It’s that time of year again: love abounds. February 14th can be a lot of fun, whether you’re going out on a romantic date, hanging with a friend, or staying in to binge some romance anime.
Valentine’s Day is a common event in anime–Japan has a very fun Valentine’s Day/White Day chocolate-giving tradition. Below are some of my recommendations for addictive romance anime that also have sci-fi/fantasy/geeky elements to them.
That being said, these options only represent the tip of the iceberg. Share some of your own favorites in the comments below!
Howl's Moving Castle
A young milliner named Sophie is cursed and transformed into an old woman, then meets the wizard Howl, who hopes to use her to escape conscription into an ongoing war. She joins him in his moving castle, which travels the countryside on a pair of chicken legs powered by a magical furnace.
This 2004 film by Hayao Miyazaki was loosely based on the Diana Wynne Jones novel of the same name. Much of the film is devoted to Sophie’s growth as a heroine, but the genuine affection between her and Howl highlights moments of tenderness throughout the story.
Romeo x Juliet
Juliet is the lone survivor of House Capulet, which ruled Neo-Verona until all its members were slaughtered by House Montague. Just days before Juliet comes of age, a boy riding a dragon-horse saves her–setting off a conflict that will soon consume the city.
Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the romance between the title characters is more realistic than it is in the iconic play. In Romeo x Juliet, the title characters know each other for much longer before falling in love than they do in the source material, and both develop much more as characters throughout the story. Shakespeare himself shows up as a recurring character, and Shakespeare nerds will have a blast finding all the references to the Bard’s works, from his most famous to the more obscure.
Izetta: The Last Witch
This alternate-history fantasy is set in an analog for Word War II-era Europe. The story focuses around the tiny alpine nation of Eylstadt and follows the relationship between Eylstadt’s leader, Ortfine, and Izetta, whose power may be all that stands between Eylstadt and the threat of invasion.
Izetta: The Last Witch has a wonderful romance between Princess Ortfine and Izetta, and Ortfine’s conflicted heart–wanting to keep Izetta safely away from battle, but fully aware Izetta is Eylstadt’s only hope–puts their love story at the heart of the series.
A duck falls in love with a prince, and her love grants her a human form and the power to become Princess Tutu, a magical heroine with the ability to restore the prince’s shattered heart.
Inspired by several ballets and fairy tales, including Swan Lake and The Ugly Duckling, this anime is almost dramatically romantic, featuring love polygons (like love triangles, but with more players—a common theme in romance anime) and lots of angst.
This Boy is a Professional Wizard
Wizarding elite Chiharu’s magical talent and hard work have earned him a position as one of the most important employees of the magic department’s counter-crisis division. But nothing can prepare him for the confession from Toyohi, another customer at the bar he frequents.
Consisting of four episodes that make up approximately the length of a short film, This Boy is a Professional Wizard is a lighthearted romance to give you a quick burst of sweetness.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie
Overwhelmed by her demanding corporate career, Moriko Morioka decides to quit her job and take up a new life immersed in the MMORPG Fruits de Mer, where she hopes to find more fulfillment. There, her (male) avatar becomes close friends with a player called Lily–just as she first encounters Yuta Sakurai, a good-looking young man who might be more connected to her world than she first assumes.
While not precisely a fantasy anime, Recovery of an MMO Junkie spends enough time in the game Fruits de Mer that it almost feel like one anyway, and Moriko is one of the most relatable romance protagonists of all time. Who hasn’t thought about quitting their job at least once?
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid
After a night out drinking, Miss Kobayashi opens her front door to find a massive dragon staring at her, which promptly turns into a young woman named Tohru who offers to become her maid.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is another lighthearted anime, though the story can get a little morose at times: underneath Tohru’s unfettered adoration is the story of two lonely people finding a home in one another.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
Ryu Yamada falls down a flight of stairs and lands on Urara Shiraishi, accidentally kissing her–only to cause them to swap bodies. Ryu and Urara learn that the school has seven witches in total, whose powers activate with a kiss.
Framed as a romantic comedy–mainly involving the core cast running around trying to kiss each other–Yamada-kun does have a more focused love story between Ryu and Urara, for those seeking more love than fluff.
Kiss Him, Not Me!
Yaoi-loving Kae Serinuma is devastated when her favorite anime character is killed off. A week later, she becomes suddenly gorgeous, and catches the eye of four boys who start to pursue her. But Kae’s not interested in dating any of them–she’d rather fantasize about their romances with each other.
Though more comedic than romantic, Kiss Him, Not Me! is super relatable: if you weren’t Kae Serinuma back in the day (or even now), you’ve definitely known someone like her in your fandom. The series also takes an interesting crack at the tired harem/reverse harem genre, in which one protagonist has multiple suitors vying for their attention. But saying much more would be a spoiler, so you’ll just have to check this series out for yourself.
One morning, a country girl named Mitsuha wakes up in the body of Taki, a boy living in Tokyo. The next day she wakes up in her own body again, and assumes the body-switching was just a dream. But she soon discovers that not only did she spend a day in Taki’s body–he spent a day in hers. And it won’t be the last time, either.
This 2016 film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai shattered box office records in Japan and worldwide. Gorgeously animated, Your Name is a love story that reaches through time.
Featured still from "Your Name" via Toho