Happy Valentine’s Day everyone, and to celebrate let’s rank the Top 5 Best Romance Anime! After watching the classic romance anime, Clannad, my perspective of romance anime and romantic fiction completely changed. Before, I had no real interest in the genre, and Clannad showed me how the genre is able to craft brilliantly written and relatable characters and stories. Unlike Hollywood's attempts at romance, which you can read my thoughts in yesterday's post by clicking here, anime's take on the genre focuses more on the characters as individuals with a smaller focus on the relationship itself, but rather the characters and their flaws. There is little "love at first sight" crap, and even if there is, the characters don't just "hookup" after their first meeting. Of course, the genre does feature some of the most frustrating clichés in anime: the "almost kiss/confession" that is broken up by a random distraction. Honestly, I want to hit things when that happens sometimes, and just yesterday I kind of did hit something, but at the same time, my frustration is also a testament to much effective certain anime can be. Also, there is always the lack of conclusion that is becoming all the more common in recent anime. However, when executed well, anime does romance like no other fictional medium, and these five anime are among the best in the genre.
To qualify for the list, the anime must be a true romance series, which means anime like Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Monogatari, and any number of other anime that feature romance, yet is not as the focus, will not be included.
5: Golden Time
Since I reviewed the series earlier this week, you can just click here to read why you should watch it.
Overall: 9.0/10- Relatable and realistic characters, great comedic timing, and compelling drama/romance, all adds up to Golden Time being a superb example of the romance genre. However, there a few noteworthy flaws, and if you do not relate to the characters, some viewers could see the series as melodramatic.
Characterization: 9.5/10- Since Taiga and Ryūji do not like each other that much at first, their relationship is very complex and entertaining to watch unfold, and while Ryūji is a great character, Taiga is the standout of the series.
Taiga Aisaka is the ultimate tsundere; there is no other that can match her tsundere-ness and that is exactly what makes her great. Unlike a lot of current tsunderes, Taiga has the perfect ratio of violent outbursts (tsun) to softer loving moments (dere). Her tsundere-ness is used perfectly as to never become annoying but rather to develop the character, while most modern tsunderes are only there to just beat the crap out of the main protagonist.
As for the other characters, all of the tropes and archetypes are brilliantly flipped on their head, so as to make you think one thing at first, while actually going in a very smart direction.
Animation: 8.0/10- J.C.Staff's animation is pleasantly consistent for the majority of the series. However, when a scene calls for it, the animation is given a major improvement to look amazing.
Humor: 8.9/10- Of all the anime on this list, Toradora is the funniest. It is not approaching Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun levels of hilarity, but it can be utterly hysterical at times.
Overall: 9.0/10- Filled with plenty of emotion and humor, Toradora is an all around expertly crafted romantic comedy that provides the end all be all of tsundere characters in anime. After Clannad, watch Toradora for a less depressing, yet still emotional, experience.
(A full review coming at some point.)
3: Ef: A Tale of Memories
Characterization: 9.7/10- The characters in Ef: A Tale of Memories are developed in brilliantly poetic ways. Nothing about the characters is straightforward, and since delving into each one would be massive spoilers, I will discuss the characters in broad terms. With the parallel romantic stories, one focuses on a love-triangle, and unlike most love-triangles, this one is executed superbly. While one of the characters really stands out in a compelling way, the other two are still well developed and interesting in their own way.
The other storyline centers around a girl with a certain disability, and it is arguably the best, but just barely, of the two stories. The story uses a lot of metaphors to convey the feelings of the characters, and it requires thought to understand them.
Also, the series is very mature in its themes and content, with certain mature things that you rarely see in romance anime, which is refreshing.
Animation: 9.0/10- Being about eight years old, studio Shaft's animation shows its age in the character designs at times. However, the series truly shines in how it uses the visuals to convey the feelings and inner conflict of the characters through metaphors and symbolism. Also, Shaft's trademark stylist editing is still present, albeit much less than anime their later work like Monogatari.
Overall: 9.3/10- Ef: A Tale of Memories is beautifully poetic and often tragic, and while the metaphorical and thought-provoking storytelling might not be everyone's personal taste, it is a refreshing change of pace from a straightforward romantic story.
2: Spice and Wolf
Plot: 9.4/10- The series follows Holo and Lawrence on their journey to take Holo, a wolf harvest deity, back to her homeland, and along their journey, Lawrence tries to make a living as a merchant (for a detailed plot summary, check out my review of the first season here). In a medieval fantasy setting, Spice and Wolf is a lot about the economics of the world, and while that may bore some, it is a fascinating topic for an anime.
Characterization: 10/10- Holo is literally my favorite anime character ever, or at least favorite female character. Everything from her regal demeanor and stubbornness to her love for apples, Holo is both a fun and deep character, who is shown to be very lonely and wanting companionship. Kraft Lawrence is a generally likable character, and his banter and interaction with Holo is one of the most entertaining aspects of the series.
Acting: 10/10- Spice and Wolf's English dub is one of the best ever produced, and even though I generally prefer the Japanese dub, this one is superior in almost every aspect. Brina Palencia and J. Michael Tatum's chemistry is one of the reasons why their characters are so great, and while the Japanese actors are good, they just don't have the same effect, unless you speak Japanese.
Overall: 9.5/10- With its unique storyline and insanely lovable characters, Spice and Wolf is a personal favorite of mine, and while the series did not receive a proper ending as of yet, it is an anime that everyone should watch at some point.
1: Clannad / Clannad: After Story
Overall: 9.9/10- Clannad and Clannad: After Story is among the best fictional works ever told. Even though it is a romance, at its heart, it is truly a story about family, and if you have yet to experience it, you are missing out on one of the crowning achievements of not just anime, but fiction in general.
What are you favorite romance anime? Do you are agree with my picks? Please comment below and let me know! Also, do not forget to check back tomorrow for the final part of my Top 10 Romance Movies list.
Top 10 Romance Movies: Part 1
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