When one thinks of anime in general, it’s probable that bombast and action come to mind. Screamed-out attack names, nonstop action, outrageous powers and giant robots, all carried out by people sporting insane outfits seem to be the symbols that are most commonly associated with animation from Japan. However, in addition to the hot-blooded battle shounen titles, anime has a wide array of quieter, more relaxing shows to offer.
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Detractors might find them boring, but the truth is that everybody needs some sort of media to wind down with from time to time, because who has the energy to only be consuming high octane action shows all the time. From slice-of-life, to “cute girls doing cute things,” to iyashikei, the more relaxed elements of anime will always have a lot to offer.
10 Yuru Camp
What’s Yuru Camp about? The plot is as follows: anime girls go camping. That’s basically it. Drama and conflict are faraway worries for these characters, because they’re preoccupied with camping in idyllic places and learning things about tents along the way.
In addition to being a fun show about anime girls going camping, Yuru Camp feels like an educational experience for the less outdoorsy anime fan. Don’t know much about what kind of tent to buy, which Japanese camping sites are within driving distance, or how to cook on a portable stove? Yuru Camp has the answers to these questions, and more.
9 Aria The Animation
In the far future humanity has colonized and terraformed Mars into a lush ocean planet, the metropolitan center of which is the idyllic Neo Venezia. The show’s protagonist, Akari, dreams of becoming an Undine, that is a gondolier, giving guided tours through the canals of this aquatic city.
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Aria is a largely stress-free experience. The audience gets to meet a cast of characters tasked with guiding visitors through Neo Venezia by boat, and in turn, the viewer experiences the setting through their eyes. Meeting the people and seeing the sights is where most of the fun in Aria is found, which makes it a perfect show to wind down with.
8 Sketchbook: Full Color’s
Sketchbook’s title is apt — this show is about Sora Kajiwara, an introverted girl who finds herself becoming a member of her school’s art club. Across the show’s runtime, Sora will gain experience both socially, and as an aspiring artist. Alongside her are fellow art club members and students, as well as teachers, and an unusually large amount of cats.
Predictably, there isn’t much in the way of interpersonal drama in Sketchbook, and the audience is expected to find the fun of the show in watching Sora and her friends grow as both people and artists. It’s a good time, though, and it’s easily digestible at only thirteen episodes.
7 Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, or YKK as fans call it, is a two-episode OVA adaptation of the manga by the same name. Set after an undisclosed global disaster has greatly scaled back humanity’s presence on Earth, the story follows an android named Alpha as she goes about her day-to-day operating a coffee shop in the waning years of our species.
That might not sound particularly relaxing, but the melancholic tone of the setting brilliantly complements the mellow presentation. The world basically ended, after all, so there really isn’t much to do but make sure the coffee shop stays clean. This is one of those works that stress that beauty is often found in the inherent transience of things, and it’s illustrated masterfully in just two episodes.
6 Non Non Biyori
An ordinary town in rural Japan is the home of five friends, and Non Non Biyori follows their day-to-day as they deal with school, purchasing sweets, and just generally hanging out. Despite the exceedingly simple premise, Non Non Biyori remains enduringly popular among slice-of-life fans on account of the sheer earnestness with which it depicts the lifestyles of these five students.
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The show invites the viewer to lose themselves in the joy of simply existing in this setting, where the worries and responsibilities of adulthood seem like faraway things. Escapism? Sure, but it’s excellently executed escapism, which is why the show has as many fans as it does.
Considered by many to be a high point for slice-of-life anime, K-On! is about high schoolers forming a band as their after-school club activity. And that’s basically it. Detractors often describe it as a show where “nothing happens”, and while K-On! might not have much in the way of a central conflict, there is definite, and excellently handled, growth on the part of the characters.
The writing here is extremely effective, and as such the audience gets a strong sense not only of who each character is, but how they synergize while in a group. It might not have much to say about apocalyptic themes or the human condition, but as a character study and a laid-back experience, it’s hard to beat.
4 Hidamari Sketch
Hidamari Sketch is Studio Shaft’s flagship foray into slice-of-life anime. The setup is simple and typical of the genre: four girls attend an art school, and basically just chill out the entire time. The myriad sequels that followed the original series maintain the laid-back tone and cute characters, but what really sets Hidamari apart is its visuals.
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Helmed by Shaft veteran Akiyuki Shinbo, Hidamari Sketch has a surrealism to it that most other slice-of-life anime typically don’t pursue. Dream sequences, abstract visuals, and repeated imagery give Hidamari Sketch an otherworldly quality, one that supports the inviting atmosphere of the show while also giving it a unique visual flavor.
3 Sora no Woto
Sora no Woto is technically a post-apocalyptic war anime, but one easily forgets that when they lose themselves in the charm and beauty of the show’s setting. Five soldiers man an outpost at the edge of their country’s territory, on the lookout for an enemy that will likely never come, in a world that will likely never recover from the disasters that it has weathered.
The show is fun, pretty, and just a little bit sad. The audience peers into the lives of the characters and learns about their backstories, some of which aren’t always happy ones. Although the pace of the show does pick up in the final episodes, it’s mostly an episodic story about the day-to-day chores that make up the quiet lives of the soldiers who populate the main cast. Great soundtrack, too.
2 Girls’ Last Tour
“Two girls struggle to survive in an apocalyptic wasteland” might not sound like the plot summary to a laid-back and relaxing show, but in this case it definitely is. Girls’ Last Tour follows Chito and Yuuri as they travel through blasted wastes of a once-great city, picking through the wreckage for food, ammunition, and shelter.
That sounds like it shouldn’t work, but the isolation experienced by the characters lends itself to the show’s sense of calm perfectly. There’s a kind of peace that they find in being (presumably) the last two people alive in this setting, and the detritus that they uncover in their travels invites the viewer to speculate about the world that once was.
Mushishi is the story of a man named Ginko who travels the Japanese countryside searching for beings called “mushi” — spectral entities that can be both benevolent and harmful to human life. The mushi and their effects manifest themselves in strange ways, and require equally strange solutions on Ginko’s part.
The episodic structure of Mushishi makes it perfect for casual viewing. Each episode tells the story of a new case involving mushi, and the efforts that Ginko must undertake to solve the problem. Despite the supernatural themes, Mushishi is a very mellow show, not often dipping too far into drama or horror, but keeping just enough surrealism to maintain a sense of mystery.
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About The Author
(55 Articles Published)
Adam Beach is a recent university graduate based out of Austin, Texas who has spent the pandemic playing far too many video games and watching entirely too much anime. Now writing for ScreenRant, he has the opportunity to translate those experiences into his own content. In the past he has been a Model UN instructor, intern for the Government of Rwanda, and full-time student, all of which involved producing a wide range of written material. He also enjoys movies, philosophy, and Mongolian throat singing.
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