When you’ve got friends over and you’re wondering what to do, sometimes the best option is just to relax and let the mood settle in. TV shows are an excellent way to unwind and enjoy an activity together.
In this list, we’ll be providing some recommendations for you to watch with a friend who shares the same interest. The criteria being considered are: how easy it is to pick up and watch (episodic), how the show encourages fun or serious discussion, and how easy the show is to continue watching (binge-worthiness). With this focus, we think the list will help you find a show you’ll continue to watch together.
10. Nichijou (Nichijou - My Ordinary Life)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2011 – September 2011
Nichijou is focused on a trio of friends and their daily lives. Filled with crazy antics, the show focuses on three high school girls and their encounters with the town residents.
The premise of the show is understating quite a few things. It doesn’t quite do the show justice. Nichijou translates to its English subtitle, but the show is hardly that, ordinary. The color palette and animation during the less intense scenes are likened to a picture book. The intense, overblown comedic sections? Kyoto Animation held nothing back.
Nichijou is a show that banks its comedy in two ways. One method is presenting a scene so absurd that it’s funny--a principle wrestling with a deer, a childhood friend stalking as a fast sprinting bear, or a talking cat (okay, maybe that’s a bit more ordinary nowadays). The other is presenting normal things with a reaction that’s absurd. My personal favorite: Mio incapacitating everyone who finds out her “darkest secret.”
While Nichijou might not be for everyone, it’s easy to get into the show with an assortment of jokes and compelling animation. The small clips supplement the hard punchlines, the cutesy atmosphere helps viewers coast through episodes lined with over the top animation, and the simple story allows viewers to jump in or leave at no detriment to their experience.
9. Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: August 2003 – October 2003
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is a comedy offshoot from the same setting as the original: Full Metal Panic. Choosing to focus on its comedic side, the show is an episodic telling of absurd mishaps of an overly serious soldier, Sousuke Sagara, and the more level-headed, high school representative, Kaname Chidori.
Fumoffu is its own thing. You won’t need to watch the original to pick this up, making it an easy viewing experience. Most of the episodes don’t require any context, and in reality, a lack of context might make this show even funnier than it already is. From beating up Karate students by misunderstanding the rules to a challenging deranged policewoman in a mascot suit, Fumoffu really exacerbates how thick-headed its protagonist is.
With how short the show is, it’s easy to finish in one sitting, and even after a long absence, this show doesn’t need much of a reminder to simply watch it again. Most discussions will probably be laughs, but for the most part, your experience with this show will be an eventful one.
8. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
Chiyo Sakura has a crush on the tall, silent classmate she stares at from afar, Umetarou Nozaki. Eventually, she summons up the courage to confess to him, but the answer she receives is unexpected: an autograph. Nozaki has confused her confession of love with that of a fan’s devotion. Turns out, Nozaki is a famous shoujo mangaka under the name Sakiko Yumeno.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is a show that plays with its modality, how something is experienced, expressed, or done. To clarify, the music, dialogue, and visuals are intentionally incohesive. They’re meant to be in conflict, resulting in a humorous tone. The show itself pokes fun at shoujo and romance tropes, often doing so in ways that even viewers inexperienced in the anime/manga medium can appreciate.
Just like others on the list, Nozaki-kun is another episodic series. It relies on its characters to get viewers attached to its comedy, and it has the benefit of attracting fans outside of its genre. For those looking for a more story-focused show, Nozaki-kun isn’t exactly that, but for those looking to examine the tropes of the genre and have a good time, this is the perfect pick.
7. Death Parade
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2015 – March 2015
In the afterlife exists Quindecim, a bar that judges the souls of the departed. To unveil the true nature of the deceased, they participate in random games determined by the bartender. Their ultimate result determines the destination of their soul.
Episodes transpire with the knowledge of how the two are related, the aftermath of the actions they’ve done in life, and most importantly, the results of the game. Despite its catching opening, the show has a very serious tone, and there’s a lot to talk about regarding each participant’s story.
While this show mostly has an episodic format, later on, an overarching problem emerges. Thus, for those looking for more of an investment with their friends, Death Parade makes a good pick. Religious iconography, the fate of the judged, and the mystery of the Quindecim staff will make for good conversation topics with friends, especially those looking for a more serious topic.
6. One Punch Man
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2015 – December 2015
One Punch Man was explosively popular during its release, and it's not difficult to see why. One Punch Man invests itself in the concept of an overpowered hero. Before you shake your head, the show openly acknowledges the constraints of the idea.
One of the issues with giving too much power to one character is creating a believable threat--to make the audience feel that the character is in peril, that something is on the line. However, the show somehow anticipates this concern and develops itself through its large cast.
The hero organization is the best and worst thing to happen to Saitama, are seemingly ordinary but explosively powerful “One Punch Man.” It validates his hobby, his role as a hero, but it also invalidates him as the majority of the heroes and upper management simply don’t know who he is. His strength is inconceivable, a deus ex machina to cataclysmic, earth-ending problems. Luckily, that works out in favor of its viewers.
Viewers familiar with anime and superhero tropes will recognize a lot of what the show parodies. As a show, it also separates itself distinctly into arcs, making it easier to grasp story details, so watching this in one sitting or taking a break to return to it later is easy. Lastly, with such a huge assortment of heroes, it’s easy to find a character that intrigues you in the show, making for a great conversation starter.
- Episodes: 201
- Aired: April 2006 – March 2010
In the future, aliens called the Amanto have invaded the world. Their influence is felt especially in feudal Japan with the prohibition of swords and, as a result, samurai. Gintoki is one of the former samurai and to make ends meet, he starts a new business doing odd jobs for Japan’s residents.
Gintama is a famous adaptation of a longstanding shounen manga. Its popularity amongst its readers and viewers is understandable, given the nature of its comedy and its writing is awe-inspiring, the latter a large reason for this recommendation.
Gintama is more than just a comedy. It’s a show that has established arcs of hugely different subject matter and tone. In one arc, the show can be a drama. In another, it can be an action. In yet another, it can be a tear-jerker and tragedy. Comedy is the “medium” that brings all these different genres together. The expertise to which the show executes different arcs allows viewers to never get bored, helping your friends pick and choose sections they like.
The vast assortment of characters, different tones, and its writing makes Gintama a top pick. While this show is not easily seen all in one go, treating each arc like a mini-series will help keep your friends and you interested.
4. Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!)
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: January 2016 – March 2016
Kazuma is a NEET who finds himself dying in a very unexciting and pathetic way. Upon dying, he is given two choices by a goddess named Aqua: reincarnate into a new world or continue towards heaven. He decides upon reincarnation and is thus given one request to aid him. His request is also his biggest mistake--he takes the goddess Aqua with him.
KonoSuba is a show that plays on its premise and your understanding of it. On one hand, there’s the RPG elements of the show, the quest taking, the demon lord, the composition of the main party, and etcetera. On the other, KonoSuba is making fun of the isekai setting within the medium of light novels.
The great thing about KonoSuba, however, is that you don’t need an understanding of either to really enjoy the show. Its comedy is self-contained, and its episodes are easily discernible out of context. The characters are so endearing, despite how dysfunctional they are: a tank who can’t hit her target and is a glutton for punishment, a mage who will only cast one spell and is immediately exhausted, a “goddess of water” who… messes up a lot, and lastly our protagonist, a thief who happens to be the leader of them.
There are two seasons of KonoSuba, the most recent being a direct sequel and a bit more hard to pick up and watch. The first season, however, has a little bit of every prerequisite for the list. It’s episodic, easy to watch and come back to, and it’s easily viewed in one sitting without being overbearing. The last major point is that the show does have some semblance of a plot, the overarching issue of how to handle the demon lord and his generals are there, but the major conversation points will usually be tied to the comedy.
3. Made in Abyss
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2017 – September 2017
There exists a city whose entire existence came together, for one thing, the allure of the Abyss. The Abyss is a chasm that reaches deep into the earth’s depths, filled with alien habitats to creatures unknown anywhere else. Deep within the depths also lie relics from the past, rewarding the brave who set forth beneath the surface.
Made in Abyss is a story that plays heavily into its setting. Most of its story is told through the implications of its surroundings, and so viewers are meant to be into it. The monsters help drive the message home, that the realities of this harsh world are clashing and incongruous to its characters. Reality doesn’t care about the investment you’ve made with them, and reality once they go into the Abyss.
Made in Abyss is probably the most plot-centric recommendation on this list, making it a bit tougher to recommend. However, its presentation and later episodes make for easy conversation. Lastly, as one of the best shows of last year, it’s an addicting watch that can easily be finished quickly.
2. Gakkou no Kaidan (Ghost Stories)
- Episodes: 19
- Aired: October 2000 – March 2001
Ghost Stories has an interesting history behind it. The show was created by Studio Pierrot and Aniplex, and the story’s pretty simple: a newcomer arrives in town and discovers that it’s inhabited by ghosts. The show tanked. To help avoid bankruptcy, Pierrot sold the rights to the show to ADV with three rules:
1. The overall story must be intact.
2. It had to be lip-synced correctly.
3. No names should be changed.
ADV then turned the show into what I’m about to recommend, a highly offensive, “professionally abridged” comedy dub. The English staff of this show had free reign over the script, and, to say the least, the show gets very wild. Character interpretations become overblown and undeterred. The esper turns into an overly zealous born-again Christian whose sole purpose is to convert heathens--that includes her friends. The character’s main male protagonist becomes an overly horny kid whose thoughts are always preoccupied with how to get into someone’s pants. To say the least, the dub makes the show, not for kids.
Without the show’s unsuccessful run in Japan, you wouldn’t have the show we know today. Ghost Stories is easily one of the funniest shows to watch with friends, and speaking from personal experience, people will easily start talking, whether that’s behind stifled chuckle or hysterical laughter.
1. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1998 – April 1999
In the year 2071, humans have left Earth to explore the stars. Amongst the groups that have left Earth behind are outlaw bounty hunters, the new “Cowboys” of the galaxy. Together with Spike’s team and his ship Bebop, you can explore a classic in Space Western genre.
Cowboy Bebop is a show that hardly needs an introduction. It’s a classic within the western anime fandom. Its musical composition, stylistic atmosphere, and character dynamics help cement its position as a fan favorite.
However, for those who have not seen the show, the fact it’s a classic makes for a good conversation starter. The questions of how it gots its fame can lead to a deeper appreciation of the show. Its episodic nature also helps your experience--each episode, a surprisingly well-thought-out way to build its characters and further immerse yourself into the world.
If there’s ever been a show that proves how a story can just be its characters, it's Cowboy Bebop. The degree to which each character is their own personality is a highlight of the show’s writing. Despite the self-contained episodes, the show does a beautiful job at foreshadowing a character’s past--it lends a weight and expectation that things aren’t simply meant to be forgotten. Whether it’s for experiencing a classic, having a good conversation, or seeing a show easily watched (and rewatched!), Cowboy Bebop is a great choice.
Sometimes the best way to spend your evenings is spending time with friends. When you need some downtime, watching a tv show together can keep you both entertained and closer. While not all shows work well as a group, we do hope this list will help your friends share an experience with you.
If you’ve seen some of these shows or have any recommendations yourself, let us know in the comments! We hope to see your thoughts!