One of the beautiful aspects of anime is the versatility in stories that can be told. Viewers can seek out series that fit either into a broad genre of fiction, such as action shonen series and traditional shojo-style romance, or they can check out unique sub-genres with distinct elements to them. While the isekai and harem genres have been rather dominant in recent years, there is another type that's equally enjoyable: iyashikei, or "healing."
Iyashikei is a fairly small genre compared to most others, but it can be a soothing and enjoyable experience known for involving charming storylines with minimal conflict, drama or action. That's not to say that iyashikei is dull or unengaging, though; such soothing, gentle series can feel warm and inviting with their lovely characters, lush settings and positive messages. With spring in the air, let's check out five series that are reminiscent of the season and stand out in this cozy little genre.
Aria: The Masterpiece
Aria: The Masterpiece is a soft sci-fi series based on Kozue Amano's manga, and it also fits loosely into the "cute girls doing cute things" sub-genre. It follows the upbeat and charming Akari Mizunashi as she trains to become a gondola operator, or undine, on the terraformed world of Mars. Now called "Aqua," Mars is an idyllic and peaceful backwater world known for its city of Neo-Venezia. Great care was taken to recreate the Renaissance-era Venice on Earth, and Akari makes many new friends and embarks on several adventures in her rustic new home.
Neo-Venezia's four seasons are gorgeous, from the lush springtime to the calming summer afternoons and vibrant autumns. Akari isn't just a tourist, though; she moved to Aqua to practice hard and become a wonderful undine, and her friends Aika and Alice share her passion for becoming the best undines ever for their customers. This series can teach the values of discipline, faith in oneself and finding joy in one's work.
Aria: The Masterpiece is streaming on Crunchyroll.
In the world of anime, witches are often rebranded as charming young women who use their magic to cheer up everyone else. Some famous figures are Akko, the trainee witch in Little Witch Academia, or even the Ghibli movie Kiki's Delivery Service (complete with a flying broom and a lovely black cat). The same is true in Flying Witch, where the heroine, Makoto Kowata, is working on finishing her witch training while living with relatives in Aomori -- an idyllic Japanese city.
Makoto isn't the type to brew newts and rats in a swamp cottage. Instead, her witch magic is meant to help people, making them happy in small but meaningful ways, and she enjoys everyday life in Aomori while honing her craft. Her big sister Akane is much more rambunctious and outgoing and acts as a mentor of sorts. From the magic to the familial friendship, Flying Witch is an enjoyable, heartwarming watch.
Flying Witch is available at Crunchyroll and Amazon Prime Video.
The Helpful Fox Senko-San
Japanese salary workers have a lot on their plate, and the stress can really get to them. Kuroto Nakano is one such person, and the poor fellow lives alone in his apartment, barely having any time to look after himself. Cue Senko-san, a cuddly fox spirit who wants nothing more than to make her human clients cozy and well-cared for.
Kuroto could hardly believe his eyes when he met Senko-san, and at first, he doubted that this young lady could make a difference. But she can (and does!) as Kuroto quickly comes to rely on Senko-san. She puts her excellent domestic skills to use with parental-like care, from preparing a hot dinner to general help. Senko-san's bubbly yet wise personality radiates through the series, making it another relaxing viewing experience.
The Helpful Fox Senko-san can be found on Crunchyroll, Funimation and Amazon Prime Video.
Springtime is a wonderful opportunity to explore the great outdoors and reconnect with the natural world. Japan is home to the concept of "forest bathing," where a person feels physically and mentally refreshed and restored from being immersed in Mother Nature itself. Camping is the best way to connect with nature, and Nadeshiko and her friends from Laid-Back Camp are ready to set up in any forest or lakeshore.
These girls are still learning as they go but are eager to dive deeper into this hobby and see the Japanese countryside's famous landmarks. It also helps that Rin Shima, an experienced solo camper, is ready to lend her new friends some expertise. Nadeshiko and the others love camping anywhere they can see Mt. Fuji, and they even went camping on December 31st to greet the new year's dawn, far away from the busy urban life. There are always more vistas to explore with just a good pair of hiking boots.
Laid-Back Camp can be streamed on Crunchyroll.
Girls' Last Tour
While the post-apocalyptic series Girls' Last Tour is technically set during the chill of winter, it serves as a cool reminder that the warmth of spring is right around the corner. Plus, Chito and Yuu -- the two heroines -- seek out heart-warming hope and comfort in a frozen and seemingly abandoned world, a fine analogy for seeking out the new beginnings of springtime. These girls find "spring" in the snowy remnants of an old-world and journey on with little except for each other and insatiable curiosity.
Chito and Yuu are in the middle of a ruined mega-city, an enormous structure with many vertical layers littered with the twisted wreckage from some dreadful war in years past. This looks like a miserable place to be, but Chito and Yuu have a Kettenkrad -- a small transport vehicle -- and the will to explore this vast world and find what few wonders and delights remain. Despite the unknowns that face them, Chito and Yuu find joy in the little things, from rare hot water for a bath to digital cameras left behind (and even an entire art museum). The girls' optimism balances the subtle dark undertones in this story, making for a compelling watch.
Girls' Last Tour is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.