I’ll be working this Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pause and appreciate the the gestures of love bound to pop everywhere around the date. I’m a sucker for shoujo anime/manga, and love me some romantic comedy films, so it stands to reason that I plan on snuggling up after work and watching some favorite ol’ lovey-dovey anime.
The following are some of what I consider to be the most suitable anime for this date, though there are plenty of other great pairs out there, like Kurisu and Okabe (Steins;Gate), and Makino and Domyoji (Hana Yori Dango). Feel free to wach these with me, or to name some of your own favorites.
Itazura na Kiss
One of the reasons that this romantic comedy stands above many others very similar to it is that it spans a pretty decent amount of time. We get to see every step of the relationship, from the first meeting, through the whole phase of butting heads, and into the mutual attraction. Most shows stop there, with the two happily dating and looking to a bright future, but InK tackles the next step up: marriage and parenting. There’s a real sense of depth in their feelings for one another, and the story is more relatable to me now that I’m in my mid-20s.
There are some serious flaws with the characters, who are, for the most part, flat. Through relationship and real life hardships, they do learn some lessons, but their overall personalities don’t change much. Kotoko is still a little girl at heart who daydreams about that happy ending, and Naoki still struggles to show any semblance of emotion in his otherwise emotionless voice and face. One of my favorite arcs in the story is the medical school arc, after they are already married. A love triangle forms, forcing Naoki to be more open and Kotoko to be more perceptive.
Kimi ni Todoke, Seasons 1 and 2
If it’s fluttery, awkward love that you want, then you should give Kimi ni Todoke a try. Of all the high school romances that I’ve seen and read about, it does the best job of portraying those agonizing feelings of inability. Does he love me? Does he not? To stay friends? Or, to dare for more? Kuronuma Sawako, however, is far from your typical shoujo lead. She scores the ‘A’ in “awkward”, and displays the most severe case of miscommunication that I’ve ever seen. If agonizing is something you like to do, then the first season is a must-watch, as almost zero progress is made in their relationship. It focuses more on character development, particularly that of Sawako.
The second season is by far my favorite of the two, as the lovebirds slowly climb over all the misunderstandings and start to really come together in a meeting of hearts and minds. The constant dodging of confrontation makes way for confessions, and misconceptions are clarified so the two begin to really see each other for who they are.
A J.C. Staff creation, I view Toradora! as one of their best works (though Honey & Clover and Nodame Cantabile still trump it). I also view lead Aisaka Taiga as the pinnacle of Kugimiya Rie’s tsundere roles. This anime came a bit out of left field for me, since I completely did not expect such a heart-touching pair to come out of a production company who thrives in pumping out tsundere-lead, high school-set, romantic comedies. Similar to the innocence of KnT, Toradora! feels genuinely sweet and naive. Yet, it acknowledges the probable illusion of first love. Unlike Sawako and Kazehaya, Taiga and Ryuuji become friends before feeling attraction to one another. Through their mutual goals of wanting to date each others’ best friends, they help one another, growing closer and slowly re-evaluating their own ideas of love. Their ideas of matchmaking too often go awry, resulting in some hilarious goof-ups.
The blend of romance, comedy, and drama are very well balanced, and my involvement in the main and side characters was considerably higher than with those of KnT and InK. You will laugh, cry, and reminisce over Toradora! and its characters, and hopefully want to go back for repeats.
CLANNAD: After Story (*SPOILER*)
I’m not actually that big a fan of the whole CLANNAD franchise, but I don’t doubt the powerful end to this continuation. After Story is exactly as the title says, the story after the supposedly happy end of the first season. Similar to InK, we get to see much further past the love confession and the seemingly “forever after” at which most love stories end. It hurts seeing just how much Tomoya’s life mirrors that of his father’s, an irony you’ll only truly appreciate if you’ve seen both seasons. Again, we witness a union and the problems that often come along with young marriages. Financially and physically in dire straits, Tomoya and Nagisa navigate the rapids of life. Unfortunately, a life is claimed just as another comes into being. It’s here where I really became sucked into the welfare of our characters. I desperately wanted Tomoya to step out of his father’s shadow and his grief and become the parental figure that he, himself, always desired. Watching Ushio, who looks so much like her mother, grow up deprived of both her parents is heart breaking.
When father and daughter are forced to conflict, you’ll be thankful for sticking it out as long as you did. I found the first season amusing, but cliche, and the second season desperate for drama; however, the Ushio arc made up for almost all my frustration with the characters and story. I like depressing endings, as they seem more realistic to me. If you like them, too, then stop watching at episode 21. If you prefer the happy, magical ending, then keep on watching for one more episode.
5 Centimeters Per Second
I’m a huge fan of Makoto Shinkai’s films, as filled as they are with similar protagonists, heavy moments of silence, and expectations of awe. I find that the still segments serve to force the protagonists and audience into self-contemplation. His works are visual treats (and he knows it) and I can’t get enough of the sky porn. But his style may not please you if you’re not one to appreciate a slow pace and simple plot. Some also complain of his use of nature in place of character development, with emotion sometimes hinging more on the landscapes than on the protagonists. And considering Shinkai films from a distance, this isn’t actually my favorite (that being The Place Promised in Our Early Days). But when it comes to love, 5 Centimeters undoubtedly has the most profound punch.
Tohno and Akari are the classic examples of love pulled apart by time and distance. Despite the strength of their feelings, new environments and acquaintances make it increasingly difficult to keep in touch. The forming and breaking of relationships–be it familial, romantic, friendly, or professional–is something we all have to get used to as we age. Even though this film was made before the advent of communication like cell phones and instant messaging, I find the message still extremely relatable. No matter how much I change, I can still look back and wonder over the possibilities.
Whether or not you have a special someone, I hope you can still harbor hope and appreciation for the possible. Happy Valentine’s Day, from Marina. <3