Hug scenes in anime transpire for a variety of reasons, both romantic and platonic. They can serve as the dramatic climax of a series-long relationship, showcase a character's emotional development, or simply come off as silly and awkward.
Hugs are a vehicles for expressing love, be it friendly, romantic, or familial. Some of the best anime hugs are heartwarming, while others are heart-rending. All Might of My Hero Academia has no problem showing his support for his students with hugs, whereas the hug shared by Hana and her werewolf lover in Wolf Children is enough to bring even the most hardened anime fan to tears.
A well placed hug can change the course of an entire series, assuming the person on the receiving end is happy to be touched.
Despite being a show about ninja battles, Naruto has moments of surprising emotional resonance, and the hug shared by the titular character and his mother is one of the most powerful. Naruto's parents both died shortly after his birth, so he never got to meet them, and their absence left a painful void in his life. Through the magic of chakra, Naruto is eventually able to reconnect with both of his parents, but only for a brief moment.
Before the magic fades, he experiences what it's like to be hugged by a mother for the first time in his life, and he gets to hear how much both of his parents loved him.
Hunter X Hunter features a particularly heartwarming hug between siblings Killua and Alluka Zoldyck. More specifically, it’s between Killua and Nanika, the Dark Continent creature that possessed Alluka, and that now shares a body with her.
Unlike the rest of the Zoldyck family — who simultaneously fear Alluka and want to control her incredible wish-granting powers — Killua actually loves his sister, though he doesn’t particularly care for Nanika. What he fails to realize is that, for Alluka, a rejection of Nanika is a rejection of herself; she doesn’t want to be loved by someone who can’t love every part of her. The hug between Killua and Nanika is the visual proof that he has finally grasped this truth, and has come to accept all aspects of his sister.
Hugging is a big deal in the world of Fruits Basket. The Sohma family suffers from a curse that transforms them into the animals of the Chinese zodiac when they're hugged by a member of the opposite sex. As a result, the family lives in secret isolation, and Kyo is perhaps the most reclusive of them all.
Kyo is excluded from his family because he transforms into a cat — which is not an official member of the zodiac — and also sometimes becomes a hideous monster. His family will never accept him, but the same cannot be said for Tohru Honda, a compassionate young woman who continues to love him even after she witnesses his monstrous transformation. The hug they share when Kyo becomes human again proves that even people who have been rejected all their lives can experience genuine human intimacy.
San and Ashitaka of Princess Mononoke are both suffering immensely. Ashitaka is attempting to bring peace to warring factions while slowly dying from a curse. Meanwhile, San is consumed by her hatred of humanity, and wants nothing more than to kill the humans who are destroying her forest home. When Ashitaka rescues Lady Eboshi — who does much to help humanity but who San hates for damaging the forest — San's furious with him. Ashitaka is able to overlook his own pain to empathize with San, and the hug he gives her is nothing short of placative.
It's a truly beautiful moment that exemplifies why Studio Ghibli has become legendary.