Picture this: two children are the best of friends - they play together, tackle problems together, and maybe even start to develop romantic feelings for one another. As they enter their teen years, those feelings have grown into a full blown romance. Cute, right? Childhood friendships developing into later romances are a common trope in the world of anime - so much so that if two characters are known to be childhood friends, you can guess that they're going to get together, or at least have some serious romantic tension.
Who are the best anime couples that started as childhood friends? That depends on your personal preferences. Do you like your romance with a little danger on the side? Then Minato Namikaze and Kushina Uzumaki of Naruto might be your favorite childhood friendship based couple - they first start falling for each other after Minato rescues Kushina from kidnappers. Do you like your romance drama-free? Then Yuuko and Takeshi Nishigori, the couple who runs the skating rink near Yuri's house in Yuri!!! on ICE might be right up your alley.
No matter how you like your romance, if you like early friendships that blossomed into romance, one of these couples is bound to appeal to you.
Winry Rockbell and Edward Elric started off as neighbor kids who sometimes played together, and eventually deepened their relationship when Ed and his brother moved in with the Rockbell family after their mother's death and a subsequent alchemy accident. As Winry's mechanical skills develop, she takes charge of building and servicing Ed's prosthetic limbs, which forces the two to meet up every so often, even when Ed is busy working as a state alchemist. Though the two bicker constantly, their relationship eventually turns romantic, and at the end of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, they're married with two kids.
Yes, the childhood friends to lovers trope even appears in shonen anime. Kushina Uzumaki and Minato Namikaze are Naruto's parents, but they first met when they were kids in Ninja Academy. Due to having the nine tailed fox sealed inside her body, Kushina is kidnapped. She leaves strands of her red hair behind, hoping that someone will find them and realize that they're hers. The only person who comes for her is Minato - the classmate she'd previously written off as weird and unreliable. After he rescues her, her opinion of him changes dramatically, and the two become close friends - and eventually, they become lovers.
Yusuke Urameshi and Keiko Yukimura have known each other since they were little kids - and it's for that reason that their relationship works so well. Yusuke is a violent teenager who is always getting into fights and doesn't take school seriously. Keiko is a bit more straight-laced, but she knows that there's more to Yusuke than his thorny exterior implies. She knows that he can actually be quite caring and sweet, and she knows that his family life doesn't exactly contribute to a healthy lifestyle. It's their childhood connection that keeps her invested in a relationship that she might otherwise have walked away from.
Yona actually has two childhood friends, Hak Son and Suwon. Any chance of romance with Suwon is totally destroyed when he kills her father and nearly kills her in an attempt to take over their kingdom. After Yona flees for her life, she dedicates herself to rooting out corruption and helping the underprivileged people of her nation - and in the process, she ends up falling for Hak Son.