While anime may be known for its intense action, romance is alive and well in many of our favorite series and anime movies. Fans have long enjoyed watching relationships blossom as anime couples come together both slowly and sweetly and with intense passion.
If you’re looking to snuggle up on the sofa with some of the greatest romance stories in anime history, look no further. Here’s our list of the most amazing anime couples of all time, ranked.
The greatest anime couples of all time
20) Kill la Kill: Ryuko Matoi and Mako Mankanshoku
Kill la Kill, Studio Trigger’s kinetic, nudity-soaked, action-packed debut series, is decidedly not a romance. The series was extremely divisive for the anime fan community as fans argued over its themes and imagery. Blogs were deleted. Friendships were ended. It was ugly. However, one thing that nobody could deny was that Ryuko and Mako’s relationship made up the emotional core of the show. The nature of their relationship is up for debate, but considering it ended with a kiss and a date, I’m pretty confident saying that there’s a romantic element to it. The two are delightfully mismatched, but in a way that complements each other: Ryuko’s anger and ferocious spirit are both sharpened and mellowed by Mako’s goofball nature, and Mako provides both Ryuko and the audience with much-needed comic relief when things get too intense. Kill la Kill is available streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Netflix.
19) Space Patrol Luluco
Space Patrol Luluco was made to celebrate Studio Trigger’s tenth anniversary. It tells the story of Luluco, a teenage girl trying desperately to stay ordinary despite her extraordinary situation. When her father accidentally eats some alien contraband that freezes his entire body, Luluco ends up press-ganged into joining the Space Patrol. She hates it and wants to quit, until she finds out the cute new transfer student, Alpha Omega Nova, turns out to also be a part of it. The two end up partners trying to rescue their town, Ogikubo, from being sold by pirates on the black market, and Luluco crushes on him hard. Space Patrol Luluco somehow packs the energy of most Trigger anime into ten-minute episodes, making it downright hyperactive. The speedy plotting and dry humor make the series breeze by, but in the end, the series is about the heart and emotions of a teenage girl, written with humor and compassion. The villains mock and degrade her for her “frivolous” and “superficial” first love, but in the end, it’s those exact emotions that save the day. Space Patrol Luluco is available on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
18) Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Yotaro and Konatsu
The two-season Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu was one of the most criminally underwatched shows of 2016 and 2017. A period drama about traditional Japanese comedy theater and subdued energy seem potentially alienating to U.S. audiences, but excellent writing, genuine characters, and gorgeous directing make it an absolute treat. I was always drawn to the relationship between Yotaro and Konatsu, two of the major characters. Konatsu was raised in the world of Rakugo by an emotionally distant foster father after being orphaned at a young age. She longs to become a performer herself, emulating her late father, but Rakugo is a male-only field.
She meets Yotaro when he becomes an apprentice to her foster father after being released from prison. Years of emotional neglect and resentment have made Konatsu guarded and reserved, but she lowers her guard in response to Yotaro’s guilelessness. Yotaro’s desperation for other people’s approval has made him so vulnerable to being taken advantage of that it landed him in prison. She asks him for nothing, even as he offers her nothing, and that’s what makes them work. The two support one another in a harsh field, first as friends and eventually as lovers, and always as exactly what the other needs. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
17) No. 6: Shion and Nezumi
No. 6 is a messy show that kind of falls apart at the end, but I can’t help but love it—mainly for Shion and Nezumi’s relationship. Shion was once the elite of the elite, a gifted young boy destined for a bright future in the wealthiest neighborhood of the city No. 6. When an injured fugitive comes crashing through his window on a stormy night, Shion decides to help him instead of reporting him to the police. Because of this decision, Shion ends up shunted down to a blue-collar rung of society, but the boy, Nezumi, survives to return the favor later. Contrast makes Shion and Nezumi a compelling couple. Shion is sweet but naive, and years of barely eking out an existence turned Nezumi cynical. Their situation is desperate and destitute. But that makes the rare moments of joy and affection pop. No. 6 is available on Crunchyroll, Hulu, HiDive, and Yahoo View.
16) Fushigi Yugi: Tamahome and Miaka Yuki
Years before Inuyasha and Kagome screamed each other’s names, there was Fushigi Yugi’s Miaka and Tamahome. When Miaka gets drawn into the book of The Universe of the Four Gods, the emperor recruits her as the Priestess of Suzaku in exchange for the promise of having her wishes granted. She must search for the seven warriors of Suzaku in order to summon the god, and she and Tamahome, one of the warriors, falls in love. In ’90s anime fandom, the series was iconic, but the main couple had a reputation for codependency. The years have not been kind, and Fushigi Yugi has become the poster child for ’90s shojo anime melodrama and excess. That’s not totally undeserved, but a lot of the show’s better qualities have ended up forgotten. Miaka and Tamahome have a clingy and somewhat obsessive relationship, yes, and are prone to not communicating when the plot demands it. However, they also grow together and offer one another trust and understanding even through countless trials. Even when Miaka makes dumb mistakes, which is frequently, she knows Tamahome will support her unconditionally. Fushigi Yugi is available on Crunchyroll and Viewster.
15) Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun: Yuzuki Seo and Hirotaka Wakamatsu
The ensemble comedy Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun has so many great couples, it’s hard to choose just one. I could have gone with sweet protagonist Sakura and her obsessive crush, the hopelessly oblivious teenage mangaka Nozaki; or I might have chosen the school drama president Hori and his lead actor Kashima, who drives him crazy by skipping rehearsal and having a gaggle of groupies follow her around, despite her talent. But no, I had to go with the aggressively inconsiderate Yuzuki Seo and the hapless object of her affection, Hirotaka “Waka” Wakamatsu.
For one thing, they’re the only ones that do “couple” things like going to movies and buying each other gifts. They’re dating, but he doesn’t realize it—he thinks she’s just picking on him. He only has eyes (and ears) for the Glee Club Lorelai, who he’s never seen or met, but her singing is the only thing that cures insomnia caused by his anxiety from Seo picking on him. He has no idea that Seo is that exact Lorelai, and it’s her voice that soothes him to sleep every night. The two are hilariously dysfunctional, and the show’s sharp comedy writing keeps their antics from getting repetitive or malicious. It also helps that Seo really does like Waka… she just doesn’t know how to show it other than picking on him. Meanwhile, he’s so sweet that even his attempts to be rude come across as thoughtful, like trying to initiate a “duel” by slapping her with a glove, but instead buying a pair of women’s gloves and handing them to her like a present.
Streaming: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is available on Crunchyroll, Hulu, HiDive, and Yahoo View.
14) Toradora: Ryuuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka
Romances in which an emotionally supportive girl helps heal the psychological wounds of a damaged young man through nurturing and understanding are a dime a dozen, but what about one where the genders are reversed? Those are considerably less common, but Ryuuji and Taiga from Toradora are a standout example.
Ryuuji’s classmates fear him because of his “tough-guy” face inherited from his yakuza father, despite his gentle nature; Taiga is tiny and adorable, but carries a chip on her shoulder that leads to her being known as the “Palmtop Tiger.” When the two find they live next door to each other and have crushes on each other’s friends, they form an uneasy alliance but end up falling in love with one another. The two complement each other well, and Ryuuji functions as caretaker and nurturer without becoming her savior or protector.
Streaming: Toradora is available on Crunchyroll, Hulu, Viewster, and Yahoo Movies.
13) Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Kobayashi and Tohru
One of the surprise hits of 2017, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid delivered something no one was expecting: An adaptation of an ecchi manga turned into a sweet romantic comedy about two lonely women finding each other and developing an intercultural relationship. Kobayashi is a single software engineer, lonely and disconnected due to her long hours. Tohru is a dragon who fled her own world on the brink of death. A chance, drunken encounter in the mountains leads to Tohru becoming Kobayashi’s maid, even though she struggles to understand what’s wrong with using your saliva to do laundry and prefers a cleansing fire to tidying up. Tohru is unambiguous about her attraction to Kobayashi, and Kobayashi, though she never states it outright, is heavily lesbian-coded. The series addresses culture shock and cross-cultural relationships through fantasy, and the way the two slowly grow to trust and care for one another makes for a strong emotional grounding in a bawdy comedy series.
Streaming: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is available streaming subtitled on Crunchyroll and dubbed on Funimation.
12) Cardcaptor Sakura: Sakura Kinomoto and Syaoran Li
Ah, the blessed enemies/rivals to friends to lovers trope. It’s a classic for a reason, and Sakura and Syaoran’s relationship trajectory is a textbook example. When Sakura accidentally releases the Clow Cards from the Book of Clow, the guardian Keroberos assigns her the task of collecting them before they spread chaos. However, though Sakura is brimming with as-yet unrealized magical potential, she’s still an ordinary girl trying to cope with an extraordinary situation.
Along comes Li Syaoran, a direct descendant of the man who created the cards, telling her to step off while he captures them. As the two learn to work together instead of against each other, his scorn turns to respect, and that respect turns to love. Cardcaptor Sakura first aired in the U.S. as the bowdlerized Cardcaptors, which tried to set them up as equal protagonists, because conventional wisdom dictates that boys won’t watch a series starring girls. Much of the romance was cut out as well, but the romantic tension still came through, making Syaoran and Sakura a formative couple for much of its young audience.
Streaming: Cardcaptor Sakura is available streaming subtitled and dubbed in English on Crunchyroll; it’s sequel Clear Card is available subtitled on Crunchyroll and Hulu, and dubbed on Funimation.
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11) Tiger and Bunny: Kotetsu Kaburagi and Barnaby Brooks Jr.
The creators of the comic-inspired superhero show Tiger and Bunny say it’s up to fans to decide for themselves whether they think Kotetsu and Barnaby’s bond is platonic and romantic. Well, this fan has decided they’re in love, and it’s real and true and pure. When the series opens, Kotetsu, a widowed professional superhero, is struggling with aging and his declining popularity. To boost his ratings, his sponsors partner him with Barnaby, a new hero who is handsome, young, charismatic, and has the exact same powers.
At first the two squabble like children, but once they start to get along, their bond is inseparable. At the start of the story, the two are both enormously emotionally damaged, isolating themselves by clinging to loose threads in their lives. Their partnership helps both of them learn how to open up and trust someone else, saving each other as well as their city.
Streaming: Tiger and Bunny is available streaming on Hulu and Netflix.
10) Kimi ni Todoke: Sawako Kuronuma and Shota Kazehaya
Kimi ni Todoke is the story of two sweet kids who are just trying to figure it out. Sawako Kuronuma gives off a gloomy air that frightens her classmates; most of them even think her name is Sadako—from the horror movie Ringu—and say you’ll be cursed if you make eye contact. In actuality, Sawako is a sweet girl just wants to be liked. When her classmate, the well-liked Shota Kazehaya, takes an interest in her, her world starts to open up, and she begins to make friends.
Kimi ni Todoke sails on the strength of not only its leads, but also the supporting cast, creating an ensemble of pure likability. The two of them struggle through their insecurities—Kazehaya claims he’s not as good a person as others think, and Sawako can’t imagine that he’s interested romantically—and slowly grow closer to understanding each other. Things can get a little frustrating, especially in the second season, as the two fail to communicate over and over and over, but the beautiful direction and writing keep the chemistry going long enough that it all feels worth it in the end.
Streaming: Kimi ni Todoke is available on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Yahoo View.
9) Sailor Moon: Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh
Sailor Moon broke new ground in the US in the mid-90s in many ways. It proved that there was a market for shojo anime and manga aimed at a female audience; it had a girl-centric ensemble cast that fought for themselves and cared for one another; and it brought us Haruka and Michiru, a same-sex couple that rocked their audience’s world. Sure, the dub tried to sweep it under the rug by calling them “cousins”, but that just made them seem incestuous.
There was no hiding the nature of their relationship, and they became iconic to a generation of young queer women. They are Sailor Uranus and Sailor Jupiter, two members of the Sailor Scouts led by Sailor Moon. Despite being teenagers, the two give off a strong “married couple” vibe, with lots of casual touching, flirting, and affectionate teasing. Most yuri anime has two feminine girls, making Haruka a rare butch lesbian. Their bond is the most important thing to them, overriding even their duty as Sailor Scouts – they’d rather turn to the dark side than be separated in death.
Streaming: Sailor Moon is available streaming on Hulu and Yahoo View.
8) Yona of the Dawn: Yona and Son Hak
Action-adventure shoujo like Yona of the Dawn have become something of a rarity these days. Series aimed at young girls now tend more toward urban fantasy, supernatural romance, and high school dramas. I think that’s a shame, because strong heroines like Yona inspired me more than anything else as a young woman, and when they fell in love, it usually happened alongside great personal growth. Such is the case in Yona of the Dawn, and Yona and Hak’s relationship is one of the series’ many high points.
Yona was a helpless princess forced to flee the palace when her cousin and first love Su-Won murdered her father and usurped the throne, Hak her bodyguard and only ally. As they journey, searching for allies to help Yona take her kingdom back, Yona goes from spoiled and incapable to a powerful and determined leader. What makes the two interesting is Hak’s struggle with the change since he’s used to being her protector. As he learns to step back and let her take care of herself, their bond changes into something more equitable.
Streaming: Yona of the Dawn is available on Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, and Yahoo View.
7) Baccano!: Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent
Few people can hope to ever achieve a love like Isaac and Miria’s. These two dimwitted thieves are totally in sync in every way and nothing short of perfect for each other. They consistently bring a breath of fresh air to Baccano!, a hyper-violent saga of immortals and gangsters in Prohibition-era New York City. They hatch schemes like stealing the entrance to a museum (their logic is that if they steal the entrance, nobody can enter and thus the entire contents will be theirs) and “stealing” gold from the earth by digging in an abandoned mineshaft.
Miria and Isaac are unfailingly kind-hearted, always willing to lend an ear to troubled people around them and roping hardened gangsters into setting up elaborate domino shows. With every appearance, they fill the screen with joy and energy, and one is never without the other. How they met and who they were before is unclear, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is they found the perfect partner in each other.
Streaming: Baccano! is not currently available for streaming.
6) Paradise Kiss: Yukari Hayasaka and George Koizumi
Paradise Kiss is one of the most memorable female coming-of-age stories in anime, and it’s all thanks to the brief, powerful connection between two stubborn people. While most of the couples highlighted here are supportive and communicative, this pair has a deeply unhealthy love. Yukari attends a prestigious high school but has no real sense of drive or purpose. When a group of Yazawa Arts fashion students approach her and ask her to be a model for their senior fashion show, she initially refuses. But George, their charismatic leader, draws her in. The two can’t fight their tumultuous attraction, but neither is ready to have a healthy relationship.
However, Yukari’s relationship with George and the other YazaArts students is a turning point in her life. Her entry into the world of modeling gives her a sense of identity and purpose that she previously lacked. The relationship is characterized largely by frustration and failure to communicate, but when they come together, the couple’s chemistry fizzes, sparks fly, and it becomes clear why they just can’t let go of each other. By the end, it’s clear that Yukari and George may not have been sustainable, but they were each what the other needed in the moment.
Streaming: Paradise Kiss is not currently available for streaming.
5) Recovery of an MMO Junkie: Moriko Morioka and Yuta Sakurai
When Moriko Morioka quits her job in a state of total burnout, she decides to devote her new abundance of free time to playing Fruits de Mer, an online RPG. In the real world, she has a chance encounter with a handsome young man named Sakurai. Moriko and Sakurai’s love story is largely coincidence-driven, with huge leaps of chance lining up so circumstances are just right for them to get together.
Still, the two work so well together that you really can’t help but root for them. Their bond is key to Moriko recovering from burnout caused by the long hours and conformity baked into Japanese corporate culture, and their mild-mannered personalities mesh well. The two actually have common ground aside from physical attraction and chemistry—they bond easily over their shared love of computer gaming—something many fictional romances lack.
Streaming: Recovery of an MMO Junkie is available subtitled on Crunchyroll and dubbed on Funimation.
4) Revolutionary Girl Utena: Utena Tenjou and Anthy Himemiya
Twenty years after its debut, Revolutionary Girl Utena is still as timeless and relevant as ever with its story of systematic oppression and rebellion. It tells the story of Utena Tenjou, a young woman who decided to become a prince after a fateful encounter. She is drawn into a strange dueling game at her school, Ohtori Academy, and must fence the members of the student council for the possession of the Rose Bride, a fellow student named Anthy Himemiya who can grant the Power of Dios.
Nothing is as it seems in director Kunihiko Ikuhara’s masterpiece, including Utena and Anthy’s relationship. Utena is bold, straightforward, and stubborn; Anthy is enigmatic and seems to possess no will of her own. As the story twists and turns, their relationship becomes a vehicle for exploring gender roles and expectations and their effects. It’s not a happy story, but it’s an important one.
Streaming: Revolutionary Girl Utena is available streaming on TubiTV.
3) My Love Story: Takeo Gouda and Rinko Yamato
My Love Story features probably one of the healthiest romances in all of anime: The love between Takeo Gouda and Rinko Yamato. Takeo is loved by his male classmates, but girls have always preferred his traditionally handsome best friend, Sunakawa. When the tiny and adorable Yamato asks to keep in touch after he saves her from a train groper, he figures she must also be crushing on Suna. But it turns out that the one she’s really after is Takeo, and the two start dating.
Couples in anime tend to fall into one of two camps: They take a long time to get together, or they fall in love at the start but have an angsty relationship full of miscommunication. And it makes sense—it’s hard to write a healthy relationship in an interesting way. That’s what makes My Love Story such a triumph. Not only do Yamato and Takeo get together early on, but they treat each other with care and respect throughout. Some exterior character drama keeps things from dragging throughout the series, but Takeo and Yamato’s bond remains rock-solid.
Streaming: My Love Story is available streaming on Crunchyroll, Hidive, Hulu, and Yahoo View.
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2) Yuri on Ice: Yuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov
When Yuri on Ice first aired in the winter of 2017, it quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. Figure skaters adored it for its lovingly portrayed, highly accurate look at competitive figure skating, courtesy of director Sayo Yamamoto, a self-described skating otaku. For the rest of us, however, the main draw was the love story between the two main characters. Yuri Katsuki returns home after suffering a humiliating defeat on the world stage, unsure of where to take his career.
After a video of Yuri skating to Victor Nikiforov’s gold medal-winning routine gets posted online, Victor arrives unexpectedly at his family hot spring, offering to coach him. The relationship is a real rarity for anime: a loving connection between two complex and flawed but ultimately supportive adults. Yuri’s anxiety prevented him from reaching his full potential as a skater and connecting with others; Victor feels disconnected and uninspired after years at the top. The series is full of lovely touches as the two grow more emotionally and physically intimate, giving the viewer a nuanced impression of how their relationship is progressing.
Streaming: Yuri on Ice is available subtitled on Crunchyroll and dubbed on Funimation.
1) Maison Ikkoku: Kyoko Otonashi and Yusaki Godai
After 30 years since it first aired, Maison Ikkoku remains one of the best love stories ever animated. Rumiko Takahashi’s classic romance tells the story of Kyoko Otonashi, a young widow who takes over managing her father-in-law’s apartment building, and Yusaku Godai, a student struggling to get into college. The two take their time getting together, in large part because of comedic misunderstandings and their fellow residents’ shenanigans. Kyoko is stubborn and prone to jumping to conclusions, and hapless Godai makes self-sabotaging choices more often than not.
But more importantly, the series follows the processes it takes for them to be ready for a relationship. Both are young—Kyoko, 21, and Godai, 19. The series respects Kyoko’s long, messy grieving process that she needs to move on from her departed husband, while Godai develops the maturity he needs to be in any serious relationship. Maison Ikkoku is funny, frustrating, warm, and above all else, human.
Streaming: Maison Ikkoku is not currently available for streaming.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.