25 Underrated Romance Anime (Our Top Recommendations)

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From Clannad: After Story to Kaguya-Sama: Love is War, there’s no scarcity of iconic romance anime.

But it begs the question:

As tons of new anime appear each season, are there any shows that never get the spotlight because of the relentless competition?

Over the years, I’ve seen so many titles that failed to build a decent following despite being okay — or even great! Once the season was over, they were immediately forgotten as viewers focused on the new shiny anime on the horizon.

And so here I wanna give recognition to some of the most underrated romance anime out there, in the hopes you (and other fans) will find them worthwhile.


25. Honobono Log

Honobono Log anime screenshot

It’s difficult for significantly short anime series to compete with the 20-minute titles each season.

And yet Honobono Log remains one of the sweetest anime series you can finish in 20 minutes — yes, all ten episodes.

Released in 2016, this minimalist show focused on different couples or families each episode, offering viewers a quick look into the many forms that love and affection can take.

There’s nothing profound in Honobono Log, and that’s exactly the point.

This is a romance anime you’d watch if you want to be comforted after a long tiring day.

It reminds you that it’s the little things that make life worth living.


24. Happy☆Lesson

Happy☆Lesson anime

Released way back in 2002, Happy Lesson is a 13-episode TV series (with a 5-episode OVA) that’s well aware of its clichéd romance harem setup.

However, it happily embraces the tradition, as it offers an orphan male MC and five female teachers who live with him as his mothers.

That’s certainly not something you see every day in a romance harem show.

And if five mothers weren’t enough, Chitose Hitotose also has adopted sisters.

Thus, Happy Lesson certainly succeeds in differentiating itself from other series. Plus, it has these tender moments about various life lessons, and it’s interesting how differently the mothers try to help Chitose in both academic and family matters.


23. Maburaho

Maburaho anime screenshot

Maburaho arrived in 2004, making it younger than the similar harem romance that is Happy Lesson – but still very old for most anime fans today.

This is a good example of old-school anime in, well, a school setting.

Basically, Kazuki Shikimori becomes the target of three girls because he’s the descendant of a powerful family of magicians — and their society values people by their magical prowess and how many magic abilities they can cast.

The main harem will have no problem proving why they’re the best girls in Maburaho, and the MC is as foolishly hilarious as any male MC in this kind of show can be.

Sure, there are certainly more daring ecchi shows now. But Maburaho has tropes and character design that give it a vintage appeal.


22. Peach Girl: Super Pop Love Hurricane

Peach Girl: Super Pop Love Hurricane anime

Perhaps the most instantly striking thing about Peach Girl is the design of Momo Adachi, the long-haired beautiful girl with tan skin.

But as the title implies, get ready for a love hurricane:

Momo is in love with a baseball player.

However, this guy she likes purportedly prefers ladies with lighter skin.

Worse, other students are spreading rumors that she likes to sleep with all kinds of guys — and it’s her friend who started all the gossip. And the icing on the cake is that a famous guy at school has publicly professed his love for Momo.

Peach Girl may not be for everyone. But no one can deny the chaotic premise of this romance series from 2005.


21. Sonny Boy & Dewdrop Girl

Sonny Boy & Dewdrop Girl screenshot

Anime originals already lack the benefit of having a built-in fan base — but Sonny Boy & Dewdrop Girl also has to deal with being a short film.

Released in 2013, this 18-minute movie from Studio Colorido is well worth your time – whether you’re looking for refreshing visuals or interesting storytelling.

This is about a young boy, Hinata, who has trouble communicating his feelings for his classmate, Shigure, who’s leaving soon with her family.

Yes, it all sounds so simple and familiar. But Hinata no Aoshigure elevates the story by choosing to let the art and animation shine.

Hinata’s great at drawing. And the short film uses this to offer vibrant and stylish moments that capture the imagination and creativity of the main character.

It’s sweet, short, and deserving of more love.


20. Origin: Spirits of the Past

Origin: Spirits of the Past anime

Studio Gonzo will forever be one of the most noteworthy anime studios.

But this studio isn’t all about NHK ni Youkoso or Gankutsuou.

Origin: Spirits of the Past was released in 2006.

It’s an anime original film that combines romance with adventure, and a very interesting sci-fi premise:

Three centuries ago, the forests in the world mutated and became sentient, causing massive conflict against humankind. Now a boy named Agito finds a mysterious girl in a peaceful slumber — inside a strange machine.

Known as Toola Cm Sacl (yes, that’s her name), this girl could bring back harmony between forests and humans, unless some individuals want more chaos…


19. Classroom☆Crisis

Classroom☆Crisis anime screenshot

Moving from one anime original sci-fi romance to another, Classroom Crisis is a series from Lay-Duce.

No, this isn’t related to Assassination Classroom in any way whatsoever. But it’s also filled with intrigue.

The show is set on Mars where a group of promising students are tasked to lead the future of Kirishina Corporation. Then comes Nagisa Kiryuu, the transfer student who happens to be the CEO’s brother — and he wants to stop the entire program.

In response, the class led by Kaito Sera hurries to create the best rocket they’ve ever built.

Yet corporate cover-ups and personal histories abound, and friendly and romantic relationships alike are taking shape.


18. Venus to Mamoru!

Venus to Mamoru! screenshot

Venus to Mamoru is about a young boy named Mamoru Yoshimura.

He got into the Tokyo Beatrice University Attach High School, an academy filled with students who have a bright future as users of magical powers called Beatrice.

But then a girl known as Beatrice’s Angel of Death confesses her love for him – and she makes him join the student council.

Who is she exactly? And why did she choose Mamoru?

At its core, Venus to Mamoru is a lighthearted comedy that viewers can just sit back and enjoy — and you have 24 fun episodes to binge.


17. She, The Ultimate Weapon

She, The Ultimate Weapon anime

This series is nearly 20 years old.

And much like “Origin: Spirits of the Past”, The Ultimate Weapon is another underrated sci-fi romance from Studio Gonzo — but this isn’t a show for kids.

It’s also not the kind of romantic anime to watch if you want to feel happy.

As you may have already guessed, the series features a girl who was forcefully turned into a killing machine. A cyborg that can easily take the lives of thousands of people.

She’s a weapon of war.

But she’s also Shuuji’s dear girlfriend, and they actually started out as childhood friends.

Obviously, this isn’t what they expected their future to be like together. But Shuuji has to face the depressing reality.

She, The Ultimate Weapon explores the relationship between Shuuji and Chise, no matter how pointless it seems for Shuuji to desperately change Chise back to normal.


16. The Moment You Fall in Love

The Moment You Fall in Love screenshot

Suki ni Naru Sono Shunkan wo.: Kokuhaku Jikkou Iinkai is the sequel film to I’ve Always Liked You.

But while the first movie had a decent reception, this one wasn’t that popular or liked as much.

Being released in 2016 didn’t help either — because that was the year of both “your name.” and “A Silent Voice”.

Still, I implore you to give this a chance.

Some people find the story simplistic.

But there’s an appeal in uncomplicated stories if it’s done right.

The Moment You Fall in Love has fantastic visuals and an engaging soundtrack. Furthermore, it has a clear focus on the romantic lives (and fumbles) of the main characters.

You may sometimes be annoyed at their actions. But you’ll understand why they’re like that, and you’ll always cheer for their happiness.


15. Bokura ga Ita

Bokura ga Ita anime screenshot

Here’s the thing:

This show was admittedly quite popular when it aired. Unlike other classic romantic anime series, however, Bokura ga Ita barely gets mentioned these days.

And it’s painful to see this anime being forgotten.

Granted, Bokura ga Ita doesn’t have the most detailed art or high-quality animation at all. But its style actually fits the manga source material — and it never fails to be so evocative even after having seen it many times already.

I love the tracks here, and the quiet moments can be beautiful or utterly devastating.

The main couple here is one of my all-time favorites, and even characters like Masafumi Takeuchi and Yuri Yamamoto are believably human in their flaws and (teenage) emotions.


14. Magic-Kyun! Renaissance

Magic-Kyun! Renaissance anime

Studio Sunrise may be known for Gundam and Gintama the most.

But it also has this anime-original series from 2016.

In Magic-Kyun Renaissance, the female MC Kohana Aigasaki is tasked to organize the annual cultural festival of Hoshinomori Private Magical Arts High School.

This all seems typical of a school anime, until you learn that her love life features six dazzling guys, each with their own magic art.

They want to be successful in the (magical) entertainment industry — and the upcoming festival is a great way to showcase their skills.

But if Kohana is the festival’s princess, who among them will be the main prince?

And even if this reverse harem isn’t your thing, you might still appreciate its character design and art direction.


13. Momokuri

Momokuri anime screenshot

If you only knew what the girlfriend was doing, you’d think this was a creepy and possibly psychologically dark show — but Momokuri is far from that.

In truth, this 26-episode ONA series is completely adorable.

Momokuri stars Yuki Kurihara, a girl who some may describe as a stalker. Especially since she’s secretly taken many photos of her crush, Shinya Momotsuki, and loves ‘observing’ him.

Thankfully, Yuki never becomes uncomfortable to watch.

In contrast, she’s funny and sweet. And soon she confesses her love for him, and Momo becomes her boyfriend.

There’s nothing unnecessarily complex about this.

But this is Momo’s first relationship, and you have two teenagers in love, awkwardly traversing these new emotions as they meet interesting folks in school.


12. Ao-chan Can’t Study!

Ao-chan Can't Study! anime

Many people still think that shounen shows are all about big fights. Ao-chan Can’t Study proves that it can also take the form of a romcom, admittedly with a notable amount of fanservice.

Produced by Silver Link, this short series from 2019 is about Ao Horie, a girl yearning to separate herself from the reputation of her father who was a popular writer of erotic material.

Then Takumi Kijimi appears in her life.

This good-looking, gentle-mannered classmate confesses his feelings for her.

Takumi isn’t perverted at all, and simply loves Ao. However, she can’t help but imagine these hilarious lovey-dovey scenarios whenever they’re together.

Will Ao ever find the time to concentrate on her studies? Or will Takumi teach her a lesson or two in love?


11. Sky of Iriya, Summer of UFO

Sky of Iriya, Summer of UFO screenshot

In 2005, Toei Animation produced a six-part OVA adaptation of a light novel series — and Sky of Iriya, Summer of UFO was remarkable.

Naoyuki Asaba, a timid young guy from the newspaper club, spends his summer looking for rumored UFOs at a military facility.

Sadly, he goes back home without a single UFO sighting.

All hope seems to be lost for his extraterrestrial interests. But then he spots Kana Iriya, the mysterious new transfer student at school.

She may have a big secret — something that involves the entire world.

Sky of Iriya, Summer of UFO excels in its romance, while juggling elements of typical anime fanservice, sudden suspense, and dark revelations.


10. Holmes of Kyoto

Holmes of Kyoto anime screenshot

The summer of 2018 was a fairly big anime season with titles such as Attack on Titan Season 3, Grand Blue, and Banana Fish.

And on the sidelines was Holmes of Kyoto, a mystery romance about two people working at an antique shop, solving peculiar cases from customers — and this show felt like a nice reprieve from all the action-heavy and loud titles.

Based on a light novel series, it features reasonable voice acting, music, and art direction.

Viewers who were looking for a highly suspenseful anime because of the title might be disappointed, and understandably so.

But if you wanted romance with a degree of mystery, Holmes of Kyoto is certainly worth a try.

Plus the novel series is still ongoing, so you can dive into them right after.


9. Mashiroiro Symphony: The Color of Lovers

Mashiroiro Symphony: The Color of Lovers anime

Mashiroiro Symphony: The Color of Lovers is about Shingo Uryuu becoming part of a test trial.

An all-girls private school and a co-ed (or mixed-gender) are set to be combined. But people want to ensure that this change won’t be disastrous for the students.

And so Shingo is one of the first boys to step inside the Yuihime Girls’ Private Academy — and not all girls are happy about this.

Yes, this is a harem series. But I love that the male MC is neither gross, nor does he quickly panic at the sight of cute girls approaching him.

The characters have decent backstories too. And the ‘main’ girl at the start might not even be the ‘winning’ girl in Shingo’s harem.

Thus, you’ll probably change your picks for favorite girl and couple each episode.


8. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan anime

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was once the world’s most popular series.

It had a dance sequence that was parodied and performed at anime conventions countless times, and each new episode of Season 1 got the entire community talking.

Nine years after Haruhi Season 1, this spinoff featuring Yuki Nagato premiered — and it never got as much love or attention, even with 16 episodes and an OVA.

Is The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan terrible?

Far from it.

This offers a very intriguing take on the world of Haruhi. Here, viewers are treated to an alternate world where everything is ordinary. The characters’ personalities have either been amplified or changed, and it’s all really fun to see them in a new light.

Loaded with comedy, drama, and cute romance (Yuki likes Kyon a lot, of course), The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan sadly had to deal with needlessly high expectations. So it’s certainly an underrated gem.


7. At The Mercy of The Sky

At The Mercy of The Sky screenshot

Fittingly enough, At The Mercy of The Sky was produced by Studio Comet.

And this is a seinen slice-of-life romance, so adults and the ‘older’ teenagers will find it right in their comfort zone.

Sora no Manimani is about Saku Ooyagi, his childhood friend Mihoshi Akeno, and their lovely astronomy club activities together with the other members.

I love that this show isn’t impatient, allowing the MCs to develop as individuals and foster their relationships as naturally as possible.

Sure, a few girls here seem to have a thing for Saku. But the sense of romance in At The Mercy of The Sky never felt vapid.

There are plenty of doses of humor here, and the characters are given ample time to reflect on themselves.

Of course, the show also features gorgeous skies, and the astronomy tidbits here and there are always more than welcome.


6. El Hazard: The Magnificent World

El Hazard: The Magnificent World anime

People who instantly recall childhood memories after seeing this title might wonder why El Hazard: The Magnificent World is seemingly so forgotten these days.

I understand if it’s the El Hazard: The Wanderers TV series that wasn’t widely liked.

But this seven-part OVA was amazing.

Since the global success of Sword Art Online, isekai shows have continued to bring in more fans each season — and for good reason.

There’s something distinctly appealing about people who are sent to another world (including and especially video games).

Well, El Hazard: The Magnificent World is solidly animated, colorful, and a funny adventure romance that also transports its main characters from their school to a world called El-Hazard.

And it’s an original story too.

Despite being pretty short, this anime has an engaging story, noteworthy worldbuilding, a lovely cast, and the male MC Makoto is one of the best harem protagonists ever – particularly with his commendable display of courage and undeniable appeal.


5. My Sweet Tyrant

My Sweet Tyrant anime screenshot

Akkun to Kanojo is 25 episodes long — but it’s a pretty short anime.

You can finish the series in less than 80 minutes.

So why do I rate this high on my list?

My Sweet Tyrant is just so wholesome.

Atsuhiro Kagari reminds me of Momokuri’s Yuki Kurihara: He’s like a stalker in how he shows his affection for his partner Non Katagiri, but he’s similarly not uncomfortably creepy.

Yes, he secretly takes photos and listens to his girlfriend’s conversations. But this is simply how Atsuhiro copes with not being conventionally affectionate as a boyfriend.

He has this ‘serious’ demeanor, and feels awkward about kissing in public. Or talking in a sweet adorable manner with everyone else around.

Others may find his actions odd.

But what matters is that his girlfriend understands his pure intentions, and finds his actions adorable in their own right.


4. Koi Kaze

Koi Kaze anime screenshot

Koi Kaze is a romance with both dramatic and psychological elements.

And its technical aspects didn’t exactly age well.

However, I’d still argue that the characters and themes explored here (and how they’re explored) are magnificent.

On the one hand, you have a guy in his late 20s who’s facing the harsh reality of adulthood — and he just had a breakup.

Then there’s Nanoka Kohinata, a high school girl experiencing adolescence (and all the anxieties it comes with).

Now this 27-year-old male MC meets a young cute girl who makes him want to fall in love again, only to realize that it’s Nanoka, his younger sister who he hasn’t seen for so long because their parents divorced.

Koi Kaze deals with forbidden love, plus adult and adolescent anxieties. And the anime navigates these issues with such nuance, featuring some truly compelling & complex characters.


3. Here Comes Miss Modern

Here Comes Miss Modern anime

I recommend seeing just the first film adaptation of this if you find a copy — and you may be surprised at how well it mixes shoujo romance with historical Japan in the 1920s.

The female MC, Benio Hanamura, isn’t conventionally feminine (remember, this was in the Taisho era).

She loves to drink alcohol, prefers Western clothing instead of the kimono, and would rather spend her time reading books than doing household chores.

More importantly, Benio supports the rights of women to not only work wherever and however they want, but also to choose who they marry – a contrast to the practice of arranged marriages back then.

But Benio’s father has already planned for her to marry someone — a dashing military man named Shinobu Ijuuin.

Will Benio do everything she can to stop the engagement?

What if Shinobu truly loves her and she’s starting to fall for him as well?

And what about the war and the looming big, historical earthquake?

Amazingly detailed and emotionally engaging, this first movie of Here Comes Miss Modern is a hidden gem in the world of anime.


2. Bluer Than Indigo

Bluer Than Indigo screenshot

Ai Yori Aoshi is perhaps the most underrated harem romance in anime history.

Released in 2002, JC Staff’s adaptation features two believably troubled and nuanced main characters with a bittersweet shared history.

Kaoru Hanabishi is 20 years old and studying in Tokyo.

He’s lonely but is doing well in school — and he’s even part of the photography club. Plus, Kaoru would rather be anywhere else than go back to the Hanabishi Zaibatsu, which is his clan that mistreated both him and his dear mother.

Then there’s Aoi Sakuraba, a lovely girl in traditional Japanese clothing who spots Kaoru in Tokyo and reveals that she’s his childhood friend and future wife.

Their arranged marriage was canceled when he was disowned by the clan. But Aoi truly loves him, and would rather go away and search for him alone.

Bluer Than Indigo critiques the supposed superiority of tradition.

It understands that some families (or relatives) aren’t good for one’s well-being.

Even though you already know that Aoi will be Kaori’s wife in the future, this series pulls out all the stops — delivering great backgrounds, memorable character art, and delightfully distinct characters.


1. Hataraki Man

Hataraki Man anime screenshot

Despite what the title says, the main character here is actually a woman.

Named Hiroko Matsukata, she often goes into her “Hataraki man” mode to finish work — and there’s always more work to be done.

I love this series because it portrays young adults instead of teenagers.

And thus, you have Hiroko and her boyfriend Shinji Yamashiro. Both are certified workaholics, although Hiroko is doing better in her career.

But the point of Hataraki Man is to illustrate how difficult it can be to balance work and love (or life in general).

Hiroko and Shinji want to be successful in life. But this comes at a cost:

They cancel their dates, don’t have as many intimate moments as other couples their age, and inevitably wonder why they work so hard anyway.

Considering how Japan continues to have a declining population, with more people choosing to remain single, you can’t help but wonder how much the economy and the extremely stressful corporate culture in Japan have eroded both romantic and family relationships.

Perhaps many anxious and tired millennials and gen Z’ers could understand what these characters are going through.

Hataraki Man presents characters and situations you’ll find deeply relatable if you’re also pursuing work and love at the same time.

And it’s unfortunate that it’s not as popular (and probably won’t ever be due age). Still, it’s worth a watch just to try it out.

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R. Romero

Millennial introvert on the lookout for slice-of-life anime, world cinema, and European music. Follow on Twitter @notspencer08