry her off.
  • In The Mikos Words and The Witches Incantations, Letty ties an invisible, magical thread to both her pinky and Tsumugi's so they won't get separated. Naturally, it's red, and Tsumugi cheerfully mentions its Japanese significance to Letty and how it probably makes them lovers.
  • This becomes a plot-point in Mahou Sensei Negima's summer OVA when Yue (an Inept Mage at the time) uses this on Nodoka and Negi, creating a physical red string tying the two together by their pinkies for a day.
  • The trope is name-dropped in Inuyasha when Kikyou tells Inuyasha that the red string of fate, once cut, can't be restored.
    • The final shot in the first ED sequence for Inuyasha: The Final Act shows a literal red string tied to Inuyasha and Kagome's fingers.
  • While not actually shown in the anime, one of the DVD covers for Happy Lesson has each one of the male lead's fingers tied with a red string and all the strings being connected to all his mothers' pinkies. He is not amused.
  • The red string of fate has a much darker purpose in Hell Girl, where each client of Enma Ai seals the contract with her by untying a red string. This sends the object of their vengeance to hell—and damns the client to go there too, after death. So it's still a destiny bond, but a very different kind...
  • The end theme of Tsuyokiss shows each of the girls naked (it's a Fan Service show) with a red string tied to one finger.
  • Parodied in Yuria 100 Shiki. The titular Sex Bot fantasizes about one of these on her finger . . . connecting to Shunsuke's crotch. (The narration remarks that all of her fantasies end up there eventually.)
  • In the Full Metal Panic! manga, Gauron implies that this is what fatefully keeps bringing him and Sousuke together. Sousuke does not react well to the suggestion.
  • Used in an official Higurashi art, for Mion and Shion drawn by the Watangashi/Meakashi manga artist. Make what you will of this.
  • One episode of xxxHolic revolved around this concept.
  • The opening of Sasameki Koto shows some white strands blowing in the wind, and at one point there's a red one among them.
  • In Pokémon Special, it happened to Red and Yellow twice. Of course, said string (a Caterpie's String Shot and Yellow's fishing line) wasn't actually red...but yes, pinkies and shipping symbolism were still there.
  • In Nabari no Ou, Miharu is shown with a red string on his finger after erasing Yoite.
  • Used literally in Koi Cupid; red strings are seen connecting people together. If necessary, the strings can be cut with magic scissors.
  • In Naruto, we have a literal example. The titular character meets the spirit of his mother, who tells him that the reason she fell in love with his father was because, during an incident when she was kidnapped, he was the only rescuer who noticed that she had been leaving a trail of red hair. She commented that her red hair was her "personal red thread of fate", leading her to her soulmate.
  • At the end of Mobile Suit Gundam 00's first season, Graham Akre claims that he and protagonist Setsuna F. Seiei are connected by this -- the fate to face each other in battle. Though he's a Westerner, Graham is a massive Japanese culture Otaku and would likely understand the reference.
  • Shibariya Komachi is pretty much based on this trope, although it uses 5 different colours of thread that connect a variety of things. Protagonist Chiyako can initially see other people's red strings and takes advantage of this to make money, but ends up with the white string that binds body and soul.
  • A Dirty Pair TV episode opens with a young man being led to the altar by his (arranged) brides-to-be in chains. Naturally, the chains are all red.
  • In Brigadoon Marin and Melan, Marin ties one of her red hair ribbons onto Melan's sword as a symbol of their promise to return to each other. It shows up again in with increased symbolic importance at the end.
  • In To Aru Majutsu no Index, Index speculates that the reason why nearly any girl who meets Touma falls in love with him is that his Anti-Magic right hand, Imagine Breaker, negates the Red String of Fate for other people.
  • Risa and Riku of D.N.Angel are shown this way in one illustration.
  • Wedding Peach: Played with. Momoko knits a muffler as a present to Yanagiba and Imagine Spots them wearing it together. In the next frame a thread leads offscreen, and reveals that Yosuke somehow invaded the Imagine Spot and is also wearing it, much to her displeasure
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka giving her red hair ribbons to Homura before being Ret Gonned can be considered a reference to this trope. After Madoka's disappearance, her hair ribbons are the only thing Homura has left of her and the only trace that she ever existed.

Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In the Naruto Fanfic "One Small Step", Naruto can't find a partner to play Cat's Cradle, a game that could help Naruto with handsigns, and after searching for someone to play this game with him, he finds Hinata and asks her to play with him, now, if you're wondering, Cat's Cradle is a game that involves playing with a type of string, Naruto and Hinata were playing this game, but ended up tying each other's hands together, the result has them become childhood friends, and their feelings start to develop, the string was even colored red. By the way, this fanfic is fairly good, go read it!
  • Quite a few Axis Powers Hetalia fanarts of America and Canada show a red string attached around their hands. Could be to represent their relationship which in real life is one of the closest and most productive international relationships in the world. Or it's to play up the Ho Yay.

Film[edit | hide]

  • In Kamen Rider the First, a partially-suicidal Haruhiko runs away from the hospital to a field where he can grieve alone, only to realize that a red string had somehow caught on his clothes. Behind him walks up Miyoko, his love interest, and the string was a thread from the red sweater she was wearing which had caught and began unraveling as he ran. She directly quotes the concept, and he proceeds to hug her for all he's worth. Unfortunately, since they were both terminally ill, things don't turn out very well.
  • In The Secret of NIMH, in what may or may not be an intentional usage: when Mrs. Brisby first meets Jeremy, he is tangled in red string which he is retrieving to build a "love nest" for his future Ms. Right
    • The end of the film has Jeremy and his love interest flying and holding the two ends of the string

Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Paulo Coelho's Brida, the titular girl is informed that Witches can recognize who their destined soulmate is because they can see a special twinkle in the eyes, while Mages do so by seeing a star over the shoulder of their destined. Brida, who becomes an aspiring Witch, recognizes the twinkle in her actual boyfriend's eyes and is pleased; but the Mage she initially consulted has seen the star over Brida's shoulder, and is conflicted. This is carried to a long scene where the Mage finally decides to confess his visions and feelings and use the star to try to find Brida in a crowd... and then he finds Brida's boyfriend, who also has the damn star over his shoulder. This being a No Bisexuals setting, the Mage steps out and lets the happy couple be.
  • In Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures, the 'Silver Thread' is something that wolpertings can actually perceive through smell, and it leads to their soulmate. Unfortunately for the protagonist, he's also hopelessly uninformed about relationships, and didn't even know that girls existed until he came to Wolperting, meaning it isn't all that much use.
  • In L.J. Smith's Night World series, soulmates who are destined to be together often describe a silver thread connecting the two of them together.
  • Also in L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries, Elena remembers stories of "the souls of true lovers" being connected by "a silver string from heart to heart or a red cord from pinky to pinky", but it's the first one that she's able to find (and follow).
  • Continuing with L.J. Smith, in Secret Circle Cassie and Adam are bound together by a red string.
  • In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester has this to say: " is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land, come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly."

Music[edit | hide]

  • The Irish band the Frames have a song called "Red Chord" on their album "Fitzcarraldo" that is based around this idea.
  • There is a deathcore band called The Red Chord. The name probably isn't related to this trope, though.

Music Videos[edit | hide]

  • A rather interesting usage of the Red String of Fate can be found in the video for "Brilliant Star" by Nana Mizuki.
  • The flash PV of IOSYS's Make Us Your Brides plays with the imagery by tying Marisa and Reimu to Suika.
  • In the song "Adolescence" by the Vocaloids Kagamine Rin and Len, a mention is made about how it seems Rin and Len's hands are tied together with a thread.
  • "Just Be Friends" by Vocaloid Megurine Luka. Most of the pictures have her and another boy tied together with a red string. Which just adds to the whole sadness of the video and the song...
  • This video, using "Makka Na Ito" by Plastic Tree, which is about a couple joined by a red string who aren't together anymore, possibly implying that one of them is dead.
  • Thievery Corporation's video for "That Time We Lost Our Way" has Lou Lou Ooldouz Ghelichkhani singing while following one, with Rob & Eric playing bongos & a squeezebox nearby.

Picture Books[edit | hide]

  • The picture book The Red Thread by the children's author and illustrator Grace Lin uses this trope to tell a fairy tale about adoption, of all things. In this case, it connects the adoptive parents and their child; magic glasses which enable the parents to see it allow them to find her. It's pretty sweet if you don't read this article first and end up thinking "Wait, isn't that the thing that they use to justify idiotic relationships in anime?"

Poetry[edit | hide]

  • Gillian Clarke's short poem Catrin talks about the "Red rope of love" between herself and the titular character. In this case, it's not in the typical sense, as the author is talking about the conflict she had with her daughter, and the aforementioned rope is more likely a metaphorical umbilical cord.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In 7th Sea, when a Fate Witch sees red strands between people with her sorte magic, those represent conflict (Swords). Blue actually represents romance (Cups).
  • Changeling: The Lost uses red bands in a person's aura as a signifier of a pledge. When people who've made a pledge are near each other, the bands are connected with red threads.
  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the long-dead Apis shifters served as Gaia's matchmakers. One power of theirs let them see the red threads that bound people with a common destiny - though they couldn't tell whether it would be good or bad.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The recent Pokémon games have a red ball of string as an item (called "Destiny Knot" in the English version). Appropriately, if the monster holding this item becomes infatuated, the foe that it "loves" will be infatuated as well.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, The Hero, Lloyd Irving, makes his primary love interest a necklace at one point. A look at this item in the Key Items section of the inventory reveals that it is not only heart-shaped, but it is red-stringed as well.
  • In the Anime based fighting game Naruto, Narutimate Hero Accel 2, the character of Chiyo has an Ougi where her attack puppets (Mother and Father, which are actually modified exhumed corpses) are joined by a literal red string, which is then used to viciously lacerate the opponent.
  • Tears to Tiara's CMOT Dibbler Epona has a mysterious red string worth 99999 gold for sale at her shop. It turns out that she was using it as Schmuck Bait to get the Player Character to buy it, as it has a Love Potion effect on the people it attaches. Yes, it's that kind of game.
  • Hakuoro in Utawarerumono does something like this with Yuzuha, though he doesn't recognize the significance. Eruruw does a facepalm, of course.
  • The Infinity+1 Sword of Gepetto in Shadow Hearts: Covenant is the Crimson Thread. At the end of his Sidequest, it appears between him and his puppet, Cordelia. The puppet in question was modeled and named after his late daughter, and her soul appears to be inhabiting it, thus their connection.
  • The Ar tonelico series has this in the form of an equipable accessory.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in an interesting bit of Foe Yay during their second battle Ghirahim appears again to tell Link that the reason they keep bumping into each other is because they are bound by a red thread of fate. He also gets behind Link to invade his personal space again and whisper in his ear. He tells Link to come to him after licking his lips and says they're bound by that red thread of fate and that they're destined to fight. He also says that the thread of fate will be soaked crimson with Link's blood.

Visual Novels[edit | hide]

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Ilivais X has a somewhat literal example, with the string being a Blood Oath signified by shared scars on Mille and Iriana's opposite pinkies. This results in their Intertwined Fingers moments always accented by their pinkies pressed together instead of intertwined.
  • This lovely piece of art here. Perhaps not a traditional example, but it's there, and it's most likely romantic.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • In some sects of Hinduism and Judaism, red strings tied around the wrist are used to ward off evil and misfortune.
  • A red string in India is usually a Rakhi and is a physical demonstration of a bond between a brother and sister. It can be tied to any boy a girl considers to be like her brother and is usually used effectively to kill unwanted romantic/love interests.