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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.