10. The Half of it [movie: on Netflix]
This is at number ten mostly because it’s not technically a romance, but I thought it was worth fitting on this list somewhere considering it’s themes of longing, friendships, and familial bonds. It’s a slower paced film but it works in the story’s favor for the most part. You do end up wanting to see more by the end, more so because it doesn’t feel like much happens in the film other than the characters were engaging. One of the stronger points might just be the clear love and passion put into this project by Alice Wu. This was crafted with careful hands and I have a lot of respect for it. The engagement factor was it’s fault.
9. Happiest Season [movie: on Hulu]
Happiest Season is a Christmas romance movie that had a significant amount of talk around it for most of 2020 and of course it did, it’s a lesbian holiday film. It’s largely a comedic film, though the plot is the journey of someone coming out to their conservative family. It serves its purpose well. It’s entertaining, funny, and features Kristen Stewart.
8. Ao no Flag/ Blue Flag [manga]
You could also probably argue that Ao no Flag isn’t a romance but I’d have to disagree in this case with it’s major themes questioning the boundaries between platonic and romantic feelings. It also makes attempts at examining and looking into sexuality, although sloppily. At times even negative, but the intent never felt insincere . The art style is absolutely beautiful. The main three are wonderful. It would have benefited from a more thought out plot but it’s good for what it is.
7. My Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom [anime]
A sweet and hilarious fantasy romance with a unique premise. The anime has a cast of very endearing (although also incredibly dense) characters. It’s not at all what I’d expect from an otome-turned-isekai harem. It’s outrageous and has a vast love web to complicate matters, but all the characters are well meaning enough that it’s all quite fun to watch. This anime, if anything, is an interesting phenomenon and actually pretty clever. I’d strongly recommend it.
6. Love is War S2 [anime]
It has continued to be hilarious. More side characters are involved and the old ones have only been more active in the plots of this season. Production continues to be phenomenal. There’s not too much to say on this one. It doesn’t stray from the first season, so if you like that you’ll like this.
5. Feel Good [tv series: on Netflix]
The chemistry between the main two characters is amazing and what keeps the show so engaging. I watched the whole thing in one night. While entertaining, there are plenty of frustrating scenes as well and events and pieces of dialogue that I wish were written differently. The series is short, at only 6 episodes but manages to bring an emotional experience. Drug addiction is a heavy theme in the series along with loneliness, poor friendships, dependency, and codependency. I’d say it’s a drama with lots of wit. It’s a solid Netflix original if you have the time to watch it.
4. Adachi to Shimamura [anime]
With it’s slow pacing and confusing message via the alien character (if you know then you know), Adachi and Shimamura’s enjoyment relies on the characters, and the main two certainly carried the series. While the chemistry between them was questionable, their dynamic and their inner monologues reflecting on the relationship resonated with my own high school experiences to such a personal degree that these characters have become all time favorites of mine. I have to say that the mangaka did a really good job at capturing the experience of when queerness and friendship intertwine. Of course if you can’t relate to the characters this will be hard to watch, but give it try.
3. Fruits Basket S2 [anime]
Massively improved in soundtrack and execution compared to the first season of the reboot. Season two remains loyal to the manga’s story (which was expected) so naturally there’s more drama and deeper development given to a majority of the characters. It was by all means a good second season and I look forward to the finale.
2. Normal People [tv series: on Hulu]
Normal People is the type of story that emphasizes the flaws in people more than the strengths, but doesn’t polarize the characters and allows them to be relatable and human. Both main characters are deeply insecure, and end up being the only person they openly talk about their insecurities with. The story is divided by different phases of the main characters’ lives (high school, college, post). This structure serves for a sort of yin and yang narrative between the main characters not only in personality, but in their position in life at a given time. The camera work is simple, but beautiful. So much of the show is just talking and yet I was always fully captivated. If you have Hulu please give it a shot.
1. A Summer’s End- Hong Kong 1986 [visual novel]
The relationship between the two girls was rushed, but never to the point of ruining my enjoyment and the leads remained endearing and likable. The dialogue was dry at times, however it was sincere and delivered well in emotional scenes. With gorgeous visuals and an enticing soundtrack, it’s clear the visual novel was a passion project taking into consideration the independent studio behind it (Oracle and Bone). Despite its flaws I think the positives make up for it enough to create an emotive experience. I couldn’t recommend it enough.