Today, Monday, May 23, 2022, is celebrated as Kiss Day 2022 in Japan. The tradition was established in 1946 when the movie Hatachi no Seishun (はたちの青春, A Twenty Year-Old Youth) was broadcast. It was the first film featuring a kissing scene in the Japanese film industry.
This year will see Abema stream the Yosuga no Sora anime (ヨスガノソラ, Sky of Connection) on the Anime Live2 Channel to celebrate the occasion. The anime is based on the adult visual novel of the same name (developed by CUFFS) that was released for Windows in December 2008.
Good for the Japanese, but what will non-Japanese anime fans do?
Here’s an idea: revisit an anime or two based on an otome game (story-based (visual novels) romance games for girls and women). In truth, there aren’t that many and half of them aren’t nearly as good as we want them to be.
Fortunately, there are some that are worth the trouble, but keep in mind that these are, as a rule, reverse harem anime. Dating anime based on otome games generally comply with one of the following patterns: either they follow the route of the heroine’s main love interest (known among otome game players as “the true route” that becomes available only after all other character routes have been completed) or they are a mishmash of plots resulting in a confusing anime not worth anyone’s time.
The latter will be disregarded here, but if you’d like to give them a go and get a sneak peek at the otome games that inspired them, think in terms of Amnesia, Meiji Tokyo Renka, and Diabolik Lovers.
In rare cases, there are TV anime adaptations or OVAs of the otome game that cover multiple character routes. This is usually the case with widely popular games, one of which I will recommend hereby.
That being said, let’s take a look at the top 10 dating anime based on otome games.
Oh, and by the way, the Japanese word for kiss is seppun (接吻), literally meaning “touching the lips.”
10. Starry☆Sky (スタ☆スカ/スターリースカイ )
The Starry☆Sky anime (known in Japan as Sta☆Ska) is inspired by a series of the namesake otome games developed by Honeybee. Originally, there were four games (Starry☆Sky~in Spring~, Starry☆Sky~in Summer~, Starry☆Sky~in Autumn~, Starry☆Sky~in Winter~) but due to the popularity of the series, four more follow-up games have been released (Starry☆Sky ~After Spring~, Starry☆Sky ~After Summer~, Starry☆Sky ~After Autumn~ (fandisk), and Starry☆Sky ~After Winter~).
Each of the games features three love interests (a total of 12 love interests altogether), with the follow-up games dealing with the aftermath of the original endings.
An anime adaptation written by Makoto Nakamura (Clannad (2007 film)) and directed by Kiyoko Sayama (To Your Eternity Season 2) was distributed through Animate in 2008 and simulcast on Sun TV in 2011.
The Starry☆Sky anime is done in a short (11-minute) episodic format, with either each episode or two parts of the episode focusing on one love interest. There are 26 episodes in total.
The plot follows the heroine (Tsukiko Yahisa) who is the only female student at Seigetsu Academy, a school that specializes in astronomy, astrology, and related topics. At first, she is seen with her childhood friends Kanata and Suzuya but then a new transfer student (Yoh) arrives.
All love interests have personalities based on the Western zodiac constellations.
The anime is easy on the eye and not overly profound, making it a good fit for a younger audience.
9. Juuzaengi ~Engetsu Sangokuden~ (十三支演義~偃月三国伝~)
Another romance animation based on an otome game, this time a 25-minute long OVA, Juuzaengi ~Engetsu Sangokuden~ (2014) also deals with horoscope… with a twist.
The plot follows the 13th Zodiac sign: the cat people, called the Maozoku (come on, we all know the Japanese have a thing for cats!). The Maozoku are seen as a contemptuous race, derogatorily nicknamed the titular “Juuza” (referring to cats being the 13th animal left out of the 12 zodiac signs), so they live a secluded life.
The story takes place at the end of the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) when the Three Kingdoms are thrown into turmoil. A young half-human/half-Maozoku woman (Kan U) and her friends are forced out of their village, Akatsuki no Yona-style. This evolves into a full-blown Romance of the Three Kingdoms sort of conundrum, romance included, in Japanese rendition. Pity the OVA follows only a small chunk of the story without diving deeper into the characters’ relations.
The OVA was directed by Naoyuki Kuzuya (Yu-Gi-Oh! (TV 2/2000)) with a script by Aya Yoshinaga (Project ARMS (TV)).
The original game was popular enough to get a sequel (Juuzaengi ~Engetsu Sangokuden~ 2) but, sadly, the games have never been localized. They were developed by Red Entertainment and published by Idea Factory.
8. Sengoku Night Blood (戦刻ナイトブラッド)
Sengoku Night Blood was a free-to-play otome game, available from May 2017 to December 2019. It was a collaboration between Idea Factory’s Otomate, Kadokawa, and Marvelous Entertainment.
The game inspired a 12-episode TV anime adapted by Typhoon Graphics that aired from October 3 to December 26, 2017. The English sub of the series is available on Crunchyroll, which originally aired the anime.
The plot follows Yuzuki and her trials and tribulations with vampires and werewolves, some of which are (you’ve guessed it right!) her love interests. It is indeed isekai, with Yuzuki being teleported from present-day Japan to the late Sengoku period out of the blue.
Among the characters are some famous Japanese samurai, including Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Oda Nobunaga, Uesugi Kenshin, Takeda Shingen, Sanada Yukimura, Date Masamune, etc., which makes the anime a perfect fit for history buffs.
Sengoku Night Blood was directed by Katsuya Kikuchi (Kill la Kill), with a script by Hiroko Kanesugi (Love My Life).
7. La Corda d’Oro (金色のコルダ)
La Corda d’Oro is a romance-themed role-playing game that has been adapted into a manga and three anime series. The title is Italian for “The Golden String”, a fitting phrase since the franchise deals with music.
There are three anime adaptations: La Corda d’Oro: Primo Passo (October 2006 to March 2007), La Corda d’Oro: Secondo Passo (2-episode anime special, March 26, 2009) — both of which are available on Crunchyroll — and La Corda d’Oro — Blue Sky (2014).
La Corda d’Oro — Blue Sky was directed by Kōjin Ochi (Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea (movie 9)), with Reiko Yoshida (Yume no Crayon Oukoku) providing the series composition.
The story follows Seisō Academy student Kahoko Hino who gets a magical violin from a music fairy, who places Hino in the school’s annual musical competition. While practicing for the competition, the protagonist meets several (more precisely — 12) love interests.
All three anime series have enjoyed a fair share of popularity, so if you haven’t seen them yet, now is the time.
6. Harukanaru Toki no Naka de ~ Hachiyou Shou~ (遙かなる時空の中で ～八葉抄～)
Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time (Harukanaru Toki no Naka de) is a series of otome games developed by Ruby Party’s Neoromance label and published by Koei. In Japan, it is very popular, with seven sequels and five follow-up games neither of which have, sadly, been made available outside of Japan.
There are multiple drama adaptations, a manga, two OVAs, one movie, a live-action theatrical film, and a TV anime series.
Harukanaru Toki no Naka de is another isekai franchise that follows Motomiya Ayane, a high school student summoned into another world (Kyo) with two of her friends. There, Ayane discovers that she’s the child of the dragon god (Ryujin) and is carrying his power. Ayane is supposed to save Kyo from demons with the help of her eight guardians.
Now, if the plot sounds familiar, you must have seen Fushigi Yūgi (The Mysterious Play), another popular franchise that is absolutely fabulous.
The 26-episode TV anime Harukanaru Toki no Naka de ~ Hachiyou Shou~ developed by Yumeta Company was broadcast from October 5, 2004 to March 29, 2005. Bandai Visual has licensed the series in English and released nine DVDs titled Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time – A Tale of the Eight Guardians.
5. Hiiro no Kakera: The Tamayori Princess Saga (緋色の欠片)
Hiiro no Kakera (“Scarlet Fragments”) is a series of otome games by Idea Factory. The first 13-episode adaptation (Hiiro no Kakera: The Tamayori Princess Saga) aired from April 1 to June 24, 2012.
The second 13-episode season, Hiiro no Kakera: Dai Ni Shō (Hiiro no Kakera: The Tamayori Princess Saga 2) aired from October 1 to December 23, 2012.
Both seasons were adapted by studio Deen, directed by Bob Shirohata (Super Lovers), and written by Yoshiko Nakamura (Sekaiichi Hatsukoi). The anime has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks.
The plot follows Tamaki, a teenage girl who goes back to a small village she last visited when she was a child. Upon arriving, she gets attacked by a couple of curious creatures and is saved by a mysterious man. From there, Tamaki is about to discover some unlooked-for secrets of her past, including that she is to become an ancestor princess (Tamayori) and seal a legendary sword with the help of her five guardians.
Yes, it is yet another guardians-save-the-day story, but the anime is actually quite enjoyable. Both Hiiro no Kakera anime seasons are available on Crunchyroll.
4. Code: Realize — Guardian of Rebirth (～白銀の奇跡～)
Code: Realize is a series of otome games by Otomate that have, for once, been released in North America and Europe. Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ and its sequel Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~ have been localized by Aksys Games.
An anime adaptation (Code: Realize — Guardian of Rebirth) by the M.S.C. studio was broadcast from October 7 to December 23, 2017. The series was directed by Hideyo Yamamoto (The Prince of Tennis). Both Crunchyroll and Funimation (simuldub) streamed the series.
The story is set in 19th-century steampunk London and follows Cardia, an isolated girl whose body carries a poison capable of melting anything her skin touches. One day, Cardia’s solitude is interrupted by Arsène Lupin who helps her escape the mansion.
She soon meets four additional love interests: Abraham Van Helsing, Victor Frankenstein, Impey Barbicane, and Saint-Germain (all rather famous among avid readers). Together they set out to find the truth about her father and solve the mystery of her condition.
The anime adaptation follows the Lupin route (the true route), so if you’re playing the game, better finish it first to avoid spoilers!
On a side note: if you’re looking for another otome game with the same vibe that has been localized, Steam Prison is the right choice.
3. NORN9 (NORN9 ノルン＋ノネット)
The NORN9 anime is based on the otome games of the same name. Developed by Otomate, the franchise so far includes three video games (Norn9 ~Norn + Nonette~, Norn9 ~Norn + Nonette~ Act Tune, and Norn9 ~Norn + Nonette~ Last Era (fandisk)).
Norn9: Var Commons, a Playstation Vita port, was released in 2014. Localized by Aksys Games, the game is available worldwide.
The game is specific in that it features three MCs, each of which has three different love interests. Consequentially, the anime adaptation blends bits and pieces of the story and may appear somewhat confusing to people who haven’t played the game.
The main downside is that featuring only 12 episodes, the anime doesn’t offer a profound insight into all characters’ personalities. Rather, it explores only one route in some depth. Nevertheless, it is an interesting watch, with a plot we don’t get to see every day.
Basically, the protagonists find themselves on an aircraft with 12 passengers in total (3MCs and 9 love interests), each of which have their own unique special powers. They don’t know what they’re doing there or what their destination is. The mystery surrounding the ship deepens with every passing moment and they need to unravel its secrets (and the secrets of the world surrounding it).
The game offers three different points of view, depending on the character of your choice, while the anime tries to blend a little bit of everything. It makes for a thrilling watch, but don’t expect it to cover all those complex angles of the game.
The anime was directed by Takao Abo (Cowboy Bebop: The Movie) and written by Natsuko Takahashi (Urahara). It is available via Crunchyroll.
2. Uta no Prince-sama (うたの☆プリンスさまっ♪)
Uta no Prince-sama (“Princes of Song”, known in Japan as UTAPRI) is a multimedia franchise developed by Broccoli. Since 2010 when the first game was released, the franchise has grown to include six otome games, four spin-off music rhythm games, a TV anime adaptation (four seasons), two movies, several stage plays and drama CDs, and one theatrical movie yet to be aired (that has been labeled a “new theatrical film series,” so stay tuned!).
Sentai Filmworks has licensed all four TV anime seasons. Parts of the series are available via Crunchyroll.
TV anime adaptations:
- The first anime adaptation by A-1 Pictures — Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love 1000% (うたの☆プリンスさまっ♪ マジLOVE1000％) — was aired in 2011.
- The second season — titled Uta no Prince-sama Maji LOVE 2000% (うたの☆プリンスさまっ♪マジLOVE2000％) — premiered in 2013.
- The third season — titled Utano☆Princesama Revolutions (うたの☆プリンスさまっ♪マジLOVEレボリューションズ) — premiered in 2015.
- The fourth season — titled Utano☆Princesama Legend Star — premiered in 2016.
The plot follows Haruka Nanami, an aspiring composer, who enters the prestigious Saotome Academy and thereupon meets seven love interests. The entire series revolves around music, so expect a lot of catchy songs and quirky idols! All four seasons are a feast for the senses and the love interests are rather unique personalities, so give the anime series a go!
Incredibly enough, not a single Uta no Prince-sama otome game has been localized. The only glimpse into this magnificent universe is the Utano☆Princesama: Shining Live mobile app (a music rhythm game rather than an otome game, sadly).
1. Hakuōki (薄桜鬼)
Hakuōki is an otome game series by Idea Factory, and a splendid one, if I may add. Thankfully, two games have been localized: Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds and its sequel Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms, both of which have got a PC port and are available on Steam.
The games have been adapted into four anime series by Studio Deen (three of which have been licensed), two anime films and six+two OVAs.
The plot follows Chizuru Yukimura, an Edo girl who sets off for Kyoto to find her missing father. Upon arriving, she gets tangled in the mysteries of the Shinsengumi (a special police force under the direct supervision of the shogunate) and meets a fair share of love interests thereby (and not only among the Shinsengumi men).
The series is set in the Bakumatsu period of Japan (the final years of the Edo period when the Tokugawa shogunate was terminated) and provides an invaluable insight into the Shinsengumi, the last shogun’s corps before the Meiji restoration (the only other source available in English is “Shinsengumi: The Shogun’s Last Samurai Corps” by Romulus Hillsborough).
The majority of Hakuoki TV anime follow the Hijikata Toshizō route (from different angles) only touching upon other Shinsengumi men, but the movies and OVAs offer a different take.
Licensed TV anime series:
- Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom
- Hakuoki: Record of the Jade Blood
- Hakuoki: Dawn of the Shinsengumi
- Hakuoki: A Memory of Snow Flowers (2011), 6 episodes
- Hakuoki OVA (2021), 3 episodes
- Hakuoki: Wild Dance of Kyoto
- Hakuoki: Warrior Spirit of the Blue Sky (sequel to Hakuoki: Wild Dance of Kyoto)
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom is as good a starting point as any, so if you’d like to enjoy Kiss Day 2022 alongside the Shinsengumi men, I suggest you start there.
Bonus: otome games we wish were adapted into anime series
If you’d rather spend Kiss Day 2022 playing otome games than watching anime, and those already introduced don’t align with your preferences, there are two additional ones that have been localized, as follows:
The above-mentioned Steam Prison follows police officer Cyrus Tistella who gets framed for her parents’ murder and ends up being exiled. The game is refreshing in that it features a strong MC and a slew of diverse love interests and is set in a mysterious world worth exploring. It’s a sort of an adventure-survival-mode love story with a twist. Coupled with stellar graphics and soundtrack, Steam Prison is on a whole different level from your average otome games aimed at teenage girls.
BU$TAFELLOWS follows journalist Teuta who can leap into the past and take on other people’s bodies. Teuta witnesses a murder scene and sets out to change the fate of the victim. While uncovering clues, she meets several love interests — all of them with a unique background. Teuta is also a strong MC with refreshing reasoning skills, which makes the game all the more interesting.
Note, however, that the game is rated “M” in ESRB as there are violence and drug references aplenty!