For many anime fans, character design plays a crucial role in judging an anime.
In fact, the visual aesthetics of the characters add an extra layer of beauty to an anime, making it memorable in this aspect, and this holds true for romance anime as well.
Based on these considerations, we have curated a list of the best romance anime with exceptional character design that you simply cannot afford to miss.
Table of Contents
Toradora! stands as one of the most iconic and beloved romance anime of the 2000s and a series that no genre enthusiast should overlook.
The narrative revolves around Ryuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka, two high school students with contrasting personalities who form an unlikely alliance to support each other in their individual romantic pursuits.
However, as their time together deepens, one cannot help but wonder if unexpected emotions may develop between them.
Toradora! presents a love story that strikes a perfect balance, neither overly simplistic nor excessively convoluted, maintaining a compelling and well-crafted narrative. The same can be said for its character design.
The characters are intricately crafted with strokes that effectively capture their unique personalities, allowing viewers to anticipate the nature of their respective roles even before delving into the series itself.
19. Kamisama Kiss
Kamisama Kiss is a hidden gem of a romance anime from 2012 that skillfully combines elements of romance, fantasy, and the supernatural.
The story revolves around Momozono Nanami, the protagonist, whose life takes a drastic turn when her father disappears, leaving her burdened with an overwhelming amount of debt and homeless.
In a twist of fate, Nanami rescues a mysterious traveler named Mikage from a rabid dog.
Grateful for her kindness, Mikage offers her a place to stay, which turns out to be a shrine populated by various spirits, including a fox-eared boy named Tomoe, who becomes particularly intrigued by Nanami.
The character design in Kamisama Kiss beautifully enhances the concept of the coexistence of the human and supernatural realms.
An exemplary embodiment of this concept is Tomoe, whose excellent design perfectly captures the essence and atmosphere of the series.
18. Snow White with the Red Hair
Snow White with the Red Hair is an incredibly underrated romance anime released in 2015 with 26 episodes, based on the manga of the same name.
The story centers around Shirayuki, a young herbalist leading a peaceful life in the kingdom of Tambarun.
However, her life takes an unexpected turn when Prince Raji forcefully attempts to make her his concubine against her will. Determined to escape this arranged marriage, Shirayuki decides to flee.
During her escape, she crosses paths with Prince Zen, who welcomes her into his court as a herbalist and supports her in resolving her dilemma. And as they spend more time together, a heartwarming love story blossoms between them.
The anime excels in its tender and beautifully crafted love story, complemented by a fairy-tale setting that is truly enchanting.
Moreover, the character design is vivid and captivating, with a vibrant color palette that brings both the characters and the settings to life in an extraordinary way.
17. Your Lie in April
Your Lie in April is a 2014 romance anime that received a lot of popularity since its release, thanks to its emotionally captivating story.
Kousei Arima, a former child prodigy pianist, was once revered by all. However, after the death of his mother, he becomes unable to hear his own music, sinking into a deep depression.
His life takes an unexpected turn when he encounters Kaori Miyazono, a vibrant and lively blonde violinist. Through her influence, Kousei rediscovers his passion for music.
As their bond deepens, their love for each other flourishes. However, there is something about Kaori that Kousei has yet to discover, which adds complexity to their relationship.
The character design in Your Lie in April elevates it to a must-watch romance anime.
The animation style and portrayal of characters capture their personalities and inner struggles and the use of a dualistic color scheme, alternating between vibrant and muted tones, will leave a lasting impression on you.
16. Josee, the Tiger and the Fish
Josee, the Tiger and the Fish is a heartwarming romance movie released in 2020, skillfully blending psychological elements with a tender and sweet love story that is sure to touch your heart.
The movie revolves around Tsuneo, a college student, who crosses paths with Kimiko, a girl with cerebral palsy that affects her ability to use her legs.
As their encounters become more frequent, and Kimiko gradually opens herself up to the world, their feelings for each other begin to blossom.
One of the standout aspects of this movie is its remarkable animation, which adds an extra layer of brilliance to the viewing experience.
The character design deserves equal praise, seamlessly complementing the overall color palette and settings of the movie.
The characters come to life with stunning expressiveness and beauty, their designs perfectly capturing their personalities and emotions, creating a visual feast.
15. Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! is a 2012 romance anime that boasts an engaging plot and memorable characters with excellent character design.
Based on a series of light novels, the story revolves around Yuuta and Rikka, two socially awkward individuals who find themselves living together due to certain circumstances.
Their cohabitation gradually leads to the development of their romantic relationship, although it encounters obstacles with the introduction of Satone, an old acquaintance of Yuuta’s who sparks a love triangle.
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! is a delightful romance anime featuring eccentric characters that will keep you entertained throughout the series.
The character design is also praiseworthy, effectively capturing the chuunibyou personalities of the characters, particularly Rikka with her iconic eye patch.
14. Clannad Series
Clannad, released in the 2000s, is undeniably one of the most iconic romance series and stands out as one of the best sad romance anime that can evoke heartfelt tears.
The story revolves around Tomoya Okazaki, a rebellious loner, and Nagisa Furukawa, a kind-hearted girl who must repeat a year of school due to health issues and struggles to form connections with others.
Their encounter leads to a beautiful love story, but it is not without its share of obstacles.
Clannad boasts a unique character design that perfectly captures the essence of the 2000s era.
The deliberately accentuated and exaggerated character proportions, particularly in the eyes, contribute to the characters’ heightened expressiveness.
This distinct design makes Clannad an iconic and unforgettable romance anime.
13. Honey and Clover
Honey and Clover is another underrated romance anime that presents a deeply psychological story within its 24 episodes, released in 2005.
The narrative takes place in a fine arts academy and follows the lives of five students, three girls and two boys, as they navigate love and the challenges of life.
Honey and Clover tells a profound story, delving into the complexities of the transition from adolescence to adulthood and the obstacles that come with it.
However, the true strength of this series lies in its unique character design, a hallmark of Chika Umino’s works, with characters that are incredibly expressive and leave a lasting impression on the viewers.
12. The Night is Short Walk On, Girl
The Night is Short, Walk On Girl is an anime movie released in 2017 that can be considered one of the most unique romance movies you can find.
A young student at Kyoto University has developed feelings for his younger classmate and has made it a point to encounter her as frequently as possible, always pretending it is a mere coincidence.
During a party attended by both of them, the boy decides to sit next to the girl, and as they switch clubs, it marks the beginning of a long and extraordinary night.
The standout feature of this movie is undoubtedly its distinctive and exceptional animation, which extends to its characters and the style in which they are portrayed.
We highly recommend not missing out on this hidden gem of animation that will leave a lasting impression on you.
11. Monogatari Series
The Monogatari series is a highly recommended anime, not only for its captivating romance subplots but also for its overall uniqueness that sets it apart from other series.
The story revolves around Koyomi Araragi, the protagonist whose life takes a transformative turn when he encounters Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade, a dying vampire.
With the assistance of Meme Oshino, a shaman, he regains his humanity but finds himself entangled in various paranormal events. And it’s during these encounters that he also meets his love interest, Hitagi Senjogahara.
One of the standout features of Monogatari is its exceptional character design.
Every character possesses distinct and peculiar characteristics that set them apart from one another, leaving no detail to chance and making every character memorable in its own way.
Nana is an iconic anime adaptation of an equally iconic shojo manga that we highly recommend watching if you haven’t already.
The series revolves around two girls who share the same name, Nana, but possess contrasting personalities.
They unexpectedly become roommates, with one of them being a troubled rock/punk star, while the other is a shy girl trapped in a toxic relationship that is slowly consuming her.
From that point on, their destinies intertwine, and Nana portrays their journey with intensity, exploring deep and impactful moments, particularly in the realm of romance.
Nana is a fantastic anime that offers a complex and emotionally captivating story.
The character designs are among the best you can find, not just within the romance genre, but in general, that perfectly capture the essence and atmosphere of the series.
And this anime is indeed renowned for its edgy style, with characters exuding a fantastic punk and rock aesthetic that adds an extra layer of authenticity and appeal.
9. Howl’s Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle is considered one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of Japanese animation, released in 2014 by the renowned Studio Ghibli as a movie.
The story revolves around Sophie, an ordinary young girl working at a hat store, whose life takes a drastic turn after a fateful encounter with a peculiar man being pursued by mysterious creatures.
Following her rescue, Sophie is cursed by the Witch of the Andes and embarks on a journey to find the wizard Howl, the very man she had encountered earlier, in order to reverse the curse.
As the narrative unfolds, Sophie and Howl develop a tender relationship, adding depth to the story.
Including a Studio Ghibli work in a list of anime with excellent character design almost feels like cheating.
This is because as it’s renowned their creations are made some consistently unique, memorable, and visually stunning animation and character designs.
8. Ride Your Wave
Ride Your Wave is a 2019 romance movie that often goes underrated despite its excellent animation and character design.
The story follows Hinako, who moves back to her hometown in Chiba to attend college and discovers solace in surfing, which helps her confront her fears.
However, one fateful summer night, a fire breaks out in her apartment complex caused by smuggled fireworks, and she is rescued by Minato, a firefighter.
As they spend more time together, their bond grows, leading to a blossoming romance.
Ride Your Wave captivates viewers with its smooth and vibrant animation. The clever use of bright colors throughout the movie evokes a sense of cheerfulness and serenity, enhancing the overall visual experience.
This art style also extends to the characters, who are brought to life with expressive animation, illuminating their personalities and emotions.
Inuyasha is undoubtedly a cult isekai with romance, adapted from the legendary manga by Rumiko Takahashi, who is widely regarded as the queen of manga, that spans over 100 episodes.
The story revolves around Kagome, an ordinary eighth-grade student who unexpectedly falls down a well in her home’s garden and finds herself transported 500 years into the past, to the Sengoku era.
In this era, Kagome discovers that she is the reincarnation of Kikyo, a powerful priestess who had the responsibility of protecting the four-spirit orb, a dangerous object coveted by villains.
Teaming up with Inuyasha, a half-demon with canine-like traits, Kagome embarks on a journey to safeguard the sacred relic from falling into the wrong hands.
Inuyasha stands as one of the best examples, if not the absolute best, of blending an astonishing feudal Japan setting with elements of fantasy, action-packed plots, and well-crafted romance subplots.
And this is further enhanced by Rumiko Takahashi’s remarkable character design, which flawlessly combines realism and the supernatural, making it a must-watch anime for audiences of all kinds.
6. Whisper of the Heart
Whisper of the Heart is a magnificent Studio Ghibli classic and undoubtedly one of the greatest romance movies of all time. It graced the screens in the summer of 1995 and can be found on HBO Max for those who wish to see it.
The movie revolves around Shizuku, a 14-year-old girl with a deep love for reading and a dream of becoming a writer.
One summer, while visiting the library, Shizuku discovers that the books she borrows have been previously taken out by a boy named Seiji Amasawa. Intrigued, Shizuku embarks on a quest to find Seiji, often finding herself lost in daydreams about him.
Whisper of the Heart is a phenomenal romance movie that tells a tender, lighthearted, and captivating story. It captures the essence of young love and the pursuit of dreams in a truly remarkable way.
And it goes without saying, as we are discussing a Studio Ghibli masterpiece, that the character design and animation are simply breathtaking.
The movie’s visuals are a feast for the eyes, with meticulous attention to detail and the signature Ghibli charm.
5. Spice and Wolf
Spice and Wolf is a romance anime that we have repeatedly recommended to you across various lists, highlighting its exceptional quality. This captivating series, one of the few romance anime not set in high school, debuted in 2008 and consists of 13 episodes.
The narrative revolves around Lawrence, a merchant who finds himself in the village of Pasroe during the harvest festival.
It is on this eventful night that he encounters Holo, the wise and enchanting wolf goddess, who seeks his aid in returning to her homeland.
Thus begins their extraordinary love story that transcends boundaries of race and lineage.
Spice and Wolf boasts a compelling romance intertwined with an engrossing adventure plot set in a rich fantasy world. The series is further elevated by its great animation and character design.
Notably, the character of Holo has become iconic, often regarded as a prime example of exceptional female character design in anime.
4. The Tatami Galaxy
The Tatami Galaxy is a 2010 anime consisting of 11 episodes that skillfully combines comedy, psychological elements, and romance in its narrative.
The story revolves around Watashi, a young man who has just started college with high hopes of experiencing the best years of his life, filled with love, happiness, and excitement.
However, he soon discovers that reality is far from what he expected, and the challenges he faces become overwhelming.
Similar to the Studio Ghibli movies mentioned in this list, including a series animated by Masaki Yuuasa in a list about the best character designs feels like cheating.
That’s because Masaki Yuuasa is undeniably one of the most talented animators of recent years, breathing incredible life into his characters through unique and visually stunning animations that are both fluid and captivating.
3. Maison Ikkoku
Maison Ikkoku is a legendary anime within the romance genre and has played a significant role in shaping the genre as we know it today. And indeed we subjectively consider it the best romance anime of all time.
The story revolves around Yusaku Godai, a young man who is diligently studying for his college entrance exams. Yusaku resides in Maison Ikkoku, a boarding house known for its lively atmosphere, which makes it challenging for him to focus on his studies.
Initially planning to leave, Yusaku’s decision changes when Kyoko Otonashi, a mature and captivating woman who recently lost her husband, becomes the new manager of the boarding house. Instantly smitten, Yusaku decides to stay and falls deeply in love with Kyoko.
If you are a fan of the romance genre as it is today, you owe it to this remarkable work. So, do not let its dated animation discourage you from watching it if you haven’t already done so.
Regarding the character design, a similar point can be made with Inuyasha, as Maison Ikkoku is also based on a manga by Rumiko Takahashi, known for her distinctive artistic style.
The characters in Maison Ikkoku embody the essence of the ’80s romance era, with their distinct features, fashion choices, and overall style.
2. Violet Evergarden
Violet Evergarden is an exceptional anime released in 2018 that we can never recommend enough. If you haven’t watched it yet, we urge you to do so at your earliest convenience. It’s very easy to find since it is one of the best romance anime you can find on Netflix.
The story unfolds in Telesis, a land that has long been plagued by conflicts. After years of strife, peace finally descends upon the land.
Violet, the protagonist, was born and raised amidst this turmoil, serving as a soldier. However, with the war now over, she finds herself lost and without a sense of purpose.
By a stroke of luck, Violet is taken in by the Evergarden family and employed as a postmistress.
During her time in this role, she becomes captivated by the Auto Memories Dolls, individuals entrusted with transcribing heartfelt letters for those who are unable to read or write.
We can confidently say that Violet Evergarden boasts some of the most remarkable animation not just in recent years, but of all time. The visuals are executed with stunning realism, meticulous attention to detail, and breathtaking colors.
This level of excellence extends to the character design as well, which is simply incredible. Each character is intricately crafted with their own unique features, perfectly capturing their personalities and emotions.
Katanagatari is an exceptional anime that combines the elements of a captivating sword-fighting narrative with a compelling love story, while also boasting some of the most distinctive animation and character design you can find.
The series follows the adventures of a swordsman and strategist as they embark on a quest to locate the twelve most formidable swords in feudal Japan, set during the Edo period.
The main protagonist, Shichika Yasuri, hails from the renowned Kyotoryu family, revered for their extraordinary unarmed combat technique.
Togame, the strategist, accompanies Shichika on their mission, enlisting his aid in safeguarding her while encouraging him to fall in love with her along the way.
However, as the story unfolds, their relationship evolves into something much deeper and profound beyond their initial arrangement.
Katanagatari’s characters are crafted in a distinctive style, characterized by seemingly minimalistic strokes that actually seamlessly blend with the series’ dynamic and evocative setting.
This anime is truly one of those series that we absolutely recommend that you watch if you have not already done so because you’ll miss a little animation gem otherwise.