2021 was a great year for animation and even brought a few interesting romantic subplots to the forefront. Adding a little romance is one of the oldest tricks in fiction, but love triangles are a fun twist on a normal romance storyline that can spice things up and get fans rooting for their favorites.
Love triangles can be used for comedic effect or to intensify the plot. Often the best cartoon love triangles involve the protagonist, but there are a few fantastic ones with support characters as well. Regardless, each one adds a fun bit of excitement to the story.
Danny Phantom was one of the most beloved cartoons of the 2000s. The main trio of Danny, Sam, and Tucker made a fantastic and fun group of characters for kids to relate to.
Danny and Sam's relationship developed throughout the course of the show to be romantic, but Sam had a few competitors throughout the series. Early on, it was Paulina, but part-time ghost hunter Valerie and Danny developed a bit of a romance partway through the series. This love triangle could have been expanded on a bit more, but it was intense while it lasted.
While they're better known as one of the best comic book love triangles, this X-Men trio has had plenty of drama on television screens and silver screens too.
The trio have appeared in multiple iterations of X-Men cartoons, including X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men, and X-Men: Evolution. The actual romance between Wolverine and Jean varied depending on the versions, and thankfully it was completely eliminated in versions where Jean and Cyclops were portrayed as teens.
Butch Hartman cartoons always did a solid job at including funny portrayals of childhood crushes without making those crushes too big a part of the show.
The Fairly Oddparents featured two admittedly somewhat one-sided crushes: Timmy's crush on Trixie and Tootie's crush on Timmy. The two crushes rarely intersected in the plot, but both play an important role in Timmy's adventures. He'd often make wild wishes or go out of his way to pursue Trixie and avoid Tootie.
Adventure Time is an animated show with such a rich history and lore that it deserves an Adventure Time movie. For now, however, fans will have to make do with the original series and Obsidian.
The Bubblegum/Finn/Marceline love triangle had some intrusions from a few different characters, namely Flame Princess. The love triangle is hampered a bit by Finn and Bubblegum's only real tw0-sided romantic elements taking place when Bubblegum is in her younger form. Once she goes back to normal, things become exclusively Bubblegum/Marceline centric.
Total Drama Island and the ensuing series in the Total Drama franchise had a fun cast of characters, but the originals had some of the best relationships out there.
Duncan and Courtney was the primary relationship in the triangle, with Duncan and Gwen being a frequent "will they or won't they" question throughout the course of the series. The love triangle ends in a somewhat common way for love triangles to end: Gwen and Courtney as close friends with Duncan out of the equation for both of them.
Bojack Horseman is arguably one of the best cartoons of all time, and season 1 heavily revolves around the love triangle between the titular characters and his work associates: Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane.
The love triangle in the first season is relatively one-sided. Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane are in love and are engaged halfway through the season. On the other hand, Bojack quickly falls for Diana and eventually falls completely in love with her despite her lack of interest in him. Bojack's actions have negative consequences throughout the series, and his feelings for Diane is part of that.
Jimmy Neutron follows the titular boy genius as well as his friends Carl and Sheen. Also among the main characters is Jimmy's main academic rival and friend: Cindy.
Cindy and Jimmy begin the series as quarreling enemies and rivals, with Cindy having a crush on the stereotypical "popular cool kid" Nick. As the show goes on, Cindy's feelings for Nick fade as it becomes fairly clear that she and Jimmy have a crush on one another. The series ends with Jimmy and Cindy holding hands.
Code Lyoko had a surprising amount of couples on the show, with Jeremy and Aelita being the most common couple and the central focus throughout the story.
William Dunbar was one of the best 2000s cartoon villains out there, but he also was a member of the Lyoko crew and one of Yumi's main love interests. He constantly clashed with Ulrich, who had a crush on Yumi since season 1. Their feelings became more open later in the series, with Yumi thinking of William more platonically as the series progressed.
It's always interesting to see love triangles where the protagonist isn't at the center of the action. Even more interesting is a complete love triangle, where all members had some romantic involvement.
Korra/Mako/Asami is one of the only true "complete" love triangles in popular fiction. Mako and Korra had plenty of "will they or won't they" early in the series, with Mako initially serving as the center point of the triangle. Eventually, every member of the three had been romantically involved at some point, with Korra and Asami being the endgame couple.
The Nowhere King/General/Woman
Centaurworld is a Netflix cartoon series featuring a world of "half-animal, half-man things." Centaurworld has a likable cast of characters for the most part, but Woman and the Nowhere King do not belong on that list.
The Nowhere King began as a young Elktaur who thought he could never be with the woman he loved, so he split himself into a human and an elk. The human half married the princess while the Elk half grew resentful and became the monstrous Nowhere King. Unfortunately, neither got a happy ever after in the end.