Despite being a medium best known for its action-packed battles and super-powered characters, romance is one of the most popular genres in anime. Viewers consume romantic fiction for a variety of reasons. Some turn to it because they yearn for romantic fulfillment in their own life, and some just want to watch something that will give them a warm and fuzzy feeling. The diversity of the romance genre means that there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
From upbeat romantic comedies to angsty romance dramas, this list contains an array of lovey-dovey titles to suit whatever mood you’re in this Valentine’s Day.
Table of contents
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
Hachiman Hikigaya has spent his high school life as an outsider. Cynical and nihilistic, he treats his loner status like a badge of honour, and shows scorn for his classmates who engage in what he calls the follies of youth. But after his teacher makes him join the Service Club – a group that aims to help fellow students solve their personal problems – he finds himself forced to interact with the very peers he dislikes. The club’s only other member, Yukino Yukinoshita, is also an outcast, known for her intellect and icy personality. Will Yukino end up being a confidant for Hachiman, or will she simply reinforce his pessimistic views of humanity?
Although it’s labelled a romantic comedy, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (also known as My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected) doesn’t follow a typical rom-com formula. Instead, the series is essentially a slice-of-life that pokes fun at the rom-com genre through its cynical protagonist. If you’re looking for a series where romantic themes take precedence then this show may not be for you. Nevertheless, its witty writing and relatable characters make it a nice change of pace from your usual fluffy romance anime.
Season 3 of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is available to watch on Crunchyroll.
Despite being a talented guitarist, Ritsuka Uenoyama is growing bored with music. One day he meets fellow student Mafuyu Satou, who carries with him a Gibson guitar that he doesn’t know how to play. After realizing Ritsuka’s music expertise, Mafuyu begs him to teach him how to play. A reluctant Ritsuka agrees, and Mafuyu soon becomes a member of his band, which in turn reignites Ritsuka’s passion for music. With the help of his band members, Mafuyu must not only improve as a musician but also learn to overcome the past trauma which led him to be the owner of his guitar.
Over its short, 11-episode runtime, Given crafts a story and characters that are so genuine, you can’t help but feel emotionally invested. While the romantic relationships are a big part of the story, it’s equally about overcoming loss and personal growth as a musician. Completely free from plot contrivances, Given stands out as a rare gem in the Boys’ Love genre, and indeed the romance genre as a whole.
Given is available to watch on Crunchyroll.
Tsuki ga Kirei
As they enter their final year of junior high school, Kotarou Azumi and Akane Mizuno find themselves in the same class. Though they don’t know each other, feelings are quick to blossom between them after a few chance meetings. As the pair’s relationship deepens and they discover the joys of first love, they must also deal with doubts and obstacles that plague both their personal lives and their relationship; from career planning to romantic rivals. Together they navigate their way through these issues, all the while hoping their relationship stays the course.
Tsuki ga Kirei‘s biggest strength is its simplicity. From characterization to animation, nothing about it feels exaggerated. This results in a story that feels so grounded, it will likely transport the viewer back to their own high school years. As the series’ characters are in middle school the romance feels suitably wholesome.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku
Narumi Momose is about to start a new office job. Having been dumped by her previous boyfriend for being a fujoshi, she vows to conceal her otaku tendencies from her new colleagues at all costs. However, her plan is ruined after she runs into her childhood friend Hirotaka Nifuji, who’s just been hired at the same workplace. Narumi’s otaku status is exposed to two of her co-workers after Hirotaka mentions Comiket. Thankfully, they’re otaku themselves, and an instant bond forms between the four of them. Later, as Narumi laments her breakup, Hirotaka offers a solution for her romance woes; date a fellow otaku – namely him. Narumi agrees and their adorable relationship full of nerdy hijinks begins.
In a medium that seems to be dominated by high school settings, romance anime about working adults seem few and far between. While it’s not as profound in its themes or message as other series on this list, Wotakoi is a fun and humorous watch, and delivers on the wholesome romance front. If you’re an otaku you’ll get a special kick out of this anime, as it’s full of references to gaming, anime and manga, and their respective communities.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video in select regions.
Ride Your Wave
College student Hinako Mukaimizu spends all of her free time surfing in the coastal town where she lives. After a freak accident results in her apartment building catching fire, she’s saved by a young firefighter named Minato Hinageshi. The two quickly progress from friends to romantic partners, as Hinako is struck by his earnest desire to help others. Hinako’s passion for the ocean proves to be infectious as Minato eagerly asks her to teach him how to surf. However, a certain incident changes the course of Hinako’s life and she’s suddenly faced with an uncertain future.
Though its story feels predictable at times, Ride Your Wave‘s exploration of themes such as grief and self-discovery – combined with Masaaki Yuasa’s unique signature art style – make it a compelling film. If you’re in the mood for a romance anime that will get you in your feels, this film is a solid choice.
Ride Your Wave is available to rent on Amazon Prime.
Tomoya Okazaki feels nothing but apathy for his life and has resigned himself to a boring existence. On his way to school, he encounters a girl muttering to herself and, after talking to her, discovers her name is Nagisa Furukawa. A lonely Nagisa asserts that her and Tomoya are now friends, which Tomoya quickly dismisses. But he can’t seem to ignore her solemn but friendly expression whenever he sees her at school, and eventually yields to her request for friendship. He soon finds out that Nagisa is repeating a year of high school due to being sick, and that she desperately wants to rekindle the school’s drama club. He agrees to help her achieve her goal, and the two form a beautiful bond in which they help each other overcome their weaknesses.
Widely considered as essential viewing for any anime fan, Clannad‘s cultural impact can’t be denied. While the first season is spent slowly developing its characters through a very slice-of-life atmosphere, its sequel Clannad: After Story (which follows the characters as adults) is much more serious in tone. With its stellar storytelling that strikes right at the core of what it means to be human, Clannad is a truly powerful piece of romantic fiction – but it’s also so much more.
The Tatami Galaxy
After meeting a strange man claiming to be a god of matchmaking, an unnamed college student reflects on his past two years of college life, imagining the different choices he could have made and what outcomes they might have led to. Each episode of The Tatami Galaxy imagines a parallel world wherein this student chooses a different student organization to join, as he believes this decision to be the root of his failed campus life. Through these different realities, the student tries to ask out his icy underclassman Akashi. Although he yearns for an idealistic college experience full of romance and friendships, misadventure and bad fortune seem to have a way of finding him.
Full of psychedelic visuals, eccentric storytelling, and witty dialogue, The Tatami Galaxy makes for a truly unique and mind-bending experience. Due to its lightning-fast pacing which turns reading subtitles into an Olympic sport, it’s hardly a casual watch. But it’s definitely worth viewing for its surreal visuals and the meaningful messages wrapped up inside them.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War
The person who falls in love first loses. This is a belief that student council president Miyuki Shirogane and his vice president Kaguya Shinomiya both share. The two of them are revered by their peers for their academic prowess and (in Kaguya’s case) wealth, and everyone believes they would make a perfect couple. However, despite having romantic feelings for one another, they vehemently refuse to admit it. Afraid of being rejected or looked down upon, Miyuki and Kaguya turn their feelings for each other into a game of war, trying to trick each other into confessing first.
In an interesting twist, Kaguya-sama Love is War turns romance into a battle of wits between its two main characters. Though admittedly this concept could grow old fast, the series’ jokes remain consistently amusing for the most part, and the progression of the main characters’ relationship is compelling enough to make the viewer feel invested in the outcome of their games. Beneath its exaggeratedly comical exterior are some relatable musings about vulnerability. As such, the series is the perfect choice for fans of romantic comedies.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War is available to watch on Funimation.
Adachi and Shimamura
Sakura Adachi and Hougetsu Shimamura cross paths while skipping out on school classes. The two quickly turn this into a ritual, spending their class time on the second floor of the gymnasium, playing table tennis. Despite her antisocial tendencies, Adachi is glad to have company and comes to consider Shimamura a friend. But it doesn’t take long for her feelings to shift from platonic to romantic. As the relationship evolves, Adachi and Shimamura must weigh up the consequences of going beyond the bounds of friendship.
Adachi and Shimamura is a sweet slice-of-life series, that is ultimately carried by its gorgeous and unique art direction, and the cute interactions between its main characters. The series’ slow pacing lends itself to a nice and relaxing viewing experience, making it the perfect romance anime to unwind from a long day with.
Adachi and Shimamura is available to watch on Funimation.
Unbeknownst to each other, classmates Kyouko Hori and Izumi Miyamura are both leading double lives. Though at school she’s the height of popularity, Hori’s free time is dominated by housework and looking after her little brother. Meanwhile, soft-spoken and aloof Miyamura hides his numerous piercings and tattoos (a byproduct of his impulsive personality) from his unsuspecting peers. After a chance encounter leads them to discover each other’s alter egos, the pair begin to spend more time with each other, and companionship forms between them. With their true selves revealed, Hori and Miyamura are able to open up to each other in a way that they can’t with anyone else.
Praised for its natural romantic developments, Horimiya is a breath of fresh air for those who are sick of painstakingly slow love stories mired by an idealized sense of ‘purity’. While far from being realistic, its colorful cast of characters are still enjoyable to watch, and the series strikes a nice balance of romance and humor.
Horimiya is available to watch on Funimation.
Hikaru Kusakabe is a confident and easygoing boy who plays guitar in a rock band. His classmate Rihito Sajou is his polar opposite; a reserved and straight-laced honor student. When Kusakabe stumbles upon Sajou singing by himself in practice for a mandatory choir performance, the pair’s worlds collide. Seeing the typically composed Sajou struggle with his singing, a curious Kusakabe offers to help him practice. As they begin to fall for one another, they must deal not only with their conflicting personalities but the uncertainties that the future holds for their relationship.
The story of Classmates is pure and simple. But with its minimalistic soundtrack and distinctive art style, the film manages to create an atmosphere that makes you feel immersed in the romance of its two main characters. If you go into this film expecting lots of drama you’ll likely be disappointed. But if you enjoy intimate romances about two people simply falling in love, Classmates delivers in spades.
Students Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya appear to be a happy couple. But what their peers don’t know is that the pair are dating out of a desire to distract themselves from the pain of unrequited love. Hanabi harbours feelings for her childhood friend, who is several years older than her. When she discovers he’ll be teaching at her high school, she’s delighted by the opportunity to spend more time with him. But her hopes are dashed when she sees him talking flirtatiously with music teacher Akane Minagawa. Mugi recognises Hanabi’s pain, as he happens to be in love with Akane. As the pair commiserate over their circumstances they decide to use each other, physically and emotionally, as a replacement for their true loves.
Far from being the most wholesome installment on this list, Scum’s Wish is nevertheless a great example of a compelling romantic drama. Melancholic and at times uncomfortable to watch, this anime is not well-suited for those who want a warm and fuzzy viewing experience. Scum’s Wish explores the grief and misery that can occur when we let emotions cloud our judgment – and it does a pretty solid job of this.
Scum’s Wish is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video in select regions.
Happy Valentine’s Day and happy watching!
Whether you’re a hopeless romantic or a staunch cynic, we hope you’ve found something on this list to enjoy this Valentine’s Day. Did your favourite romance anime make the list? Let us know in the comments.
All images via Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Amazon Prime Video.