5 Wholesome Anime That Will Leave You Smiling
It’s October, which means Fall season anime are finally kicking into gear! You may be looking for a good show to relax with or something to tide you over between weekly episodes. At the end of a long day, sometimes you just need to wind down. Maybe you had a rough day at work or things just haven’t been going your way. Thankfully, anime has got you covered. These are (in no particular order) five shows that have aired and offer a comfy, cozy, and wholesome watching experience.
- Tanaka-kun is Always Listless (JP: Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge)
Tanaka-kun is a typical high school slice-of-life setting with an atypical sense of humor. The show’s comedy strongly relies on non-sequiturs, deliberately awkward pauses, and cloudcuckoolander logic. It’s strongly reminiscent of Western comedies like Bob’s Burgers or Home Movies in that regard, but the humor is never deprecatory.
Tanaka-kun is centered around the titular character, a master of being lazy, or “listless”. While the show uses Tanaka-kun as the impetus for several jokes, he also acts as the focal point for a strong cast of supporting characters. Tanaka-kun draws several characters into the fold and the show gives ample room for their relationships to expand, intertwine, and develop. It’s a show about nothing, but the characters are so delightful you won’t care.
Tanaka-kun is wonderfully weird and best watched wrapped up in a large blanket.
- Natsume’s Book of Friends (JP: Natsume Yuujinchou)
Wholesomeness is a concept that focuses on well-being and positivity; Natsume’s Book of Friends places it in the context of the supernatural. It’s almost like a storybook in that regard, where tales of fantastical spirits and creatures teach the audience a lesson. The lesson in this show is that there is always more to someone than you may first see.
The longstanding series follows a young boy, Natsume, who spends his time freeing spirits that are bound to the enigmatic Book of Friends. The Book was originally owned and filled by Natsume’s grandmother, who had bullied several spirits into servitude. Natsume’s ongoing mission is to release these spirits of their contract and offer them the freedom they’ve been seeking.
Where the wholesomeness kicks in is the audience slowly uncovering the whole picture. Over the course of the show we learn what kind of person Natsume’s grandmother was and what kind of a relationship she had with the spirits she supposedly bullied. Only through talking and understanding do the spirits find any peace, with Natsume as the primary driving force.
Everyone’s experience in high school was different, but we generally accept it as an awkward period of time. ReLIFE presents the oft-wondered question, “What would you do if you could go through high school again?” The way the show addresses this question is interesting, because it changes the word “What” to “How”. This distinction is important because it frames the dilemma as an issue of perspective and mindset rather than decisions and mistakes.
ReLIFE is a standard high school slice-of-life, the twist being the protagonist is a 27-year old man beaten down by the world. The protagonist, Arata Kaizaki, gets the chance to go through high school as a teenager again thanks to the ReLife program. Because of his actual age, his other classmates see him as mature and he quickly makes friends. Arata soon (re)discovers that high-schoolers are plagued by insecurities, pettiness, and misunderstandings.
Over the course of the series, Arata helps his classmates and friends gain much needed perspective on their lives. Communication and consideration become important values that solve most, if not all of the dilemmas the characters experience. By helping his newfound high school friends, Arata slowly regains a positive outlook on life and humanity.
Human relationships are a two-way street, and ReLIFE shows that it’s never too late to change or help others do the same.
- Silver Spoon (JP: Gin no Saji)
From the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist comes Silver Spoon, a show centered around (you guessed it) high school life. The author, Hiromu Arakawa, grew up on a dairy farm in the agriculture-heavy island of Hokkaido, Japan. There’s a level of detail, respect, and love that suffuses the rural setting of the show. Silver Spoon is equal parts slice-of-life and crash course on agribusiness.
The show eases the audience into the surprisingly deep world of farming through the protagonist, Yuugo Hachiken. Hachiken, born and raised in the metropolis of Sapporo, fails his high school entrance exams and instead enrolls in Ezo Agricultural, a school out in the boonies. His mindset at the start of the show is that if his academic workload is light, he can focus on college prep. It doesn’t take long before Hachiken finds that he’s in over his head and out of his depth.
The best part of Silver Spoon is seeing Hachiken change his perspective and evolve as a person over time. Like Arata in ReLIFE, he’s an individual who’s been beaten down by his environment. Despite Hachiken’s initial dismissive hostility, his classmates welcome him with the same passion and fervor they approach their schoolwork. His narrow-minded mentality slowly fades away, replaced by a strong sense of initiative, determination, and respect for others.
Silver Spoon is a journey of self-discovery that shows good people struggling to be better.
- Sweetness and Lightning (JP: Amaama to Inazuma)
A lot of anime have story arcs where the characters endure some sort of tragedy, ending on a poignant note. Sweetness and Lightning extends that narrative past the ending by focusing on rebuilding life after hardships. The show follows an endearing trio of characters: a single father whose wife died six months prior, his energetically free-spirited young daughter, and a shy, self-sufficient high school girl. Sweetness and Lightning slowly introduces other characters into the narrative, but the story largely follows the trio of Kouhei, Tsumugi, and Kotori.
Like most slice-of-lifes, the premise for Sweetness and Lightning is simple. Kouhei and his daughter Tsumugi have a chance encounter with Kotori, whose mother runs a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Not wanting to feed his daughter another night of take-out, Kouhei stays so Kotori, who is more than happy to have company, can cook them a meal. The experience and meal delight Tsumugi so much that it becomes a regular occurrence for the trio to meet up and prepare home-cooked dishes.
This is what separates Sweetness and Lightning from other slice-of-life shows. The unique blending of character-driven narrative and the zen of cooking results in a delightful and heartwarming experience. Cooking in the show, just as in real life, is a communal experience that strengthens interpersonal ties. It’s an involved process for everyone, and getting to share in the fruits of your labor with friends and family is an essential part of being human.
You can stream all of these shows on Crunchyroll; posted below are links to each show’s MyAnimeList pages.
October 8, 2017 at 10:23 pm
I saw numbers 5, 3, and 1 and I agree with those, so maybe the other two are good as well.
October 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm
Natsume and Silver Spoon are both very solid choices. If you’re looking for something an overarching plot and character development, check out Silver Spoon. If you want something a little more chill and episodic, definitely watch Natsume.
August 28, 2020 at 8:58 am
Great!!! Update with more wholesome anime please. I wanna see more!!! BTW Kimi no Na wa is my best.
November 7, 2020 at 12:01 pm
What about some heartwarming anime? Can you mention some?