Regardless of gender and demographics, love stories and relationships are inseparable from anime. Main characters will always have a love interest or crush, while supporting characters will flatter the hero or someone else. That being said, some anime can take these mainstays and push them into overdrive.
Intentionally or not, these anime have so much romance that they distract from the real point of the story. This doesn’t detract from the overall entertainment value of these shows, but the number of ongoing romantic side stories may conflict with the show’s genre, or even overwhelm what seemed like a typical romantic anime.
This article contains spoilers for various anime.
10/10 Super Dimension Fortress Macross lets love flourish on the battlefield
These days, love triangles are practically a tradition in Macross. But when the franchise began in 1982, the idea that love was not just the heart of a space opera, but also the central theme of a galaxy-spanning war epic was unheard of. Macro’ the creative risk paid off incredibly and changed mecha anime forever, but its romance can still feel a bit out of place in a rewatch.
For viewers who just wanted to see the forces of UN Spacey fight the Zentraedi armada, Hikaru’s love triangle of affection and Macro’ a painfully sincere belief in the power of love can feel lost in the midst of war. However, Macross carried her heart so proudly on his sleeve that he has turned these atypical mecha tropes into his unique signatures.
9/10 Neon Genesis Evangelion left its romances hanging for years
Neon Genesis Evangelion stands out from its mecha contemporaries by being arguably more of a slice-of-life anime with giant robots than just a mecha story, and that was especially true in its first half. While Shinji found himself torn between three love interests, there were more complex romances going on in the background.
But just like from Evangelion arcane myth, Shinji’s romantic subplots were left hanging in favor of psychological introspection as the anime progresses. Because we had to wait Rebuilding Evangelion movies to solve, from Evangelion the original romance arcs were compelling and even emotionally resonant, but ultimately distracting and unsatisfying.
8/10 Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny was Gundam at its most romantic
Relationships and love triangles are quite common in Gundam lively, but PLANT the continuity was most evident here. In fact, one could argue that PLANT was more of a romantic war story than a typical war anime. As full of romance as PLANT was, he had nothing on his suite, seed destinywhere romances new and old collided.
As if introducing Shinn and Stella’s romance while strengthening Kira and Athrun’s respective relationships wasn’t enough, seed destiny introduces tons of new love interests as Meer (the body double of Kira’s lover, Lacus) for more drama. Unlike its predecessor, however, seed destiny had trouble balancing these threads and suffered as a result.
7/10 Sword Art Online got distracted by Kirito’s growing harem
Although not the first forgiving isekai of its kind, Sword Art Online was undeniably the most influential isekai of his kind. As such, Kirito’s first anime was also the source of many of the biggest pitfalls of modern isekai, such as distracting romance. Kirito settling down with Asuna isn’t bad on its own, but it destroyed the anime’s pacing.
Half way through Sword Art Online, Kirito and Asuna essentially left the plot to settle down and adopt Yui. That wouldn’t be a problem in a domestic, action-packed, gamified fantasy Sword Art Online was not. The entertaining romances would persist in future seasons, but they weren’t as blatant as the one that started the trend.
6/10 Rosario + Vampire wrongly prioritized their harem shenanigans
For most anime viewers, Rosario + Vampire was just this supernatural-themed harem anime from the early 2000s. But for those who actually read the manga, Tsukune and Moka’s love story at Yokai Academy did the source material a disservice. In short, the anime ditched the deeper storylines of the manga in favor of generic romances and fan service.
Rosario + Vampire is really about the biases that divide humans and yokai, and the cast’s attempts to mend bridges that were burned generations ago. The anime, meanwhile, only glossed over these themes in the first season before eliminating them altogether in its infamous second season which brought generic harem fun to the fore.
5/10 Hamtaro has more romance than expected
As far as most anime fans are concerned, Hamtaro is this show for innocent children featuring a cute hamster. Although one or two love subplots in a children’s cartoon might not be so surprising, Hamtaro went further by presenting a complex web of romantic possibilities for its characters. In fact, the anime has an official board to help keep fans up to date.
Hamtaro himself is oblivious to the romance, but the same can’t be said for his friends. To name a few of the many love threads, Dexter and Howdy compete for the affection of the same girl, Boss likes Bijou but she has a crush on Hamtaro, and so on. These aren’t even jokes; they are long arcs that change all the actors.
4/10 To Love Ru took the harem formula to the extreme
At first glance, Love Ru may look like a generic harem anime with aliens for added flavor. Through no fault of his own, Rito found himself in the middle of a harem he hadn’t asked for. However, Love Ru has immortalized itself in the memories of anime viewers by having one of the most convoluted chains of romantic threads ever seen.
In addition to being part of Love the Rus central and default love triangle, Rito, Haruna and Lala have their own potential suitors and crushes. Additionally, aliens like Ren can change gender at any time, and their romantic actions depend on the currently active gender. Even by romantic comedy anime standards, Love Ru is adorably complex.
3/10 Ranma 1/2 Codified Harem Anime’s Romance Overload
Although this is not the first harem anime, Ranma 1/2 was undeniably the rom-com anime that set the genre’s trends and conventions. One of its biggest contributions to anime romances has been the complicated harem, as Ranma and Akane’s growing relationship was just the start of a hilariously complicated chain of love and gender bending.
As if Akane being chased by countless suitors wasn’t enough, Ranma 1/2 introduced gender-bending mechanics that gave some characters even more crushes and suitors to deal with. keep an eye on everything Ranma 1/2 Possible romantic relationships may seem like a chore, but that’s only part of what made the anime a beloved nostalgic icon.
2/10 Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun Parodied Convoluted Love Webs
Although Nozaki-Kun is an affectionate parody of shojo fiction and romantic clichés, it’s so committed to its characters’ relationships that it can be considered its own romantic comedy. That being said, At Nozaki-Kun’s otherwise simple love stories are always over-the-top parodies of formula anime love stories at heart.
Chiyo may be attracted to Nozaki, but she’s attracted a bunch of potential suitors who also have their own crushes and/or suitors. The anime ended abruptly and left those threads hanging, but the still-ongoing manga fared no better. Besides keeping the romantic humor, the manga added even more in the form of new characters and misunderstandings.
1/10 Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War turned young love into a campus-wide battle of wits
It’s no surprise to say that Kaguya Sama is a parody of the typical romantic anime. What many may not realize is how far this pushes the formula to breaking point for more than just a laugh. Besides Kagura and Miyuki’s hilariously maze-like mental battle to see who confesses first, every other character has their own romantic drama.
From the lonely Yu, who found himself in his own love triangle, to the unpredictability of Chika threatening to turn everything upside down, Kaguya Sama there is so much love in the air that it will take some time to keep track of everything. Combine that with energetic animation, and Kaguya Sama has earned its place as one of the genre’s best titles in years.