From Nichijou – My Ordinary Life to Food Wars, here are 15 heart-warmingly cute anime to add to your watchlist.
Anyone who is acquainted with anime knows it’s a gourmet of delight. With an array of delectable genres ranging from shounen/shoujo (for young boys/girls), iyashikei (slice of life), kodomomuke (for children), cyberpunk and robotics etc., anime caters to people of all ages even though most of its protagonists are children or young adults. The realm of anime more often than not ventures into unchartered territories of imagination where the everyday is abruptly invaded upon by a ‘twist’ of fantasy and/or bulk of action. They incorporate characters that mirror ordinary human quirks, cuteness and cringe behavior while caricaturing the same in their exaggerated and far-reaching effects.
There is an element of make-believe, evident from characters gifted with fantastic powers. Yet they maintain an integrity and emotional connection that is bound to enthrall viewers. Moreover, the exquisite visuals, intricately detailed settings and kaleidoscopic colors are a treat for the eyes. Studio Ghibli directors like Hayao Miyazaki, Naoko Yamada, Hiromasa Yonebayashi have immortalized the adorable/light-hearted essence in anime, with the pristine charm of their films. The innocence and simplicity of characters, and harmony in their relationships with others, has carved a special place in all of our hearts. If you wish to explore the genre deeply, here are some of the most adorable anime to add to your watchlist:
15. Fruits Basket
An orphaned little girl, Tohru Honda, strives to fend for herself while seeking solace in the reminiscences of her mother. When she is discovered living in a tent in the woods, she is taken in by her classmate Yuki and his belligerent but generous cousins, Kyo and Shigure. Soon she discovers the jinx that transformed the brothers into animal manifestations of the Chinese Zodiac whenever they were under severe stress or were embraced by someone of the opposite gender who is not bewitched by a zodiac spirit.
Beneath the cloud of mystery is a story of trauma and heartbreak; Tohru tries her best to break the curse and set them free. However, each new day is a test, yet she never gives up on her companions. Fruit Basket is about appreciation and acceptance, about fulfilling promises and the true meaning of friendship in the midst of adversity.
Haikyu delves into a youth’s realization of dreams and his unwavering determination to reach it. Volleyball becomes Shōyō Hinata’s world after he sees the champs of Karasuno High play in Nationals on television. An inspired, driven lad, Hinata tries to form a team of his own with other students in his school. Despite facing defeat and rivalry, Hinata doesn’t back down and eventually comes to develop a deep fraternal bond with his adversary, Kageyama. Haikyu shines light on the importance of training and teamwork, promise and perseverance, and healthy competition; on recognizing our strengths and weaknesses, impetus to reach our full potential and empathy with the familiar other (competitor). It underlines the power and influence sports wield on youngsters’ lives, helping them grow into better human beings.
13. Silver Spoon
Silver Spoon can be classified as a coming-of-age story of Yugo Hachiken who embarks into new challenges while trying to adapt to a new environment in the countryside. Hachiken is a brooding, introverted middle-schooler who enrolls at Oezo Agricultural High School and is confronted with demanding chores in the farmhouses, poultry and yards with his friends. It offers a breath of fresh air amidst the greenery and simplistic lifestyle, and the pastoral charms of horse-riding and caring for livestock.
It is a world of carefree laughter but also steady assiduity, where every student has a dream, a goal towards which they work with confidence and conviction. In this atmospheric enclave, Hachiken comes to learn not only about agronomy and farming, but also empathy and generosity as he makes new friends and comes to find a home where he had felt initially out-of-place.
K-On! is short for ‘karui ongaku’ or light music that pervades the school quarters of Sakuragaoka. This endearing anime explores the friendship of a band of girls who join the music club as a part of their high school journey. Yui, Mio, Tsumugi and Ritsu are determined to save the club from being disbanded. And in the long run, music manifested itself as a defining moment of their lives. Yui, who was an absolute novice in the musical arena, comes to discover her newfound passion for playing the guitar. Her motivation is matched by the versatility of her friends, who also aim to perform better with practice.
Just like the different instruments — drum, bass, keyboard and guitar — coordinate to produce the perfect symphony, their players, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Yui, work as a team to foster harmony and felicitate their mutual budding experiences. K-On! is full of invigorating positivity as the girls uplift each other’s spirits and never lose heart in their endeavor.
11. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
Hilarious, peculiar and delightful, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is the story of a tomboyish young adult, Kobayashi, who is visited by Tooru, a shape-shifting dragon maiden and is entreated to employ her for doing house chores. Kobayashi had met Tooru in one of her drunken expeditions in the mountains and removed a magical sword from her back, thereby winning her lifelong gratitude. Tooru’s arrival spices up Kobayashi’s otherwise mundane life, by infiltrating dull tasks with efficient perkiness and lively conversations about both their pasts and themselves. Tooru also heralds the presence of her storybook companions, including the little Kanna, who is taken in by Kobayashi as a new member of their household. The anime comes to represent how friends can become family, even when they are so distinct from each other. It also peeks into the inner lives of humans and dragons, exploring harmony and empathy in their inter-relationships.
10. A Place Further Than the Universe
Mari Tamaki’s mundane life livens up when she forms an unexpected connection with Shirase, who is resolved to seek out her missing mother in Antarctica, where she had ventured three years ago. On their way to establish necessary connections with Antarctic expedition members, they meet Shiraishi, a child star and Hinata, a bubbly girl who worked part-time at a store. Together they train and take off towards the south where their destination awaits. Even though the possibility of ordinary high school girls going to Antarctica is highly implausible, the plot allows enough room for showcasing the events leading up to their exploration in the little-known landform.
Even though their carefully worked-out plans are often put to test, their integrity and unanimity sees them through. The episodes are carefully structured to appeal to its viewers, ranging from their strenuous training sessions and detailed scheduling with the help of more experienced adults. A Place Further Than The Universe presents the unique, fulfilling experience of pleasures and travails, of unforeseen encounters and feelings.
9. Laid-Back Camp
Unlike girls her own age who love vacationing with their friends or family, Rin’s ideal escapade is a solo trip to the valleys and lakeside in close proximity to Mt. Fuji. Reserved and taciturn, she prefers to spend her time alone, reflect and undergo the travails of the journey by herself. She is also resourceful, as evinced in her skills of setting up the tent, gathering firewood and providing for herself in the far-off place. Her solitary camping venture gets interrupted by the nervous and lost Nadeshiko.
Like all other anime about friendship, Laid Back Camp celebrates budding friendships among strangers, while treating life as a do-it-yourself project. It underscores the importance of teamwork as well as self-dependence. Above all, it is a relatable anime for adventure-seekers, looking to broaden their horizons and step out of their comfort zones.
8. Mob Psycho 100
A prodigious eight-grader “Mob” Kageyama who has tapped into his psychic powers tries to sharpen and reinforce them for the greater good. He solicits the guidance of Arataka Reigen, who is only a counterfeit psychic, taking advantage of Mob’s powers to maintain his position as a self-proclaimed exorcist. However, power entails danger; and Mob is always on the verge of being overpowered by his own inborn abilities so he must take it upon himself to shield them from the world and keep it in check.
Notwithstanding his knack, his deftness in blending with the crowd earns him the epithet “Mob”. Mob Psycho 100 is a hypnotic, perilous ride of combatting evil forces whilst also upholding an emotional stronghold on oneself. It constantly shifts between the tranquil normalcy of school life and the formidable chasms of the underworld.
7. Nichijou – My Ordinary Life
As the title connotes (‘Nichijou’ means ‘everyday’), this anime unfolds the ordinary daily lives of a bunch of disparate characters, where a lot of unordinary things happen. Set in a suburban enclave, it focuses on the high-spirited Yuuko Aioi, an outgoing Mio Naganohara, a reserved Mai Minakami at school, a humanoid Nano and her creator, a young professor amongst numerous other characters. The robot Nano is constantly torn between her contentment in the professor’s household and her desire to be something more.
Owing to the absurdities and travesties that ensue one after another, Nichijou requires a substantial amount of suspension of belief. It endeavors to make as little sense as possible, with its characters acting whimsically; even the more mature and wisened behave recklessly, saying the most irrelevant things at crucial junctures. The complete lack of seriousness and use of burlesque make it a relaxing watch.
6. Gurren Lagann
Gurren Lagann envisions a fictional dystopian future with power hierarchies, human/robot dichotomies, and the boundaries between surface world and underworld made visible in its piercing characterization, funky aesthetics and deeper questions about the human condition. The subterranean realm is plunged in compartments of darkness and uncertainty (villages) isolated from each other and the surface world. The crumbling shards of these villages are under the excavation of conscripted diggers who are obligated to make the tunnels deeper. One of the diggers, Simon, who is a pariah in his village joins the elder crook Kamina, his team Gurren and Yoko who aspire to reach the surface world someday.
Following the wreckage caused by one of the robotic ‘Gunmen’, they figure out a way to destroy it and pave a way into the surface world, where they are brought to witness an even harsher reality. The clash between the tyrant Lordgenome’s humanoid ‘gunmen’ and the denizens. There are wars of galactic dimensions, synthesis of supernatural, scientific and human powers, and explicit political implications that make Gurren Lagann a worthy watch.
Mushishi counts on its folkloric narrative of natural and supernatural, gothic mysteries, muted tenor, and washed color palette to make it a promising watch. It brings to life the primitive mystical life-force called ‘mushi’ by presenting us ‘mushishis’ who possess the ability to perceive and interact with them. The story takes place in the sequestered outskirts of the countryside and woods, the precarious periphery between the human and non-human territories. Ginko is a one-eyed, silver-haired, shadowy mushi master who has unearthed the remedy to shield other mushishis from the inexplicable and often lethal ailments they cause to humans in order to survive.
Heroic and shaman-like, he wanders from place to place, encountering different people affected by the mushi. In the course of his journey, he discovers different attributes and symptoms exhibited by the species and also something of human nature as he familiarizes himself with the common people and their family history.
4. Non Non Biyori
Non Non Biyori opens on an alfresco of boundless greenery and blue skies. Set in the bucolic Asahigaoka, Hotaru Ichijou is readily introduced to its quirks and minimalism, a far cry from the bustle of Tokyo, her homeground. She befriends her only classmates, the adorable Renge, the mischievous Natsumi, her petite sister Komari and quiet brother Suguru, all of who belong to different grades. Their little group is enlivened by Hotaru’s presence as they get to know about life in Tokyo, and amenities like ‘conbini’ (convenience store) that fill their young and innocent minds with wonder.
The youngest of them, Renge, is visibly troubled by her belongingness to the countryside while the oldest of the girls, Komari, is always anxious to appear mature and poised. Their tête-à-têtes are bound to tickle the funny bone and one cannot help but smile at Renge’s juvenile waffles.
3. Natsume’s Book of Friends
Natsume, like his late grandmother Reiko, possesses the ability to see and communicate with yokai/otherworldly spirits which are invisible to common people. He unearths the “Book of Friends” left by Reiko where she enlisted the names of the spirits she had vanquished. He begins to be visited by those demons in succession who beg to be freed from the fetters of those pages and keep the book safe. A shape-shifting maneki neko, who changes its form from a frivolous cat to a formidable entity, vows to protect and guide him on condition that he should bequeath the book upon Natsume’s death.
Natsume’s Book of Friends is one of the most interesting anime out there, that switches between the routine life and encounters with the preternatural. Its use of folkloric spectral figures, such as Tsuyukami (Dew God), Misuzu, Hiiragi, inugami and other misfits, adds to its charm.
Seishu Handa relocates to the idyllic Goto Islands to improve his skills of calligraphy after his art is criticized at an exhibition. Unable to withstand the censure, he reacts tactlessly and is forced to reassess his issues in an unfamiliar milieu. A city lad, Handa is simultaneously left aghast and touched by their prying verbosity, unsophistication and kindness. He learns new ways of adapting like swimming by perching on one’s air-inflated shirt and catching falling mochis amidst a chaotic crowd.
The close-knitted, community lifestyle of the people and seaside air create some memorable moments for Handa; especially the company of middle-schoolers, simple old men and a little tomboyish kid, Naru Kotoishi, which would both rejuvenate and drain the young calligrapher. Their interactions evoke hilarity and laidback cheerfulness that would go on to inspire and transform Handa in ways he had not imagined.
1. The Food Wars
The Food Wars is a treat for anyone who’s in for culinary visuals and a line-up of competitive events. Yukihira aims to surpass his father in cooking skills, but loses to him 489 times in their little restaurant contests. When his father decides to close his restaurant, Yukihara is compelled to attend the Totsuki Culinary Academy to advance his skills to perfection. Meanwhile, he discovers the graduation rate is less than 1%, and is soon entangled in arduous challenges to keep his position secure.
There are elaborate depictions and real-life examples of preparations of cuisines; the narrative carefully captures the power struggles and rivalry between contestants at each stage. The anime’s appeal lies not just in its understated aesthetic, but also in how it analyzes youngster’s motivations and apprehensions in making their dreams come true.
There we are! These adorably cute anime mirror our feelings and life experiences while also deftly leveraging artistic license to make life more magical and blissful. They are not only entertaining but also emotionally fulfilling for they teach us important values, like friendship, solidarity and loyalty. Poetic justice forms a vital aspect of the slice-of-life anime genre as well as character development where individuals become more complete humans and are able to reach their full potential for a better change.
Over to you now! What are your favourite anime? Let’s talk in the comments below.