Though it’s always a good idea to cuddle up with your significant other and watch some anime together, there’s no better time than Valentine’s Day. The following is a list of the best romance anime that otaku can binge from the comfort of home this season without spending a dime. Expensive dinners and gourmet chocolates are overrated anyway. Sports, comedies, and movies are all fair game, so long as there’s a lovey-dovey element thrown into the mix.
Best romance anime | Toradora!
Yuyuko Takemiya’s Toradora! stars a young man named Ryuji Takasu who’s trying his best to change his reputation as a delinquent as he enters his second year of high school. His main reason for doing so is to impress the girl he has a crush on, Minori Kushieda. When he runs into the school’s other delinquent, Taiga Aisaka, Ryuji reveals his admiration for Minori and Taiga reveals her admiration for a boy named Yusaku Kitamura.
The two agree to help set each other up with their respective crushes, but wind up growing closer as a result of their scheming. Toradora! is an anime that explores unexpected romance and the joy of falling in love with people you once didn’t care for.
Best romance anime | Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun
Izumi Tsubaki’s Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is simultaneously hilarious and painfully relatable. When Chiyo Sakura confesses that she has a crush on her classmate Umetarō Nozaki, the boy mistakes her for a fan and gives her an autograph. Sakura tries to explain that that isn’t what she meant, but Nozaki once again misinterprets her intentions and asks her to assist him in making his popular shojo manga series.
She agrees despite being disappointed, and uses her new role as a vehicle to get closer to her classmate and make him fall in love with her. Stories of unreciprocated affection are things we can all begrudgingly empathize with and poke fun of, at least in hindsight. There’s no shame in trying as long as you aren’t being a creep!
Best romance anime | My Love Story!!
Guys who don’t have a lot of luck with women can definitely find a friend in My Love Story‘s Takeo Goda. Big and a bit obnoxious, Goda isn’t exactly the most attractive bachelor in the world. All the ladies flock to his poised, long-haired best friend Makoto Sunakawa instead. Just as Goda begins to think that there’s no one out there for him, a shy girl named Rinko Yamato strolls into his life and winds up developing feelings for him instead of Makoto for a change.
Despite the good news, Goda is completely oblivious to her affection and assumes she likes his best friend, just like any other girl. If there’s any lesson to be learned in My Love Story!, it’s that everyone has a soulmate somewhere.
Best romance anime | Snow White with the Red Hair
Sorata Akizuki’s Snow White with the Red Hair stars a herbalist named Shirayuki who’s forced to leave the kingdom of Tanbarun after its ruler, Prince Raj, orders her to become his concubine. She cuts her hair and flees to the neighboring kingdom of Clarines to seek refuge. On her way there, she encounters Clarines’ Prince Zen. Zen is eventually poisoned by an apple placed for Shirayuki by Prince Raj, but the girl with the red hair manages to successfully brew an antidote and escort the prince to safety.
While in Clarines, she studies to become the kingdom’s official court herbalist and begins to develop feelings for Zen, who is eternally grateful for Shirayuki’s quick save. Couples may find Snow White with the Red Hair to be a charming romance anime, especially since it portrays a version of Snow White that’s perfect for today’s audiences.
Best romance anime | Whisper of the Heart
Many would argue that love is at its best when it helps people grow into better versions of themselves. This is exactly the case in Studio Ghibli’s film Whisper of the Heart, which follows a young girl named Shizuku Tsukishima who spends a lot of time reading in her local library. She discovers that someone named Seiji Amasawa is borrowing the same exact books that she is. Things become more interesting when a cat leads her to an antique shop run by Seiji’s grandfather. Shizuku finally meets the young man and the two become closer, agreeing to help each other achieve their respective dreams no matter what it takes.
Best romance anime | Your Lie in April
Perhaps the heaviest entry on this list is Naoshi Arakawa’s Your Lie in April. It follows a former piano prodigy named Kosei Arima who refuses to touch any instruments after the death of his mother. He convinces himself that he’s perfectly content with living a normal life with best friends Tsubaki Sawabe and Ryota Watari.
Kosei gradually changes his mind, however, once he’s introduced to Kaori Miyazono, a violinist who believes that music should be free and imaginative — a concept that Kosei never considered. The boy falls in love with Kaori, though this story ultimately ends in tragedy. There’s no doubting that Your Lie in April will make couples cry. It’s a good idea to keep a box of tissues nearby.
Best romance anime | Yuri on Ice
Despite not being a romance anime, Yuri on Ice is best known for its romantic components. Similarly to Your Lie in April‘s Kosei, protagonist Yuri Katsuki loses his passion for figure skating until he meets his idol Victor Nikiforov, a Russian champion who wants to train Yuri so that he can have a shot at the international Grand Prix Final. Yuri on Ice‘s best moments are found in Yuri and Victor’s relationship, as the two increasingly rely on each other for moral support as the series evolves. Each man’s tenderness will undeniably pull at your heartstrings and make you want to become a better partner for your loved one.
Most entries on this list are fairly accessible to people who don’t watch anime often. Even if your partner doesn’t consider him or herself an otaku, there’s a good chance that one of these shows will make their heart go doki doki. It’s obvious that the romance genre will continue to be an integral part of the medium going forward, especially as it grows in popularity outside of Japan. More seasons of the shows listed above may be on the horizon, alongside other charming new stories that the Land of the Rising Sun never seems to be short of.