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The top 10 worst romantic leads in anime

Romantic leads aren't above having massive character flaws. Here are our picks for the top 10 worst romantic leads in anime.

Esdeath drags a collared Tatsumi.
Image via Hulu

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Akame ga Kill!, Future Diary, My Little Monster, Maid Sama!, Rent-A-Girlfriend, Itazura na Kiss, Masamune-kun’s Revenge, Inuyasha, Highschool of the Dead, and Kaze no Stigma.

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An unfortunate reality of life is that love or attraction isn’t always enough. Someone might be totally into you, and you could be crazy about them, but that doesn’t guarantee either of you a dysfunction-free relationship. Human relationships can be deeply complex and flawed, even when some positive elements exist, a fact we see reflected in the romantic leads of various anime, including Inuyasha, Akame ga Kill!, and Future Diary.

In all of these anime, whether love or attraction is ultimately reciprocated or not, all of these romantic leads exude some kind of toxicity that harms their love interest, making them a thorn in the side of the person they love. It’s important for us all to learn real-life lessons from our favorite anime shows and recognize the signs of a toxic partner who needs to work on themselves before seeking love. Here’s a list of the top 10 worst romantic leads in anime we’ve put together for your benefit.

10. Kazuma Yagami from Kaze no Stigma

Anime Kaze no Stigma‘s romantic leads, wind-magic user Kazuma Yagami and flame-magic wielder Ayano Kannagi, are an awkward pair to throw together. First of all, Ayano is only 16, while Kazuma is 20. While a four-year age gap wouldn’t matter if the heroine were already an adult, she isn’t one at this point, so even seeing hints of their romantic attraction is creepy.

It’s also annoying to see Kazuma take advantage of Ayano’s comparative lack of life experience, frequently pushing her buttons and downplaying her abilities for laughs, perhaps because she inherited the fire ability he was disowned by their family for not having (They’re cousins.).

To top it off, Kaze no Stigma‘s romantic lead has no problem violating his love interest’s boundaries, playing off acts of sexual harassment as mere entertainment. In the end, the wind-magic champion needs professional help, although he doesn’t seem like the type to seek it.

9. Takashi Komuro from Highschool of the Dead

While it’s not true that anime Highschool of the Dead‘s romantic lead, Takashi Komuro is irredeemable, he still has a lot of work to do on himself. For one thing, he’s fine with being aggressive or violent toward the people he cares about, like when he slaps love interest Rei Miyamoto in the face when she doesn’t immediately jump to follow him when the school is about to be attacked by zombies. Sure, it’s a tense situation, but there are other ways to get people’s attention during a crisis, and hitting them simply isn’t necessary.

Takashi also shows little emotion or hesitation when offing his zombified best friend and romantic rival, which suggests that he might be a little relieved to be eliminating his competition for Rei. He’s also a bit of a pervert, and has feelings for both Rei and another girl, which is annoying. Overall, Highschool of the Dead‘s romantic lead is somewhat of a jerk, with misogynistic undertones to his personality.

8. Kagome Higurashi from Inuyasha

Anime Inuyasha‘s main romantic leads are the manifestation of a living nightmare. While half-demon dog hero Inuysha is sulky, dense, and whiny, as well as being prone to hankering after his ex-girlfriend, he has nothing on co-protagonist and love interest Kagome Higurashi, who becomes toxicity personified when she’s upset. Indeed, the fatal flaw of Inuyasha‘s time-traveling heroine is jealousy, which she remains unequipped to handle throughout the entire anime series.

Unable to express her feelings of frustration with and disappointment in Inuyasha, she often resorts to violence when he fails to live up to her wishes, using her supernatural power over him to compel him to sit in a way that physically harms and degrades him. The combative pair also argues loudly and endlessly, never seeming to resolve anything and yet never re-thinking their strategy for hashing out problems. We can imagine their domestic quarrels will rouse their neighborhood for many years to come.

7. Masamune Makabe from Masamune-kun’s Revenge

“A match made in Hell” is a phrase that definitely applies to well-matched but nevertheless horrible end-game couple Masamune Makabe and Aki Adagaki of anime Masamune-kun’s Revenge. With his entire being consumed by the desire for revenge after Aki supposedly rejected him for his weight in childhood, “romantic lead” Masamune is dead set on getting the sweet satisfaction of vengeance on the “Cruel Princess” after swapping his softer body for chiseled muscles.

Having painstakingly conformed to socially perceived ideals of attractiveness, the protagonist of this anime spends most of it working out his abs and following a rigid diet – that is, when he’s not working toward the goal of his “Love or Die” plan, a chilling plot to reverse his childhood nightmare by making Aki fall in love with him, only to reject her once she confesses her feelings.

For the entirety of Masamune-kun’s Revenge season one, we watch in growing horror and anxiety as our romantic lead descends further and further into ice-cold depravity. While Aki herself seems like a piece of work, appearing to be cold and heartless, nobody deserves to experience the “Love or Die” plan. Ultimately, Masamune’s self-hate, narcissism, deception, cruelty, and bitterness all make him a pitiful, albeit entertaining, menace. We can only hope he learns to love himself before too much damage is done.

6. Noaki Irie from Itazura na Kiss

There’s an unhealthy imbalance of power in the relationship dynamic between romantic leads Noaki Irie and Kotoko Aihara of anime Itazura na Kiss. Kotoko has an obsessive crush on “Irie-kun,” a high achiever who she looks up to with the devotion of a shrine maiden. Although he’s smart, handsome, and athletic, Irie-kun is also arrogant, aloof, and disparaging, making no secret of his contempt for the servile, fumbling girl who worships him. However, he ends up settling for Kotoko for pragmatic and narcissistic reasons, reasoning that no one will ever be as utterly into him as she is, and enjoying the sense of power and ego her toxic adoration provides him.

Throughout Itazura na Kiss, the lopsided dynamic between the romantic leads never improves. Even after their marriage, Irie-kun doesn’t change much, remaining almost as cold, sarcastic, and standoffish as he was at the start. It’s depressing to sit through this anime, constantly wondering whether this is the episode where Irie-kun will finally warm up to Kotoko, only to realize at the very end that it was never going to happen.

5. Kazuya Kinoshita from Rent-A-Girlfriend

Bubbling with insecurity and entitlement at the same time, Kazuya Kinoshita from anime Rent-A-Girlfriend is a romantic lead who is physically painful to watch. Quickly giving up on finding a real girlfriend and stereotyping all girls as heartless after one failed relationship, Kazuya decides to pay a pretty escort to go on a date with him, only to throw a fit when he can’t deal with the reality that Chizuru Ichinose is putting on a convincing girlfriend act as part of her job. When he finds out that Chizuru is popular on the escort website, he gives her a one-star rating as an act of petty vengeance, and then goes on yet another fake date with her, only to have a public meltdown when he once again can’t handle the reality of the situation he set up.

To top it off, this clumsy and cringeworthy romantic lead gets caught in a web of lies, refuses to regulate his irrational outbursts, and reveals a perverted streak throughout Rent-A-Girlfriend. To put it plainly, Kazuya is a whining, entitled, unconfident, and self-loathing mess who is badly in need of a date with a therapist rather than a girlfriend.

4. Takumi Usui from Maid Sama!

“Personal space” isn’t a phrase that Takumi Usui from anime Maid Sama! appears to understand. Although this romantic lead is charming, talented, athletic, and popular, he’s also flirtatious to a fault, often ignoring obvious signals to back off. Throughout the story, Usui shamelessly continues to harass and tease heroine Misaki Ayuzawa, regularly violating her boundaries as though they are a joke.

His sexual harassment and borderline stalking are atrocious, and we wonder why feminist Misaki accepts him as a romantic lead at all, as he’s not unlike the other sexist boys at school she despises. Although the spiky-haired blonde has a tragic past and handsome face, we simply can’t ignore his inexcusable behavior toward the heroine. Ultimately, the “hero” of Maid Sama! is more in need of therapy than a relationship.

3. Haru Yoshida from My Little Monster

Anime My Little Monster‘s Haru Yoshida is a fitting inspiration for this show’s title, being a romantic lead who behaves more like a villain than a hero. Even as early as their first encounter, the troublesome boy violates protagonist and love interest Shizuku Mizutani’s boundaries and threatens to rape her as a “joke”. He also enjoys sexually harassing and controlling her and getting into fights at school. There are even a few instances where he physically attacks his crush, even going so far as to throw a drink at her in a fit of temper during one scene.

Haru’s domineering jealousy and possessiveness defines most of his interactions with Shizuku throughout My Little Monster. The territorialism he exhibits when another potential romantic lead arrives on the scene is alarming, and he even expresses the opinion that he’d rather tear off Shizuku’s arms and legs than let her leave him. It’s plain to see that the slightest hint of losing the subject of his obsession will push him over the edge and that he’s fine with committing violence and intimidation to prevent this happening. This boy needs help rather than a girlfriend, so it’s sad to see him presented as a fitting romantic lead for anyone.

2. Yuno Gasai from Future Diary

Many people desire a romantic lead in their lives who wouldn’t hesitate to do anything for them. However, we quickly see the darker side of this with anime Future Diary‘s Yuno Gasai, who would do whatever it takes to keep Yuki Amano in her life and under her control. While seemingly a loving, attentive, and upbeat companion for the boy, the girl is actually struggling with her mental health, using him to fill the hole in her heart left by long-term parental abuse. Such being the case, Future Diary‘s pink-haired romantic lead’s willingness to sacrifice herself for Yuki without a second thought is actually self-serving at its core. The boy’s shyness, awkwardness, and loneliness all serve as convenient tools for Yuno to gain leverage over him, and she routinely violates his boundaries to satisfy her own wishes.

Yuki’s subsequent breakdown in Future Diary is a testament to the damage that stalking and harassment can have on a person’s mental health. Yuno’s threats to murder his friends and family, her interference in his romantic life, her never-ending texts and calls, her surveillance of his daily schedule, her refusal to stop breaking into his house, and her sexual assault, drugging, and kidnapping all send Yuki over the edge into a state of Stockholm syndrome.

With no adult around to protect him and few friends to advise him, Future Diary‘s shrinking-violet protagonist is left fully exposed to his twisted romantic lead’s manipulation and coercion, which culminates in her tricking him into killing his own friends in the survival game so that she will be the only important person in his life. Their toxic relationship is a teenage tragedy that should have been averted with better parenting and psychological help.

1. General Esdeath from Akame ga Kill!

Not even the chains she is so fond of using on others would probably be strong enough to drag General Esdeath of anime Akame ga Kill! to the therapy sessions she so desperately needs. A sociopathic sadist who unapologetically stands behind the corrupt empire, Esdeath firmly embraces a survival-of-the-fittest doctrine, believing that only the most capable beings deserve to survive, and that it’s natural and fitting for the weak to suffer at the hands of the strong. However, Akame ga Kill!‘s villainous, blue-haired general isn’t too hard for romance. Feeling that something is missing from her life (It’s therapy!), she develops a spontaneous attraction to Tatsumi, not realizing that he’s a member of rival revolutionary group Night Raid.

Although her love isn’t reciprocated, Esdeath’s obsessive attraction to Tatsumi becomes one of the main focal points of the story, effectively making her Akame ga Kill!‘s romantic lead. Sadly, her love for the upstanding hero fails to change her distorted worldview, and she remains determined to sway him to her own, going so far as to kidnap, fight, or harass him whenever they cross paths. In the end, Esdeath is attracted to Tasumi’s strength and appearance rather than his kindness, having fallen for him in the first place after witnessing him win a tournament. Any more positive feelings she has for him are overpowered by her cruel beliefs, domineering sadism, and selfish possessiveness. All in all, Akame ga Kill!‘s heroic protagonist would have been better off never having met this twisted romantic lead.