Five Of The Best Romance Anime

My Love Story

Ah, romance anime: a saccharine world of blush lines, reluctant crushes and 15th episode first kisses. It's not the classiest genre, but on days when you're feeling lonely or need a pick-me-up, it can certainly feel like home.

Here are my top five romance anime picks:

Clannad/Clannad After Story

Clannad

Clannad is equal parts hilarious and heart-fluttering. Tomoya Okazaki is a self-admitted sarcastic arsehole whose dad ran their home into the ground through excessive drinking and gambling. Down on life, Okazaki meets a somewhat frivolous girl named Nagisa Furukawa, who wants to start a drama club but has no acting experience.

Four other girls, with wildly varying personalities, find themselves wrapped up in Furukawa's dream to put on a play. After a little whimsy is introduced to Okazaki's life, his nihilism melts away and he learns how good altruism can feel.

Clannad was originally a somewhat polarising dating simulator game, which was later made into an anime. Harem anime aren't everyone's cup of tea. But each of the girls is well-thought-out and far removed from (most) tired anime tropes.

Clannad is a wild, wavy roller coaster. And the show's second season, Clannad After Story, is infamous for its devastating, heavy romance arcs that I still haven't gotten over.

My Love Story

My Love Story

You know when people are like, "Ugh, romance anime. It takes them, like, twelve episodes even kiss." My Love Story is like that and it rules. Don't question it.

My Love Story's protagonist, Takeo Goda, is weird as hell. He's monstrous in appearance. He's huge. He's super intense and loud. He's mega-popular with the guys at his school due to his incredible strength and overwhelmingly selfless attitude, but girls love his waifish, handsome best friend instead.

One day, Goda saves a very small girl named Rinko Yamato from a groper. When they start talking, Goda falls for her amazing baking skills, but he assumes she's into his friend. The next 20 or so episodes follow Goda and Yamato as they slowly fall in love with each other's idiosyncrasies.

My Love Story is pretty classy as far as romance anime goes. Goda and Yamato's relationship is build on respect. Unlike lots of romance anime, they never go through an "abusive" stage before reaching a mutual understanding.

The message of the show is that, by being yourself, you'll eventually find a partner who appreciates you for who you are.

Maid-Sama

Maid-Sama

Misaki Ayuzawa is a girl who attends what was once an all-boys school. Mastering academics, athletics and the school's social scene, Ayuzawa eventually becomes the school's first female student body president. Her goal: to make the school more comfortable for women.

In the process, she gets a pretty nasty reputation with the school's rowdy boys as an uptight, boy-hating tyrant. The only thing poised to undermine her reputation is her part-time job at a maid cafe, which she took to support her sick family. When the school's most popular playboy discovers her secret, he begins attending the cafe as a patron.

Maid-Sama is a problematic fave, but a fave nonetheless. It's fun to watch both of these hard-headed characters thaw the more they get to know each other. Maid-Sama definitely shows an unsettling side to working at a maid cafe, and how creepy patrons - even the male protagonist - can act toward the maids.

Ayuzawa oscillates between being a strong, self-sufficient woman who takes no crap and one who tolerates the playboy's somewhat creepy stalking behaviour. I found that tension interesting, but for others, it might feel a little formulaic.

Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket

If you were one of those '00s teens huddled in the manga aisles of Borders Books, surely, you've heard of this classic.

Tohru Honda is homeless after her mother dies in a car crash. Living in a tent and working herself to the bone, one day Honda learns that she's been sleeping on the property of Yuki and Shigure Sohma, members of a family who are possessed by the spirits of the Chinese Zodiac.

They offer her a room in their home, where she quickly discovers their secret. Over time, as Honda gets to know Yuki and his volatile cousin Kyo Sohma, romantic feelings emerge.

Fruits Basket is sweet, but it also has lots of dark moments. Characters' backstories can be somewhat traumatising, but that's what makes their connections to each other so moving.

Kiss Him, Not Me

Kiss Him, Not Me

Sometimes, romance isn't between two people, but between one person and their favourite fictional 'ship. Kiss Him, Not Me, in my opinion, is redefining the romance anime genre. It's a compelling argument for the idea that "real love" doesn't have to be "real."

Kae Serinuma is a by-the-book fujoshi, or a girl who is mostly just turned on by two boys kissing, either in real life or on the pages of a serialized manga. She wants to know who's a top, who's a bottom and where she can find fan art of it. At the beginning of the series, Serinuma is quite chubby, but after she learns that her favourite Mirage Saga character might die, she loses a ton of weight. Predictably, boys at her school begin to notice her.

To get her attention, they participate in all her ridiculous fujoshi activities, like a choreographed dance to Puri Puri Moon. As the show goes on, the boys start questioning their notions of masculinity and whether their love for Serinuma is shallow.

What makes Kiss Him, Not Me a stand-out romance anime? Serinuma never wavers from her love of fictional boys. She never self-actualises as a "hot girl," revelling in her new appearance. She stays herself. Sometimes, girls don't want to be kissed. And that doesn't change because they're considered attractive.


Comments

    I'ma let you finish. But Nana is the best romance anime out there.

      Nah, it's Amanchu! The subtle romance between Pikari and Teko is incomparable.

    And what, may I ask, about LOVE HINA!?

      I see you are a man of culture as well. That anime unfortunately was before most of the Kotaku staff and audience's time.

        May I suggest also, Battle Athletes Victory? The love triangle between Akari, Ichan and Kris Christopher (love that name) has some priceless moments.

        Also it's not very good. :P

          This. It's a fairly mediocre adaptation and definitely hasn't aged well.

    Clannad is 10/10 even though it did rip my heart out, stomp on it and then put it back...

    Toradora is my very close 2nd

      Tordadora was an unexpected Netflix delight.

      Also, Kokoro Connect I haven't seen mentioned here.

        Oh man yeah, Kokoro Connect was absolutely great.
        Shame that whole scandal with that amateur voice actor over-shadowed how good the show was when it was airing.

      And if people liked Clannad they should give Kanon a shot. specifically the 2006 version adapted by the same studio that did Clannad. If Clannad is a 10/10 than Kanon is probably an 8 or a 9 for feels. Kyoto animation honed the fine art of emotional gut punch in Kanon as practice of Clannad.

    I agree with all of this but ToraDora should also be here.
    Also Uta Koi for the doubly rare example of a romance series that is episodic in structure (separate love stories each episode) and a series set in the Heian period of Japan's history (kind of like an early Japanese renaissance. A lot of what we know of the period is art, fashion, poetry and Imperial court gossip with no real wars happening)

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      Fruits basket is a drama filled wacky love triangle with transforming animal pretty boys. It's basically Love Hina for a female audience.
      Maid sama is great for both.
      I agree that early on especially the comedy is the main strength but the romance element gets stronger as the series goes on and the characters get more serious about their relationship. That said the anime doesn't cover the whole manga so it's got more of the early comedy over all.

    Koe no katachi is missing why? Beats Love story into the ground.

      Think its more of a show list than a movie or Manga list.
      I agree though, Koe no Katachi hits just as hard as Clannad did back in the day.

    No Kare Kano and Peach Girl?

      No no no. Why did you mention Peach Girl!? That's not a love story, it's a hate story... between the viewer and Sae. Man, I already feel my blood boiling and it's been... what? 15 years?

    ITT People who've never heard of His And Her Circumstances and/or Fushigi Yuugi.

      I wouldn't have put Fushigi Yuugi in this category but I guess I can see why you might.

      I'm pretty sure the Kotaku anime writers are too young to have even heard of Kare Kano. It's kind of become a forgotten gem in Gainax's lineup, lost in between Evangelion and the more stylistically striking stuff like FLCL and Gurren Lagann.

    Personally in no particular order for Anime series
    Toradora
    Blue Spring Ride
    Anonymous noise
    Nana
    Ouran High School Host Club

    Anime Movies
    The Garden of words
    A Silent voice
    Your name

    Yeah, nah at Fruits Basket. It is not a bad anime but A. romance it's really not the main point of the story (and it is unresolved, anyway), and B. it barely scratched the surface of the story. There's barely any kind of closure or development.

    In addition to some of the ones mentioned by other commentators, I'd add Ranma 1/2, the super-depressing (but beautiful) My Girlfriend, the Ultimate Weapon and Ah My Goddess! (the original 5-episode OVA).

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