The romance genre, along with its subgenres, is well-known in the West and is not one of those inherently Japanese genres (like isekai or ecchi), but Japanese works often combine it with some other genres, such as action, for example. If you like such stories, we on Fiction Horizon have decided to make a list of the 30 best action romance anime series and movies you absolutely need to see. The titles are not going to be ranked in any specific way but just listed for your pleasure.
Editor’s Note: This list was updated in January 2024 with some new anime titles.
1. Mirai Nikki
Yukiteru Amano, a loner, seeks refuge in his imagination to escape social isolation. He adopts a strategy of observing the world from an external standpoint, recording events in a diary on his mobile phone to avoid annoyances. His life takes a turn when Deus ex Machina, a god of time and space, offers him a chance to participate in a game. Yukiteru discovers that his diary starts predicting the future, initially delighting in the power until it foretells his own death. Yuno Gasai, a classmate with a similar diary, becomes involved, expressing a desire to save him, which he initially ignores.
2. Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online (SAO) is a massively multiplayer virtual reality networked role-playing game (VRMMORPG) released in 2022: thanks to NerveGear, a helmet capable of stimulating the user’s five senses through direct manipulation of the brain, the players can impersonate and control their own character in the game directly with their mind. SAO officially opens on November 6, 2022, but logged in users realize it is impossible to log out. The creator of the game, Akihiko Kayaba, reveals himself to be a psychopath and informs them that he has imprisoned them: if they wish to return to being free, the last level of the game must be reached and passed (represented by the 100th floor of the flying castle of Aincrad, in which the final boss is found).
3. Angel Beats!
The characters in this Angel Beats! are deceased teenagers, often having experienced tragic or unfulfilled lives. In the afterlife, they find themselves in a world where they must strive to live normally and achieve their dreams to move on or acknowledge the positive experiences they share. Yuri, a determined girl, harbors a vendetta against God for the hardships they faced in the real world. When Otonashi enters this afterlife, he is compelled to integrate. The central mystery revolves around Yuri’s identity and her connection to God, prompting the group’s quest for answers throughout the 13 episodes.
4. Eden Of the East
On Careless Monday, ten missiles strike Japan with no casualties. Saki Morimi, a university graduate, encounters a naked Japanese man suffering from amnesia in Washington D.C. After giving him her coat, he follows directions from an unusual cell phone, leading him to discover fake passports. Choosing the identity of Akira Takizawa, they return to Japan where another missile has struck.
5. Guilty Crown
Set in Tokyo in 2039, the story unfolds in a weakened Japan still reeling from the tragedy of “Lost Christmas” on Christmas Eve 2029. A devastating viral pandemic called Virus Apocalypse threw the country into chaos a decade ago. GHQ, an international organization, intervenes to restore order, but at the cost of Japan’s independence. Under martial law, GHQ exploits the situation, utilizing a military army to execute civilians labeled as infected on the spot.
6. Samurai Champloo
Fuu, a 15-year-old girl, loses her job in a tea house when it is destroyed during a three-way fight between Mugen, a vagabond, Jin, a wandering samurai, and the Daikan’s son’s bodyguards. Mugen and Jin are arrested after the skirmish. Fuu aids their escape in exchange for their help in finding the “samurai who smells like sunflowers.” Despite the agreed deal, Mugen and Jin maintain an ongoing and almost professional rivalry, each with a mysterious and unclear past.
The InuYasha anime follows the adventures of a half-demon, a modern Japanese teenager, a monk with a penchant for perversion, a fox demon, and a demon exterminator from the Sengoku period. Their quest involves searching for the Sacred Jewel fragments while keeping them away from criminals, particularly Naraku. InuYasha grapples with conflicting desires for the Sacred Jewel’s power and his feelings for Kagome. Despite his demonic side being the source of his strength, it is revealed that his human side is the strongest, especially when he wields the Tessaiga sword.
8. Darling in the Franxx
Darling in the Franxx takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future where remnants of human civilization have retreated from the surface. Two contrasting environments exist: technologically advanced cities called Plantations where immortal adults reside, and isolated “birdcages” where artificially-created children, known as parasites, are raised. In this society, procreation and relationships among adults are obsolete. Parasites are trained solely to pilot Franxx, powerful mechs defending humanity. The children are kept in isolation to develop the emotional responses needed for piloting, and their lives are intricately linked to the defense of the remaining human population.
9. Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World
In Re:Zero’s Subaru Natsuki is transported and attacked by bandits. Saved by Emilia, a silver-haired half-elf aspiring to become the queen, Subaru offers to help her find a stolen object. Their mission ends in death, but Subaru discovers he can respawn with the ability to rewind time. Every death grants him a fresh start, allowing him to retain memories from previous timelines. This newfound power becomes a unique aspect of Subaru’s journey in the fantasy realm of Lugunica.
10. Elfen Lied
Elfen Lied is set in Kamakura and Kanagawa, focusing on the “Diclonius,” a mutated species resembling humans but with distinctive features like horn-like protrusions and telekinetic arms called “vectors.” Lucy, a Diclonius held in an experimental facility, escapes and causes havoc, developing a childlike personality named Nyu after sustaining injuries. Found by locals Kouta and Yuka, who study at the local university, Lucy becomes entangled in brutal attempts to recapture her by a Special Assault Team and other Diclonius, leading to a complex and often violent narrative.
11. Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon
In the sequel to InuYasha, a few years after the events, Sesshōmaru’s daughters, Towa and Setsuna, are separated when a vortex transports Towa into the modern age. She is adopted by Kagome Higurashi’s family and raised by her brother, Sota. Ten years later, Towa reunites with Setsuna, who, alongside Moroha, traveled to modern times through the Tree of Ages after battling a yōkai. Setsuna, now a demon slayer working for Kohaku, has no recollection of her past or her relationship with Towa during their time apart.
12. The Ambition of Oda Nobuna
Yoshiharu Sagara, a high school student immersed in video games about feudal Japan, unexpectedly gets transported to the Sengoku era during a battle. He is saved by a man who later becomes Hideyoshi Toyotomi, sacrificing his life in the process. The events alter the course of history, and Yoshiharu strives to restore order. However, the story unfolds differently than his knowledge suggests. Nobunaga Oda is now a young girl named Nobuna Oda, and Yoshiharu must navigate this altered reality to set things right.
13. The Familial of Zero
In the world of Halkeginia, where nobles possess magical abilities, Louise Françoise Le Blanc de la Vallière stands out as an exception. Despite being a student at the Magic Academy, she consistently fails in her magical endeavors, earning her the nickname “Louise the Zero.” Determined to prove herself, Louise, in her second year, aims to summon a familiar during a ceremony that binds a magical companion to a mage for life. This event becomes a crucial opportunity for Louise to showcase her magical prowess and dispel the doubts surrounding her abilities.
14. BLOOD+ / BLOOD-C
The BLOOD+ series is set 30 years after Blood: The Last Vampire, in 2005. It explores modern intrigues involving various organizations, including the US Army’s desire to control vampires for their purposes. Saya Otonashi, living in Okinawa with her adoptive father and brothers, has no memory of her past until a year ago. Requiring occasional blood transfusions for medical reasons, Saya otherwise lives a normal high school life. However, her peaceful existence shatters when she encounters a vampire, a blood-drinking monster, revealing a hidden and dangerous aspect of her life.
15. Love of Kill
In the midst of a bounty hunter mission, Chateau Dankworth encounters Song Ryang-ha, a professional hitman, who starts stalking her and offering information in exchange for a date. Despite her initial reluctance, Chateau agrees, but remains guarded about her past. Ryang-ha consistently saves her during attacks and appears to know more about her than she realizes.
16. The Vision of Escaflowne
Hitomi, a high school athletic champion skilled in cartomancy, experiences strange visions and faints during training. In another class, one of her visions becomes reality when a column of light appears, revealing Van Fanel, the heir to the Kingdom of Fanelia, in armor. Before Hitomi can grasp the situation, a dragon emerges, stunning her and her friends Yukari and Amano. The unexpected events thrust Hitomi into a mysterious and fantastical world, setting the stage for a journey filled with magical encounters and unforeseen challenges.
17. Sailor Moon
Sailor Moon’s Usagi Tsukino, a normal fourteen-year-old with little interest in academics and sports, undergoes a life-changing event when she saves a black kitten from a group of kids. That night, the cat, named Luna, introduces herself to Usagi and gives her a pin. This pin grants Usagi the power to transform into Sailor Moon, the warrior of love and justice, adorned in a sailor suit and protected by the Moon. Luna reveals Usagi’s mission: to defend Earth’s inhabitants from the Dark Kingdom’s continuous attacks and seek out companions to uncover the identity of the mysterious Princess of the Moon.
18. Summer Time Rendering
After the death of his parents, Shinpei Ajiro grows up with the Kofune sisters, Ushio and Mio, before moving to Tokyo to live alone. Two years later, in July 2018, he returned to his hometown on Hitogashima Island, Wakayama Prefecture, for Ushio’s funeral. However, suspicions arise when he learns of strangulation marks on Ushio’s neck, suggesting intentional murder. Haunted by her “ghost” and aided by Mio, Shinpei embarks on a quest to unravel the mystery surrounding Ushio’s death and potentially save the residents from a strange and dark enigma.
19. Yona of the Dawn
Yona, the princess of the Kôka kingdom, enjoys a carefree upbringing, pampered by her father and protected by her childhood friend and bodyguard, Hak. On her sixteenth birthday, she plans to confess her feelings to her cousin and secret love, Soo-Won. However, her life takes an unexpected turn when she is forced to abandon her position and fight to reclaim the throne. As she confronts various dangers in the land of Kôka, Yona embarks on a journey for both her rightful place on the throne and her survival.
20. Dance in the Vampire Bund
Dance in the Vampire Bund is more of a vampire anime than a romance.The story centers around Mina Țepeș, a vampire princess, and her protector, Akira. After years of hiding, Mina decides to create a special district for vampires, known as the “Federation” or the Bund, off the coast of Japan, by paying off the national debt. She aims to end centuries of isolation and reveal the existence of vampires to the world, expressing her desire for peaceful coexistence between vampires and humans. However, tensions arise as some humans and extremist vampires resist Mina’s vision, conflicting with her pursuit of peace with the human world.
21. Highschool DxD
In High School DxD, High school student Issei Hyōdo, along with two friends, struggles to find companionship due to their awkward and tense approach, making them unattractive to girls at school. However, Issei’s life takes a surprising turn when a girl shows interest in him and invites him on a date. Blinded by her charm, he eagerly accepts. Shockingly, at the end of the day, the girl reveals herself to be a fallen angel and unexpectedly kills Issei.
22. Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
The city of Orario, known as the “Dungeon,” is managed by its Guild and features an immense underground labyrinth filled with various monsters. Mortals chosen by the gods, receiving blessings known as “Falna,” become adventurers with the courage to explore the Dungeon. These adventurers defeat monsters to obtain crystal fragments used for crafting magical items and treasures, as well as for currency exchange. Residents can join groups called “Familia” that engage in various activities, including Dungeon exploration, item crafting, and contributing to the city’s public services and active life.
23. Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie
High school student Yuu Izumi frequently encounters accidents and misfortune in his life. However, these issues cease to occur whenever he is with his girlfriend, Micchon Shikimori. Yuu views Shikimori, a popular and self-confident student, as more than just a significant other. He sees her compassionate and protective nature as the key to resolving his accident-prone life. As the two deepen their love, they strive to ensure that Yuu overcomes the unusual challenges that life throws his way.
24. Date A Live
Date A Live begins with a phenomenon known as a “space earthquake” causing devastation in central Eurasia, resulting in the loss of at least 150 million lives. Over the next 30 years, small space earthquakes continue to occur irregularly around the world. Itsuka Shido, an ordinary high school student with difficulties in dealing with girls, experiences a spacequake on the first day of class. A girl in armor appears before him, leading to a violent encounter. After losing consciousness, Shido wakes up on a ship and discovers that his sister, Kotori, is the captain. Kotori explains that the girl is one of the “spirits,” mysterious beings from another dimension that cause disruptions in space-time. The only way to prevent catastrophe is for these spirits to experience love.
25. Highschool of the Dead
On an ordinary morning, Komuro Takashi observes a strange incident at the school gates where a suspicious man causes trouble, leading to a teacher being bitten and turning into a zombie. Witnessing the chaos, Takashi, along with his friend Miyamoto Rei and her boyfriend Igou Hisashi, decides to team up. The high school is now infested with zombie teachers and students, prompting the trio to make their way to the roof. On their journey, they encounter more zombie threats, including a professor who has succumbed to the infection.
26. Future Diary
Yukiteru Amano, a 14-year-old loner, observes and records events on his cell phone, his only friends being Deus Ex Machina, the God of Space and Time, and Deus’s assistant Muru Muru. Deus transforms Yukiteru’s phone into a Future Diary, predicting the future up to ninety days. Yukiteru learns that he and eleven others are part of a survival game orchestrated by Deus, aiming to eliminate the other diary holders, with the winner succeeding Deus as god and preventing the Apocalypse. Yuno Gasai, a psychopathic classmate, becomes Yukiteru’s protector and obsessive stalker in the game.
27. The Devil is a Part-Timer!
The demon king Satan, aiming to conquer the world of Ente Isla, escapes to modern-day Tokyo with his loyal general Alciel after a confrontation with the hero Emilia Justina. In Tokyo, they take on human forms due to the absence of magic in the modern world, setting the stage for their comedic and unconventional adventures in an unfamiliar environment.
28. Sugar Apple Fairy Tale
Anne Halford, aspiring to become a Silver Sugar Master like her mother, purchases Challe, a foul-mouthed fairy, as her bodyguard to travel to the capital. Despite Anne’s desire to befriend Challe, the kingdom’s treatment of fairies as property creates tension, as Challe, reluctant to engage with humans, challenges the norms of their society.
Nisekoi revolves around Raku Ichijō, a high school student and heir to the yakuza Shuei-Gumi, and Chitoge Kirisaki, daughter of a rival gang boss, Bee Hive. Their paths cross when Chitoge accidentally punches Raku, leading him to lose a pendant from his childhood sweetheart. Forced to search for the pendant together, their initial dislike for each other evolves as they navigate the complexities of their intertwined families and hidden feelings.
30. Vampire Knight
Vampire Knight follows Yūki, who was rescued by a vampire during a childhood attack and now serves as the guardian at Cross Academy. Yūki is in love with Kaname, the Night Class president and her savior, but complications arise with Zero, a childhood friend determined to resist turning into a vampire after his family’s tragedy. As they navigate the complex dynamics of humans and vampires coexisting, the story unfolds with love, hatred, and the mysteries surrounding their intertwined fates.
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