It's time for a fond farewell to summer heat and to unpack the gloves and scarves in preparation for the cold. As autumn sweeps in with gusts of dead leaves and pumpkin spice lattes, certain anime help encapsulate the ambiance of fall, whether through the feeling of things coming to an end or muted color palettes that match the trees. For a good day out of the cold, here are some anime recommendations that are perfect for autumn.
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Natsume's Book of Friends
Takashi Natsume has been shuffled from house to house ever since his parents died. After all, it tends to creep the other kids out when he's the only one who can see yokai, creatures of Japanese folklore. When he finds himself living with the Fujiwara couple in a country home, he expects them to grow afraid and eventually pass him on to the next relative as well. However, things change when Natsume finds the Book of Friends among his deceased grandmother's possessions and discovers that she could see yokai as well. She had beaten yokai in games and had them write their names in the book in order to both befriend and control them. Natsume decides he will find the yokai and return their names to them, with semi-trusty yokai Nyanko-sensei at his side.
Why it's the perfect autumn watch: Natsume's Book of Friends is a gentle show about learning to belong. The more stories Natsume hears from the yokai and the more he interacts with people who love him and his eccentricities, the more he realizes that he has a place in both the human and spirit worlds. There is an undercurrent of grief in the show as Natsume continues to process his horrible childhood and the loss of his parents, as well as the sadness from the yokai who understand that their time with him is fleeting, given their long lifespans. The natural world of the yokai is at risk from humans, and the possibility of loss is always there. However, this makes the happy memories that much more precious. For a feel-good story with a hint of melancholy and a spoonful of the spooky supernatural, Natsume's Book of Friends is a perfect choice.
Little Witch Academia
Akko has all her bags packed and is set to go to Luna Nova Magical Academy for young witches -- except for the fact she has no magic. On the way to Luna Nova, however, Akko discovers a relic left behind by a famous witch that allows her to perform magic and get herself out of difficult situations, which she tends to attract. With the Shiny Rod, Akko is able to maintain her place at Luna Nova, along with friends Lotte and Sucy and star pupil Diana. With animation like only Studio Trigger can provide, Little Witch Academia is an endearing work of young witches beginning to understand the workings of their world and how they might fit into it, as old ways begin turning to new in order to survive.
Why it's the perfect autumn watch: Little Witch Academia is a story about waxing and waning, the natural versus the technical. Akko's magical exploits uncover a world that has deep roots in nature, with many magical creatures to discover. Witchcraft itself also picks up in autumn, with the festival of Samhain being the most important day of the year for those who practice witchcraft or Wicca. Many witch traditions such as using pumpkins to protect the home and ward off spirits can also be found in modern practice. The witchy culture in Little Witch Academia, combined with the emphasis on nature and the cycle of things such as magic and seasons, gives this anime perfect autumn vibes.
The Eccentric Family
Yasaborou is a normal teenager. He has two older brothers, a baby brother, a mom, and a father who passed away the year before. They also all happen to be tanuki -- mischievous raccoon creatures with the ability to shape-shift, living hidden in Kyoto. Yasaborou's father was captured and killed last Christmas by a group of humans who eat a tanuki once every year, and much of the anime shows a struggle to move on, both for the entire tanuki community for whom the father was a leader and for the family struggling with their grief in different ways. Yasaborou deals with his grief by acting out, and his antics lead the show in a merry dance all across Kyoto.
Why it's the perfect autumn watch: Autumn is all about the end of things -- the growth of the spring and summer slowly waning for the coming of winter. The Eccentric Family is likewise about the end of things, but moreover, it's about coming to accept this and learning how to move on. Though wildly entertaining and funny in turns, the theme of accepting loss runs through the entire story. Each member of the household has their own adventures and their own way of coming to understand this new world that doesn't include their whole family, whether it's making trouble among humans or living as a frog at the bottom of a well. In the end, The Eccentric Family is about being grateful for what there was and still is -- a perfect feeling to hold onto as the cold arrives.
Katanagatari is the tale of Togame and Shichika, a strategist and a warrior who travel across Edo-period Japan in order to gather 12 Deviant Blades for the shogun. Shichika is the head of the Kyotouryuu school of combat, which specializes in using one's body as a blade instead of an actual sword. Due to this, Togame decides upon meeting Shichika that she can trust him to not be corrupted by the swords, and commands him to fall for her so he'll be willing to collect the Deviant Blades. Shichika, mellow and easygoing, agrees to fall for her, and so the journey begins, the duo pairing their intellect, martial prowess and sheer stubbornness against the most skilled warriors in Japan.
Why it's the perfect autumn watch: Katanagatari is resplendent in its visuals, with beautiful scenery, eye-catching character designs and a unique animation style that makes it a joy to watch. The show originally aired only once a month for 12 months, but it encapsulates autumn especially well due to the story. As mentioned above, autumn is about the end of things, and Katanagatari is a perfectly completed story, including an ending. There is humor and romance, but also tragedy and loss. Everything circles back around for a self-contained tale of something begun, something done and something finished, just like autumn caps off the year before the winter snows.
The list doesn't stop here, of course! For some slightly spookier titles to check out with Halloween coming, Mononoke is a stylish anime with a definite creepy feel and Mushishi likewise has a spooky supernatural vibe with an emphasis on the natural world -- a perfect choice for those who enjoyed Natsume's Book of Friends. For viewers who are fans of more straight-up horror, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is a zombie anime with a great twist and Another is a classic who's-next slasher. All these choices are sure to get heartbeats racing.
Any of the shows above are great choices for an autumn day or evening, so grab a hot drink, get cozy, and keep warm as the weather starts to turn.