Why A Condition Called Love is a romance anime you will adore – a unique take on love

While at first glance, the new romance anime A Condition Called Love (aka Hananoi-kun to Koi no Yamai) may seem quite similar to others, after watching the first episode you will realize immediately it is not.

That is because A Condition Called Love‘s standout nature lies not in its unusual story, decent writing, and beautiful art style, although they are all worth a look, but mainly in its two protagonists — Hananoi and Hotaru.

Two high school students who, awkward and strange as they both are, are quite different than the characters in romance stories we are normally served.

But different in a way that, as each new scene unfolds, you start to see there may be something below the surface of both of them that you would like to learn more about.

After all, it is rare to have a female protagonist who has absolutely no interest in romantic love, as she honestly feels it will never happen to her, alongside a boy who is so obsessively in love with her, he pursues her relentlessly.

But, at the same time, is so respectful and obviously treasures her so much, she never has a need to feel afraid.

The Premise: A Unique Take on Love

At its core, A Condition Called Love is a story about Hotaru Hinase, a first-year high school student who, despite her lack of understanding of romance, still understands and feels non-romantic love as her family and friends are the most important things in her life.

But that narrative barely gets started before it takes an unexpected turn in the first seconds of the anime’s first episode when Hotaru encounters Hananoi, a handsome honors student, in a cafe — going through a relationship break-up, and being screamed at by the girl who just dumped him.

RELATED: What I liked about A Condition Called Love, Episode 1 and what I didn’t

Later that same day, Hotaru comes across Hananoi again. This time sitting in a park while the snow falls on him, seemingly in a daze.

Hotaru approaches him, moves her umbrella over his head and says quietly “You’ll catch a cold like this”.

From that simple act of kindness, Hotaru’s life irreversibly changes, as she goes from a girl who is happy to never be in love to someone who is the love object of one of the most handsome and kindest boys in school.

It is Hananoi’s confession, which comes only five minutes into Episode 1, and that includes a minute and a half for an opening theme song, that immediately allows A Condition Called Love to stand out from the pack.

As, rather than go through the usual “does he, doesn’t he?” for episode after episode, in A Condition Called Love, he does. And we know it right away.

This narrative choice is not only hugely refreshing in the romance genre, but it also allows for enormous amounts of time left for deeper exploration of the characters’ emotions as their relationship develops.

Character Development: The Heart of the Story

A Condition Called Love excels in character development.

Even in just the first four episodes released so far, Hotaru has already started her journey from a girl who is happy to never be in love to one who is already considering the other person’s (Hananoi’s) feelings.

Even if that feels incredibly alien to her.

That character development takes even bigger strides during a few cute minutes in the second episode of the anime, where Hotaru worries about what it means to be “girlfriend-like”, and then does everything she can to figure it out in a way hardly anyone else would do.

Hananoi, on the other hand, is a character that defies the typical male lead in romance anime, as his persistence and self-less acts towards Hotaru, while seeming to be “too much”, are also sweet and endearing.

His development comes later in the anime (I’ve read the manga it’s based on, and the anime is sticking very close to its plot!), but it is no less important when it does.

The A Condition Called Love Art Style

The art style of A Condition Called Love deserves special mention too, as its subdued colors add a lot to the anime’s atmosphere.

After all Hotaru is as basic of a girl as it is possible to get. So basic, even her own family tell her she is “too normal”. And a basic girl would only ever be happy with a subdued color palette and a simple art style.

Right?

The anime’s character designs are distinctive as well — especially those of Hananoi and Hotaru — with character designer Akiko Satou doing a superb job of making Hananoi look handsome, but in an edgy and slightly cool way, while Hotaru is obviously quite a plain girl but, in some moments, also becomes adorably cute.

The themes in A Condition Called Love

As themes in romance anime go, A Condition Called Love’s story is also unusual, as it is more interested in looking at the complexities of love, as well as the nature of love and what that means to different people, than it is about following the usual “romantic” tropes.

Take Hananoi’s approach to love, for instance.

I’ve seen people in forums calling him “creepy” (he’s not) or “obsessive (he’s not), because that isn’t either their own experience of love, or the experience of love they believe they should attain.

For Hotaru, however, as she doesn’t have any experience of love, Hananoi’s behavior isn’t particularly strange. And so his kind of love becomes normal to her.

It is also a love based on things that happened in Hananoi-kun’s life before he met Hotaru. Things we will learn about as the anime progresses.

A Condition Called Love also looks at self-discovery, and how that affects personal growth, in a way other romance anime often don’t.

Especially as both protagonists find themselves not only falling in love, but changing in ways neither of them expected, as both of them figure out the type of love they ultimately want.

And finally, the anime (and the superb manga it is based on) spotlights the importance of friendships and the support system that comes with them.

In some instances, even placing those friendships on the same level of importance as the romantic relationship between Hotaru and Hananoi, as they help the pair navigate the complexities of their relationship.

Because of all of the things I’ve mentioned, in just four episodes, A Condition Called Love, with its fresh perspective on love, is already resonating with a huge number of romance anime fans.

As well as sparking discussions on anime forums about Hananoi and Hotaru, their approach to love, and the “acceptability” or “unacceptability” of it.

As someone who has read the manga series, and so knows where this relationship goes, all I can say in addition is that director Tomoe Makino (Aharen-san wa Hakarenai), writer Hitomi Amemiya (Chillin’ in My 30s after Getting Fired from the Demon King’s Army), character designer Akiko Satou (Trigun Stampede) and animation studio East Fish Studio (Fragtime) have done a wonderful job adapting the anime from its romance manga original.

And that I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it in the next 8 episodes.

A Condition Called Love is streaming on Crunchyroll, where it is currently being rated an incredibly high 4.8 out of 10.

If you enjoy a more unusual romance anime, I think you will adore it.

As for the manga written and illustrated by Megumi Morino that it is based on, you can buy 13 of the 14 volumes currently out via Kodansha U.S., with Volume 14 due out at the end of the month.

I couldn’t recommend it more as well.

 

About Michelle Topham

I'm a Brit-American journalist who spent a decade covering the anime and manga industries while living in Asia. Now based in Vienna, Austria and currently obsessed with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, KONOSUBA, The Archdemon's Dilemma, Kaiju No. 8, and the Boys' Love danmei Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation.