One of the special features of romance anime is its incredible versatility, as they can stuff many themes and propose original combinations.
One of the most common tropes is when the popular girl falls in love with a normal or outcast male protagonist. She can be an idol or just the prettiest popular model in the school, these anime have infinite variations.
And precisely for this reason, we couldn’t leave you high and dry, and we have collected for you the best romance stories with this formula.
Main characters in Japanese animation aren’t always brave or cool as in many Western shows, and this listicle will show you why we say this.
Daily reminder: rankings are based on our experience and personal taste.
Table of Contents
21. Bottom Tier Character Tomozaki
Bottom Tier Character Tomozaki is one of the latest romances released, released in 2021 in 12 episodes. It goes to combine, like other names on this list, romance, and psychological elements.
The story’s protagonist is a nerdy boy who is passionate about videogames, but not a random one: he is the best gamer in all of Japan. However, his view of life is quite distorted, believing it to be nothing but a bad video game.
However, there is a person opposite to him, the extrovert and popular Hinami Aoi, who on the contrary goes on to say that life is a beautiful video game. What will arise from their clash of opinions?
Bottom Tier Character Tomozaki doesn’t go to be anything innovative, with characters that are all in all stereotypical and simple.
Still, it remains an enjoyable anime, with interesting and well-crafted animations.
20. Accel World
Accel World is an action show within the classic virtual world component, with the addition of sentimental elements. It was released in 2012 in 24 episodes.
It’s 2046, and Haruyuki is a middle school boy who is constantly bullied because he is overweight.
One day he meets Kuroyukihime, the most beautiful and popular girl in school and his senpai, who changes his life by introducing him to a virtual world called Accel World.
Haruyuki will then become the Burst Linker, a paladin tasked to protect Kuroyukihime.
Accel World is nothing more than the classic isekai anime where the protagonist sees his revenge within the virtual world.
It has nice-looking animations, beautiful music, and an unlikely romance, so it’s not too corny.
But on the other hand, we can’t say it’s new and innovative show either since it’s quite full of stereotypes and clichés of the genre.
19. Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches
Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches is a very light anime that relies on romance, comedy, and ecchi to be enjoyable. It was released in 2015 in the canonical 12 episodes.
The main characters are Yamada Ryu and Urara Shiraishi. The former is the typical listless boy with low grades. The second, on the other hand, is the best student at the institution, popular and beautiful.
One day for some unknown reason, their bodies are switched. What situations will ensue?
Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches, as you may have already guessed from the premise, is a light anime that takes itself very easy.
But for these very reasons, don’t expect a masterpiece, but rather something to watch to pass the time.
18. Girlfriend, Girlfriend
Girlfriend, Girlfriend is an absurd, no-sense, and borderline ridiculous anime, but it wants to be without even hiding it. Let us get to the point.
High schooler Naoya receives a declaration of love from Nagisa, a beautiful and popular girl, with a great surprise.
The only problem is that Naoya already has the girl, but Nagisa is too beautiful to pass up. Thus begins his mission to convince his current girlfriend to start an open relationship.
But it won’t end there, because gradually more and more girls will want to join this particular harem.
Girlfriend, Girlfriend is almost a parody of harem romance anime.
In fact, the protagonist doesn’t torment himself throughout the story to figure out which girl to choose at the end of the story, but takes them all at once, from the beginning.
As mentioned above, it’s nonsense and trashy, but it wants to be so.
A purely slice-of-life anime released in 2017 in 12 episodes. The story revolves around the lives of some videogame-loving high school students.
Keita Amano is a lonely boy who loves video games. Karen Tendou is the beautiful and popular president of the video game club.
Chiaki Hoshinomori, who constantly argues with Keita, and Tasuku Uehara, who pretends to be satisfied with his life in the real world but loves gaming.
A sentimental slice of life like the others, but one that goes on to add this component of videogames given the shared passion of the characters, which will make them grow closer and fall in love at first sight.
If you are looking for one of the best romance anime with a nerd MC, you find what you need.
16. 3D Kanojo: Real Girl
3D Kanojo: Real Girl is a very reflective romance anime that goes into important and deep issues such as depression. It was released in 2018 in 24 enjoyable episodes.
Tsutsui Hikari is an otaku who tries hard to avoid a social life. He is constantly laughed at by most of his classmates for being creepy and weird, which leads him to have problems.
One day he finds himself having to clean the school pool with Igarashi Iroha, one of the most popular end extrovert girl in the school.
She is everything that Tsutsui hates in real girls but he will soon develop feelings for her since she treated him like a normal person.
A fairly classic school romance in its genre, but one that will see Tsutsui’s character have a huge development.
This anime shows you how it’s possible to achieve change if you put some effort into it, no matter how grim your social life is, all while keeping his romance always at a high level.
15. Masamune-Kun Revenge
When he was little Masamune was a chubby boy due to eating disorders, and he was bullied by a popular girl called Aki Adagaki, who kept calling him piggy.
This took a toll on young Masamune, who decided to act and get revenge on the girl.
He planned to lose weight and seduce the girl to have the possibility to reject her and break her heart.
This backfires spectacularly as the boy ends up falling in love with Aki. It turns out that she liked him even back then but was unable to express her feelings properly.
This show is entertaining due to the plot devices and the fun vibes and is one decent choice if you are looking for anime where enemies become lovers.
It certainly won’t have a complex plot full of twists and turns, but if you’re looking for a comedy and romance out of the classic box then it might be for you.
14. Rosario to Vampire
Rosario to Vampire follows the story of Tsukune Aono, an ordinary boy who, because of his bad grades, sees every one of his high school applications rejected. This is except for Youkai School, where he is unexpectedly accepted without any problems.
The school, however, turns out to be a den of vampires, werewolves, and other mystical creatures. Tsukune has to fend for himself while attending school and soon discovers that the girls are not as scary as he thought.
This is especially so for the beautiful vampire Moka Ashina, one of the most popular girls in the school who seems to accrue a great deal of interest in him.
Rosario to Vampire is a show with comic elements, very funny and light. If you want to see a not-so horror anime with vampires but with school and slice-of-life elements mixed with romance, ecchi, and harem, then this is for you.
12. High School DxD
What could be called by many the king of fanservice anime. In fact, it doesn’t go around it by adding it as an added component but makes it practically its workhorse without hiding it.
The story follows the events of Issei Hyoudou, a perverted student attending high school like any other who sees his highly anticipated first date goes decidedly wrong.
The boy is killed by the beautiful girl he is dating, only to come back to life thanks to the intervention of the beautiful demon Rias Gremory, who makes him her assistant slave and gives him demoniac powers.
But not only is Rias a demon, but she is also one of the most important and well-known, the daughter of 2 of the most important figures in the demonic world.
Thus begins his adventure filled with fights between Angels and Demons, but also with beautiful girls who increase his Harem of which he dreams of becoming the King.
High School DxD is a must for any fan of ecchi anime with lots of fanservice. It can be funny, and serious, with lots of action and well-fitting and contextualized erotic moments.
11. Golden Time
In 2013, the Golden Time anime was released, with its very exuberant and over-the-top story.
The 3 protagonists are part of a love triangle and you will see how it evolves as they live out their college lives.
Banri Tada lost his memory by falling off a bridge just before graduating, an interesting incipit for this story. Mitsuo Yanagisawa is one of his friends at college and related to the third character of the story.
We are talking about the girl Koko Kaga, Mitsuo’s beautiful and popular childhood friend who shows up by slapping him with a bouquet of roses.
The dynamics between the 3 are much more complex than that, you can only watch it to discover how.
Golden Time is an over-the-top slice-of-life and romance anime unlike any other, funny and very enjoyable while keeping the romance very good and catchy between 3 of the coolest MCs in romance.
10. My Dress-Up Darling!
My Dress-Up Darling has been able to make a name for itself thanks to its wise use of fanservice and a pleasant cast.
The events revolve around the young high school boy Wakana Gojo and his particular passions.
His life will change considerably after he makes the acquaintance of his popular and beautiful classmate Marin Kitagawa.
The girl, after catching him sewing clothes for dolls, will ask for his help in creating custom-made clothes for her, as she is fond of cosplay.
This won’t only push the boy out of his comfort zone in several ways, but it will also open him up to a new way of thinking.
The bizarre situation in which Gojo finds himself is good to hone his social skills and discover love.
My Dress-Up Darling! has been able to carve out its big slice of success in recent times, and there’s a reason for that.
Its excellent blend of romance, nerdy elements, some excellent animation, and great characters are just a few. Marin indeed is one of the best dominant female leads in romance anime in recent years in our opinion, undoubtedly.
Nieskoi tells the story of Raku Ichijou, the heir to a very powerful Yakuza family. He’s a typical teenager that many years ago made a promise to a girl that gave him a pendant, saying that they will marry once adults.
Raku tries desperately to find the girl with a key that will open his pendant and he also has a huge crush on his old friend Kosaki Onodera.
However, Raku is dragged back to reality by the appearance of a rival gang of his family, the American Bee Hive Gang. The 2 clans decide to settle by pairing Raku with the daughter of the enemy’s leader, Chitoge Kirisaki, a girl very popular for her beauty.
Even if it’s a false love, the 2 will end up getting together from the very first episode, so it’s one of the best romance anime with early couples. And who knows if this act can produce real feelings as the story goes on.
Nisekoi is one of the best harem romance anime, where the protagonist finds himself having to decide which girl to fall in love with.
The characters are well characterized and diverse, though stereotypical, and the animations are very enjoyable.
Chitoge is one of the most famous and appreciated tsundere ever, another reason to watch it.
This anime is set in Seika High School, a predominantly male high school where Misaki Ayuzawa achieved the position of first-ever female student council president, becoming extremely popular.
Its primary purpose, given the clear majority of males, is to protect girls from boys.
Misaki encounters Takumi Usui as he rejects a love confession by a classmate who starts crying. Misaki tries to intervene, but Usui shows total indifference, and so the relationship between the two begins in the worst possible way.
But Misaki is hiding a secret, namely that outside of school hours she works at a maid cafe, and guess who will find out about her on that same day? Usui, of course, will have to keep the secret so as not to ruin the girl’s school career.
Maid Sama! is one of the best romance anime with reverse harem and an example of romance where 2 enemies end up falling in love.
It also has that trait typical of works from shojo manga and a prevalent moe component given by the maids, so it recommends itself.
Toradora began as a light novel series written by Yuyuko Takemiya and a manga adaptation by artist Zekkio.
The main character Ryuji Takagi, because of his creepy look and being the son of a yakuza, is kept at a distance and feared by his schoolmates.
In reality, he is a quiet and responsible boy, as well as fixated on cleanliness. Opposed to him we have Taiga Aisaka, feared for his heated disposition despite being of petite stature.
An excellent romance, capable of gripping you and melting your heart. One of the strengths of Toradora! as a romance is that it has many love entanglements.
One of these centers on Ami Kawashima, a girl introduced later in the story, who is a very famous model who will fall in love with Ryuji, creating a love triangle.
6. Death Note
If you are a fan of psychological confrontations, the detective genre or the series with a genius MC, Death Note is the anime made for you to start with.
The work is the perfect example of a psychological thriller, able to perfectly tie together elements of the fantasy and gothic worlds.
Light Yagami is a young model student, who nevertheless harbors strong disgust and disappointment with the world around him.
His life will change drastically when one day he sees a mysterious notebook, the Death Note, fall from the sky, capable of causing the death of anyone simply by writing his name.
Light’s plans are clear, to use the notebook to kill as many criminals as possible to purge this world of evil.
But soon he will have to deal with L, one of the greatest private investigators, hired to unravel the mystery of the continuing deaths among criminals.
Although Death Note is not based on romance at all, there will be room for that during the anime as well.
Those who have already seen it know this, but Misa Amane, a famous idol, will end up obsessed with Light, unabashedly doing anything he asks of her.
5. Kaguya-Sama: Love is War
One of the best and most acclaimed romance genre anime in recent years, and generally one of the most highly regarded series since its release.
Kaguya-Sama: Love is War deals with small self-contained stories about the eternal psychological and love struggle between Miyuki Shirogane, distinguished student council president, and his deputy, Kaguya Shinomiya.
The only difference between the 2 is that Shirogane comes from a modest family, while Kaguya is extremely wealthy and popular.
Both are determined to get the other to confess their love first because you know, in such cases the one who gives in first loses, and they can’t afford it.
This anime is an incredibly solid and complete show that even those who don’t appreciate romance should watch. Kaguya-Sama: Love is War is one of the best psychological romance anime as well as one of the top choices for one of the best romance with comedy.
It can boast funny moments along with deep machinations and beautiful sentimental moments without being too far-fetched.
4. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (OreGairu)
A 13-episode anime based on the light novel series of the same name written by Wataru Watari featuring Hachiman Hikigaya, an antisocial high school student with a distorted and pessimistic view of social life that leads him to be alone.
That is until his teacher forces him to join the institution’s volunteer club, which is attended and run by the prettiest and one of the most popular girls in school, Yukino Yukinoshita.
The 2 will find that they have much in common, but joining the club with Yui, another attractive girl will start a love triangle.
An excellent romance that combines psychological elements of different natures, dealing with important themes such as loneliness and depression, but without any visual violence.
And that is precisely what makes OreGairu a special anime romance that everyone should watch.
Horimiya is one of the most popular anime romances in recent years, based on a Yonkoma manga, which is a collection of humorous strips.
It tells us the love affairs of Izumi, an introverted and quiet boy, and Kyoko, who, in contrast, is outgoing, friendly, and popular.
The 2 will manage to understand and love each other despite their differences, in an excellent romance that will keep us company throughout the story.
Horimiya despite being very comic focuses on the growth, both physical and psychological of the characters, both the main characters and their friends.
It’s a very good romance that makes us attached to the characters, making the viewer feel like an integral part of the events as a member of the company of friends.
2. Super Dimension Fortress Macross
A cult mecha anime from 1982 with a love triangle and strong romance elements.
The plot starts with the human race finishing a space airship based on an alien wreck called Macross.
When they try to launch the ship, they get attacked by the alien race Zentradi and the remnants of humanity embark on it to escape planet Earth.
This marks the beginning of a war against this unknown menace. Macross is truly a unique anime, as it combined mechas with a credible love triangle.
While this isn’t the first time in anime history, Macross managed to use it as a central element in the plot. Linn Minmay, Hikaru’s first crush, is an idol that will make her debut during the series and will even help against the Zentradi.
Even though the protagonist was disliked by his well-regarded superior Misa Hayase in the beginning, the situation will be different later. The 2 will develop a strong relationship as the show goes on, as both the war and the love triangle evolve.
1. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai
Based on Hajime Kamoshida’s light novel of the same name, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is a 2018 anime by CloverWorks.
The plot revolves around Sakuta Azusagawa, a high school boy who keeps to himself and has only two friends.
This is caused by the fact that rumors are circulating about him allegedly assaulting some boys. One day, while walking around the library, he runs into a girl dressed as a bunny.
The girl’s name is Mai Sakurajima, a professional and popular actress. The two will begin to discover each other, opening doors to their various past experiences.
This series is undoubtedly one of the best romance anime out there that you can’t miss if you love the genre.
It will feature many romantic scenes but will also deal with important and serious themes of the human psyche, with a specific focus on youth issues in a truly unique way.
These problems won’t only be told and solved but will be shown as real supernatural phenomena, making them much more captivating.