From Makoto Shinkai to Studio Ghibli, the Japanese romance genre has some of the best romance anime movies of all time. Are you looking for a slice of life, or are you in the mood for a science fiction film with aliens and laser beams? There is a film for everyone, even if you are an anime fan and have seen some of the movies on this list.
Sometimes there isn’t time to watch romance anime series such as Kaguya-Sama: Love is War, Violet Evergarden, Fruits Basket, or Kamisama Kiss. But anime films offer you all the faces of love, whether tragedy, distance, star-crossed or unrequited love; there is a romantic anime movie to match. This will detail some of the best anime romance films to date and will cover a large variety of sub-genres to fit the need of the different types of anime fans. And regardless of how different each film may be, rest assured that you will enjoy a well-told, well-written and emotional story. There may not always be happy endings, but the journey will be worth it.
Here is our list of best anime romance movies.
15. The Wind Rises (2013)
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli, this film is based on the true story of Jiro Horikoshi. Jiro was the engineer who designed the Zero fighter planes during World War II. As expected, the story looks at what it is like to be in love when all the odds are against you. Jiro meets Naoko on a train during a great Kanto earthquake while she is out with her servant for the first time. He ends up saving their lives before the two reunite later. This sets the tone for the rest of the film.
Offering beautiful animation, a glimpse into the historical period and detailing some fun historical events, this film is a must-see for anime and history fans. The film offers beautiful animation, a romantic relationship and a heartbreaking story. It is based on a novel of the same name and received worldwide critical claims while being nominated for countless awards, some of which include the Academy Award for Best Feature and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The Wind Rises is definitely one of the best anime romance movies.
14. A Silent Voice (2016)
Although this film technically has no explicit romantic details, the friendship between the main characters makes this film worth mentioning. Also, many anime fans consider this film part of the romance genre. That being said, A Silent Voice follows the life of Shōya Ishida, a high school student who has become a social outcast due to his reputation as a school bully who terrorises a disabled girl in elementary school. Upon hearing this, many people would immediately be put off the film. However, audiences are offered a unique take on this storyline. Shōya wants to end his life but decides to attempt and fix things with the deaf girl he bullied, Shōko Nishimiya.
The character development is impressive and well-deserved as the two become close friends who help each other heal from their respective trauma. The film focuses on suicide, mental health, and disabilities. But it also shows the difference emotional connections, friendship and forgiveness can make in someone’s life. The movie offers beautiful animation, a score to match, and interesting stylistic choices that add to the emotional turmoil of the main character.
13. Josee, the Tiger, and the Fish (2020)
Produced by Bones Studio and directed by Kotaro Tamura, the film offers viewers a beautiful story that proves anyone can overcome their circumstances. Tsuneo Suzukawa, a student selling marine biology, saves a paraplegic girl named Kumiko Yamamura on his way home from work one day. However, she insists on being called ‘Josee’, and Tsuneo becomes her caretaker as an extra job.
Hostile at first, Josee dislikes Tsuneo’s presence in her life but the two slowly bond while travelling. Finally, as life becomes unbearably hard for both, they are forced to overcome their fears to succeed. This touching tale offers beautiful animation and a score that will stick with viewers long after watching. The film was nominated for multiple awards, such as the Best Film Award at the 6th Crunchyroll Anime Awards, Best Animation Film Award at the 75th Mainichi Film Awards, and won the Audience Award at the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival in 2021.
12. Voices of a Distant Star (2002)
Slightly different from his more influential films, such as Your Name and Weathering With You, Makoto Shinkai offers an OVA (original video animation) short movie in 2047. This is the perfect film for romance and science fiction fans, as the story provides a bit of both. The story follows two childhood friends-become-lovers as they are separated by space (literally) and time. Mikako Nagamine and Noboru Tera’s love is tested when the UN Military enlists 15-year-old Mikako to go on a space expedition to defend the planet against aliens.
As Mikako goes deeper into space, her cell phone is the only means of contact she has to reach Nobaru. But the further away she goes, the longer it takes for her messages to get to him. As can be expected from Makoto at this point, the film is filled with beautiful animation and is the winner of the 2003 Seiun Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. This is the perfect film to help one escape from real life while still telling a somewhat relatable story.
Voices of a Distant Star is definitely one of the best anime romance movies.
11. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Based on the 1989 manga of the same name by Aoi Hiiragi, the film follows the story of Shizuku and Sieji, who work together to achieve their dreams. Shizuku, a 14-year-old girl who aspires to be a writer, meets Seiji when she discovers he has checked out all her favourite books at a local library. She later finds out that Sieji wants to become a luthier when she meets him again at an antique shop, and they end up bonding over their dreams for the future. Directed by Yoshifumi Kondo and animated by Studio Ghibli, it can be expected that this film will be critically acclaimed with a solid 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
On their way out of middle school, the film tells an innocent, sweet, optimistic coming-of-age story with a budding romance. The film is a must-see for its fantastic storytelling and animation. There is also a spin-off film based on one of the side characters in the show (Muta, the stray cat) called The Cat Returns for fans who want more from this universe.
When complete opposites Hikaru Kusakabe and Rihito Sajou cross paths coincidentally during preparation for an upcoming school festival, the two high school students form an unlikely friendship. This BL (Boy’s Love) anime film brings together Kusakabe, a boy in a rock band, and Sajou, an honour student with excellent grades, to show that opposites do, in fact, attract. This is a slice-of-life anime set during summer vacation in Japan.
Directed by Shoko Nakamura and written by Asumiko Nakamura (the author of the manga of the same name), the film was the first yaoi/BL anime film that was screened in a theatre. Furthermore, the film offers excellent storytelling and great animation with a beautiful score that fits the atmosphere perfectly.
9. The Night is Short, Walk on Girl (2017)
This romantic comedy, directed by Masaaki Yuasa and based on the novel of the same name, offers a unique take on the romance genre. With its unique animation, and follow the story of two nameless university students on a night out. The night descends into controlled chaos as the two young souls are consistently separated by one unexpected twist after the next. Throw in the fact that the male character is hellbent on confessing his feelings to the female lead, and you have the perfectly unusual love story and entertaining romantic comedy.
The film won the Best Animated Feature at the 41st Ottawa International Animation Festival and the Animation of the Year Award at the 41st Japan Academy Prize Awards. It was also nominated for Best Film at the Crunchyroll Anime Awards and Best Animated Film at the 50th Stiges Film Festival. With accolades this impressive, this film is not to be missed.
8. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
If you are a big fan of anime and the science fiction genre and have read this far, then this film is for you. It follows the story of 17-year-old Makoto Konno, a young girl who attends Kuranose High School in Tokyo. Upon finding a walnut-shaped object, she quickly discovers that she can travel through time. She uses the powers recklessly, and eventually, the consequences of her actions begin to catch up to her and impact her loved ones. She then realises that she only has a limited number of jumps, and the reality sets in that she may be unable to fix all her mistakes.
This film captures the genuine and gut-wrenching fear experienced by the main characters. Produced by Madhouse studios and directed by Mamoru Hosoda, the film was critically acclaimed and received countless awards and nominations for its excellence.
7. Weathering With You (2019)
Another hit by Makoto Shinkai, this film offers an unlikely friendship (and eventually romance) between a run-away boy and an orphan girl. For lovers of fantasy and folklore, this movie provides the perfect balance. Produced by CoMix Wave Films, the story follows Hodaka Morishima, a first-year high school student who runs away from his broken home and finds himself in Tokyo. Here he learns of the legend of the ‘sunshine girls’ as the film is set in a particularly rainy season in Japan. And coincidentally, he happens upon Hina, a beautiful young girl who can control the weather.
The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews for its beautiful animation, score and storytelling. The film won countless awards and was nominated for many more.
6. Clannad (2007)
This will be an interesting watch if you are a fan of the anime series. However, unlike the main tv series, the movie strays from the source material. This is alright, though, as the film brings the blooming relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa to the forefront.
For people unfamiliar with the series, the film was directed by Osamu Dezaki and followed the story of delinquent Tomoya Okazaki as he dealt with the hardships in his life. One day at school, Nagisa Furukawa, the designated outcast, tries to befriend him. He rejects her gesture but ends up befriending her after interacting with her more often. This leads him to discover the meaning of love and friendship as he helps Nagisa achieve her dreams and deal with hardships in her own life.
For anyone who has seen the film, you know that you cannot watch Clannad without ugly crying. So for first-time watchers, get your tissues ready. Clannad is definitely one of the best anime romance movies.
One of the more popular films animated by Studio Ghibli, Howl’s Moving Castle is set in a complete fantasy world. The story follows a young girl, Sophie, who a witch curses and turns into an old woman. She then meets a wizard named Howl, who attempts to help her while she is dragged into his fight for resistance. This one is for you if you enjoy historical fiction and magical world-building.
In this world, magic exists alongside early twentieth-century technology, which drives home the historical feel. There is also an ongoing war (hence Howl’s fight for resistance) and other kingdoms and lore to be explored. And finally, the film has heavy feminist themes that carry over well in today’s society.
4. 5 Centimetres Per Second (2007)
One of the best films to date by Makoto Shinkai, this film offers a look into the heartbreak of growing apart. This is a different take on romance as it tells the story of two people who are determined to be together but are constantly separated by their respective circumstances. The film features three shorts at different points in Takaki and Akari’s lives. First, it details them as children, teenagers, and, eventually, young adults.
This is a heartbreaking film with beautiful animation and a score to match. It won multiple awards and was critically acclaimed for its heart-wrenching take on ‘the right person at the wrong time. This film is a masterpiece and a must-watch for anime and romance fans.
3. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas (2018)
Although the name is a bit morbid, the film is one of the best romance movies. It follows the story of a high school boy who is emotionally stunted. He is at odds with his former best friend and does not hold many deep emotional connections. However, he one day discovers the diary of a popular girl in his class, Sakura Yamauchi, and finds out she does not have long to live due to pancreatic cancer. Thus begins the romance between these two unlikely individuals.
They set out on a journey of self-discovery and help each other find themselves, and form emotional connections. The film is visually stunning and won the Audience Award at the Scotland Loves Anime Festival in 2018.
2. Your Name (2016)
Yet another film by Makoto Shinkai, and the third highest-grossing anime film in the world, this is a must-see. It follows the story of teenagers Mitsuha Miyamizu and Taki Tachibana, who lives completely different lives. Taki is a city boy who resides in Tokyo, and Mitsuha lives out in the country in a small town. They wake up one day and discover that they have switched bodies. The film follows a light-hearted tone as the two fall in love. But the film takes a tragic turn when they discover that meeting up is not as easy as they initially thought.
The film was praised for its stunning animation and beautiful score. It was nominated for a multitude of awards, many of which it won. However, there is a reason this film was critically acclaimed and is so high up on this list. It is the perfect romance to bring you to tears.
Your Name is definitely one of the best anime romance movies.
1. Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light (2011)
At the top of our list of best anime romance movies is Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light.
This heartbreaking tale tells the story of Hotaru Takegawa, a six-year-old girl who gets lost in the woods while spending summer vacation at her grandfather’s house. The forest is said to be inhabited by spirits, one of whom helps her find her way to safety. The spirit’s name is Gin, and this quickly blooms into a long-lasting friendship between the unlikely pair. Hotaru returns every summer to spend time with Gin, and their friendship quickly blossoms into a romance.
The story is weighed down when it is discovered that humans cannot touch Gin, or he will disappear. The pair find their way around this, but it can be difficult caring about someone you cannot physically feel. The movie offers beautiful animation and an innocent story that ends in tragedy. It explores the concept of being held back and how important physical touch is in a relationship.