The 90s were a time of nostalgia, old-school romance, adventure, and an unforgettable era. For most of us, recalling those times will bring a wave of emotions, and for the non-90s kids, sorry you missed it!
In terms of 90s romance anime, it was a time of classic vintage animation, stories of romance, lost love, and heartfelt expressions.
To relive those feelings, let us look at the top 15 90s romance anime. Some are well-known, while others are overlooked gems, whether you are having a tinge of nostalgia or looking for new recommendations that express love, relationships, and crushes, here’s a list for you.
15. Ai To Yuuki No Pig Girl Tonde Buurin
Based on the manga Tonde Burin written by Taeko Ikeda, this high school 90s romance anime follows the life of Karin Kokubo, a student of St. Ringo School. One day on her way to classes, she meets an injured pig and helps him by feeding him an apple. It turns out this is no ordinary pig but a prince, called Tonrariano, one from a completely different planet.
He repays her by giving her the ability to transform into a piglet with superpowers. She then takes the name ‘Super Pig’ or Tonde Burin in Japanese. Even with powers, Karin is disappointed that she can’t turn into a heroine like the famous “cutey Chao” but Tonrariano tells her that she can do good deeds to obtain pearls, and with 108 pearls she can transform.
The catch is that the system works on karma, hence doing bad deeds with her abilities would lose pearls. The romance aspect of this 90s romance anime is a bit skewed in the fact that Karin (along with most of the students) is head over heels for the soccer team captain, Koichi Mizuno.
However, he falls for her alter ego. Koichi is impressed by ‘Super Pig’ yet completely unaware that it is Karin, the girl who reciprocates the same admiration for him. In no way can we say the romance aspect is very complicated, as it is a simple ‘boy likes girl’ setup, but it is always enjoyable to see the light and cheerful affections, crush interaction, nervousness, etc. The romance is kept very easygoing and more of a side arc with Karin using her superpowers being the main arc. Even then you can enjoy and ‘ship’ your favourite couples!
Not to forget Takuma Mushanokoji, one of Karin’s classmates who has a big crush on her. The scenes are very adorable and the animation is bright and colourful. This 90s romance anime gives a surreal vibe to romance even though it has some fiction elements to it!
14. Akazukin Chacha
On the mountains of Mochi-Mochi lives a magician girl named Chacha, the central entity of this story. She is looked after and tutored in magic by the world’s most skilled magician, Seravy.
She befriends another student named Shiine and a werewolf boy named Riiya, who becomes her romantic interest. The three are enrolled at the Urara school where they develop and hone their skills.
Chacha’s mysterious past is slowly revealed as we find out she is from royalty and her parents were locked away by the sinister character, Daimao.
With the help of a magical necklace, bracelet, and ring, she is able to transform into a super princess of sorts and uses this power to fight the forces of Daimao and finally the villain himself.
The love and affection between Riiya and Chacha is a special one, though it is temporarily put into jeopardy when Riiya loses his memories. This makes Chacha very frustrated to the point of slapping him since they have such a strong bond.
Riiya plays not only the role of romantic interest but also as a big supporter and protector of Chacha. Over time their feelings gain more depth, trust, and affection for each other. Though it is ultimately a more ‘childhood friends’ style of romance, their bond does run deep. Watching them show their affection for one another is sweet and innocent, a sight for sore eyes.
This 90s romance anime beautifully showcases the magical action and romantic aspects where neither feel overwhelming. If you enjoy magic, action, and romance, this is the one for you.
13. Martian Successor Nadesico
The year is 2196. A human colony on Mars is attacked and destroyed by the Jovian lizards, an alien force. Akito Tenkawa, the protagonist is mysteriously sent back to Earth.
Akito is just a guy who just wants to chill out, be a chef, and watch his favourite action show Gekiganger III. Once on Earth, he scrambles for answers to how he got there and more insight into the war with the lizards. Akito meets Yurika Misumaru, the captain of a battleship called Nadesico.
The Nadesico crew consists of experts in various fields, and as the saying goes, a genius with a touch of madness holds true as they all have their own quirks. The battleship and crew are on a mission to avenge the attack on the colony and fight using mecha robot suits.
Though he wants no part of it, Akito is often called to pilot one of these suits. His charms and skill as a pilot and chef are a few of the things that make most of the women on board show interest in him, especially Yurika, who is smitten. Even with all these girls chasing him, he is more of a task-minded person.
Even though she is a pretty lady with a strong personality, Akita just wants to cook and watch his show, Gekiganger, and doesn’t show much interest in her. Yurika mostly keeps a level head, but sometimes her affection for Akito impacts her decisions, putting others in an uncomfortable situation.
She also considered Megumi her rival due to her brief involvement with Akito. Initially kind of a one-sided love romance anime, they do fall for each other and after winning her father’s approval, Akito marries Yurika. The show has some good space action, a nice storyline, and cool high-tech battle suits.
12. Mizuiro Jidai
Airing from 1996 to 1997, Mizuiro Jidai is a light-hearted, emotion-exploring tale of Yuko Kawai, a youngster who tackles day-to-day life as she grows into a young adult. From managing school, friendship, and romance.
As she grows up, she begins to develop feelings for her childhood best friend and neighbour Hiroshi Naganuma. At the same time, another one of her close friends, Takako Takahata, a headstrong classmate, admits to liking Hiroshi as well.
This puts her in an awkward position as she doesn’t want to jeopardize either relationship. But it seems Yuko and Hiroshi are pretty much meant to be. Hiroshi is a good-looking soccer player and constantly gets attention from girls, including Yuko who starts to see her childhood friend differently as the pair grow up. Initially, people point out that they are more like plutonic friends or siblings as they are both reserved so as not to show their feelings but at some point do confess it to each other. They each work up a lot of courage before they have their first kiss. Takako also gets a boyfriend later on.
Follow Yuko as she navigates the complexities of love, emotions, relationships, and academics. It is a slower-paced watch for those viewers who enjoy delving more into the drama aspect of 90s romance anime.
11. Neighbourhood Stories
Neighbourhood Stories is a 90s romance anime that centers around Mikako Kouda, a 16-year-old who aims to have her own clothing line in the future. In this pursuit, she joins the renowned Yazawa Art School. Her peer at this school is her long-term friend and neighbour Tsutomu Yamaguchi.
The duo are very close sharing in the joys, ups, and downs and even arguing for reasons that are very arbitrary sometimes, which if you ask me is a sign of love and affection. Though almost everyone in their lives, at school and outside of it, seems to think they are a couple, and even point out their compatibility, Tsutomu and Mikako deny it. The bond they share runs deep and stands the test of time as Tsutomu has always been there for her, especially when they both were kids when her parents were getting a divorce, he was the only one she spoke to.
When Tsutomu gets a change of looks and gains popularity, especially with the girls, their whole relationship dynamic is thrown into question. This includes Mariko Nakasu who dated Tsutomu for a short period, but Mikako despises her as she doesn’t think they are a right fit and Mariko doesn’t genuinely love him and may be manipulating him.
They seem to ask themselves if their denial is in vain and if they actually share romantic love, or if it is better to be off by themselves as they pursue different paths in life. There is more depth of story and relationships in this 90s romance anime and is overall well-rounded. The romance does not just ‘take it and run’ but develops slowly.
10. Sakura Diaries
Sakura Diaries is a romance anime that may be more suited for mature audiences. Touma Inaba is a prospect trying his best to be admitted into Keio University, a top-level college. Since he had only a hotel to stay at, he ended up moving in with Urara Kasuga, who later turned out to be his cousin.
Though from much earlier, it seems Urara has had some feelings for Touma (strange but what can I say). During the time before the test, Touma meets the lovely Meiko Yotsuba, a very pretty redhead, who also happens to be a candidate for Keio University.
The results of the test yield unwanted consequences as Meiko gets admission to Keio but Touma is rejected. He enrolls in Cram school but maintains a facade that he is a Keio student in order to impress Meiko. Even as they hang out and get to know each other, he tries not to blow his cover though one of her friends figures it out.
Once Meiko finds out, it breaks their friendship. At the same time he cares for his roommate Urara, and with the recent distance from Meiko, he gets closer to Urara, ultimately putting him in a back-and-forth love triangle as he struggles to overcome his feelings for Meiko since it doesn’t look like they have a chance but he is really attracted to her. At the same time, Uarara longs for attention and affection from Touma who eventually gives it to her.
This anime would be more suited for audiences who enjoy a little complexity.
9. Kodomo No Omocha
Kodomo No Omocha (or Kodocha for short) is an anime that explores school love as we would see in the 90s. The main star of this anime is Sana Kurata, a happy-go-lucky child actress who stars in a show called ‘Child’s Toy’ and some commercials.
Her almost flawless life is blocked by only one obstacle, her troublemaker classmate Akito Hayama. Akito comes from a family with no mother and a father who is a workaholic, hence has some personality issues.
He not only disrupts the class but also influences other boys to act out as well, causing disturbances in the learning environment and putting teachers on edge. This sets Sana on a mission to put a stop to his antics, though throughout this journey, she finds out there’s more to him than what he shows. He seems to be acting out as a way of coping with his personal life and situations. Sana begins to sympathize with him and starts supporting him to do better and overcome these challenges.
Over time, the two of them grow closer as they get to know each other’s hearts and lives more deeply, hence start taking it easy on each other, understanding that life is not the not same for everyone. Ultimately even developing feelings for each other as they grow up.
Eventually, Akito becomes her boyfriend. This story has a surprisingly nice character development arc and is a nostalgic watch for us 90s crowd. The romance can be described as cute and even slightly humourous at the start.
8. Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers)
The Eitoku Academy is an upper-class school for the elites and rich of Japan. So it only makes sense that Tsukushi Makino is completely out of place here. The most popular group of 4 guys at the school, F4 or Flower 4 rules the school.
Naturally, Tsukushi becomes an easy bullying target but when she stands up to them, it makes Tsukasa Domyaji, one of the main F4 take an interest in her. Her boldness and courage to stand up to the ruling group makes him wonder about her as no one else would dare to do so. As she learns more about them, Tsukushi ignores Tsukasa initially as she is repulsed by his arrogance, and instead falls for his friend, the gentle Rui Hanazawa.
She finds him to be more sensitive and smart but this doesn’t stop Tsukasa from trying to impress her and get her attention. The romance aspect is more of a love triangle here, as Tsukasa chases and tries to woo Tsukushi, she grows very fond of Rui.
However, over time, she begins to notice the efforts Tsukasa has made to change to win her over and takes an interest in Tsukasa. Another one to your list if you like the complexities, drama, and romance anime with love triangles.
7. Kaitou Saint Tail
Kaitou Saint Tail is a 90s romance anime about a superhero who struggles with love. The central character Meimi Haneoka is a middle schooler who poses as the ‘phantom saint tail’, a vigilante variant of Robin Hood who steals from thieves to return the items back to the owners.
Assisting in her escapades is her good friend, Seira Mimori, who is training to be a nun. The son of a detective and Meimi’s classmate, Asuka Jr., is a headstrong boy who falls for Meimi.
However, he is completely unaware of her identity as Saint Tail and is dead set against what the vigilante does, disapproving of her methods.
This causes her to be in conflict with him, but over time, grows fond of his commitment and sincerity. She begins to anonymously invite him into her crime-fighting gigs so as to spend time with him and learn more about him and his feelings, like how he is insecure about his feelings for Meimi for fear of rejection.
Meimi is also afraid to admit her alter-identity as she has fallen for him and does not want to push him away by revealing it.
One fateful day sees Asuka Jr. kidnapped by a rival and the only way to get him back is to reveal her identity. If you prefer some conflict and push/pull between the characters then this romance anime would give you just that.
6. Wedding Peach
The main character Momoko Hanasaki along with her friends Yuri and Hinagiku are smitten with the star of the soccer team, Kazuya Yanagiba. He is a handsome and popular guy who gets a lot of attention from the ladies.
They are just regular girls and members of the newspaper club, until one day while returning home they are attacked by a devil. The trio is rescued by a man named Limone, who comes from a place called the angel world.
They find out that another world known as the devil world also exists and that the queen of this evil world is bent on destroying the angels.
Limone gives them access to the power to transform into superpowered angels in order to fight incoming threats to Earth. A nice superhero-style 90s romance anime where you can also glimpse at the day-to-day normal lives of these heroes as they manage crime-fighting as well as crushes and romance.
5. His And Her Circumstances
Yukino Miyazawa is pretty much a perfect all-around student with good grades, excelling at sports, and also pretty. What the world doesn’t see is her flaws at home, where she is stubborn, struggling to maintain her reputation, and is just a big mess.
Her spot at the top of the class is soon knocked down by Souichirou Arima, who also excels at what he does, making her resent him. Souichirou begins to develop feelings for Yukino, though goes about the wrong way of making opportunities to spend time with her, by blackmailing her after he finds out about her personality at home.
Over time the pair come to understand each other and Yukino also finds out that she isn’t the only one who maintains an external appearance at school. They learn to trust each other and slowly start to become their true selves. Yukino and Souichirou start to trust and support each other in navigating life.
His and Her circumstances skillfully portray the realities of romance and relationships as things don’t always go in a straight line.
4. Marmalade Boy
Marmalade Boy is a ‘complex relationships’ style romance anime with lots of drama and twists. The life of the protagonist, Miki Koishikawa, is thrown into disarray when her parents announce that they are getting a divorce and swapping partners with another couple they met on a recent trip to Hawaii.
When asked to meet the other couple for dinner, Miki is hesitant but goes along. There she meets their handsome son, Matsuura Yuu. She is captivated by his stunning good looks, but not his personality, though she can’t help being curious about him.
Initially, she is frustrated by Yuu and his arrogance and bullying but eventually, they grow close. Yuu and Miki fall in love but navigating their relationship is not so easy due to their parents’ situation and the fact that they were raised differently. It is further made difficult when others who have a crush on each of them get involved and try to separate the both of them. Follow the couple as they overcome these adversities. This romance anime has some depth, conflict, and complexity so better for those who prefer that.
3. Rurouni Kenshin
Based on the manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki, Rurouni Kenshin is a martial arts and romance anime that first premiered on January 10, 1996. The run ended on September 8, 1998.
It also has 1 film and 3 OVAs that add depth to the story. Rurouni Kenshin follows the story of Himura Kenshin, a deadly assassin and warrior who becomes a peaceful wanderer to make up for all the violence and pain he had caused during a revolution era.
He meets Kamiya Kaoru and befriends her after helping her defeat an imposter warrior. In hopes of turning a new leaf, Kenshin takes up Kaoru’s offer of staying at her dojo, but now and then warriors seeking glory are drawn there once they know of his past identity. He begins to care for her but does not want her to be harmed by those seeking him out. Kaoru also show affection for him as she grows to admire and respect Kenshin, but they are initially not able to verbally convey their feelings.
Over time their bond grows much stronger and the romance is not merely spoken but conveyed through their actions and develops over time. This is a more serious, mature style of romance where it is not just about the cute moments and such.
2. Sailor Moon
This is perhaps one of the most well-known, popular 90s romance anime. A bit of action, fun characters and animation, and of course, some gooey romance, are some of the ingredients used. Sailor Moon’s initial TV run was from March 1992 to February 1997.
This classic 90s romance anime consists of 3 specials along with the series. The heroine Usagi Tsukino is an underachieving middle school student whose chilled-out life is spurred into action when she meets a mystical cat named Luna.
She receives a brooch that enables her to transform into a pretty soldier ( her alter ego-Sailor Moon). Usagi, along with other soldiers, defends the Earth from Queen Beryl of the dark kingdom and all her monsters that attack Earth in search of energy.
Over time she goes from a careless teen to a responsible young adult. This group of soldiers is assisted by Mamoru Chiba (AKA Tuxedo Mask) who becomes Usagi’s love interest. The animation as well as the romance is more of that ‘cute and adorable’ style, while also keeping a decent pace with the action aspect.
It is also revealed that they were lovers in their previous life as well. which is probably why they are drawn to each other. This magic and romance anime is a must-watch for anime fans who enjoy the old art style.
1. The Vision Of Escaflowne
Directed by Kazuki Akane, The Vision of Escaflowne ( also known as tenku no escafurone) first premiered on TV in April 1996. The series is based on the Manga of the same name written by Shoji Kawamori.
The story centers around protagonist Hitomi Kanzaki, a regular high school girl with not-so-regular psychic abilities. An eventful evening sees Hitomi encounter a strange boy and dragon who appear out of nowhere, entangled in battle.
Hitomi assists the boy with her psychic abilities as he defeats the dragon, but then the pair are beamed up to another planet called Gaea. The boy is revealed to be Van Fanel, the prince of a nation called Fanelia, which comes under assault by the evil Zaibach empire. The Zaibach empire, led by Isaac Dornkirk is on a path of destruction, attacking other nations and looking for an ancient power source.
The anime gets its title from the high-tech mech suit called Escaflowne, which Van would use in the upcoming battles against Zaibach.
The romantic catch of this anime is that one of the allies that Hitomi encounters while assisting Van, a knight named Allen Schezar, looks like a doppelganger of her crush from Earth. This surges a lot of her feelings as she swoons over his looks and the way he carries himself. There are a lot of classic 90s romantic scenes to look forward to with a literal knight in shining armour.