As a journalist and fiction writer, I believe stories can change people’s lives. More than that, the stories that really touch us and the tales that we grow up with can become the foundations for our dreams and ambitions as adults. Simply put: stories help shape who we are and who we become. Whether in the form of novels, movies, manga, anime or other forms of art, they grab people in different ways.
One, in particular, that took the anime world by storm was Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name). Released in 2016, Makoto Shinkai’s film exploded with critical acclaim and sold out box offices across Japan, eventually surpassing Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away as the highest grossing anime film of all time.
Now, over two years since its release, fans worldwide are going into anime withdrawal, itching for their next Makoto Shinkai fix. While Shinkai teased in a vague tweet that his next film is set to release sometime in 2019, not much more is known about it than that. So if you’re an anime freak like me that needs something else to watch in the meantime, here are five truly moving romances to fill your Kimi No Na Wa void that can grab your heart as they have mine.
1. Koe No Katachi (A Silent Voice)
In most romance anime there is a common trope of the silent, sometimes geeky, but always reserved and always alone male hero. That loner archetype is then changed by the often upbeat or eccentric female love interest who storms into his world and changes his life. Your Name was unique in the subversion of that stereotype; instead of a timid and quiet male hero we were given the heroine named Mitsuha, a girl forced into reservation by her role as the mayor’s daughter and the maiden of the family shrine. If you enjoyed the reversal of that theme, then you will definitely enjoy Koe No Katachi (A Silent Voice aka The Shape of Voice).
Written by Reiko Yoshida (The Cat Returns, D. Gray-Man and Bakuman), A Silent Voice is a film about a school bully who falls in love with his victim. A boy named Shoya bullies a deaf girl named Shoko — forcing her to switch schools — and ends up losing all his friends in the process. In high school, Shoya’s exile has turned him into a faceless and voiceless outcast. He is ultimately driven to attempt suicide. Luckily, as he is about to step off the bridge, he hears firecrackers and is reminded of fireworks from his elementary school days and steps back from the ledge at the last second.
After coincidentally finding a notebook he’d stolen from Shoko in elementary school, he decides to return it to her. Ironically, the girl he once bullied becomes his closest friend and the light that roots him back into the world. Set in a rural Japan inspired by Gifu Prefecture, there are many beautiful locations in Ogaki, Gifu that have become popular anime tourist locations due to the film. If you’re in Gifu, you’ll also want to check out the world heritage site of Shirakawa-Go.
- Good for: Those who enjoy artistic anime or anime with a deep message.
- Available on: A Silent Voice is available for purchase on Amazon or via YouTube and Netflix.
2. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
Growing up, I was taught that to be a man was to be tough, to keep your emotions inside, to never cry. Yet fortunately (or unfortunately), I’m a sucker for bittersweet endings.
When any work of fiction has the power to make you cry, it’s truly a remarkable feat and a testament to the strength of the storytelling. While I definitely shed a few tears during the twilight scene of Your Name (pictured below), I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much as I did during the last scene of Anohana. Due to its popularity, the series was adapted into both an animated and live action film. However, unless you want a simply condensed Reader’s Digest version of the story — watching the full anime series is the way to go.
Anohana follows a group of classmates who suffer the tragic death of their childhood friend, a girl named Menma. Now in high school, the gang has grown further and further apart. Out of the blue, the former leader of the group, Jinta, begins seeing the ghost of their long-lost friend. Menma refuses to leave him alone until her wish is granted, but unfortunately, she herself can’t remember what that wish is. Jinta enlists the help of his former friends to put the ghost of Menma to rest, but they soon learn that letting go isn’t as easy as it seems. While Your Name dealt with rectifying or even changing the past, Anohana touches on the idea of moving on and forgiving yourself.
Directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai (The Anthem of the Heart) and written by Mari Okada (A Lull in the Sea), Anohana is a short, 11-episode series set in the lush, nature-filled area of Chichibu, Saitama.
- Good for: People who enjoy coming-of-age stories, those who prefer shorter anime series, lovers of sad or bittersweet endings, and people who long to have their heartstrings tugged.
- Available on: Anohana is available for purchase on Amazon.
… fans worldwide are going into anime withdrawal, itching for their next Makoto Shinkai fix.
3. Shigatsu Wa Kimi No Uso (Your Lie in April)
I — and many millions of fans around the world — adored Your Name for it’s beautiful soundtrack, the theme songs of which were created by the popular J-rock band, Radwimps. While many fans regard Your Name as having one of the best anime soundtracks of all time, Your Lie in April isn’t far behind.
Filled to the brim with songs from the classical music canon, Your Lie in April is a short, 22-episode series about loss, love, friendship and music. Featuring songs from the greats: Beethoven, Bach, Debussy and more, it reveals the power of music to lift people up from dark places, to bring forth memories of happiness and pain, and to bring people together.
With many major scenes set in the easily accessible Nerima Ward of Tokyo, Your Lie in April is about Kousei, a 14-year-old genius pianist whose troubled past leaves him too scarred to touch a piano again. Enter Kaori, a talented, energetic violinist who forces Kousei out of his hiatus and slowly helps him to heal his buried wounds. However, she has her own skeletons in the closet that may threaten the big duet performance she and Kousei have practiced so hard for. The anime has since been adapted into a live action film.
- Good for: Those who prefer shorter anime series, people looking for a heartwarming story and anime fans who also love classical music.
- Available on: Your Lie in April is available for purchase on the official Your Lie in April website or via Amazon Prime and Netflix.
4. 5 Centimeters Per Second
Following the release of Your Name, director Makoto Shinkai shot to international stardom. However, not many know that well before the creation of Your Name, Shinkai was already being hailed as “the next Hayao Miyazaki” due to the positive reception of his previous film, 5 Centimeters Per Second. While Your Name is about the perils of two comet-crossed lovers, 5 Centimeters Per Second features a more down-to-earth story.
Two sweethearts, Akari and Takaki, find themselves drifting farther and farther away from each other, separated by distance and the everyday circumstances of life. If you’ve heard the saying “technology ruins romance,” have no fear as the first half of the film takes place in a time when people still wrote their names in the front of library books and hand-written letters were the only form of mail available.
- Good for: Makoto Shinkai die-hard fans and older audiences or people looking for a more adult escape.
- Available on: 5 Centimeters Per Second is available on Amazon or via Youtube and Netflix.
5. Tamako Love Story
Your Name features a love story between two people separated by distance and time.
Tamako Love Story, on the other hand, is about the love between two neighbors who see each other everyday. A Japanese take on “the girl next door” genre, the anime follows Tamako and Mochizou, high school seniors and the children of rival mochi (rice cake) shop owners whose businesses and homes are across the street from one another in the Usagiyama (Bunny Hill) shopping arcade. The two have grown up together and have been close to each other through the ups and downs of their lives — including the death of Tamako’s mother.
With Mochizou’s sights set on a faraway university in Tokyo, he decides to confess his feelings to Tamako. Shocked by his confession, Tamako runs away, creating a rift between them. With their high school days quickly coming to a close, will Tamako let her childhood friend go without a word or will she find the courage to tell him how she really feels? Tamako Love Story is a sequel to the series Tamako Market. With a cute and light love story, Tamako Love Story offers a break from some of the heavier anime on this list.
Directed and written by the same team that brought us A Silent Voice, Tamako Love Story is perfectly paced, well acted and beautifully animated. If you enjoy Tamako Love Story, you can visit the real life Masugata Shopping Street in Kyoto that inspired the Usagiyama Shopping Arcade in the film.
- Good for: Those who like high-school love stories and people looking for a lighter anime.
- Available on: Tamako Love Story is available on Amazon Japan or via Amazon Prime.
Today, anime is one of the most powerful and most popular forms of storytelling out there. It has the ability to make us laugh and to make us cry — sometimes both at the same time. It has the power to help us remember or to encourage us to dream and hope.
While you patiently (or bedgrudingly) await the release of Makoto Shinkai’s next film, I hope one of these anime can fill at least some of the void that Your Name has left behind.
Have some ‘Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name)’ alternatives of your own? Let us and our readers know what they are in the comments below!