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10 Romances In Anime

Valentine's Day Strikes Early for the Anime Lover

By Thomas Zoth     February 11, 2010

10 Romances In Anime
© Bob Trate

 Ah, Valentine's Day. What could be more romantic than an evening of dinner, dancing, and coming home to snuggle on the couch and tend to that ever-growing backlog of anime DVDs. But what to watch? Popping in Eiken or Grave of the Fireflies would be quite the faux pas on a night such as this. Let us be of assistance. Below is a list of the top ten most romantic types of anime, and special recommendations for each. Find a title you can agree on, grab your dakimakura, and bask in the warm glow of your HDTV.

Romance Anime

10. The Harem

The most basic type of romantic comedy, the harem consists of a single socially awkward male and five to ten young women who are inexplicably in love with him. The genre was inspired by Urusei Yatsura's Ataru Moroboshi and the luck with which he finds countless nubile young women from across, space, time, and other dimensions. Unfortunately for Ataru, many of these women wanted nothing to do with him. Tenchi Muyo! was the first harem anime in which space pirates, princesses, and galaxy policewomen fought for the love of our everyman hero. A popular genre to this day, with a tendency to be more comedic than romantic.

Recommendations: Tenchi Muyo!, Negima!, Clannad

Romance Anime

9. The Reverse Harem

Like the harem, except with genders reversed, and the IQ of the protagonist increased by 50 to 100 points. Rather than being socially awkward, the heroine tends to just be an everywoman who nevertheless finds herself surrounded by beautiful men. One of the first reverse harems was Fushigi Yuugi, about schoolgirl Miaka Yuki who is sent hurtling backwards through time to Imperial China. She is charged with gathering the seven Celestial Warriors, who just so happen to be beautiful men completely devoted to her. While more romantic than standard harems, the surfeit of characters tends to keep relationships from evolving.

Recommendations: Ouran Host Club, La Corda d'Oro, Neo Angelique Abyss

Romance Anime

8. Magical Girlfriend

The other genre created by the influential Urusei Yatsura is the magical girlfriend, so named because the female love interest can use magic. Lum's magic, which included being able to shoot lightning from her fingertips, was largely used to keep Ataru Moroboshi faithful to her. Ah My Goddess! introduced a more benign magical girlfriend in the goddess Belldandy, who uses her powers to solve problems and help people. Much in the same vein is Video Girl Ai's Ai Amano, a virtual girlfriend designed to help ease lonely men's broken hearts. While these series are romantic for a male audience, women might be wondering exactly what they get out of the deal.

Recommendations: Ah My Goddess, Video Girl Ai, To Love-Ru

Romance Anime

7. Endless Yearning

"Why won't he just make up his mind!" is the cry of many a fan of romantic comedy anime. But according to scholar Kuki Shuzo, the draw of series like Inu Yasha is in the indecisive longing. Writing in 1930, Shuzo sought to define the elements that comprised "Japanese chic". One of these elements is "bitai", often translated as erotic allure. Shuzo argues that bitai increases the closer you get to the target of your affections, but dissipates completely once the relationship is consummated. The key, then, is to get as close as you can without touching. Fans of Sundome will immediately understand. From Godai's drunken confessions in Maison Ikkoku, to Kaorin's silent suffering in Azumanga Daioh, to the subtle, unspoken yearnings of Patlabor's Kiichi Goto, many of anime's most memorable relationships-that-almost are are suffused with bitai.

Recommendations: Maison Ikkoku, Azumanga Daioh, Five Centimeters per Second

Romance Anime

6. Gender Bending

From Princess Knight to Ranma 1/2, anime has always had a love affair with switching sexes. By bending the rules of what it means to be a man, a woman, or both, anime is always able to provide a transgressive thrill.

Recommendations: Kashimashi, Pretty Face, Hana-kimi

Romance Anime

5. Yuri

Girl's love or lesbian relationships, a genre which has experienced a boom since 1998's Maria-sama ga Miteru. The term "yuri", meaning lily, is the counterpart to "bara", or rose, which is a slang term for male homosexuals. Girl's love relationships began to first appear in shojo manga in the 1970s in titles such as Our White Room and Brother Dear Brother. As yuri became more popular, in the 1990s, and 2000s, series by men and for men, such as Strawberry Panic, began to appear as well. The diverse genre features everything from stories of the lesbian experience in Japan to idealized relationships between moe schoolgirls.

Recommendations: Aoi Hana, Sasameki Koto, Revolutionary Girl Utena

Romance Anime

4. Yaoi

While shonen-ai or boy's love themes became popular in the early 1970s with series like From Eroica With Love or Patalliro, the yaoi boom did not take off until the doujinshi scene of the late 70's and early 80's. Characters from series such as Captain Tsubasa and Saint Seiya were popular picks for smutty fan comics with "no climax, no point, no meaning". This phrase, "yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi" was abbreviated as yaoi. Distinct from "bara" or gay men's comics, yaoi is a genre about same-sex male relationships written by women for women. These idealized relationships are hugely popular, as anyone who has been to convention or a bookstore's manga section can attest.

Recommendations: Junjo Romantica, Embracing Love, Gravitation

Romance Anime

3. Love Polygon

After Rumiko Takahashi got ahold of the romantic comedy genre in the 1980s, the triangle was unable to keep up. If you're unable to skip ahead a few episodes in a series without needing a chart to keep track of the web of relationships, you have a love polygon situation on your hands.

Recommendations: Marmalade Boy, School Rumble, Kimagure Orange Road

Romance Anime

2. Rival Romance

It's love at first fight with these couples. After some initial clashing, you might discover that you and your worst enemy aren't that incompatible after all.

Recommendations: Tora Dora, Kare Kano, Whisper of the Heart

Romance Anime

1. Forbidden Love

The genre classic. There is no better way to engender a love that will not die than to forbid it from happening in the first place.

Recommendations: Paradise Kiss, Emma, Karin


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Showing items 1 - 10 of 11
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Calibur454 2/11/2010 5:36:19 AM

not a bad list but i would have added please teacher in the forbidden love category

StarlightGuard 2/11/2010 6:11:06 AM

how about Maburaho, and Kazuki's 4 hot girls constantly after him? that's fun...

abynum5 2/11/2010 6:57:36 AM

Wonderful list; the subject matter might serve as fodder for a good book some day...

Regardless, the history behind some of these sub-genres is fantastic; the evolution of genderbending and gender roles for example proves surprisingly deep.  On the other side of the same coin however, the meteoric rise of and influx of glorified adolescent yuri or inecst of the past ten years,  I have found rather shallow more often than not.

A lot of the relationships, however, can be whittled down to nestling together a couple of puzzle pieces... in the Magical Girlfriend category, the reason Belldandy and Keiichi are a perfect couple is because innocent Bell-chan and reliable K1 are each the type of shy and humble people who would otherwise be walked over by any other, normally aggressive person.  If either of the two are to mature, their partner is obligated to come along with them, less they risk losing the one they love.  Perhaps this is why the AH! MY GODDESS movie has such good characterization... when Celestine muscles his way in, Keiichi has to step up his bravery while yet keeping true to himself.

general hentai 2/11/2010 7:26:25 AM

Not all harems are focused on a "single socially awkward male". Tenchi Masaki, star of the many versions of Tenchi Muyo! always starts off as a 15-year old boy who is an average to above average guy. In the OVA, he starts off with decent martial art skills, for example. But he's then thrown into a situation way over his head. In the OVA.

However, the hero of a harem often has some sort of "hook", a hidden or unknown factor: Tenchi in the OVA is descended from Juraian royalty on both maternal and paternal sides, and has his own hidden powers. Rin in Shuffle! seems like a normal enough guy when the series starts, despite not being all over the adorable Kaede with whom he lives, something he even has explicit permission from her father. The series unfolds and focuses on the issues that the girls have, but it also shows that Rin has his own issues to deal with (and fully explains why Rin isn't playing humpty-bumpty with Kaede). Maburaho's Kazuki is a magical world nerd, has limited magical powers, but incredible DNA which will be passed on.

So, rather than a harem hero who is "socially awkward", I'd say harem heroes have "issues", which can include a socially awkward nerd to a socially awkward delinquent, to past traumas, to hidden or mysterious powers.

JDWGamers 2/11/2010 7:38:24 AM

When I saw #1 being "Forbidden Love," I thought it was going to mean something else. Koi Kaze was distributed in the U.S.  According to Anime News Network, KissxSis is going to be a TV series after 4 OVAs and Aki Sora will have a new OVA after an original anime DVD. Those titles might be on the fringe, but even a comedy harem show such as Akane-iro has this element of forbidden love. I'm a bit surprised that there are any shows with this theme.

Supermutant2099 2/11/2010 10:48:14 AM

There is some good stuff on this list but I am not big fan of that Yaoi stuff.  :(  I was wondering where sailor moon love story between tuxedo mask and sailor moon fit.  That is one complex one at times.  Probably just normal catagory but that looks like it got bumped.  Also if you someone who is not a big fan of valentine's day as myself putting something not so romantic or has anything to do with love would be a good idea.  That should be next list.

jppintar326 2/11/2010 12:40:00 PM

No mention of Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes from Robotech?  I know Robotech is Americanized Anime and may not fit but I would still nominate them.  At least Rick chose Lisa over the annoying Lynn Minmei.  Yes they clashed at first and Rick was stuck on Minmei for so long that he didn't realize he was in love with Lisa until it was almost too late.  That has to fit in at least one category above.

decepticons2 2/11/2010 2:37:24 PM

Macross(robotech)  would defintly be love polygon. I am a fan of harm sometimes the comdey really works. Sometimes they just try to put as much fanservice to hide the lack of any story telling.

METR0lD 2/11/2010 3:53:21 PM

 I'm amazed that Romeo x Juliet didn't a nod in the forbidden love category. That's like the king of forbidden love stories!

Yusuke107 2/14/2010 7:48:31 AM

No Yusuke and Kaiko from Yu Yu Hakusho? Would have been perfect for a tough love category.

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