[Description]: Romance shows are sweet, dramatic, and emotionally driven. Love in all of its forms is the consistent theme that binds these shows together. They explore the romantic relationships of their cast members and often feature heavy character development as the characters of interest change and play off of one another. Comedy is an often featured sub-genre which gives a lot of the shows a more lighthearted feel and sometimes cuts through the drama to relieve tension in the show. Links to spoiler-free reviews of all of the shows that have them are included.
10. Nagi no Asukara
Alternative Title: A Lull in the Sea
Episode Count: 26 Episodes (23-minutes each)
Studio and Year: P.A. Works; 2013 – 2014
Details: In the world of Nagi no Asukara, all humans once lived beneath the sea however there came a time when some people abandoned it to live on the surface. When this happened, those people lost a protective membrane layered over their skin called ‘Ena’ that allowed them to breathe underwater. Over time these two groups of people formed different cultures and grew apart. The narrative follows a group of children from the sea who are forced to attend school on land. The focus of the show is on the complicated romantic relationships of the kids as well as the discrimination and dramatic tension between the people of the land and sea. The show itself is often unapologetically melodramatic, really goes all-out on the emotional level, and isn’t the best example of good romance or character writing. I might even go as far to say it’s kind of a bad show but its unique setting and stunning environmental visuals make it worthwhile if only barely.
9. Akagami no Shirayuki-hime
Alternative Title: Snow White with the Red Hair
Episode Count: 24 Episodes; 2 Seasons (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Bones; 2014 – 2016
Details: As far as sweet, lighthearted romances go, Akagami is about as pure, straightforward, and innocent as they come. The show centers around Shirayuki, a strong-willed girl with exceptionally rare red hair, who led a normal life as a town herbalist in the kingdom of Tanbarun until her beauty attracted the attention of the first prince Raji who requested that she become one of his concubines. Unable to outright refuse his demand due to her social status, she fled the kingdom and had a chance-encounter with a stranger by the name of Zen. After curing him of a poisoned apple meant for her, he is revealed to be the second prince of the kingdom of Clarines. In Zen’s company, Shirayuki continues on to Clarines and attempts to start her life anew. Anyone looking for a show about a strong-female lead and a simple, heartfelt, romance story would do well to watch Akagami. You can read a spoiler-free review here.
8. Isshuukan Friends
Alternative Title: One Week Friends
Episode Count: 12 Episodes (23-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Brain’s Base; 2014
Details: Isshuukan Friends is a pleasant, slice of life romance about Yuuki Hase and his classmate Fujimiya Kaori who he one day approached and offered to be friends with. After some persistence on Yuuki’s part, Kaori reveals that she cannot make friends because she forgets all of her memories of them each week on Monday. Regardless of her affliction, Yuuki endeavors each week to help her and strengthen their relationship. The show takes this concept of memory loss and carries on well with it. It’s a little slow to unroll but the show is very warm and heartfelt. It’s light on drama but the characters and the story are very charming and It’s a good show to watch for anybody looking for a more relaxed romance story. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.
7. Kokoro Connect
Episode Count: 17 Episodes; 2 Seasons (25-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Silver Link; 2012
Details: Kokoro Connect is a kind of supernatural, romance drama that takes place in an otherwise mundane school setting. The story details the hectic experiences of 5 students in Yamaboshi Academy who one day become subject to strange a strange incident where they switch bodies with one another for minutes at a time. As these strange occurrences continue to happen and worsen they learn that the phenomenon is not entirely random and that it is being orchestrated by an otherworldly being named ‘Heartseed’. Kokoro Connnect explores the dramatic ramifications of these supernatural incidents as well as others as the group of friends are put through an emotional hell. The show is all about knowing other people intimately and the emotional roller-coaster that ensues.
6. Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
Alternative Title: Maoyu ~ Archenemy & Hero
Episode Count: 12 Episodes (23-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Arms; 2013
Details: If you were to marry the economic elements of Ookami to Koushinryou with an overly generic fantasy setting involving heroes and demon overlords, you would arrive at Maoyuu Maou Yuusha. The show revolves around the Hero who goes to defeat the Demon Queen and the Demon Queen herself who reasons with him that instead of killing her and ending the war that they should prolong it and by doing so, save many thousands of people from starvation. Eventually agreeing to her proposal, the two work together in secret to end the war on their own terms. The show is surprisingly versatile in its behavior, offering a fun take on a tired fantasy premise, unexpectedly legitimate drama, and a lot of attention towards world building and finances. It can feel pretty generic at times but it’s very fun to watch.
5. ef: A Tale of Memories
Episode Count: 24 Episodes; 2 Seasons (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Shaft; 2007 – 2008
Details: At face-value, ef doesn’t present all unique of a premise. It follows several different young romances, one of which is a classic love triangle between one of the protagonists, his childhood friend, and a girl he meets at the beginning of the story. The other romance that develops parallel to this story is between a boy who meets a girl whose memories only last 13 hours and how he endeavors to form a relationship with her. Both stories are full of emotion and melodrama and have their own unique intricacies that at times elevate them above the typical however it’s the shows stylistically presentation which makes it all the more interesting to watch. Themes of balancing one’s life with other people and growing up into the adult world additionally complicate these love stories in a compelling way.
4. Ookami to Koushinryou
Alternative Title: Spice and Wolf
Episode Count: 26 Episodes; 2 Seasons (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Imagin; 2008 / Brain’s Base; 2009
Details: Ookami to Koushinryou is an odd romance story in that its just as much about the highly entertaining relationship between its two central characters as it is about the world they live in and its economic principles. The story follows Kraft Lawrence, a traveling merchant, who encounters a wolf deity named Holo, the Wise Wolf of Yoitsu. Recognizing each other’s shrewdness, the two begin traveling together – Lawrence dreaming of one day opening his own shop and Holo wanting to return to her homeland. The two journey from town to town in search of economic opportunity and gradually grow more familiar with each other. The relationship between Lawrence and Holo is the show’s main selling point. Their dialogue is endearing and full of sharp, witty remarks and Ookami to Koushinryou is just as interested in developing them as it is in bartering and trading.
3. White Album 2
Episode Count: 13 Episodes (23-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Satelight; 2013
Details: White Album 2 is about Kitahara Haruki who is an amateur guitarist and the last member of his school’s light music club who one day hears a melodious voice coming from the roof of the school harmonize with his idle playing. Combined with the sound of an enigmatic piano player coming from the music room over, the resulting song inspires Haruki to discover who the two are and recruit them into the light music club in order to play for the upcoming festival. What follows is a music-centric, dramatic romance story between the three characters. The story is full of emotion and passion and what makes the characters interesting is just how susceptible they are to their own flaws. They make mistakes and struggle through what becomes a moderately refreshing story of love and romance. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.
2. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
Alternative Title: Your Lie in April
Episode Count: 26 Episodes (25-minutes each)
Studio and Year: A-1 Pictures; 2014 – 2015
Details: Much like White Album 2, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso also heavily revolves around music however is ultimately far more involved with the subject. The narrative revolves around a young piano prodigy named Arima Kousei who stopped playing after the death of his mother which rendered him unable to hear the sound of whatever notes he played. For two years Kousei avoids the piano however his passion for music is slowly reignited after meeting Miyazono Kaori, a free-spirited, beautiful violinist. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso emphasizes Kousei’s recovery, his renewed appreciation for music, and his relationship with his friends and rivals many of whom are wonderful characters in their own right. The show is a brilliant blend of love, music, skill, and dedication.
Episode Count: 25 Episodes (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: J.C.Staff; 2008 – 2009
Details: Toradora! is a romantic comedy about Takasu Ryuuji, a high school student with an intimidating face, and Aisaka Taiga, a petite girl with a fiery personality. Events lead to their paths crossing and Ryuuji discovers that she has a crush on his best friend, the school’s vice president. When Taiga in turn learns that Ryuuji has as crush on her best friend, the two form an unlikely duo who collaborate in secret to pair each other up with their friends and respective love interests. Toradora! is an incredible romance story featuring a handful of highly memorable and lovable characters with great character development. The latter half of the show can tend to be a little melodramatic but the characters and overarching story make it more than enjoyable and it’s one of the best romance anime of all time.