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10 best romance anime of all time

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Romance anime can get a bad rep. For all of the beautiful stories they can tell, they have to compete with the less-than-stellar options that outsiders like to balk at. However, the romance subgenre has plenty of must-watch anime series.

Many romance anime follow a similar formula: two primary love interests slowly grow closer together, jumping over dramatic hurdles, before eventually confessing their feelings at the end of the story. Along the way, one or more rivals usually come along and create a love triangle, or something even messier.

In its worst form, romance anime can rely on these tropes to get from start to finish without adding any substance. Stories that break this mold, or at least present this formula in a refreshing light, earned a place on this list.

Best romance anime of all time ranked

Here is a complete list of the best romance anime.

Honorable mention: Fruits Baskets

Where to watch: Hulu

Fruits
Image via Crunchryoll

Coming in just outside the top 10 list, it wouldn’t be a proper romance anime ranking without mentioning Fruits Basket. The anime will make you feel every range of emotions from laughing to crying, and sometimes all in the same episode. The large cast of characters have difficult pasts and hard-to-explain relationships that get explored and fleshed out over the course of a three-season run that culminates in one of the strongest finales in anime.

10. Lovely Complex 

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Lovely Complex
Image via Toei Animation

This one’s for all of the short kings out there. Standing five feet, nine inches tall, Risa is much taller than the average Japanese high school girl, while Atsushi is much shorter than his classmates. Both characters butt heads and have their differences, but it’s clear from the very start that undeniable chemistry exists. Lovely Complex doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to when you have two lovable protagonists who make you laugh every time they are on screen together.

9. Teasing Master Takakgi-San

Where to watch: Crunchyroll (Season 1), Netflix (Season 2)

master takaki
Image via Netflix

Teasing Master Takagi-San perfects simplicity. Middle-school students Nishikata and Takagi sit next to each other in class, and each episode is broken up into several short stories about Takagi finding new ways to prank Nishikata. You know exactly what will happen in every episode, yet the payoff is always worth it. Nishikata always tries to get revenge but comically fails, and watching the two attempt to constantly outsmart each other is adorable.

8. Hi Score Girl

Where to watch: Netflix

High Score
Image via J.C. Staff

Hi Score Girl captures what it was like growing up in the 1990s and falling in love with video games. Two awkward high schoolers start as arcade rivals but bond over their passion. Hi Score Girl manga author Renusuke Oshikiri loved video games, and the adaptation faithfully displays those emotions on screen. For what’s mostly a wholesome story, the gut-wrenching ending makes the anime that much more special.

7. Your Lie in April

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu

Your Lie
Image via A-1 Pictures

Be prepared to cry while watching Your Lie in April, because the anime hammers you with one tragedy after another. Piano prodigy Kosei Arima can no longer hear the piano after his mother dies. After giving up playing again, he falls in love with a violinist who inspires him to return to the stage. What comes next is an emotional rollercoaster that taps into every emotion. Without spoiling too much, Your Lie in April has beautiful music and tackles issues that would be nearly impossible for other romance anime to attempt.

6. Nana

Where to watch: Hulu

Nana
Image via Madhouse

High-school romance is the most common setting for this anime genre. So it was a breath of fresh air watching Nana, which portrayed what it’s like being a woman in her early 20s. Nana Osaki and Nana Komatsu navigate the struggles of being in traumatic relationships and other stressful situations that come with trying to find your place in the world.

5. Kimi ni Todoke 

Where to watch: Crunchyroll (Seasons 1 & 2), Netflix (Season 3)

Kimi
Image via Production I.G

High-school freshman Sawako Kuronuma is ignored and bullied by her classmates because of her off-putting appearance, while Shota Kazehaya is respected and admired by all his classmates. The unlikely duo become friends, and it is heartwarming to watch Sawako slowly come out of her shell and find happiness. After the second season ended in 2011, it looked as though we might never see the pair on screen again. However, Netflix picked up the anime, and Kimi ni Todoke is returning for a third season in August, 2024.

4. Horimiya 

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Amazon Prime

Horimiya
Image via A-1 Pictures

Horimiya cuts to the chase, as Kyouko Hori and Izumi Miyamura quickly fall for each other and become a couple. Usually, we have to wait until the end of the first season or even later for the two leads to confess, but it was refreshing to follow the story of these likable partners. Accompanied by gorgeous visuals and a great soundtrack, Horimiya is one of the best romance anime from the past few years and deserves a watch.

3. Chihayafuru 

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Chihaya
Image via Madhouse

At its core, Chihayafuru is about Chihaya Ayase on her journey to become the best karuta player in Japan. So, while I would mostly classify this as a sports anime, there is a love triangle front and center that drives the story forward from start to finish. The complicated relationship between Arata Wataya and Taichi Mashima as they try to formulate their feelings for Chihaya while also pursuing success in karuta makes for scintillating television.

Each season gets better than the last, building up to a finale worth all of the buildup. Even if you aren’t a sports anime fan, karuta is much different than your average competition. And all the relationships, including the side characters, are some of the best in anime.

2. Kaguya-sama: Love is War

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Amazon Prime

Image via A-1 Pictures

Kaguya-sama: Love is War marks an incredible achievement for romance anime. Several romance anime have garnered praise and worldwide popularity, but arguably not to the extent of this gem. Similar to Teasing Master Takakgi-San, Kaguya-sama: Love is War is about two high school prodigies in the student council, locked in a competition to make the other person confess their love – for each other. Both protagonists pull off elaborate plans to make the other crack, and its hilarious and wholesome. Yet halfway through the series, Kaguya-sama: Love is War takes a surprising twist and includes some of the best character development in anime, as the high school students deal with relatable challenges that you have surely gone through as well.

1. Cross Game 

Where to watch: N/A

Cross Game
Image via SynergySP

Cross Game checks off every box of what I want from romance anime, despite not being as popular or critically acclaimed as other names on this list. In the first episode, a shocking tragedy lays the groundwork for a complicated and turbulent love story of two childhood friends overcoming grief.

Motivated by a dream to win a high school baseball championship, Ko Kitamura and Aoba Tsukishima battle conflicting emotions in a beautifully moving story of overcoming resentment. Cross Game follows both protagonists from when they were kids all the way through high school as they develop an inseparable relationship that feels different than what you normally find from a love story. It also helps that Cross Game has one of the best anime opening songs I can remember, but what really left me wanting more after the final pitch was how close I grew to the characters and their struggle to reach acceptance over such a dramatic event.


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