Whether you’re going back to school in person, online, or sending one of your own back, the new school year is always a little stressful. If only academia was more like anime… well, in some cases, at least. Here are a few upbeat school anime to help you feel a little more chill about the coming year, or at least help you find the humor in it. (Bonus: these shows are largely appropriate for general audiences, meaning you can watch with family.)
Premiering as a manga in 1999 and an anime in 2002, Azumanga Daioh has become a modern standard in the fields of slice-of-life anime and high school comedies. The hook is Chiyo, a child prodigy who skips an improbable five grades into high school, and the struggles the age difference brings. But she’s found herself a circle of friends, including the upbeat-to-a-fault Tomo and the stoic Sakaki, who only wants to be loved by cute animals (which constantly bite her). Any weirdness comes from the mind of “Osaka,” their cloudcuckoolander classmates whose flights of fancy include picturing Chiyo’s dad as a giant cat voiced by Norio Wakamoto.
If you prefer your school comedies to have a heaping helping of geekiness at all times, Lucky Star is the way to go. Initially known for its catchy opening theme and dance, the series gained traction thanks to nerdy heroine Konata and her constant barrage of anime and game references. There’s plenty to enjoy even if you don’t catch every single joke, with relatable discussions about hobbies, going to the dentist, and family ties. Though… those also contain a lot of anime references. Look, it’s Konata, she’s like that.
Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time
For something a little more bite-sized, there’s Tonari no Seki-kun: a short-subject series about the school troublemaker and the girl who sits next to him. Rumi just wants to pay attention in class, but Seki is always up to something: carving erasers, staging board game soap operas, or inventing elaborate competitions against himself. Somehow, Rumi always gets emotionally invested… and pays the price for it. But considering the free entertainment she’s getting, it all evens out. Right?
Sometimes, a friend group is three girls and a wind-up robot.
Nichijou is the weirdest entry on this list, in that its brand of strange humor actually includes sci-fi elements. Outside of the central trio of friends and their constant pranks and anxieties, we have Nano: a robot who looks like a teenager and just wants to go to school. She finally gets to in the second cour; but even before she arrives, it’s a heck of a scene. Think students riding goats to school. There’s plenty of down-to-earth content, too, though — like Yukko’s attempts at studying for exams, which lead instead to her composing two poems.
Which of these school-centric anime will be using to unwind before classes? Or do you have another favorite you’ll be turning to?