Do you smell that? I think…I think it smells a lot like love! Whether you’ve got that special someone you want to curl up with this Valentine’s Day, got a date with your Crunchyroll subscription, or you’ve stumbled upon this article in the middle of August, nothing beats a good romance anime. This list features a mix of anime tv shows and movies so it won’t matter if you have fifteen minutes or the whole day. And, just a warning, they will make your heart flutter, cheeks blush, and eyes cry.
Minor spoilers ahead!
MONTHLY GIRLS’ NOZAKI-KUN
MONTHLY GIRLS’ NOZAKI-KUN is an excellent choice if you’re in the mood to watch a cute shojo anime! The story begins with Chiyo Sakura confessing to the boy of her dreams with a letter. Only he mistakes her for a fan and giving her his autograph because he’s actually a super popular mangaka! Although it’s mostly a romance anime, MONTHLY GIRLS’ goes out of its way to parody typical shojo tropes that are present in both anime and manga alike. This makes it a great choice for anime fans who aren’t usually into this genre. The main characters are all unique and colorful in their own ways. The anime jumps between the relationships they have with each other and their supposed romantic interest. The comedic and romantic moments tie in together so well it almost makes you wonder if the couples will ever get together rather than when.
There are only twelve episodes in this anime (all of which you can find streaming on Crunchyroll or available on BD/DVD with Sentai Filmworks). If you want to continue on with MONTHLY GIRLS’ NOZAKI-KUN the manga is currently being released by Yen Press with eight volumes out. The ninth releases at the end of next month. MONTHLY GIRLS’ NOZAKI-KUN is a very charming series. It baffles me as to why a second season hasn’t been announced yet. But I’m willing to wait forever while re-watching the first season. (Lillian Martin)
SAY “I LOVE YOU”
Mei Tachibana is a high school student with absolutely no social life. She avoids all contact with people. Her only way of socializing outside of school or at home is through working at a local bakery. However, after a few choice encounters with super popular Yamato Kurosawa, her world expands. Through them, she learns others aren’t as bad as she made them out to be.
SAY “I LOVE YOU” has one of the most heartfelt interpretations of high school dating I’ve seen in romance anime. Mei is very clumsy with her feelings but she falls headfirst for Yamato. The two of them go from somewhat friendly to dating within just a few episodes. A lot of the series focuses on their trials as a couple along with changes in their friends. Many of the characters go through very real struggles with eating disorders, bullying, being famous, and — everyone’s favorite — miscommunication. The story is very character-driven, and these characters are very easy to relate to. It’s a really enjoyable emotional rollercoaster. I recommend this series to anyone looking for a bingeable slice of life story, so check it out on Crunchyroll when you can! (Hayden Moseley)
Makoto Shinkai’s YOUR NAME is the story of Mitsuha, a high school girl living in rural Japan, and Taki, a high school boy living in Tokyo, who find themselves switching bodies with each other every other day. To help each other cope with this odd situation, they begin to communicate by leaving each other notes. That way, when they return to their own bodies, they can pick up where the other left off. At first, they grow frustrated with each other. Neither can truly hide who they are while the bodies are switched. Eventually though, the two fall in love, and are driven to meet each other for real. Meeting one another in their own bodies, however, will prove much more complicated than either of them ever thought.
I’m not someone who typically goes in for body swap stories or romance anime, but this is a really beautiful story that explores the term “star-crossed lovers” with a fresh lens. It’s about adolescence and feeling both out of place in your body (literally in this case) and feeling powerless to change the direction in which you are being pushed in life. Skillfully told, it is a movie which is able to be funny and heartbreaking in the span of a few moments.
YOUR NAME is a masterful film with gorgeous artwork and a story that will have you laughing and crying, all while putting you on the edge of your seat. It also happens to be the highest grossing anime film of all time. Clearly, I’m not alone in thinking that this is a really great romance anime. (Chris Hubbard)
ROMEO X JULIET
In fair Neo-Verona, where we lay our scene, our favorite star-crossed lovers become intertwined once again in ROMEO X JULIET, a wonderful adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic by Gonzo. The 24-episode romance anime throws us into a reign of oppression in the aerial city of Neo-Verona. Here, Juliet is the last descendant of the Capulet name and Romeo is the son of the tyrant, Lord Montague. It is a tale of sorrow, hardship, loss, and—ultimately—how love can conquer all. This isn’t just speaking of the love between Romeo and Juliet, however. Romeo’s mother shares a moment with Juliet that moved me to tears; Juliet and her faithful servant Cordelia have a beautiful friendship; even Romeo’s Dragon Steed (similar to a Pegasus), Cielo, falls in love with a wild Dragon Steed they encounter.
To top it off, the entire continent of Neo-Verona is held together by the roots of twin enchanted trees that thrive on love. In addition, we see a caricature of William Shakespeare who aids Juliet in her struggle and draws inspiration from her quest for love. Is that meta enough for you? ROMEO X JULIET is not a pure recreation of the story—in case that wasn’t clear. I am grateful for this in many ways as it allows the series to be a truly unique and inspiring adventure. The series acknowledges tragedy and reminds us to hold onto love and hope. (Jacob Sigler)
THE WORLD GOD ONLY KNOWS
THE WORLD GOD ONLY KNOWS is a true gem due to it being a meta-stab at the formula for harem anime. Long story short, a dating simulator gamer nerd who goes by the name Keima Katsuragi gets tricked into signing a demon contract. He’s now forced to retrieve the escaped souls of hell that hide in the empty hearts of young girls. But the only way to get those souls out is to have the girl’s heart fill up with love instead. Yeah, a snarky introverted guy whose talent is beating every dating simulator game that ever existed has to now use his knowledge of love on real girls IRL.
The cheesy start makes this anime sound like a self-aware rom-com. But Keima showcases just how life imitates art with his ‘capturing’ strategies. He’s a likable character with a definitive personality (a rarity in these things). The extended cast is a wonderful poke at all the typical harem anime tropes, from the shy librarian to the childhood friend. Despite the anime’s fast-paced storytelling, each new target has their face value character traits subverted. This gives a fresh exploration of what makes the real girls unique compared to Keima’s definition of a ‘perfect’ girl. Hilarity aside this show has a lot of…well, heart to it and has an ending that few people actually do see coming. Whether or not you believe in romance both on and off screen, THE WORLD GOD ONLY KNOWS is a fresh take on how love works and will pull at your heartstrings. (Schané Flowers)
WHISPER OF THE HEART
WHISPER OF THE HEART is a love story featuring Shizuku Tsukishima, a junior high student and major bookworm. Shizuku spends her days reading in the library where her father works until Seiji Amasawa turns her life upside-down. Seiji, a boy at her school, checks out book after book just to get his name on the card so Shizuku will notice him. Finally, the two meet after he returns a book she lost and their relationship blossoms.
WHISPER OF THE HEART is a love story that goes beyond typical fluffy romance. It’s also an excellent example of a healthy relationship rooted in mutual loving support. Seiji’s dream of becoming a master violin-maker and his incredible skill and dedication inspires Shizuku. She sees how hard Seiji works to achieve his dream and she cheers him on. When Seiji leaves to study violin-making in Italy, Shizuku decides that she wants to start writing. Seiji and Shizuku both learn and grow from each other and become better artists. They don’t abandon their dreams for each other. Instead, they each become a part of the other’s dreams.
The movie depicts the experience of first love perfectly coupled with struggles that every teenager can relate to. Shizuku and Seiji’s romance is pure and nostalgic and their mutual support is the icing on the cake. Stories like theirs are few and far between. So if you’re looking for a romance anime with good life lessons, WHISPER OF THE HEART is a must-see. (Summer Buffin)
Have you ever been frustrated by your OTP not getting together? Why don’t we multiply that feeling tenfold? TSUREDURE CHILDREN follows the lives of various high school students as they explore the various definitions of love. Each 12-minute episode features at least three students, all in various stages of romance. You have the best friends who might be in a relationship; the match-maker who’ll only set people up; the class president and the school delinquent; the nerdy boy and the popular girl; and much, much more! This show takes all your typical romance anime tropes and flips them on their heads, leaving viewers frustrated (in a good way!).
The best part about TSUREDURE CHILDREN is the fact that it gets so much done within such a short time. While it is frustrating sometimes to not see a certain couple return for an episode or two, no one is ever forgotten. Then again, sometimes, it’s the relationships that take the longest to happen that are the most satisfying. And boy, does this show have a few of them. But being satisfying is one thing, the characters have to act the part too. This show emphasizes the fact that there is no one definition of love. Everyone experiences it differently. These high schoolers experiencing their first loves are sure to make you laugh, and scream into the void wondering why you’ve never experienced anything so cute! (Celeste Paed)
Rumiko Takahashi released the heart-warming series MAISON IKKOKU 32 years ago. Most titles this old have been dead and buried for decades, but this series consistently finds ways to stay relevant. It is, in my opinion, the finest romance anime ever made, and a similar argument could be made that it is one of the greatest romance stories ever told.
MAISON IKKOKU is the story of an unlucky college flunk-out and a suffering widow who can’t escape her painful past. This story spans several years, which allows time for protagonists Yusaku Godai and Kyoko Otonashi to develop a relationship. Godai starts out as a loser who can’t even get into a university. Despite a myriad of hijinks and competition from fellow suitor Shun Mitaka, Godai shapes himself into a man worthy of being with Kyoko. It is extremely gratifying to watch these two alleviate each other’s burdens, and find their path together as a couple.
Don’t overlook this series because of it’s older animation and length. Yes, it is a daunting 96 episodes, but this allows author Rumiko Takahashi to flesh out the whacky and charming universe she’s created. MAISON IKKOKU will give you a mixed bag of emotions; it will make you laugh, cry, and even frustrate you at times. However, it is all part of the experience. Takahashi managed to make a hardcore action and horror fan like myself believe there are truly great romance stories out there. The last 15-20 episodes are significantly better than most romance series, and Takahashi delivers the most satisfying ending a series can hope to achieve. See this one through to the end! You will be grateful you did. (Matt Karban)
Romance Anime to Make Your Hearts Beat!
Each of the romance anime on this list has something to offer. There’s definitely something on here for every kind of person. Whether you’re a tsundere, a yandere, or a simple hopeless romantic, don’t forget to bring the tissues before watching some of these shows. You’ll be bawling your eyes out! Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Here’s to hoping senpai notices you this year!
Have a favorite romance anime that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured image via Otaku Mode.