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Odette: I see him smiling and my knees start buckling. I see inside him and my doubts are gone.
—Swan Princess giving us a two-for-one deal
When a character realizes he/she is in love with another character. This is not when the character confesses this love to that other character or anyone else, but when the character realizes it him/herself.
Often this can be when a character had feelings already and realized this has blossomed into love, or when a character has been in in denial about these feelings until this moment.
Now this doesn't necessarily lead to a relationship. In fact it can even be when the object of affection is with someone else. But if not, this can be a way to add a new dynamic to Will They or Won't They?. That is unless it's Belligerent Sexual Tension, and then any change might be barely noticeable.
Compare/Contrast Love At First Sight. Not to be confused with having an epiphany while making love.
Anime and Manga
- Kagome is the one to have the epiphany - fairly early in the series, at that - but since she and Inuyasha have very Belligerent Sexual Tension (and a Love Triangle between the two of them and Inuyasha's old love Kikyo) it doesn't change the relationship for a long time.
- Later on, Kagura realizes her feelings for Sesshomaru after he saves her from a river, and he realizes his feelings for her after she dies.
- Kyo in Fruits Basket realizes that he loves Tohru when he finds himself yelling back at Akito for talking badly about her. Which, it should be noted, is significant because Akito is a scary-arse psycho mo-fo, as well as the head of the family, with a sort of supernatural power over all the others suffering the Zodiac curse.
- The Ouran High School Host Club manga has this--for several characters. First is Kaoru, who realizes he has feelings for Haruhi. Then Hikaru finally sees that he's in love with Haruhi after Kaoru explains that's why he felt so jealous when Haruhi spoke so kindly about Tamaki. Haruhi takes a while longer to finally realize she's in love with Tamaki, at first thinking her sudden blushing and being flustered around him were due to a cold. Finally, after over 60 chapters, Tamaki has the revelation that he doesn't love Haruhi as a "father", but that he's actually IN love with her, as a man.
- Winry from Fullmetal Alchemist (manga and second anime) has one when she's taking the train away from Central.
- Hinagiku in Hayate the Combat Butler has her realization (on her birthday!) on a balcony as Hayate is helping her out with her fear of heights. Not that she was fooling anyone BEFORE that. Unfortunately for her, just as she finally has the courage to confess to him, Hayate realized that he still loves his childhood friend Athena. Hina ended up supporting him to reconcile with her instead. Which naturally goes nowhere in this series, leaving her still unable to spit it out.
- It's hinted that everyone's favourite jerkass Fakir in Princess Tutu gets his realization when he notices that he can write a story for Ahiru but not for Mytho.
- A more canonical example is Rue, realizing she loved Mytho all along ever since she was little.
- Kaoru was already crushing pretty hard on Rurouni Kenshin to begin with, so when he leaves for Kyoto alone and she goes into a Heroic BSOD, she realizes just how much he means to her.
- In the second season of Magic Knight Rayearth, Hikaru has one of these rather abruptly when Nova her shadow reveals that she is in love with Lantis in a dream world. Hikaru confesses to him as soon as she is pulled out of her dream state and then faints from exhaustion...unfortunately she doesn't remember her confession on her second awakening
- In Sasameki Koto, it is revealed through flashbacks how Sumika fell in love with her best friend Ushio. But not before showing how Ushio is startled by her realization she has feelings for Sumika as well.
- In the first season of Code Geass Euphemia has her realization that she's in love with Suzaku - ironically, during the middle of a personal conversation with Nina, who had a hidden crush on Euphemia herself.
- Kimi ni Todoke has Sawako realizing she's in love with Kazehaya after The Reveal involving Kurumi. Kazehaya himself has been crushing on her for most of the series, but Sawako wouldn't be Sawako if she had realized this at any point.
- Subverted in a late chapter of The Wallflower manga, much to the neverending frustration of Kyohei/Sunako shippers: it looks like Kyohei has finally realized his feelings for Sunako when he finds himself visualizing her in her 'beautiful' form while mediating and subsequently acting flustered when he sees that she's actually become beautiful in real life. But no, his epiphany turns out to be that he loves her cooking.
- The second film of the Rebuild of Evangelion series provided us with an interesting twist: Rei, of all people, started realizing that for some completely unfathomable reason, she's fallen for Shinji. Asuka already realized this but she's gotten over it and pretty much gives Shinji up to Rei.
- It was less that; Rei doesn't seem to think of it as love (though undoubtedly simply because she doesn't think of love to begin with); it's really more that Asuka has the epiphany for Rei after the latter describes how she feels around Shinji.
- Played with in Ah! My Goddess. Skuld suspects that she might love Keiichi, and spends a chapter or two trying to disprove it to herself.
- In Eureka 7, Eureka realizes her feelings for Renton upon learning of his departure in episode 24.
- Gunslinger Girl. Triela in "Returning to the Birdcage" after discovering Victor Hilshire not only saved her from a Snuff Film, but became her handler solely to continue protecting her. Triela already knew she had feelings for him, but wasn't sure if this was just the conditioning that makes every cyborg loyal to her handler.
- Berserk: Before she and Guts make love Casca recounts how she came to the realization that she was in love with Guts a year ago, when he left the Band of the Hawk after defeating Griffith and didn't turn around once, not even when she called out to him. She didn't want to admit the feeling she had because of her pride as a warrior under Griffith, who she thought she was in love with until that winter day.
- In volume 16 of To Aru Majutsu no Index Misaka is walking through a street street that's deserted due to a people-clearing field comes across a near-dead Touma shambling forward to help the Amakusas fight Acqua of the Back. She tries to stop him, and confronts him about his memories. During the conversation, she realizes her feelings.
- Karina has one of these in regards to Kotetsu in the 14th episode of Tiger and Bunny when she realizes how worked up she's getting over the loss of a towel simply because he gave it to her.
- One of the most tear-jerking scenes in Toradora! is this.
- In Robotech, Lisa Hayes realizes that she has fallen hard for Lt. Rick Hunter after accidentally shooting him down in a 'friendly fire' incident. It takes him a little while longer.
- Ren of Skip Beat realizes he loves Kyoko at a very bad time. He's driving his car, waiting at a red light for it to change and, upon realizing his feelings, blushes, and heaves a huge sigh .. while car drivers behind him are honking at him to start driving again.
- In Penguin Revolution, the president of Peacock prods Yuzuru Narazaki to think about just why he's so dead-set on getting "Yutaka" Fujimaru to be his manager. Narazaki contemplates it for a little while, and the next time he sees Fujimaru, his reaction is essentially: "...oh."
- Ringo Oginome from Mawaru Penguindrum seems to have this in episode 11, when Yuri Tokikago straightforwardly asks her if she loves Shouma Takakura and insists that Everyone Can See It.
- Kushina, when explaining to Naruto how she fell in love with his father.
- Hihara, when Hino treats his injuries from after he falls down realizes that he loves her in Kiniro no Corda.
- Subverted in the Seitokai Yakuindomo manga; Shino is irritated when she sees Tsuda and Aria pretending to be boyfriend and girlfriend, but instead of coming to the logical conclusion that she likes Tsuda, with whom she's been teased with for a good deal of the run, she instead wonders if she is in love with Aria.
- Mitsuri has hers near the end of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba as she and Obanai, her partner and Insecure Love Interest, are both about to die. So they exchange love confessions and gun for a Reincarnation Romance. (Which does happen in the end).
- Elizabeth Quatermain gets two, in a way. The first is in Volume III, when Skinner embraces her after she nearly dies (again) and calls her Elizabeth for the first time. In the following volume, when she thinks she might have a thing for Everett, her second epiphany at the ball in St. Petersburg hammered it home for her. Too bad Everett wasn't going to take no for an answer.
- In the Ben10 series Hero High, Ben realizes he has feelings for Ren after she nearly kills herself saving the school.
- Bonnie Raitt's Something to Talk About is about a woman hearing rumors about her and a male friend, and having one of these.
- Beauty and the Beast, during "Something There", a song that's pretty much about this trope. And as seen in this pic, it freaks Belle out a little.
- In Clueless, when Cher realizes she loves Josh. Lampshaded by the fountain behind her lighting up and coming to life.
- Similarly, when Josh realizes he loves Cher (CLASSIC epiphany as she walks down a big white staircase in a beautiful white dress).
- With the main theme from Gigi playing in the background, just to get the point across.
- Similarly, when Josh realizes he loves Cher (CLASSIC epiphany as she walks down a big white staircase in a beautiful white dress).
- In American Pie 2, Jim realizes he loves Michelle when, while taking to Nadia, he finds himself repeating her "This one time, at band camp line.
- Giselle of Enchanted has one after Robert makes her feel angry for the first time.
- Also happens in The Princess and the Frog, starting around Naveen and Tiana's dance during "Ma Belle Evangeline". Yes, Disney loves this trope.
- Parodied mercilessly in Zoolander:
Derek: There was a moment last night, when she was sandwiched between the two Finnish dwarves and the Maori tribesmen, where I thought, "Wow, I could really spend the rest of my life with this woman".
- In The Prince and Me the scene where Julia Stiles's character is giving an oral presentation and in the middle of it realizes her love for... well... the Prince.
- This probably happened to Trinity when Cypher was about to kill Neo, and asked her if she believed that he was The One, since we later learn that The Oracle told her she would fall in love with The One.
- Yet another Disney example is Tangled, which features this during the Award Bait Song "I See The Light".
- Gone with the Wind Scarlett spends the whole movie obsessing over Ashley and how he married Melanie instead of her. She continues to do so even after she's married to Rhett and they've had a daughter together. It isn't until she sees Ashely break down after Melanie's death that she realizes she never truly loved him and that she's always loved Rhett.
- And platonically speaking, it isn't until Melanie's death that Scarlett realizes that Melanie is her best friend and has always been there for her.
- Stardust has a very sweet scene with Yvaine explaining what she's realised about love, to Tristan while he's in the form of a mouse, after she's verified that he can't understand her. Except he was kinda lying.
- Let's not forget Swan Princess, which gives us two of these at the exact same time.
- In The Wedding Singer, Julia has one immediately following her realization that she hates the sound of her married name.
- Rio: Jewel, after the flightless Blu leaps out of a plane after her.
- Laurie of Little Women has one of these while recovering from Jo's rejection, where he realizes that even though he can't have one sister, he'll be perfectly satisfied with another.
- Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice has one when she and Darcy hear the news of Lydia eloping with Wickham, convincing Elizabeth that Darcy will now want nothing to do with her or her family:
"It was [...] exactly calculated to make her understand her own wishes; and never had she so honestly felt that she could have loved him, as now, when all love must be vain."
- Emma's reaction to Harriet's confession of love for Mr. Knightley makes her realize feelings she (though not the reader) was completely unconscious of until then:
"Why was it so much worse that Harriet should be in love with Mr. Knightley, than with Frank Churchill? Why was the evil so dreadfully increased by Harriet's having some hope of a return? It darted through her, with the speed of an arrow, that Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself!"
- Rose has an epiphany in On the Edge after Declan saves her brother's life. She sits on the steps next to him thinking about what her life would have been like if she'd never met him, only to realize that she didn't want to never have met him, because she's in love with him. Heartbreaking because Declan has ulterior motives for courting her, and she's duty-bound to resist his advances.
- In Midnight Sun Edward struggles with exactly why he saved Bella and why he is so curious about her, beside the inability to read her thoughts. Then when he hears her saying "Edward, Please don't go" in her sleep. He realizes that he loves her. Its like a sun shining on the middle of his endless night.
- New Moon After being told, point-blank, by Edward multiple times that he's in love with her, and that it's the driving force behind every action he takes, Bella finally shrugs off her low self-esteem and realises that he means it.
- In the Darkest Powers series, Chloe manages to have two of these in The Reckoning. When she goes on a date with Simon, they kiss and there's no spark. At that point she realizes that despite wanting to like Simon in that way, she still thinks of him as a friend. Much later, Derek is considering leaving the group for their own safety. The realization of how much he really means to her hits Chloe hard, which is Love Epiphany #2.
- In Starfighters of Adumar, Wedge and Iella were lovers once and became estranged, eventually not even being friends anymore. While talking to Iella Wedge learns why - it's a combination of unfortunate events keeping them apart and missed signals, and she feels hurt. Hurt himself, Wedge starts to leave-
Adrenaline jolted through him. The shock that hit him was that of a man realizing that he was about to step into a trap or a firefight, something that could end his life in a second.
- John C. Wright's Golden Transcedence, with Phaethon pondering over Daphne Prime and Daphne Tercius — noticing things.
- JRR Tolkien's The Return Of The King, after Eowyn doesn't go to the army, and Faramir points out there are two possible reasons, one of which is reluctance to leave him.
- Harry Potter's chest monster. Only after walking in on Ginny and Dean kissing does he finally realize just how he feels about her.
- For Joscelin this happens in Kushiel's Chosen. He already knew he loved Pheadre but after thinking she was lost at sea he realized how much he loved her.
- Anne Shirley has a jarring love epiphany when her longtime friend and rejected love interest, Gilbert Blythe, is dying from typhoid fever. The description in the book ("Anne of the Island") is a borderline Tear Jerker:
There is a book of Revelation in every one's life, as there is in the Bible. Anne read hers that bitter night, as she kept her agonized vigil through the hours of storm and darkness. She loved Gilbert — had always loved him! She knew that now. She knew that she could no more cast him out of her life without agony than she could have cut off her right hand and cast it from her. And the knowledge had come too late — too late even for the bitter solace of being with him at the last. If she had not been so blind — so foolish — she would have had the right to go to him now. But he would never know that she loved him — he would go away from this life thinking that she did not care. Oh, the black years of emptiness stretching before her! She could not live through them — she could not! She cowered down by her window and wished, for the first time in her gay young life, that she could die, too. If Gilbert went away from her, without one word or sign or message, she could not live. Nothing was of any value without him. She belonged to him and he to her. In her hour of supreme agony she had no doubt of that. He did not love Christine Stuart — never had loved Christine Stuart. Oh, what a fool she had been not to realize what the bond was that had held her to Gilbert — to think that the flattered fancy she had felt for Roy Gardner had been love. And now she must pay for her folly as for a crime.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe New Jedi Order Tenal Ka realizes she loves Jacen after he's captured by the Yuuzhan Vong, and she mistakenly believes he was killed by them.
- In Queen Lucia, Georgie is excited at the prospect of doing tableaux in front of his new neighbor Olga Bracely at a party, and, when she can't come, discovers how profoundly disappointed he is--"and all at once it dawned on him that he must be in love with Olga, for why else should her presence or absence make such an astounding difference to him?"
- The prequel chapter to Realms of the Gods (The fourth book in Tamora Pierce's Immortals ) is a mixture of this and a plot epiphany. Made interesting by the fact that several people didn't realise there was a prequel, and were completely caught out by the follow-up half a book later.
- Arrested Development: There's a scene where Michael realizes he loves Marta, when they're sitting on the steps in the hallway during the Desi Award show.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: After desperately trying to kill the title character for the past few seasons, Spike finds himself awakening from an erotic dream in which he confessed his love for her. He is not well pleased.
Spike: Oh God, no. Please, no.
- Castle: Beckett and Castle have gone through this several times, especially in Season 4, where Beckett struggles with her feelings for Castle after he said he loved her after she was shot. The final, definite one happens in "Always", when Beckett nearly dies and realises that she does not care anymore about finding her mother's killer, because now she only wants Castle.
- Dawson's Creek: Dawson, when telling Joey's Dad, who's an inmate in prison, about who Joey is.
- Deep Space Nine: Kira has a moment of perfect clarity after her date with Odo in "His Way".
- Friends: In the series finale with Rachel's answering machine message to Ross after rejecting him at the airport. She's assuring him that she loves him as a friend, "I love you, I love you, I love you. What am I doing? I love you!" You can actually hear her realize on the third "I love you" that she means it romantically.
- Another Rachel example, from when Ross was about to marry Emily:
Rachel: I'm not going to Ross's wedding because he is my ex-boyfriend and that would be really uncomfortable. Not because I'm still in love with him! I mean, hey, y'know, I like Ross as much as the next guy. You know, clearly I have feelings for him, but feelings don't mean love! You know, I mean, I still have loving feelings for Ross, yeah! But, I have... I have, you know, continuing feelings of love, but that doesn't mean that... that I'm still in love with him. You'know? I have... I have sexual feelings for him, but I do love him... Oh! Oh my God! Oh my... why didn't you tell me?!
- Glee: Blaine has one watching Kurt sing "Blackbird". And bless him, he doesn't wait around afterwards.
- How I Met Your Mother: The episode 'Miracles' is when Barney realises that he is in love with Robin, after he has a near-death experience. Earlier, Robin had this for Ted after he meets Victoria.
- Long after Barney and Robin have broken up, Barney gets another one of these in regards to her. Not only does he realize he's in love with her; he realises she's his "best friend and soulmate" and that he "can't wait to spend the rest of his life with her". This is the show's Casanova we're talking about.
- ICarly: Sam and Freddie obviously had one for each other, but oddly neither moment is shown on-screen. The 'mood app' reveal is after Sam already likes Freddie as she starts the episode iOMG liking him if the dialogue about her changed behaviour is taken at face value. Freddie could be considered the same in iLose My Mind because there's nothing that stands out as a moment Freddie realises he likes Sam back until the end where he kisses her.
- In iDate Sam & Freddie, it's revealed that Sam pushed Freddie into a bike courier, the courier hit Freddie, Freddie smacked his head against a fire hydrant, and as he was lying knocked out and bleeding from the ears, that was the first moment Sam realized he was 'kinda cute'.
- My Little Town: After Art admits to Maya how much he really loves her, and that no matter if she were guilty or not, it wouldn't change a thing, she finally understands she feels the same, and kisses his cheek lightly, saying, "You are stupid".
- Radio Free Roscoe: Lilly has an epiphany about her feelings for Ray, when her band gets a contract and he's the first person she wants to tell.
- Scrubs: In Season 2, this happens to J.D. when he goes to confront his Heterosexual Life Partner Turk over the latter's meddling in Elliot's patient load:
Turk: Where's the love? Where's the loyalty? Where's the... automatically... siding with the person you care about the most? [beat] Oh, my God, that's what you're doing, isn't it?
- Star Trek: Voyager: The Doctor (no, not that one) has one of these for Seven Of Nine while teaching her to sing "You Are My Sunshine", made clear when, while singing with her, he happens to glance up at her face and his voice trails off in the middle of "you'll never know, dear". Of course, it all came to nothing due to Seven's Last-Minute Hookup with Chakotay.
- That 70s Show: Played for Laughs. Immediately after realizing that she has feelings for Fez, Jackie runs from the Formans porch screaming "Nooooo!" at the top of her lungs.
- The West Wing: Although the actual Love Epiphany for the character in question doesn't happen onscreen (or may not have happened in a bolt of clarity at all), the audience for the first time realizes that the subtle Ship Tease of Josh and Donna has become 100% definitely, unequivocally Canon in the 4th season's penultimate episode "Commencement" when Amy delivers the long-teased, never-spoken Wham! Line "Are you in love with Josh?", and Donna doesn't answer, standing stock still and staring fixedly at her papers while the camera slowly pans in, just as the lyrics to the song ("Angel" by Massive Attack) playing in the soundtrack change to "love you love you love you love you..."' Doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the writer, director, and editor of that episode.
- The X-Files: The episode "All Things" is this for Scully, as well as the epiphany that she didn't regret the way her life turned out, and that she didn't regret not having married her former med school professor when she had the chance.
- In the musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, there's a scene (complete with its own song, "Rosemary") where Finch, after kissing Hedy LaRue, has an epiphany that he's in love with Rosemary.
- In Spring Awakening, Melchior and Wendla realise that they have feelings for each other in a typical teenage way in "The Word of Your Body". However, as songs in the musical are considered internal monologues, they do not admit their feelings until the end of the first act in "I Believe".
- In In the Heights, after Nina returns from Stanford University for the summer, she tells Benny in "When You're Home" that home is where he happens to be and asks "can you remind me of what it was like, at the top of the world?"
- Slightly different in Passing Strange. The Youth avoids admitting his feelings despite going from relationship to relationship. Desi in "Come Down Now" tells him to knock it off and let her give him "all the love life allows". He turns away, realising what is happening.
- Collins and Angel in Rent's "I'll Cover You", almost Mood Whiplash after the yearning of "Santa Fe" beforehand.
- "Elaborate Lives" from Aida, in which Radames, the future Pharaoh and Aida, a Nubian slave, realise that they love each other and foreshadow the end of the musical.
- Benedick and Beatrice each have their own after overhearing their friends talk about the other being in love with them.
- A few examples in Canvas 2, but the most dramatic is probably in Takeuchi's route.
- Final Fantasy VIII Squall has one for Rinoa after she falls into a coma and he realizes he genuinely wants to talk to her but "It's like talking to a wall."
- In Jade Empire, Dawn Star finally gets that she is actually in love with the male player character after Silk Fox shows up and starts treating her like a rival for the hero's affections.
- In Persona 3 Portable, Akihiko actually has to have the girl he loves coach him into one.
- According to Word of God, Kaine realised she loved Nie R while beating him up. So then she backed off.
- Magical Diary gives one to Damien, of all people, if you play your cards right. Of course, his epiphany comes in the middle of his attempt to kill you, so his timing could definitely be better. But it keeps him from actually killing you, at least?
- In Sluggy Freelance, after years of Will They or Won't They? between her and Torg, recently had this happen to Zoë at the worst possible time, during a battle with an Ax Crazy assassin who had been brainwashed into being madly in love with Torg and had just been revealed to be Pyrokinetic. She doesn't survive the aftermath.
- A perfect nonverbal example for Lars in Girl Genius can be seen here.
- Mike in Something Positive, for Pee-Jee, sparking his slow reform from Jerkass to sympathetic character.
- A variant in Sinfest. Criminy seems to have finally clocked on that succubi Fuschia is in love with him.
- In Homestuck, Karkat realizes his caliginous feelings for John.
- In Ménage à 3 Sonya has one concerning Zii.
- In The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, TJ has a beautifully-done one regarding Amal in Chapter 29 that's entirely non-verbal except for a very small "shit" voiced at the end.
- In A Very Potter Musical, there's a whole song about Ron and Draco's simultaneous Epiphany about their feelings for Hermione: Granger Danger.
- Also happens in another Star Kid musical, Me and My Dick, when Joey realizes that he's loved Sally and not Vanessa the whole time.
Heart: Maybe Sallyis the person we initially disliked!
- Parodied in Chewbot's Let's Play of the Oregon Trail, Plague and Treachery On The Oregon Trail. Where Susan from atop a cliff and Cyrus miles away lying in a field both stand up simultaneously and say aloud "I love him!" "I love her!"
- Happens in the As Told by Ginger TV movie "Foutleys on Ice". When Ginger is about to leave for boarding school, Darren casually mentions that he "loves Ginger as much as anybody," and then realizes that he did mean it the way it sounded.
- Kim Possible: So The Drama. First Ron figures out why the new guy in school who quickly became Kim's boyfriend upsets him so much. Later - after said boyfriend turns out to be untenable - Kim realizes there might be someone she knows who is an exception to No Guy Wants an Amazon.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender in "The Fortuneteller" episode, Aang first realizes that he is attracted to Katara.