Best Anime of 2019 – Romance

The last two weeks, going over my favourite anime from the last decade, were super fun, but as a result of planning those posts I didn’t really look back at 2019 in any meaningful way. The next two weeks are going to correct that as I look at the anime I thought were the best from 2019 (or at least from the anime I watched). You may have caught my tweet last week where I realised I’d watched and reviewed 64 anime during 2019 – and that was just seasonal viewing. As a result I decided to look at which anime I thought was the best within a range of genres as well as my favourite cast of characters overall.

Please note, the nominees and winning choice are entirely my own opinion and are not based on any rigid criteria. Feel free to nominate your own winners for the categories in the comments. Help other readers find some awesome anime from 2019 to watch.

Best Romance of 2019

Firstly, the shortlisted nominees from the anime I watched that could be considered romances (2019 was not a good year for anime romance – or at least I was coming up a bit short).

Natsuo and Hina - Domestic Girlfriend - Episode 11

Domestic Girlfriend

Fruits Basket

Given

Kenja no Mago

Meiji Tokyo Renka

And the winner is…

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Given

That was pretty much a given (sorry). If you followed the blog last year and the coverage of Given, you know I was pretty enamoured by this series and its sweet love story. While it isn’t taking out some of my favourite romances of all time, it was great seeing a BL title managing to avoid a lot of the usual tropes and actually taking a more grounded look at two teen boys falling in love. The support cast were also pretty sweet.

This series does a number of things right. It builds up the characters, provides a plausible basis for a relationship to form, takes its time in having the characters realise they are in love, directly addresses the issue of the fact that they are both boys and in Uenoyama’s case this is the first time he’s considered having feelings for another boy, and once they do realise they feel the same way, they step back and look at the implications for the band. It is a grounded romance story that has inherent drama but never slips over the line into melodrama. All of the characters feel real and their reactions also feel pretty real. Such a great story.

I will admit, I was struggling to find solid romance stories in 2019 that I enjoyed. There were quite a few stories that had romance in them but the romance angle seemed a side note to drama, comedy, or some other element. As a result, Given kind of ran-away with this category and I actually had to think long and hard to come up with other nominees.

Turning it over to my readers, what would you have picked as the best anime romance of 2019? I suspect Kaguya-Sama Love is War is going to get some shout outs but what other romances came out and which ones would you recommend?


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14 thoughts on “Best Anime of 2019 – Romance

  1. I’d go with Given, too. The only thing I consider coming close is Hi Score Girls, but I wouldn’t vote for it over Given since it’s a season 2, and I’d already have voted for it last year, and because the CGI looks awkward (but the uncanny valley effect allows integration of game characters in their original forms, and actually gives a good sense of arcade atmosphere in long shots, and some other scenes such as joy-stick close-ups, none of which has anything to do with the romance).

    What Given and Hi Score Girl have in common is that the romance aspect merges really well with the chosen topic of the show (music and games respectively).

    Other than that, the best entries in the romance genre are gimmick-based feel-good shows: Senryu Shoujo and Takagi-san(which is also a second season).

    Domestic Grilfriend was an object lesson in awkwardness. It started out awkward, and until the end consistently found ways to get even more awkward. It deserves credit for that.

    Beyond that, I’ll have to say that this is the second year in a row, where my favourite romance anime of the year is a queer romance (Bloom Into You last year, but the OVA of Asagao to Kase-san was also really good). Maybe it’s time for queer romances to be taken seriously by anime producers? (People would bring up Yuri on Ice, but I’m not buying the coupling – or rather, I think a sequal would see them break up, as they move on with their lives.)

  2. Fruits Basket… Yeah, so far ahead of the pack it’s not even funny.

    Among shows that aren’t among the immortals… I’d have to go with Senryu Girl. I love the air of “we’re not dating” and the unspoken “anyone else”.

    1. I did really enjoy Senryuu Girl. The romance part wasn’t my favourite, but it was a great show last year and one I feel went under appreciated.

    2. You know, I didn’t even really consider Fruits Basket. The romance elements in this one, seem to me only a little less incidental than in Hollywood action action movies. I watch it more like a coming of age story (much like Kimi ni Todoke, come to think of it). Maybe that’s just my aromantic nature?

      If I do consider it, it’s certainly up there.

      1. The romance is certainly soft pedaled, but it’s there I think. The Soma clan is used to hiding their emotions, and Tohru wears her heart on her sleeve… that helps the clan start to see themselves as human rather than cursed un-humans.

        The budding romance between Yuki and Tohru is a huge part of that change and his redemption. (Especially since Akito’s abuse led to his lack of self worth.) That’s also true of Kyo’s growing feelings for her, as well as the increasingly fraught triangle between the three.

        1. The romance is definitely there. It’s actually a default in the subtext. It’s just…

          Well, I’m aromantic. I’ve never been in a romantic relationship and I’ve never really understood what that entails. And when I see a show like Fruitsbasket that uses romance as a vehicle rather than as a topic, I tend to forget it’s there. For me, that sort of intimacy just doesn’t automatically mean romance. Take your second paragraph above: if I take out the romantic overtains and just think of it in terms of bonding and intimate relating, what would change?

          I don’t get romance, not really. That’s why it’s almost never a factor in how I enjoy a show if it’s not beating me over head with it by making it an explicit topic (like, say, Hi Score Girl or Given). Some shows are good at creating a romantic subtext that even I understand (this year, Takagi-san is a good example). But to the extent that it’s about character development? I tend to be too distracted.

          Mind you, I’m not arguing against the inclusion. I’m just trying to show how I react to different types of romance. I mentioned Kimi ni Todoke. That’s definitely a romance, but I’m not really watching it like one (which, I think, is one of the reasons I like the first season so much more than the second: the second is honing in on the romance elements, and it turns out I’m so-so on that).

  3. High Score Girl! It’s on Netflix so season 2 well appear in three months, but it’s a pretty good romance based on retro video games. Kind of unique I suppose.

    1. I kind of started High Score Girl but wasn’t really in the mood so decided to put it off for later. I haven’t gotten back to it yet though I do intend to at some point.

  4. Given would have been my pick for Best Romance as well, it’s such a poignant and moving series. I can’t wait for the movie to come out so I can see what happens next.

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