Any self-respecting anime has to have a festival episode. If it’s set in Japan and the story can allow for any degree of downtime, there’s no excuse not to dress up the characters in colorful yukata and send them to a festival (known as a “matsuri” in Japanese) to eat junk food and play carnival games.
This Halloween season, we wanted to go over some of our favorite matsuri in anime. They range from fun little diversions to major aspects of the story. Let’s get in our yukatas and enjoy!
- Episodes: April 2007 – September 2007
- Aired: 24
Episode 5 of Lucky Star shows the girls taking a trip to the local summer festival. As per usual for this anime, things get very dorky very fast. None of the adults seem to know how to tie an obi correctly, Konata’s police officer cousin Yui fails hard at the shooting gallery, and Konata herself keeps comparing everything to Comiket and dating sims.
And worst of all for them, even though they looked super cute and enjoyed the festival, nobody got any romance! It's just another lesson that life isn’t quite as magical as anime...
2. Free! (Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club)
- Episodes: July 2013 – September 2013
- Aired: 12
Matsuri episodes are usually focused on sexy girls in yukata, but episode 9 of Free! wasn’t about to let its lack of female characters stop it from having its own fanservice-filled festival. Hilariously, the festival is squid-themed, so there are phallic symbols plastered absolutely everywhere (including grilled squid on a stick, which the characters like to hold precariously in front of their mouths).
The episode does actually have some plot relevance, though. Nagisa and Rei desperately try to keep Haru from running into Rin, who’s pissed after losing the relay to the Iwatobi team. Away from the lights of the festival, Rin visits his old elementary school, where he used to swim with Haru and the others. Much to everyone’s surprise, he decides to go up against Haru in the next relay.
3. Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 2nd Season (Assassination Classroom Second Season)
- Episodes: January 2016 – July 2016
- Aired: 25
Season 2’s first episode ends with a festival on the island, with the students hastily invited by Koro-sensei to make him seem like a good teacher. Nagisa quickly notices that all of his classmates are taking advantage of the matsuri games with their assassination skills and keen intellects.
Expert marksmen Chiba and Hayami take all the prizes from the shooting gallery, Karma figures out that a game is rigged and intimidates the owner into giving him a game console, and Isogai captures a mountain of goldfish just so he can eat them for dinner later. Meanwhile, Koro-sensei dashes around running several food stalls at once, thereby making money off of the kids he’s supposed to be teaching.
4. Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara (Food Wars! The Third Plate)
- Episodes: October 2017 – December 2017
- Aired: 12
The Moon Banquet Festival arc, which lasts for the first four episodes of season 3, is a great culmination of what we’ve seen so far in Food Wars. Souma sets his sights on defeating Terunori Kuga, the longtime champion in food sales for the festival, by using his own cuisine against him. He starts with just a small stand, his friend Megumi, and one oven full of pork pepper buns.
By the end of the festival, Souma has called in favors from all of his friends and former rivals to improve his stall and help him edge Terunori out of the competition. It’s amazing to see the combined efforts of so many characters come together to beat the reigning champion at his own game. And those Time Fuse Mapo Curry Noodles look delicious.
5. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry)
- Episodes: April 2006 – September 2006
- Aired: 26
Instead of taking place during a single episode or even a mini-arc, the Cotton Drifting Festival in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is a vitally important part of the plot. It’s said that each year during the festival, one person dies and another mysteriously disappears. And if rumors are to be believed, the festival has a gruesome history that all started with the wrath of the town’s guardian deity, Oyashiro-sama...
Unraveling the mystery of this seemingly innocuous summer festival is the key to lifting the curse from the small town of Hinamizawa, and our main characters have to go through hell and back (multiple times) to get to the bottom of it. In a horror anime, not even matsuri are safe!
No matter if they’re silly or serious, matsuri are a beloved anime staple. It makes us wish our festivals in the West were cooler, or at least had cute girls in yukata. At least we get to live out our summer festival dreams in anime!
What did you think of our list? What are your favorite festivals in anime? Have you ever been to a real matsuri? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!