It might seem odd to ask how long a drought on romance anime will last at first. Largely because each season there are many anime tagged romance that come out and so many cute romantic couples appear for people to swoon over. Yet, I’ve found myself yearning for something from the genre and I decided to really think about what was missing.
It wasn’t an easy task. But ultimately I came to the conclusion that what was missing was the sweet and pure romances, the Hollywood fairy-tale so to speak, and while there were plenty of delightful couples, both canon and fan-shipped, I really just wanted another Zen and Shirayuki (Snow White With The Red Hair) or Sawako and Kazehaya (Kimi ni Todoke).
All of this made me ask the question:
Does pure romance not sell in anime?
ow there’s not a particularly easy way to answer this question. Thinking back, the last sweet romance I watched was probably Tada Never Falls in Love and that anime, while cute and pretty fun, was hardly a stand out for the industry. But even then, a lot of the criticism I came across of the series involved the story being too predictable or the characters too cliche.
And really, with the exception of Teresa’s origin which isn’t much of a mystery, there isn’t much to distinguish Tada Never Falls in Love from many another story, and it has been done before.
That in turn made me wonder though whether a romance anime needed to actually have a gimmick in order to grab the audience’s attention in this culture of seasonal viewing and mass consumption? Do we need our romantic leads to be super-genius’ playing mind games before we’ll given them the time of day? Do we need an angsty back story and a potential same-sex couple before we’ll give something our full attention? Or do we need the female lead to literally be disappearing before we’ll tolerate a romance?
For some the answer will definitely be yes. They aren’t big fans of romance but will watch a romance when it is blended with another genre provided something catches their attention. However, what about fans of the genre? Those who were happy to watch romantic comedy movies about high school girls getting a new haircut and suddenly being super popular and weepy confessions sometimes with a song and dance thrown in just for fun seem to be getting the raw end of this deal.
Then there are these other cases.
Sure I can watch Domestic Girlfriend and I can’t deny that there’s romance at the core of that story, but it isn’t the uplifting and feel good story that I go into a romance for. It’s a fantastic melodrama to be sure (or at least a reasonably one) but ultimately it doesn’t leave the happy buzz of a romance.
There’s nothing inspiring about the premise of Love is War and certainly doesn’t make my heart stir. Even from reading the reviews of people who enjoyed that anime far more than me, it was the comedy and amusement that drew them in rather than warm and fuzzy feelings.
Even Bloom Into You, a very nicely made romance, isn’t one that is about to lighten your heart. There’s a very real character drama going on in that series and given the anime hasn’t brought us to a conclusion we’re largely left without the cathartic release one would normally seek from watching a romantic story.
In short, I miss a sweet romance anime.
I miss a story of simple boy meets girl (or you know, boy meets boy, girl meets girl, alien meets time travelling war lord) and they end up thrown together for whatever reason before they grow to fall in love. Something will cause a hiccup in the relationship but they overcome it and we end with a beautiful scene of the two together. Simple. Predictable. Beautiful.
That said, I certainly don’t want any of these other stories to disappear. They all have their place and their strengths. Whether it is biting humour and commentary, explorations of taboos, or a search for identity in a coming of age narrative, they all provide something of value to the appropriate audience. Maybe I want to have my cake and eat it too but is it too much to ask for a straight romance in amongst all the gimmicky ones.
Then again, the way we’re going we are going to end up with an edgy vampire lord who was reincarnated as a piece of cheese falling in love with a Princess from an alien moon who somehow found herself transformed into a housefly however the vampire lord has vowed not to fall in love with anyone until he’s learned to walk in his new cheese body.
Again, do we really need so many distractions from the core story? Is it not enough to tell the story of two people falling in love?
While some would ask for novelty, I would ask for competence. Crafting characters that we dare to care about and building a relationship that has genuine chemistry. Using direction and music to set the scene and great dialogue to draw us into their story and their experience. Sure, we may have seen all the events before but that doesn’t stop them from having impact when told right.
Which is why all I want from the Autumn Anime season this year is a romance.
Not a comedy that happens to have romance in it. Not a melodrama or a coming of age story that uses romance as a catalyst or a complication. Certainly not an adventure or isekai that just happens to have a main character that falls in love.
While all of these would be great in their own way, what I want is a straight, pure, romance anime.
And that makes me want to ask you, if you made it to the end of this somewhat rambling post:
What was your last good romantic anime?
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