While you may or may not be familiar with the term iyashikei, chances are you’ve experienced an anime in this subgenre if you watch a variety of shows. The word iyashikei (癒し系) basically means “healing” in Japanese and is used to describe anime, manga, and other types of media that create a similar healing effect with their idyllic worlds, mostly (or completely) without strife, with loveable characters, and overall simple stories that are enjoyable and relaxing.
With that explained, here are Honey’s Anime’s picks for the best iyashikei anime! We’re basing our picks on the overall appeal of the character relationships displayed, with bonus points for having inventive or beautiful settings and things like insights into Japanese culture, good music, etc. Good vibes only! Let’s go!
10. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? (Is the Order a Rabbit?)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2014 - June 2014
Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka? (or Gochiusa) follows Kokoa Hoto, a bubbly, genki girl who makes up for her clumsiness with a lot of determination and a positive attitude. She ends up moving in with the Kafuu family in order to attend a school far away from her home. The family also runs a café called Rabbit House which Kokoa starts working at after she befriends Chino Kafuu, the demure granddaughter of the Rabbit House owner often seen with Tippy, a strange but cute talking rabbit, on her head. While working at the café and going to school, Kokoa meets more new friends like Chiya Ujimatsu, Kokoa’s gentle classmate who helps in her own family’s café, her childhood friend Sharo Kirima, a sensitive girl who has rich girl mannerisms despite being actually poor, and the tough Rize Tedeza whose military background makes it a little hard for her to fit in.
If your brand of healing focuses on the power of moe, this is the show for you! Pretty much everything in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka? is set up for maximum cuteness; from its adorable character designs, voice acting, to the tiny talking bunny, it’s easy to understand what the show is going for. While there are many similar series, Gochiusa sets itself apart with its fun character interactions and catchy, well-made musical score. Its somewhat ambiguous European setting is also interesting but doesn’t make a huge impact overall. Altogether, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka? makes for a relaxing good time full of fluffy cuteness, and a great iyashikei for moe fans.
9. Flying Witch
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2016 - June 2016
When young witches turn 15, they have to leave home and become independent as per tradition in their society. One such witch is Makoto Kowata, a somewhat ditsy girl (especially when it comes to directions) who leaves her family home in Yokohama for the more rural town of Aomori, a place well known for its connection to magic, taking her cat familiar Chito along with her. Makoto breaks with tradition a bit by not going completely independent at the behest of her parents. She lives with her cousins Kei Kuramoto and his little sister Chinatsu, and still attends a normal school, but makes time to learn the ways of witchcraft from his wandering older sister Akane and others.
While the title Flying Witch might make this anime sound like it’s going to be a high-energy action show with a strong supernatural element, Flying Witch is actually very laid back and tells a story that mirrors other slice of life series. It focuses on the everyday events in a mostly realistic world that just happens to also include magic, witches, and other otherworldly phenomena which serve more to provide fun situations for the characters than to drive the plot. Flying Witch is quite episodic, and all the more iyashikei for it, and also stands out for its high-quality artwork in its beautiful backgrounds depicting rural Japan in particular.
8. Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari (Poco's Udon World)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2016 - December 2016
Souta Tawara is a young man working in Tokyo as a web designer; but after his father passes away, he returns to his hometown in Kagawa,—where udon noodles were first invented—to clean out his family’s home and udon shop. While in the shop, he comes upon a strange young boy sleeping there all alone. Souta decides to help him and the boy soon reveals himself as a shapeshifting tanuki! Feeling sorry for the little guy, he decides to adopt him properly and gives him the name Poco and the two form a father-son-like bond as they grow together and Souta reminisces on his childhood and family in his hometown.
In some ways, Poco’s Udon World feels very similar to Flying Witch with its picturesque small-town Japanese setting and fantastic elements—albeit that being less of a focus in this anime—and its strong characters. Poco’s has a pleasing, painterly art style that helps it stand out along with a good musical score, but like before, its characters are what make it most memorable. Souta and Poco’s unlikely found-family relationship is definitely the highlight of the series and this focus makes it a joy to watch in its 12 short episodes.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2009 - June 2009
K-On! (a shortening of keiongaku (軽音楽) or “light music”) is a high school story revolving around the members of the Light Music Club. Yui Hirasawa is a new student who becomes interested in the club but gets disheartened when she finds out that the club is for “light music” (which is mostly pop/soft rock-like) and not “easy music” because she can’t play an instrument (she thought it’d be stuff like whistling). Nevertheless, she is inspired to join anyway after hearing Ritsu, Mio, and Tsumugi play together. Determined to make the band a success, Yui takes up the guitar with the help of the other members as they prepare for their school’s culture festival.
While that summary might sound like K-On! is a dramatic plot-driven anime in the vein of popular sports series “getting ready for the big game”, this show is definitely more of the “cute girls doing cute things” type with a hefty dose of incredibly moe slice of life that honestly overshadows most of the music plot (although it’s still important). Like other series adapted from 4koma manga, K-On!’s strength is in its characters, who play off of each other very well. Kyoto Animation also does a beautiful job with their trademark quality art and animation, and the music is, unsurprisingly, excellent. If you are a moe fan who somehow hasn’t see K-On! already, go do it!
6. Amaama to Inazuma (Sweetness & Lightning)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2016 - September 2016
Widower Kouhei Inuzuka has been doing his best to take care of his young daughter Tsumugi after his wife passed away but is kept busy with his job as a schoolteacher and woefully unskilled at cooking. When he gets invited by Kotori Iida, one of his students, to come to her family’s restaurant. He discovers that Kotori herself is often eating alone because her mother often has to go away on business. So, Kouhei decides that he will learn how to cook with her so that they all can all enjoy meals together.
Sweetness & Lightning is another heartwarming story centered around family/parenting that leans hard into its food theme as well, and how food brings people together. While it’s overall a simple show, sometimes simple is best and Sweetness & Lightning also sets itself apart with its more realistic approach to parenting and cooking. We’ll make special mention of Tsumugi’s voice acting, which is done by child voice actress Rina Endou. She did a magnificent job while only 11 years old that really added to the overall experience.
5. Aria The Animation
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2005 - December 2005
Aria The Animation follows Akari Mizunashi, a free-spirited, romantic girl who finds pleasure in even the most ordinary things. She works as an Undine, a type of tour guide who rows gondolas, for a tour business called Aria Company in Neo Venezia (New Venice) on Planet Aqua, the new name for Mars after it was terraformed by humans. Aria The Animation tells the tale of Akari and her interactions with fellow Undines Alice Carroll, Alicia Florence, Athena Glory, Akira E. Ferrari, and Aika S. Granzchesta, the tourists and residents of the city, and more in this unusual futuristic slice of life.
First and foremost, Aria The Animation feels unique thanks to its imaginative world that the creators clearly put a lot of work into fleshing out and connecting with the characters who are all well-developed. It’s also refreshing to see a utopian take on science fiction for once! Like many of the other series, Aria is mostly episodic which works well with its relaxed pacing and feel. Fitting with its name, the series also has excellent music and sound design, full of little details that really bring it all together.
4. Usagi Drop (Bunny Drop)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: July 2011 - September 2011
After his grandfather passed away, 30-year-old salesman Daikichi Kawachi returns to his family home to pay respects. While there, he finds out that the old man had an illegitimate child named Rin, now six years old, who the rest of the family is embarrassed by and refuses to take care of after his death. Shocked by his relatives’ coldness, he decides to take her despite his bachelor lifestyle and inexperience. Rin herself is very independent and mature for her age, but also shy and untrusting of others, at least at first. Usagi Drop is the story of Daikichi and Rin’s relationship as they both learn what it means to be a family.
Usagi Drop shares a lot of the same themes as Poco’s Udon World, even its basic plot, premise, and main character age (it shares a lot with Sweetness & Lightning as well), but we’d argue that Usagi Drop is probably the best take on “single father raising adorable child” anime, although they all have a ton of charm. Usagi Drop stands out for staying very close to its manga source material in both its pacing and art style, that gives it a distinct look and feel. Altogether, Usagi Drop is simply a well-told story with memorable characters that is sure to bring you a wonderful sense of iyashikei.
3. Yuru Camp△ (Laid-back Camp)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2018 - March 2018
Rin Shima is a quiet and reserved girl that has a little bit of an unusual hobby, she loves to go camping all by herself. While on one of her trips near the base of Mt. Fuji, she encounters a strange girl her same age sleeping near the bathroom at the campsite. After seeing her again later, the girl (who is named Nadeshiko Kagamihara) tells her that she’s lost. With nowhere else to go, she ends up joining Rin for the night until her sister can come pick her up in the morning. The two strike up a friendship that gets Nadeshiko interested in camping as well and she later joins her school’s Outdoor Activities Club to go on her own adventures with fellow members Aoi Inuyama and Chiaki Oogaki.
True to its name, Yuru Camp is a slow, relaxing show that matches perfectly with its theming of recreational camping. While it might not have the most beautiful backgrounds or stunning animation, it makes up for it with well-written characters that play off of each other well, in particular, the energetic and talkative Nadeshiko with the more refined and soft-spoken Rin. One of our favorite things is how the show frames a lot of character conversations through text messages that both adds realism and a unique way to show their personalities. This obviously is also a show worth checking out if you’re interested in camping in Japan since it uses real-world locations and equipment, and it has a catchy OP!
2. Non Non Biyori
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2013 - December 2013
With her move from Tokyo to the tiny village of Asahigaoka, fifth-grader Hotaru Ichijou has a lot to get used to. Far in the countryside, Asahigaoka lacks a lot of modern conveniences and its school only has five students! Non Non Biyori tells the story of Hotaru and her new friends: the precocious and adorable first-grader Renge Miyauchi and the Koshigaya siblings, the diminutive Komari, tomboyish Natsumi, their soft-spoken older brother Suguru, and lackadaisical teacher Kazuho Miyauchi (who is also Renge’s older sister). The story follows their daily lives in the rural countryside of Japan.
Non Non Biyori, which is a pun based on the words “nonbiri” (meaning carefree) and “hiyori” (which means weather, or atmosphere in this case) is a brilliant slice of life that really embodies the iyashikei spirit with its inconsequential tales of idyllic country life and loveable characters. We particularly like how this series takes time to develop all of its characters’ relationships, including more minor ones like Renge and the dagashi store owner Kaede. All of this is brought to even greater heights with some of the most beautiful background artwork seen in anime and an outstanding soundtrack, making Non Non Biyori a must-watch for those looking for some country-style iyashikei!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 - September 2014
Seishuu Handa was the rising star of the calligraphy world until he lost his temper when a veteran curator called his work uninspired and Seishuu punched the old man right out there in public! To help him clear up his life, his father has him “exiled” to the remote Goto islands off the western coast of Nagasaki, a major change for the narcissistic young man accustomed to Tokyo. After he finally arrives in his new home, he finds that Goto might not be as peaceful as he thought, as he is constantly being interrupted by nosey neighbors, especially hyper first-grader Naru Kotoishi. Barakamon is Seishuu’s journey of self-discovery to find his own art with the help of his colorful new friends.
We chose Barakamon for our number 1 pick because of the variety it offers within the subgenre, great characters that are entertaining and actually develop over time, an interesting, real-world setting that is both beautiful and offers insight into a regional Japanese culture, along with a strong soundtrack and art design. Simply put, Barakamon strikes the perfect balance between telling a story with some actual plot progression while still remaining firmly within the relaxing mood of iyashikei.
Well there you are, some great shows for pleasant, laid-back times! Do you agree with us? or are we missing some iyashikei goodness? Let us know what you think of our list in the comments section below! As always, be sure to stick with us at Honey’s for more of all things anime! Until next time, bye bye!