Everyone loves romance. Well, no, not everyone – but a lot of people! That’s why it features so prominently as a subgenre in almost everything, after all.
Today, we’ll be discussing twenty-six inventive, iconic, tear-jerking, and heartwarming romances that can keep your chest burning through these winter weeks.
- Best Romance Anime
- 26. Ride Your Waves
- 25. Anthem of the Heart
- 24. Golden Time
- 23. Doukyuusei
- 22. The Night is Short, Walk on Girl
- 21. High Score Girl
- 20. Nodame Cantabile
- 19. Angel Beats
- 18. Kokoro Connect
- 17. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
- 16. The Tatami Galaxy
- 15. The Wind Rises
- 14. Your Name
- 13. Garden of Words
- 12. Kaguya: Love is War
- 11. A Silent Voice
- 10. Beastars
- 9. Kids on the Slope
- 8. Katanagatari
- 7. Clannad
- 6. Lover’s Suicide Through Rakugo
- 5. Spice and Wolf
- 4. Toradora!
- 3. Chihayafuru
- 2. NANA
- 1. Whisper of the Heart
Best Romance Anime
26. Ride Your Waves
This is Studio Science Saru and director Masaaki Yuasa’s most normal work. It follows Hinako, a swimmer, and surfer who has moved to a seaside city only to encounter an apartment fire and a firefighter, Minato.
They instantly fall in love, and Hinako promises to teach him how to surf.
This is a ridiculously simple but also ridiculously unwatched sweet and short romance drama with a heartwarming presence.
The animation and art are sublime, and it’s an easy film to throw on for a quick tear-jerking watch.
25. Anthem of the Heart
Jun Naruse has become mute after a traumatic incident in her youth, to the ire and upset of her close ones and friends.
She’s elected to perform in a musical and is desperately trying to get out of it when she meets Takumi Sakagami, the singer, who falls in love and convinces herself she will fix him.
Anthem of the Heart doesn’t go the directions you’d expect, and I respect it massively for that.
It’s a concise film, encompassing connection and overreliance in a way I’ve not really seen in anime before. Sure, it has lots of melodrama – but in small doses, that’s not a bad thing!
24. Golden Time
Golden Time entails the story of Banri Tada, an amnesiac law student who is adjusting to university.
While there, he makes a few friends and meets a melodramatic, over the top woman called KoukoKaga, who inserts her way into his life.
It follows his adjustment to a new life whilst coming to grips with his past.
While it does feature quite a few tropes, it’s also very inventive in engaging with its usage leaving you with questions until the very end.
It’s a shame there aren’t many good shoujo-ai, shounen-ai, yuri, or yaoi anime out there yet.
But they are coming out now, and Doukyuusei is a fantastic effort. While it’s incredibly short for a film, it still tells a lovely story about teenage love and confronting one’s sexuality.
Rhitio and Hikaru are a perfectionist and a musician who meet one another and find attachment.
They need to figure out their feelings whilst dealing with their own dilemmas, and it’s gorgeously animated throughout with a sketchy yet beautiful art style.
22. The Night is Short, Walk on Girl
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is an exceptional Masaaki Yuasa produced film prioritizing all his previous projects’ motifs.
Living in the moment, forging one’s path, excitement in the face of dire odds, striving for something more, and embracing the future by living your best present.
It tells the story of a nameless black-haired girl who decides to go out one night, get wasted, and say yes to any opportunity to arise.
All the while, his biggest crush has decided to confess and yet cannot find the right timing or method. It’s gorgeously animated, simple, and relatively short, and a great introduction to the world of Yuasa.
21. High Score Girl
High Score Girl is an animated homage to retro arcade gaming with a romantic love triangle center.
Sure, it’s a bit overdramatic, and the characters can be… Very annoying, at times. But I love the representation of two autistic people bonding over their love of Street Fighter.
Despite any flaws, it sports a killer soundtrack and art style, using a 3DCGI and traditional and pixel blend that perfectly suits it as a series. It’s just a simple and fun watch for any video game fans that enjoy a cute core.
20. Nodame Cantabile
The professional, ambitious musician Shinichi Chiaki finds himself tutoring a talented pianist, Nodame.
However, she’s messy, directionless, and repudiates classical playing for a more free form expression of self. At first, he can’t stand her though he respects her abilities; they come to see something much deeper and beautiful in each other.
Nodame Cantabile is, unfortunately, an overlooked anime for some reason. It’s brilliant, with a gorgeous classical soundtrack and generally tangible relationships. There aren’t many anime that let us watch characters grow in the way Shinichi and Nodame do.
19. Angel Beats
After dying, Otonashi wakes up in an alien school stranded in a limbo-aesthetic and meets a rifle-wielding girl called yuri.
She recruits him into their secret society, tasked with protecting their afterlife experience from an unusually quiet and angelic-looking girl called Teshi.
This is one of Jun Maeda’s best anime, simply telling an emotional plot in a succinct number of episodes with a beautiful score.
It may or may not be for you, owing to its reliance on teen drama and school setting, but you could end up with a new favorite at the end.
18. Kokoro Connect
The Student Cultural Society comprises five members who hardly know one another. One day, they all switch bodies, and that starts a chain reaction of weird supernatural happenings.
Through this, they grow intimately close to one another are forced to open up about their secrets and trauma in a way they’ve never done before.
I was never bored watching Kokoro Connect, immediately drawn in and interested from the first episode – and that intrigue never dropped.
Sure, it’s not got masterclass art and animation, or production quality in general, but it definitely makes up for that in engaging melodrama and captivating narrative beats.
17. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
Oregairu, as it is commonly known as, follows HachimanHikigaya. He’s apathetic, a loner, and doesn’t see the point in relationships.
As punishment for a particularly egotistical and contemptible action, he’s forced to join the Volunteer Service Club to kick some empathy into him.
It’s there where he meets Yukino and Yui, two girls who want to get closer to him through different means.
It sounds like the beginnings of a harem anime, but trust me, it’s not.
Oregairu is a contemplative, dialogue-heavy teen drama that only improves in quality with every season. It’s definitely worth checking out the first episode to see if it’s for you.
16. The Tatami Galaxy
Towards the end of his university degree, Watashi realizes he’s wasted his student life.
He didn’t confess to his crush, form any healthy bonds, score good grades, or further his own self-growth.
Depressed and sad, he visits a pub whereupon he meets a man with an unusually shaped head who grants him the opportunity to go back to his first day and try it all again.
The Tatami Galaxy is more than just a romance; it’s a zanily animated masterpiece from Masaaki Yuasa about living your life to the fullest. It’s best watched in your adulthood, and I’m sure it’ll get you thinking. It certainly helps that it has amazing music and emotion, too.
15. The Wind Rises
Having myopia means Jirou Horikoshi’s dream of becoming a pilot will never become a reality.
However, he channels his passion into the craft instead. As a teenager, on his way to work at an aero-engineering factory, he saves Naoko Satomi in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 before being tasked with building the Mistubishi A6M Zero Fighter Plane.
However, he comes to realize his beautiful creations are being used for warfare and destruction and must juggle these dissonant feelings.
The Wind Rises is based on the real-life of Jirou Horikoshi and tackles a number of topics ranging from ambition, artistry, World War II, love, passion, and loss.
It’s a uniquely beautiful movie with some stellar art and animation courtesy of Studio Ghibli.
14. Your Name
Mitsuha wishes she was a boy, away from the quiet countryside and living in the city. One day, she wakes up in a strange boy’s body living in Tokyo, studying to be an architect, and that boy – Taki Tachibana – wakes up in Mitsuha’s body.
At first, they’re distressed at the irregular switching, but over the course of a few months, they fall in love with one another’s world and dream to meet each other. However, that’ll be much harder than it seems.
This is a Makoto Shinkai work through and through, featuring all his trademark flairs and flourishes, complete with a gorgeously cinematic art style and brilliant animation.
It’s an easy watch, being a single film with stellar production quality, and will probably hit you in the feels at some point. Check it out!
13. Garden of Words
This is one of Shinkai’s best works, brimming with gorgeous animation and artwork that bolsters a simple yet question-raising plot.
It increases in quality with every watch, and simply pausing a frame can give you beautiful wallpaper.
It follows Takao Akizuki, who skips school on rainy days to study shoemaking and cobbling in a public garden.
He meets a young woman, seemingly running from something, and they quickly form a dependant bond.
It’s got a huge twist and a vague ending that leaves the mind reeling by the conclusion of the film, and though many will take arms against the core relationship, it’s still believable and interesting a dynamic to explore.
12. Kaguya: Love is War
Miyuki and Kaguya are at the top of the student body, both excelling academically and socially, respected by all their peers and adored by everyone.
They also love each other – but their hubris can’t simply allow themselves to admit that, and so we are granted season after season of mental battles in the style of Death Note all in order to extract a confession.
Somehow, this never gets old. That’s because the comedy is fresh, the romance is eccentric and endearing, it’s constantly thrilling, and there’s still development! It’s not just a loop every episode without progress!
Check out Kaguya. It’s just dumb, lovely fun.
11. A Silent Voice
Shouya Ishida was the class clown and bullied in his youth, targeting a deaf girl called ShoukoNishima in particular.
Now older and having grown out of that personality after being repeatedly bullied himself, Shouya encounters Shouko in high school and strives to make up for what he did when he was younger.
A Silent Voice is Kyoto Animation’s best film, both in production quality and narrative, telling a simple yet emotionally riveting story about compassion with a believable romantic backdrop.
There aren’t many anime out there that match A Silent Voice’s quality, so I definitely recommend watching it.
Nobody that went into Beastars blind expected what they got.
It’s a touching, mature story about intimacy and self-actualization wrapped up in a Bojack anthropomorphic design, animated in gorgeous 3DGI and traditional blended art.
Aside from the wonderful score and genuinely funny moments, there’s a palpable and unique romance serving as the core motivation for a number of the main characters that keep it interesting.
That’s not even mentioning the murder mystery that kick-starts the whole show.
Please at least give it a chance, and leave your prejudgement at the door because it’s not what you think it is!
9. Kids on the Slope
Shinichiro Watanabe is known for incorporating music into his anime by blending it with a genre – sci-fi, mostly, but also samurai among others – but Kids on the Slope is a pure dramatic love letter to music and the jazz of life.
It discusses themes of temperance, spontaneity, friendship, and relationships, and all of the characters are lovable.
It follows Kaoru, a professional pianist who is taught to break free and embrace jazz when he meets a delinquent drummer, Sentarou Kawabuchi.
It’s short, sweet, and beautiful – especially in the audio compartment, as you would expect.
Togame is on a quest to retrieve the ancient twelve Deviant Blades.
Her search brings her to an estranged island where the Yasuri family live to request the assistance of Shichika, a practitioner of the sword-fighting style she requires to get them.
He accepts her request, and before long, they are launched into a short but sweet year-long adventure across Edo, Japan, growing closer every day.
This is one of the most slept on anime out there, written by the fantastic Nisioisin and animated by Studio White Fox in a gorgeously unique art style that makes every moment of action, comedy, and romance, pop with unfettered color.
Clannad is a weird show. People swear by the first season, but it really wasn’t for me.
However, I can see why someone would like it as there’s plenty of room for character development, and it’s got a soft, timid atmosphere about it.
The second season, After the story, is something else entirely. It’s a tear-jerking rollercoaster of familial emotions, tackling topics of fatherhood and growth with surprising competence.
The difference in quality between both seasons is staggering, but you need to watch the former to understand the latter, and I’d still say it’s worth it.
6. Lover’s Suicide Through Rakugo
Rakugo is an ancient Japanese performing art form that comprises of one person playing the part of every character in a narrative.
It’s harder than it sounds, and so when Yotarou is released from prison and given a new lease on life, he decides to seek the assistance of Yakumo, a master of the art.
The first season goes back in time to show us Yakumo’s life before returning to the present for the second season.
This is an under-watched classic, brimming with personality and well-written drama with every episode. I highly recommend this if you’re looking for something bittersweet yet hopeful.
5. Spice and Wolf
Before the agricultural and industrial revolution, people relied on Holo the Wisewolf for the harvest.
However, with her purpose waning, she finds herself wanting to return to her home. Conveniently, the traveling salesman Kraft Lawrence is heading that way and decides to help her in her quest.
What follows is a beautiful romance centered on economics and communication set across a gorgeous medieval backdrop.
The characters and dialogue are incredible; their charisma and personality emanating from the screen with every scene. I really hope we get a continuation someday…
Ryuuji is a tall, angry-looking and calm, stoic clean freak. Taiga is a small, unassuming girl with an anger problem. Through circumstances, they come to realize they have crushes on one another’s best friends.
This starts a long-running companionship that, through time, develops into a reliance neither realize until things have become more complicated.
Toradora is a wholesome, lovely romantic drama with a unique art style and satisfying conclusion. It’s one of the best out there if you’re looking for something cute and light-hearted.
Chihayafuru is a very hard sell but bears with me. Focusing on three teenagers, friends from childhood, we are shown the world of Karuta – a memorization card game based on Japanese poetry that quickly ended up being one of my favorite anime.
It’s got some of the most intense tournament arcs in sports anime and some of the most endearing characters in a fully realized and working love triangle that never stops surprising or emotionally connecting with the watcher.
It’s a gorgeously produced love letter to the unknown but wonderful sport, with complex and dynamic characters that drive it all forward.
Nana is the story about two girls, each called Nana but entirely different, and the effect that meeting has on one another’s life.
They end up sharing a flat and eventually their lives in this tragic yet rooted romantic drama that touches on themes other anime would strive to avoid.
From cheating, pregnancy, motherhood, and friendship – to darker, more personal topics – Nana always confronts it head-on.
It’s truly an incredible anime and a must-watch for any sentimental people out there.
1. Whisper of the Heart
Whisper of the Heart is a special kind of romance, prioritizing individual growth over anything hammy or complex.
It tells the story of Shizuku, an eager dreamer who wants to someday finish a book, and the relationship she forms with Seiji.
He’s a violin maker intending to move abroad to study the craft professionally, and this is what causes Shizuku to pull up her bootstraps and get to work lest she feels left behind.
I truly love Whisper of the Heart. It’s got everything one could love from a wholesome Ghibli film, comprising gorgeous animation and art, some tear-jerking musical moments, and touching if not simple, core stories.
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