10 Most Nostalgic Retro Romance Anime

Some of the most popular anime classics are romance anime. They have such good romance arcs and character development that they help define the genre. Chasing nostalgia seems like it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Newer generations often look to the best stories and content that generations previous have to offer

10Paradise Kiss

Paradise Kiss is an extremely developed romance with various subplots. It hits a lot of important benchmarks for a great romance. It has a varied cast of characters, beautiful art design, and a romantic plot that seems traditional at first but expands from there. And though the characters’ tastes and art styles are very whimsical, the emotional beats and relationships feel relatable.

Paradise Kiss is a romance made for an artsy audience, as the fashion scene serves as the backdrop. The characters’ needle-thin eyebrows, pastel hair, and affluent outfits harken back to ’90s grunge styles and the New York City club kid scene. It also doesn’t outstay its welcome, with a neat 12-episode run.


InuYasha is a classic in many ways. It’s also a shonen that focuses largely on a romance plot, which is refreshing for the genre. The tsundere-tsundere relationship is iconic for the ’90s and early ’00s era in anime.

Kagome and Inuyasha may not have been anime’s first tsundere couple, but they are its most popular. It also set the tone with the bishonen anti-hero with Sesshomaru. Rumiko Takahashi’s art style informed a lot of anime and manga that came after, like Yona of the Dawn.

 8Fushigi Yugi
There’s something wonderful about fantasy anime from the early ’90s. Fushigi Yugi combined fantasy elements that were popular in the ’80s, like the Chosen One trope, detailed and grandiose costume designs, vast fantasy worlds, and handsome, princely characters. It popularized much about isekai and magical girl anime.

There’s a great balance between high stakes, violence in battle scenes, and wistful romance. Audiences who want unabashed romance and tropes would enjoy Miaka and Tamahome’s relationship arc. Fushigi Yugi popularized and informed many archetypes, like the stern hero love interest and the precocious female protagonist.

 7Vampire Knight
For those who wish for a pulpy, dramatic vampire romance, Vampire Knight will always be the best option. While the series takes time to develop its character’s wants, goals, and backstory, it doesn’t care to try to make its drama realistic. It’s not meant to be a relatable series, and that’s the reason it’s endured for so long.

Vampire Knight has soap opera-level romance arcs. Yuki is a student at a vampire school, and her heart is torn between two suitors. Each suitor embodies a different beloved character type in romance. She can’t choose between the stoic and polite school prince and the vampire hunter bad boy with a haunted past.

 6Marmalade Boy
Marmalade Boy is a shojo classic because of its outlandish premise. The series starts out as far-fetched, and it only gets stranger from there. The series starts off with Miki’s parents coming home from vacation and announcing their divorce to her.

Not only are they getting divorced, but they’re switching partners with another married couple, and they and their son are coming to live with them. Miki then has a step-sibling romance that could only happen in a retro anime. As if that isn’t wild enough, Miki uncovers secrets from her parents’ past with the other couple that put her whole world into upheaval. The series is a zany exercise in “what if” that only a ’90s soap opera anime can achieve.

Anime based on video games and otome games are more popular now than ever, but Clannad is one of the earliest and best examples. The anime covers a vast emotional spectrum. The romance, tragedy, and hope of the series still hold up today.

Clannad also has the large eyes, puffy bangs, and willow-limbed characters that go hand in hand with early 2000s anime. Even nearly 20 years later, Clannad and its sequel, After Story, are regarded as the most heartrending series of all time. It’s definitely earned its place in the romance pantheon.

 4Yona Of The Dawn
Mizuho Kusanagi noted in the first Yona of the Dawn manga’s margin that she wrote the story to be a love letter to vintage romance and fantasy anime. The world is rich and deeply influenced by Chinese mythology. And while the audience can detect who will be the endgame couple a mile away, it doesn’t matter because it blends so many familiar and fresh elements together.

Hak and Yona are the traditional sheltered princess and surly but noble bodyguard dynamic. While their dynamic is familiar, their character arcs are wonderfully nuanced. Yona is no damsel in distress for long; she has a clear and believable character arc as she learns how to be a wonderful, brave leader.

3The Wallflower

The Wallflower manga is synonymous with early ’00s harem anime, with a series run of 36 volumes from the years 2000-2015. The Wallflower anime may not cover the entire series, but it’s faithful to the popular manga. Both the anime and manga have plenty of willowy, high-fashion love interests that were the norm in the early ’00s.

The protagonist, Sunako, is an amazing creepy girl who many who love the goth and grunge styles from the ’90s and ’00s will appreciate. Sunako wears her dark hair long, prefers baggy clothes, and adores slasher flicks. Many still adore this anime, associating it with their first dive into shojo manga, and new fans also rate it highly.

 2The Rose Of Versailles
Shojo romance wouldn’t be what it is today without The Rose of Versailles. The series holds up so well to a modern audience that fans still discuss the plot and characters. There’s also news of a movie reboot.

The Rose of Versailles reboot retains the same overall story and adds a bit of an update to the animation. While both styles are gorgeous, there’s nothing like the sumptuous hand-drawn aesthetic that the ’80s anime has, which is inspired by Riyoko Ikeda’s ’70s manga. Everything about it is over-the-top, from the fashions to the swashbuckling swordfights to the doomed but swoon-worthy romances.

 1Princess Mononoke
Audiences can always trust Studio Ghibli to produce a subtle but achingly beautiful romance, like the one between Ashitaka and San in Princess Mononoke. This anime was huge in popularizing the Knife to the Throat trope that’s huge in enemies-to-lovers fiction. San hates all humans, and she attacks Ashitaka, anticipating that he will be no different from other cruel humans.

But when San attacks Ashitaka, he merely responds by telling her how beautiful she is. It’s hard to come by a love interest as calm and sincere as Ashitaka. Princess Mononoke is a staple for any fans of enemies-to-lovers romance.

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