Chalk it up to lack of time and patience, but I don’t explore animes as much as I do with mangas. Unlike a manga where I can simply skip frames or gloss over dialogues, animes are fixed 20+ minutes that I can only cut down by speeding up its playback (and even that has limits, comprehension-wise).
On the other hand, if I get rewarded with scenes like this:
… then I guess it becomes all worth it! (God, the CHILLS when the BGM suddenly swirled in sync with the kiss!)
The funny thing is, some of my favorite romances in animes come from ones that don’t focus on the said genre. IMHO, straight romance animes tend to fall on any of these categories: a) generic high school-based love stories; b) overdrawn dramatic romance; c) harem / fanservice. So while there’s a LOT of romance animes I could have chosen from (Clannad, Love Hina, School Rumble, Saekano, etc.), today’s list is a somewhat eclectic mix of genres from adventure to fantasy to mystery to historical.
So without further ado, I share my top 7 anime recommendations – romance/shoujo genre. Please note that I did not include anymore those that were mentioned in the Top 10 Manga Romance Recommendations. While some plotlines may differ, I feel I’d end up just parroting the same rants I had from last time. Not included in this roundup (but you should definitely watch) are: Akatsuki no Yona, Kuragehime, Cardcaptor Sakura, Akagami no Shirayukihime, Chihayafuru, and Earl & Fairy.
Also, this list is HIGHLY subjective, OTP-wise, because I am and forever will be an immature fangirl.
Top 7 Romance Anime Recs
Ouran High School Host Club (26 episodes, Finished)
|Summary: Haruhi Fujioka is a bright scholarship candidate with no rank or title to speak of—a rare species at Ouran High School, an elite academy for students of high pedigree. When she opens the door to Music Room #3 hoping to find a quiet place to study, Haruhi unexpectedly stumbles upon the Host Club. Led by the princely Tamaki, the club—whose other members include the “Shadow King” Kyouya, the mischievous Hitachiin twins, and the childlike Haninozuka “Honey” and his strong protector Mori—is where handsome boys with too much time on their hands entertain the girls in the academy.
In a frantic attempt to remove herself from the hosts, Haruhi ends up breaking a vase worth eight million yen and is forced into becoming the eccentric group’s general errand boy to repay her enormous debt. However, thanks to her convincingly masculine appearance, her naturally genial disposition toward girls, and fascinating commoner status, she is soon promoted to full-time male host and plunged headlong into a glitzy whirlwind of elaborate cosplays, rich food, and exciting shenanigans that only the immensely wealthy Ouran Host Club can pull off. [Source]
Both hilarious and heartwarming, Ouran is a sweet skewer of shoujo conventions with lots of affection for its stereotype-filling characters (who later turn out to be more than who they say they are). The heroine, Fujioka Haruhi, is a strong, smart female lead. The reasons that the boys come to adore her are convincing and understandable, unlike in other shows where clumsiness = HAWT!
My ship(s!) in the show predictably sink, but the end game pairing isn’t so bad. Besides, the show generously gives us super sweet “pairing of the day” episodes. I could hold on to that.
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru (2 Seasons / 26 eps, Finished)
|Summary: Hachiman Hikigaya is an apathetic high school student with narcissistic and semi-nihilistic tendencies. He firmly believes that joyful youth is nothing but a farce, and everyone who says otherwise is just lying to themselves.
In a novel punishment for writing an essay mocking modern social relationships, Hachiman’s teacher forces him to join the Volunteer Service Club, a club that aims to extend a helping hand to any student who seeks their support in achieving their goals. With the only other club member being the beautiful ice queen Yukino Yukinoshita, Hachiman finds himself on the front line of other people’s problems—a place he never dreamed he would be. As Hachiman and Yukino use their wits to solve many students’ problems, will Hachiman’s rotten view of society prove to be a hindrance or a tool he can use to his advantage? [Source]
I nearly dropped this series. Not sure if it was my mood that time, but the first episode was so BLAH! It felt boring and sterile and dry. After a few months, I tried it again, and managed to reach the second episode, where the story pace began to pick up. It became easier to finish the series from this point on– once the group has established its chemistry, the wit and wisdom of teen life began to flow in more smoothly.
So far, I’ve only seen the first season. It’s not a romance-centric anime, but I still included it in my recommendation because the platonic-almost-romantic bonds between and among the three main leads is compelling enough to see through the series end. Sure, it does the usual Betty/Veronica trope with its leads, but the series gives you the opportunity to sympathize for each side.
I also loved how the show presented the worldviews of an anti-social. I can’t count how many times I went, “WHOA! That’s how I would totally feel about the situation, too!”. Its pragmatic take on various aspects of teen life is a breath of fresh air in the generic shoujo universe which often borders on fairy tale-ish.
Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (39 episodes, Finished)
|Summary: In 1889, the world is on the pinnacle of great discoveries in technology. In mankind’s grasp for the future, a sinister foe known only as Gargoyle, obsessed with restoring the former Atlantean empire to the glory it once held, begins his plans to take over the world. Nadia, with the help of a young inventor, Jean Raltique, and Captain Nemo of the submarine Nautilus, must fight to save the world from Gargoyle and Neo-Atlantis. Based on the Novel ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ by Jules Verne.[Source]|
This is an adventure-comedy series that exists because of one boy’s unquestionable devotion to the girl he falls for at first sight. As this is a 90’s-era anime, the art series lacks the polish and consistency of today’s shows. Nonetheless, it makes up for it through the enviable heart that its male lead has.
Nadia, the heroine, gets more and more unlikable as the series progresses, but Jean Raltique’s dutiful loyalty and affection for her has compelled me to finish the series. The 39 episodes were uneven, with poor, head-scratching episodes midway, but it recovers enough to conclude poignantly.
(Disclaimer: my SO is as geeky and devoted as Jean, hence my adoration for the series. YMMV.)
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (22 episodes, Finished)
|Summary: Music accompanies the path of the human metronome, the prodigious pianist Kousei Arima. But after the passing of his mother, Saki Arima, Kousei falls into a downward spiral, rendering him unable to hear the sound of his own piano.
Two years later, Kousei still avoids the piano, leaving behind his admirers and rivals, and lives a colorless life alongside his friends Tsubaki Sawabe and Ryouta Watari. However, everything changes when he meets a beautiful violinist, Kaori Miyazono, who stirs up his world and sets him on a journey to face music again.
Based on the manga series of the same name, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso approaches the story of Kousei’s recovery as he discovers that music is more than playing each note perfectly, and a single melody can bring in the fresh spring air of April. [Source]
I don’t call this anime “Feelgatsu” for nothing: this series will make you swoon, bawl your heart out, shake your fist at cruel fate, and chuckle at its light, fluffy moments. When I first watched this, the pain of my mom’s unexpected demise was still fresh, so I was positively a basketcase when I finished a certain episode. Man, this show takes no prisoners when it comes to choking the bejeezus out of your emotions.
I can’t say much about the main couple without spoiling, but let me just say that a hand holding scene in the park made me grin like a lovesick fool. Unrequited love and friendship themes abound, and there are plenty of “Aaw!” scenes. The twist in the end (which at times felt like a twist of a knife in my heart, dammit) was surprising, even for someone who has seen numerous anime romances such as myself. Back that up with its classical music BGM, and you’ve got yourself the perfect FEELS storm.
Tenkuu no Escaflowne (26 episodes, Finished)
|Summary: High school student Hitomi is transported from Earth to the magical world of Gaea, where she meets boy prince Van Fanel, and is caught up in his quest to unite the countries of Gaea against the ominous Zaibach empire. On the way, she discovers a hidden ability and strives to unravel layers of mystery surrounding Van, his past, and the giant machine known as Escaflowne. [Source]|
Another fantasy-adventure series that has romance in its core, Vision of Escaflowne follows a somewhat grounded path to love for two strangers who met one fateful night. The characters are caught up in a larger fight for the survival of their respective kingdoms, but they are engaged in their own personal battles, too. The plot gets convoluted at times with its philosophical attempts to define fate and destiny, but the show doesn’t linger on those moments anyway.
Van and Hitomi are immensely likable, whether separately or together. They quarrel like married couples at times, but in the end, they’ve got each other’s back. [BEGIN SPOILER] Van’s gradual realization of his feelings for Hitomi was one of my favorite parts of watching the show. I love how he still chose to stand with Hitomi, while respecting the relationship Hitomi and Allen had. And when he fetches Hitomi back from the Mystic Moon the second time, you can really see the yearning and affection he has for her. BTW, I am still salty about the need for Hitomi to leave just when the two had become open with their feelings for each other. [END SPOILER]
The characters have enough ulterior motives to be considered villainous, but at the same time have backstories and qualities to make them redeemable. Best of all: THEY CHANGE. Van starts as a single-minded avenger and eventually becomes a level-headed warrior who fights for the people he loves. Hitomi is shown in the beginning as someone motivated mostly by her secret infatuation for a sempai, but later becomes a compassionate, plucky woman who bears the burden of changing the course of fate of another world.
If this doesn’t convince you to watch the series, at least do it for the opening theme, which is superbly Yoko Kanno.
Gosick (24 episodes, Finished)
|Summary: The year is 1924, the place, Sauville, a small European country neatly tucked beside the Alps…
Kazuya Kujo has been studying abroad at the prestigious Saint Marguerite Academy, where urban legends and horror stories are all the rage. Kazuya ignores most of them but the story of the Queen Berry, a mysterious ghost ship, really gets to him.
Of course, his brainy friend Victorique is much more intrigued by true stories, and she uses her unrivaled logic to solve mysteries even the town’s famous detective can’t. Ironically, it is Victorique’s inquisitive nature that leads the duo to board a ship that matches the Queen Berry’s description to a tee, a ship that might just hold the key to solving a sinister mystery… [Source]
It starts as typical mystery with a dash of very loose historical English take, but as the series progresses, the romance becomes a more pronounced part of the show. Victorique and Kujou’s relationship evolve from adorable tsundere mistress- henpecked hubby to knight and princess, and the episodes clearly show how the two have come to depend on each other.
The path to its finale nearly gave me mini-heart attacks, and its eventual resolution left me wanting for more. So yep, on to light novels I go.
Romeo x Juliet (24 episodes, Finished)
|Summary: In the floating continent of Neo Verona, the Montague family seized control and murdered every member of the Capulet family with the exception of Capulet’s daughter, Juliet Fiammata Asto Capulet. 14 years later, Juliet and the remnants of Capulet’s retainers live hidden from the iron fist of the Montague family. Juliet has long forgotten the murder of her family or her identity, and cross dresses as Odin and the town’s hero of justice, “Red Whirlwind.” A sudden escape in her daily escapades leads her to meet Romeo Candorebanto Montague, the kind son of the tyrannical Montague. Destiny has been set as these two individuals soon to be “star-crossed lovers” are cruelly toyed with by fate in the midst of war. Loosely based on the play by William Shakespeare. [Source]|
Look, unless you’re Taylor Swift, there is NO way that something called Romeo x Juliet will end up happily. Heck, I don’t even need to hide that behind a spoiler tag! But if you’re the type of person who’s “into the journey and not the destination” shit, then you’ll come to appreciate this series. I, on the other hand, can only be mad because the characters in the show are both likable and are just wonderful for each other.
In case you’re curious, I cowered and dropped the series after 8 or 9 episodes, despite the presence of hunky Tybalt, and just spoiled myself with its Wiki entry. I felt I made the right choice: I don’t think I’m up for heartbreaks and tragic romances.
- Rurouni Kenshin – Historical action with great romance episodes. The prequel is more romance-focused, tracing the origin of the Hitokiri’s famed cross-shaped scar.
- Detective Conan– It has nearly a thousand episodes now, but if you chance upon its Ran/Shinichi episodes, you’re in for a treat! Feel free to consult the Detective Conan World wiki page for Ran / Shinichi so you’ll know which ones to watch. Fans of childhood friends-turned-lovers will LOVE the series (or should I call it a saga now?)
- Hyouka – Confession: I watched this show on 1.25x speed– it’s THAT slow-paced. But you have to watch it from beginning to end to see how Oreki’s world slowly changes, thanks to Chitanda. And yes, the latter episodes become more romance-centric, in a subtle way. Thankfully, there are no love triangles or wacky misunderstandings here: it’s a simple coming-of-age story with an ending that’s practically coaxing you to pick up its LN.
- Howl’s Moving Castle – The first Miyazaki series I’ve seen, and remains my favorite. Aside from Howl being a total yummy bishie, I adore how Sophie and Howl become closer in the film. In fact, even if they could have done away with the latter part of the movie concerning the war (which I never understood how it was brought about), I would have been happier. Despite aging, Howl manages to see who Sophie truly is, and in the process, help her regress to her true age at some points of the story.
- Fruits Basket – I thought the manga was better than the anime adaptation, but I’d still recommend it for shoujo anime fans for its hilarity and heart. I could have ranked this higher, but I felt the ending was a weak resolution, plus I’m a Yukiru fan. (Like I said, biased writer here.)
- Saiunkoku Monogatari – The heroine is admirable for her spunk and determination to change the path for women during her time, considering how much easier her life would be if she relied in the men in her life (which include an emperor, who selflessly respects her dreams). This anime is one of the more feminist shows I’ve seen thus far.
- Special A – It’s the textbook definition of a shoujo romance, but it’s entertaining to see how far a mangaka can stretch the density and obliviousness of a character, and the pining of the other.
- Kaichou wa Maid-sama – Not personally a big fan of the series (though I find Usui’s VA sexy), but it’s a decent watch for any shoujo fan.
- Kaitou Saint Tail – If you’re in the mood for an old school magical girl series, this show has cute romantic moments between the eponymous thief and the young detective whose life goal is to capture her.
- Sakamichi no Apollon – It was recently recommended to me on Facebook, and though I’ve finished its manga, I HAD to watch this in anime form– and it did not disappoint! Great animation, great OSTs. The changing love polygons in the series are all endearing as heck.
Did I miss a series in my list? Have recs for me? Let me know via comments!