10 Must-Watch Romance Anime for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

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10 Must-Watch Romance Anime for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

Many of the best anime series harness the power of animation to capture soaring emotions, something seen in the medium’s standout dramas, high-octane sports shows, and pulse-pounding battle shounens. However, this tendency is particularly potent when combined with romance, a genre that even outside the form is traditionally associated with these types of poignant swings. Out of the countless meet-cutes, doomed love triangles, and cathartic confessions, here are five of the best romance anime series to keep you cheering and sobbing this Valentine’s Day and beyond.


Kaguya-sama Love Is War


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From the start, Kaguya-sama Love Is War quickly proved to be one of the most visually inventive and gut-busting anime around, its non-stop gags conveying the lengths that its two protagonists were willing to go to avoid confessing their true feelings. Here Kaguya and Shirogane, the heads of the student council at an elite high school, come up with increasingly intricate schemes to make the other slip. Their heavily calculated ploys are brought to life with frenetic, art-style-switching creative fervor that accomplishes the difficult task of keeping a single gag fresh through dozens of episodes. However, although it’s carried by the strength of its animation and comedy up front, later seasons give its cast depth by establishing their previous hardships and current struggles. Most pointedly, these trials and flashbacks clarify the deeper reasons why many of its characters are in love in the first place, with past moments of kindness and inspiration bubbling to the forefront. It turns out that there are more interesting reasons for why Kaguya and Shirogane engage in psychological skirmishes than just being prideful, boneheaded teens. While its maelstrom of aesthetically expressive gags hasn’t let up, this series’ ambitions have grown with its protagonists, transforming a humorous romp into a genuinely affecting romance story. —Elijah Gonzalez

Clannad / Clannad After Story

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Clannad originally started as a Japanese visual novel by the acclaimed videogame developer Key, whose work has been adapted into some of the most memorable, heartbreaking anime including Air and Kanon. Clannad and its sequel After Story exceed the drama of those series, with a story that remains one of anime’s most memorable romances. In the game, players assume the role of Tomoya Okazaki, a young man who comes in contact with his female classmates whose problems he’s tasked with solving. The anime keeps the same basic story, with Tomoya helping these girls as a friend, instead of falling in love with them like in the videogame. The series boasts a diverse group of female characters: the twins Kyou and Ryou Fujibayashi, the genius Kotomi Ichinose, the transfer student Tomoyo Sakagami, the childish Fuko Ibuki, and the shy Nagisa Furukawa. Each girl gets their own arc where Tomoya helps them with their problems, some of them with a supernatural twist involved. It’s in the sequel, Clannad After Story, that this series really evolves and showcases why it’s so memorable. Tomoya marries one of the girls from high school and transitions from the carefree days of his youth to providing for his family. Clannad After Story gives the audience a narrative that isn’t often explored in anime—themes of fatherhood, pregnancy, and loss. It’s one of the best tear-jerkers in all of anime. —Max Covill

Bloom Into You


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While many anime and manga fall into negative tropes in their depictions of queer romance, Bloom Into You avoids many of these stumbling blocks, largely portraying the burgeoning relationship between its leading heroines with care. The story begins after Yuu, a freshman in high school, runs into Touko, a popular girl in line to become the next student council president. As the two begin falling for each other, things become complicated by Yuu’s confusion over what it means to be in love and Touko’s survivor guilt over a personal tragedy. One of the series’ greatest strengths is how its direction extrapolates the mental state of its characters, using visual metaphors to capture Yuu’s alienation regarding her perceptions of romantic feelings and Touko’s unresolved grief that pushes her away from others. These two working through the dissonance between external expectations and how they truly feel ties in with the series’ broader exploration of the social stigmas faced by those in queer relationships. Additionally, its representation of multiple LGBTQ+ pairings, including one between adult women, provides a greater range of perspectives while also pushing back on longstanding harmful stereotypes in anime that portray being gay as an “adolescent phase.” There are a few blunders, but this story captures the authenticity of Yuu and Touko’s love, its strong aesthetic identity making their feelings hit home. While the show doesn’t fully adapt the source material, the manga has a perfect conclusion and is a must-read if you enjoy what’s here. —Elijah Gonzalez

Fruits Basket (2019)


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Fruits Basket’s exploration of deeply rooted familial trauma hits like a truck. We follow Tohru, a high schooler who recently lost her mom in an accident and subsequently finds herself taken in by two classmates estranged from their influential family. She quickly learns their secret: that Yuki and Shigure bear a “curse” that runs in the Soma clan, causing them to occasionally transform into zodiac animals. While this begins as a wacky setup, the series eventually explores the abuse wrought by those with power in this family, as Tohru meets and aids the other bearers of the curse. Although the age of the source material occasionally rears its head in ugly ways, at its core, this is a story with a great deal of empathy, and it is incredibly rewarding to watch our plucky heroine help these people heal and confront the status quo. However, what makes this work as a romance tale is that this kindness isn’t a one-way street, and in return, Tohru’s companions help her confront deeply buried pain as she fully processes the loss of her parents. By its second half, the show grows into a consistently excellent narrative about familial healing, earning its romantic conclusion through building friendship and then more between its protagonist and her partner. If you check it out, make sure to bring some tissues. —Elijah Gonzalez



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Screenwriter Mari Okada is well known as the queen of writing messy teens, and the beloved rom-com Toradora! is no exception. Our leading pair are both misunderstood based on their appearances; Ryuuji is a kind-hearted boy with an unfortunately intimidating face, while Taiga is a tiny girl with a fiery personality. Initially, they don’t seem to have much in common, but become accomplices after discovering that they have crushes on each other’s best friends. Although misconceptions regarding the two’s appearances are frequently played for laughs, as the show progresses, it fully engages with what it means to struggle with others’ perceptions and to live behind a façade. Amid the chaotic backdrop of adolescence, it explores how its characters come to shed their masks so they can truly be themselves, growing from walking cliches into fully formed, vulnerable people. This story crashes between juicy melodrama and comedic asides with reckless glee, excelling in both modes as it conveys the ups and downs of this maelstrom of confused feelings. It’s an emotional roller coaster that perfectly embodies that sense of yearning and release that defines the best romantic tales, hilarious and heartfelt in equal measure. —Elijah Gonzalez

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU


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Defined by its witty repartees, nuanced characterizations, and well-conveyed relationships, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is a whip-smart coming-of-age tale that communicates the interior lives of its cast. At its center is Hachiman, a cynical high schooler who finds himself the newest member of his school’s Service Club, joining Yukino, a fellow social outcast, and the bubbly Yui. Together the three work through their classmates’ problems while addressing their own, helping fix friendships, untangle convoluted student body politics, and plan school events. One of its most striking elements is how well it portrays social dynamics and character psychology, digging into various low-key problems with the same type of thorough analysis that would befit a mystery yarn. Despite its protagonist’s initial misanthropy, this story is deeply interested in people, and there is a rewarding density to its writing and characters. This depth is particularly impactful when it comes to its slow-burn romance, longstanding foibles, and journeys of self-discovery acting as obstacles to confessions. But as the title implies, it’s not all heavy material, and it’s also rife with hilarious verbal sparring matches between potential love interests that establishes their chemistry. Although the wordiness of its writing can be a tad imposing at times, it all comes together in a cathartic conclusion that makes good on all its internal monologues and complicated relationship dynamics, communicating these people’s growth with overwhelming emotion. —Elijah Gonzalez

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun

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Today is the big day. Chiyo Sakura has finally built up enough courage to confess to her crush, Umetarou Nozaki. She walks up to him, meets his eyes, and says “I’m your biggest fan!” Nozaki doesn’t interpret that as a love confession—he thinks Sakura is just a fan of his art. So, he signs an autograph for her. You see, Nozaki is secretly an acclaimed shoujo manga artist and confesses to Sakura that he’s always had his eye on her. What he meant was that he was interested in her talent as an artist. As one of the funniest shoujo anime, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun is filled to the brim with misinterpretations. Once Sakura opts to help Nozaki with his manga, she becomes acquainted with other schoolmates, who often serve as the inspiration for Nozaki’s stories whether it be the jocks or the student council. One of the clever elements of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun is the series’ ability to explore the tropes of shoujo anime. In one instance, Nozaki and Sakura are talking about how romantic it can be for a couple to share a bike ride. As a stickler for laws, Nozaki tries to imagine how two people could share a bike without someone sitting on the back. He comes up with the idea of riding on a tandem bicycle, decidedly not the romantic outing Sakura was imagining. There are countless instances of the characters exploring and then decimating tropes which help make Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun one of the best shoujo anime available. —Max Covill

My Happy Marriage

best anime summer 2023

Watch on Netflix

Riffs on Cinderella are well-trodden territory, but My Happy Marriage breathes life into this premise through excellent execution, conveying the internal journey of its protagonist through gorgeous animation. Miyo is trapped in an emotionally abusive household until she’s sent away in an arranged marriage to Kiyoka Kudou, a young man who heads a powerful house but commands a sub-par reputation due to his outwardly icy demeanor. But as she gets to know him better, Miyo finds that these appraisals of her betrothed were off-base, and she starts to build a life she thought she could never have. Although you’ve seen this setup and its wicked step-families before, this rendition distinguishes itself with its ability to externalize the inner life of its protagonist, gracefully communicating how her lingering pain starts to dissipate as she’s finally treated like an actual person. Even as the effects of Miyo’s kind but somewhat clumsy husband-to-be are immediately noticeable, her quest for self-acceptance is rocky, capturing the difficulty of overcoming trauma with nuance as detailed character art and beautifully rendered backdrops bring her recovery to life. While much of this nuance doesn’t come across in its supporting cast, who are frequently simplistic or cartoonishly unlikable, their behavior still feels pointed because it ties into implicit critiques of the oppressive family structures that dominate this fantasy-tinged Meiji-era setting. It all culminates in an affecting finale that portrays its protagonist’s quest for belonging with care. —Elijah Gonzalez

Insomniacs After School

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Insomniacs After School is a gentle romance story that focuses on two teens, Ganta Nakami and Isaki Magari, who end up meeting due to shared issues with getting a full night of sleep. While on the surface, the two seem quite different, as Ganta’s constant exhaustion makes him appear irritable while Magari keeps these feelings hidden under a bubbly persona, they quickly form a bond after crossing paths at their school’s premier nap spot, a cozy observatory. To ensure they can keep coming back to this getaway, the two are forced to revitalize the school’s astronomy club. Although this apparent pairing of a sullen boy and a bubbly extroverted girl who will “fix him” is a somewhat tiring anime cliché at this point, the series distinguishes itself from these tropes by thoughtfully depicting these characters’ struggles with insomnia and how they’re affected by stigmas around this condition. We come to see the root causes of their anxieties and how they help each other address these concerns, making it crystal clear why they’re falling for one another. The result is a heartfelt love story that conveys the adorable details of this burgeoning connection. —Elijah Gonzalez

The Dangers in My Heart

the dangers in my heart best anime winter 2024

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The Dangers in My Heart got off to a somewhat rocky start due to its main character’s edgelordian inner monologues, but quickly blossomed into an unexpectedly heartwarming tale. It follows two junior high students, Kyoutarou Ichikawa, a seemingly gloomy kid who scares others away with Hot Topic-fashion sense and an apparent love of gory true crime, and Anna Yamada, a tall model who’s the most popular girl in class. Although this setup initially reeks of wish-fulfillment due to its “dreary boy” and “bubbly girl” pairing, it transcends this thanks to how specific both characters come across. We find that Ichikawa’s awkward chuuni tendencies are a shield meant to deflect disappointment, while Yamada is a messy, non-idealized dork. Through cute vignettes, it conveys the burgeoning relationship between these two with fluffy delight, and, mercifully, its leading pair are capable of actually communicating with one another instead of letting misunderstandings linger for the sake of dramatic convenience. Small incidental moments slowly accumulate until you’re ready to ugly cry along with its cast, who have already come a long way in being increasingly honest with themselves and others. Through its second season, The Dangers in My Heart remains as engaging and adorkable as ever. —Elijah Gonzalez

Elijah Gonzalez is an assistant TV Editor for Paste Magazine. In addition to watching the latest on the small screen, he also loves videogames, film, and creating large lists of media he’ll probably never actually get to. You can follow him on Twitter @eli_gonzalez11.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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