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Monday, February 13, 2017

Anime Ichiban: Top Ten Romance Anime


I’ve lost count how many times I’ve said this and I know I’ll say it many more times in the future.

I love me a good romance.

At heart, I’m a romantic and it’s wonderful to see two characters fall of one another. I’ve wondered for a while about why I find these stories so great. And I think it’s about vulnerability. 

A relationship is only as strong as the bonds connecting it. The closer you get to the core of a person’s being, the strong the bond. The better the romance, the closer someone is to the core of their partner.

But people tend to wall themselves off. Whether intentional or in their sub-conscious. There’s nothing wrong with this and we all do it. It’s to protect our more susceptible emotions. Which includes good things like happiness, joy, and fulfillment. Yet it’s the doors we don’t want open we try to protect the most. Sadness, despair, suffering. If those get hit the wrong way, it’s never good. It’s never fun.

Except, to build the strongest relationships, those doors need to open. This isn’t easy. It’s no wonder why people fight against it. And this is where the best romance stories come from.

Characters trying to break down these barriers. Whether over time or in one fell swoop. Pressure builds to point where something has to give. And when this pressure releases, you get some of the best moments in storytelling.

Now a lot of anime have romantic elements. Some of the greatest couples I’ve seen have not come from love stories. That’s not why we’re here. Just having that doesn't make a show a romance anime. Today we’re looking at the shows that center around these relationships. Today I’m giving you my top ten romance anime.

There were a lot of contenders. There were so many I had to cut. Thus, these are the best of the best I’ve seen so far.

Original Run: October 6, 2012 – December 30, 2012

Number of Episodes: 13

Based on the Series Created By: Kanae Hazuki

If you want to talk about breaking barriers look no further.

Here were two characters that had built their walls high. Mei (voiced by Ai Kayano) had shut herself off. She didn't want to open up to people. She had gotten burned for doing that in the past. Yamato (voiced by Takahiro Sakurai) was a playboy. He was used to being the center of attention. Because of this, he became jaded when it came to meaningful relationship.

When these personalities met, it was like an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object. It screwed up the balance. When neither backed down or reacted the way the other expected, they had to reevaluate.

Both Mei and Yamato realized that if they were going to work, they would have to change. And they realized they were only willing to do so for each other. No one else.

Plus, Yamato had a great scene where he both defended Mei and proved his loyalty to her. It’s been a while, but that moment still sticks with me.

Original Run: April 7, 2012 – June 30, 2012

Number of Episodes: 13

Based on the Series Created By: Riichi Ueshiba

Nazo no Kanjo X shouldn’t have worked. In no way should this have worked. But it did. It did so well. Why did it work so well?

For those how have seen the show or have read my review, you know what I’m talking about. For those who haven’t, I’m sorry. What I’m about to say is…well…gross.

Our two mains are Mikoto (voiced by Ayako Yoshitani) and Akira (voiced by Miyu Irino). They became a couple when they discovered a special kind of bond between them. How did they do this? Sigh…Akira tasted some of Mikoto’s saliva while she slept.

I love this show and that's still weird to me.

Regardless, this series is great. Mikoto and Akira had actual personalities. Personalities that clashed on occasion. This was a couple who argued, fought, and disagreed. This wasn’t a bad thing, though. It's bound to happen when dealing with two, separate people. Because people don’t always see eye to eye.

Nazo no Nanojo X showed that a relationship doesn’t have to be laughing and smiling all the time. There are difficulties. Relationships require effort to make work. That’s why you should find someone who makes you want to put in that kind of effort.

Original Run: January 12, 2012 – March 29, 2012

Number of Episodes: 12

Based on the Series Created By: Cocoa Fujiwara

Inu x Boku Secret Service was interesting because it skipped a lot of the work. Many good romance stories have people falling for each other. Here, there was only one. Ririchiyo (voiced by Rina Hidaka) was the one falling in love. Soshi (voiced by Yuichi Nakamura) was there from the beginning.

Throughout the show, it was nothing but Soshi’s unrelenting devotion. That’s not always a good thing. And would have been true here, if it were fake. No, Soshi was serious. And on more than several occasions, he did what was necessary to prove it.

Thus, the entire focus shifted to Ririchiyo. And her wall was thick. So much so that she had no idea why she felt the way she felt. This allowed the show to just go for it. Ririchiyo kept trying to rationalize her emotions. She took hit after hit, eventually realizing what was happening. Seeing her break out of that shell was great.

But this show shined the brightest during its final confession scene. Everything lay bare. A person could not have been more exposed. More vulnerable. The amount of time that went into creating this moment paid off big.

Clannad Original Run: October 4, 2007 – March 27, 2008
Clannad After Story Original Run: October 3, 2008 – March 26, 2009

Clannad Number of Episodes: 23
Clannad After Story Number of Episodes: 24

Based on the Visual Novel: Clannad

It should be noted that whenever I mention Clannad, I’m referring to the whole series. Both the first season and After Story. Unless otherwise noted.

Boy, do I have a history with this show. For reasons I’ll go into another day, it almost doesn’t feel right putting this series on this list. Not that it doesn’t deserve to be here. Because it does. Yet there’s something, spoiler-ish, about Clannad that separates it from the rest.

But damn, was it a great romance story. On the surface, this show looks cute. And it is. I’m not going to deny that. Yet its power lies within the relationship between its leads. Tomoya (voiced by Yuichi Nakamura) and Nagisa (voiced by Mai Nakahara) couldn’t have started off any different.

Tomoya was rough and foul-mouthed. Nagisa was kind and gentle. But it was Nagisa’s kindness that Tomoya fell for. As the two got to know each other they grew closer and closer. They became the center of their worlds.

This would be good enough for me to see them as a strong couple. But then something happened that f@#$ing proved it. And that’s why it’s on this list. This show became...undeniable.

Original Run: October 2, 2008 – March 26, 2009

Number of Episodes: 25

Based on the Series Created By: Yuyuko Takemiya

I’ll admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen this series. But that’s kind of a testament to how good it is. In fact, it’s not unfair to say that Toradora was part of the reason I enjoy romance anime so much.

For a good chunk of the show, our leads weren’t even thinking of each other in a romantic way. Both Ryuuji (voiced by Junji Majima) and Taiga (voiced by Rie Kugimiya) had other people they were crushing over. They started as acquaintances due to proximity. Soon, they become genuine friends.

They spent a lot of time together. The got to know each other. They saw different sides no one else knew about. And this was when the rumors started. Everyone saw them as a couple. Even though they were quick to deny it.

There’s nothing wrong with a guy and girl being good friends and nothing more. But in this case, Ryuuji and Taiga were being dense to their own feelings. And it was their realization moment that kicked this show into high gear.

If there’s a story I want to know more about, it’s what became of Ryuuji and Taiga.

Original Run: October 5, 2003 – January 4, 2004

Number of Episodes: 14

Based on the Video Game: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien

WARNING, this one’s not for children. This is the most adult oriented entry on this list. We’re talking nudity, sex, and other themes you don’t often see this heavy handed in anime. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was volatile. There are going to be times where you’re not going to feel good while watching.

But this is what made the show fantastic. The situation the main characters went through was a s@#$ty one. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t easy. So yeah, emotions were on edge. The proverbial cliff was always right next to them.

As a holdover from my review, I’m not going to say what happened. If you've seen the show, I ask you, “What would you do under these circumstances?”

Many shows won't answer this. I understand why. It’s the easier option. But doing what’s easy doesn’t get you on this list. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was one of those rare stories that made a choice. By taking a stand, this show managed to rise above so many others.

Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was a series I thought I had figured out early on. But it was a genuine surprise. And it was that surprise that earned it its place.

Original Run: April 4, 2008 – September 25, 2008

Number of Episodes: 25

Based on the Series Created By: Kaoru Tada

I said it in my review. I went into Itazura na Kiss expecting a generic romantic comedy. It was going to be predictable. There would be nothing special about. And now here it is at number four.

This show does hold true to the standard romantic formula. While also expanding on it. This isn’t a high school love story. Yeah, okay, it did start in high school. But then it went to college. To their first job. To a family. This story didn’t stop at graduation. It went far and beyond.

For Kotoko (voiced by Nana Mizuki) she dreamed about being with her perfect guy. That person happened to be Naoki (voiced by Daisuke Hirakawa). It also turned out that her perfect guy was a bit of an ass hole. In most situations, I would tell Kotoko she could do way better. But then life came along and said, “Now deal with this bull s@#$.”

And from that came Itazura na Kiss’ charm. Here were two characters who had to learn how to deal with the other’s personality. And good on both sides for not compromising where they couldn’t. This was a relationship that needed ironing out. But because of that, Kotoko and Naoki are, confirmed, the longest lasting couple on this list.

Original Run: October 4, 2012 – December 19, 2012

Number of Episodes: 12

Based on the Series Created By: Torako

In my review, I said any romantic elements didn’t show up until the midway point. Yet, here’s Chuunibyou at number three. I don’t know if there’s a better way for me to express how good this show got. And it was already pretty damn good to start.

This show was Yuta (voiced by Jun Fukuyama) and Rikka (voiced by Maaya Uchida). I don’t want to use the phrase perfect couple. But these two were meant for each other.  They both could be weirdos. But they were their weirdos.

Rikka was the only person who could get Yuta to embrace his true self. And Yuta was the only person who could stand with Rikka when she reached her lowest. The playful banter between the two was cute at first. Then it started to mean a whole lot more.

The moment Rikka and Yuta realized they had fallen in love with each other was f@#$ing powerful. The kind of power that makes you tear up. It's not sad, but rather moving. They’re more relief tears than anything.

Plus, Ren was a great follow up. I'm only giving the edge to the first since it built the foundation.

Original Run: April 8, 2015 – September 23, 2015

Number of Episodes: 24

Based on the Series Created By: Kazune Kawahara

I’ll admit it. Most romance anime have couples that are attractive. Then you have Ore Monogatari and Takeo (voiced by Takuya Eguchi).  And you could not ask for a better romantic lead.

Takeo and Rinko (voiced by Megumi Han) are so f@#$ing cute together. But there’s also something unique about them. They do all the couple things I find annoying. They never fight. They’re obnoxious in their lovey-dovey speak. They’re a little too perfect on the surface.

Except they got away with this because they talked to each other. 

Misunderstandings didn't often happen between these two. When they did, they fixed them. These two didn’t let things fester and get out of hand. They were open about what they were thinking and feeling.

It’s amazing to think that talking to each other can solve a lot of problems. This allowed Takeo and Rinko to be apart and not worry. Then, when they were together, the show that much better.  Ore Monogatari is, indeed, one of the best romance anime I’ve seen.

Original Run: July 2, 2010 – December 23, 2010

Number of Episodes: 26

Based on the Video Game: Amagami

There are some lists where I know full well what’s going to be number one. Other’s, I know the top contenders. I had no idea what was going to take the top spot here. I knew Amagami SS would be high. But then I realized something.

Every other entry gave a fantastic love story. Amagami SS gave us six.

While it looks like a harem anime, I don’t feel it right labeling it as such. Each arc was its own separate story. Each possible route not only got a real chance, it went the whole way.

This series may have been quick bits of romance. But it did everything right. It had the right build up. It gave plenty of reason. You wanted to see each couple succeed. So, while I’ll always give respect to shows that choose, this a great alternative.

In fact, I’m surprised more shows don’t do it this way. But Amagami SS did. And it did it again with its second season, Amagami SS+. It’s a little fitting that a show that has always been on my mind, would take the top spot.

Amagami SS is my number one romance anime

Final Thoughts

I want this list to keep getting updated. I want more good romance stories. Where’s the next one going to come from?

But for now, these are my top ten. If there’s a show you didn't see on this list, there are two reasons for that. One, I didn’t like it as much as you. For example, Golden Time. Why do people like that show? Second, I haven’t seen it yet.

And that’s where I need your help. What shows should be on this list? Where did I mess up? What have I missed? I want to hear your top ten in the comments below. Point me in the right direction.

I’m LofZOdyssey and I’ll see you next time.

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