Feature: On Romance in Anime

shirayuki and zen 2

One of my first top 5 lists was a list of my favourite romantic anime. While romance isn’t my favourite genre, it has always held a warm spot in my heart as romance done well can really move me emotionally and linger with me well after it is finished. So what are some of the common features of sweet and romantic anime? And what do you like in your romance?

Romance in anime – what do we usually see?

01. For the most part they are focused on the female in the relationship. While some shows (particularly a few in recent years) have portrayed romance from a male’s point of view (or at least a male character’s point of view) the majority of romance focused anime follow the girl.

This isn’t really surprising given the target audience for most romance anime are girls and as a general rule the romantic genre appeals more to a female audience. And while there are a lot of self-insert girls out there with limited personality besides a love of cooking and cleaning, because romance is such a prolific genre what we find are an array of female leads. From the super shy and fairly stereotypical right through to the oblivious and aggressive.

But that’s what makes romance so great is that if one doesn’t work for you there are plenty of other characters and romances to follow.

2018 turned out to be a bumper year for including a range of relationships and we saw monsters in love with humans, same sex couples, age gap couples and more or less any kind of relationship you’d like to see unfold. It was fantastic to see the diverse range on offer and hopefully we’ll see this trend continue to give us great couples of all shapes and sizes so that everyone can find something to love.

02. This one isn’t in every anime but it is a common feature. The love interest starts out being kind of a jerk and the girl doesn’t like him very much. Then something happens and suddenly she sees him in a new light.

This is actually pretty standard in all romances really (and a staple of romantic comedies) and it probably exists because otherwise you have to introduce external tension and conflict early on before the characters have really been established. By creating tension between the two you can focus more or less entirely on the characters without boring the audience to death with their adoring stares.

I’m not the biggest fan of this particular cliché because I’ve never understood why the girl continues to interact with someone who is that much of a jerk, but I do understand from a narrative point of view why it works. Besides, Tomoe may have been nasty to Nanami (Kamisama Kiss) but he still ends up being one of my favourite male leads in a romance.

Of course, if we look at BL we’ll see a whole lot of incredibly horrible characters that end up being the love interest and while some work hard to try and redeem the character, it is still a trope I’d like to see vanish. At the same time, BL has come a long way and there’s a lot more variety these days.

Dakaichi - Episode 1 - Takato
Romance in anime

03. The epiphany moment. Despite being in a romance, the characters tend to be unusually dense about their emotions and the state of their relationship. Either one or both of the characters needs to realise they are actually in love or that the other one actually likes them or something. Usually this is accompanied by sparkles, tears, or sometimes a punch because why not.

However it is the reveal moment for the character that the audience have been waiting for forever because the character is usually the last to realise it. But hey, at least most of us don’t believe we have arrhythmia because our heart starts beating fast at the sight of the guy (Inu X Boku SS).


04. There’s almost always a rival. Again, this is one of those necessary staples in order to inject some sort of tension or conflict into a story that is basically two people staring into each other’s eyes ad nausea and rivals can add quite a bit of personality to the story.

Probably my favourite rival ever is Kurumi from Kimi ni Todoke. That’s mostly because she pretty much demonstrates every characteristic a rival might have rather than just being one type. It’s kind of interesting to watch her character transition.

While I don’t like her manipulative efforts early on (and we aren’t supposed to) you have to admit, Kurumi is a hard worker and ultimately she wasn’t really a nasty person so much as someone who was very driven by her goals. What makes her truly exceptional is that when she finally does confess and get turned down, she accepts this with reasonable grace and uses it as a chance to grow a bit as a person. A little bit. She still stirs the pot occasionally but mostly she moves on.

05. In anime romance tends to only get to the confession and dating stage, again there are exceptions. The vast majority finish the final episode on the confession, the first date, or a kiss and that is as much as we are getting of that story. Then again, given how red most of the characters get just trying to say the name of the person they are in love with I guess we can’t expect much more from them and it really isn’t needed given its the emotion of the relationship that has been conveyed.


There’s probably a cultural reason for this trend and it isn’t as if the romance is any worse for the lack of physical displays of affection, however it is interesting watching teenage characters get flustered over eye contact or brushing their finger tips.

Well, that does it from me today. What are your favourite parts of romantic anime or what is your favourite romantic anime?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

32 thoughts on “Feature: On Romance in Anime

  1. I love watching romantic anime once in a while just to get out of the intensity of other anime. I feel Shoujou is much more relaxed and I really like that kind of thing once in a while, haha. Although I do feel all shoujou anime have this particular pattern, it’s nice to see what it can develop into.

    My favourite shoujou anime is probably Ao Haru Ride!

    1. I quite enjoyed Ao Haru Ride mostly because neither character is actually mean to the other they just both have some issues to work thorugh before they can get their happy ending.
      Thanks for reading.

  2. Yes! Why do they keep talking to their love interest if they treat them like a jerk? I never understood that, but I try not to dwell on it too much because it does create a marvellous narrative. It’s great when used to drive comedic value. I love Skip Beat, so I do enjoy watching that genre. However, every once in a while, when the jerk is jerkier than usual, I will make the comment of “stop talking to him then!” and continue to watch the series through 😛 I’m a sucker for that.

    1. The jerkier kind of jerk shows up next Friday when I look at the more negative side of romance. I just can’t take it when the girl just keeps forgiving them or making excuses for them treating her like garbage.

  3. Toroadora and Golden Time are the best romance anime I’ve ever watched. Not once was I frustrated or annoyed by either of them, and that’s a rare thing with me. Plus, they actually resolved the romance in the end unlike a lot of other shows.

  4. i love akagami no shirayukihime so much; i feel like it’s such a treat to see a relationship mature and continue to struggle together past the confession/kiss/confirmation of mutual feelings, and it’s really accented by how the characters lack most of the exaggerated traits you tend to see in anime.

  5. Is it odd that I’m really excited for next week’s feature on less pleasant romances? I don’t know why but I just am.

    Reading your detailed list of romance trends in anime has shed some (more) light on why those romances rarely work for me. I hate the jerky love interest, the amped up tension, the easily flustered heroine…basically most of the tropes are things I hate. I think that’s why unconventional romances or even a grabbing execution of a conventional one are more appealing to me. Even in non-romance anime, the romantic elements piss me off unless there’s something to elevate it beyond cliche material.

    I think I basically wrote a whole paragraph to say that I’m very picky. Oops.

    Thanks for sharing this article. It made me think a lot.

    1. I’m fairly picky when it comes to romance as well which is why my examples come from such a small pool. The one’s I’ve used are the rare few that I enjoy despite the fact that they just do the same things all the others do.

      1. Definitely. His movies are romance based and mostly deal with romances that aren’t meant to be. They’re usually handled very well and they’re backed up by some of the best animation out there. He directed the movie “Your Name” that pretty much took over Japan last year lol

  6. Man. I can’t help but feel Toradora!’s just a ball of clichés after reading this! Ah well. It handled them well, I suppose.

    Also, yes to Kurumi. Kurumi is best girl.

    1. Most romances are a bundles of cliches but some handle them well and make them their own whereas others go through the motions of a paint by numbers story and proceed to bore their audience to death.
      I must admit, Toradora never grabbed me. Not because it is full of cliches but because the characters and I just didn’t click so I didn’t really care what happened to any of them.

    2. Toradora! does absolutely hit on a lot of cliches but, as is the case with most shows, execution is key. Toradora! kept people watching because the characters were really likable despite their quirks and their actions were entertaining even when they were telegraphed.

  7. Great (and timely) post! “Snow White with the Red Hair” & “Say ‘I Love You'” are my favorite romantic anime shows. The former follows you last point (as you indicated) and the latter follows your third point about the epiphany moment.

  8. Something that is also prominent in anime which dabble with the romance genre is the beta couple. You know, the supporting characters who get together before the main couple and are usually better at communication. Their relationship tends to be a bit of a foil to the one between the lead characters, who stammer and go through all this tension for many episodes before realizing their feelings for one another.

    That is a bit of a tangent, sorry. I usually end up more interested in the beta couple, though.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on romance in anime. Hopefully you are feeling better. I’m looking forward to your list next week!

    1. I think you are right in that this is a common feature of anime romance. Thinking about my favourite romances most of them have that secondary couple who work things out so much faster and end up supporting the main couple as they stumble along.
      Great point.

Share your thoughts.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.