Even at the best of times, we could all use a little relaxation. Intense action and deep stories are fun — but there’s also something to be said for gentle, slow-paced shows with pretty animation and calming stories. You may have gotten this vibe off your favorite Studio Ghibli movie; and there’s plenty more where that came from.
While anime like this has always existed in some form, the iyashi boom hit in 1995. Japan endured the Great Hanshin earthquake in January of that year, and the Tokyo subway sarin attacks just two months later. People wanted healing — an escape from the tragedies of the year, and some way to relax despite the state of the world. And thus, the concept of iyashikei was born.
What Makes Iyashikei?
Iyashikei — literally “healing” — refers to gentle, relaxing shows. This tends to mean cute or pretty animation, often with a lot of outdoor scenes. The stories themselves are usually no higher-stakes than standard slice-of-life, and may come down to something as simple as sightseeing or engaging in a single hobby. For example, 2018’s Okoshiyasu, Chitose-chan, follows a cute little penguin on a nostalgic trip around Kyoto.
Shows like Laid-Back Camp also fit the bill, with extra emphasis on the beauty of the outdoors. Viewers can experience camping holidays in Japan vicariously without the stress of preparation, and engage themselves with the interpersonal stories of the characters. (And, of course — most importantly — there’s a puppy.)
The Goodness of Iyashikei
More than ever these days, people want to relax. Sometimes that means unplugging from the worries of the news and social media before anxiety hits. At other times, the anxiety has already hit and we need to come down from it. No matter how much we may love an action-packed series, it might not be what we need when we’re anxious.
Iyashikei series — the relaxing alien waters of Aria: The Animation or the personal attention of The Helpful Fox Senko-san — let us come down from those tense places while still engaging with our favorite hobby. There’s no heavy plot to follow, so we don’t have to fret about losing our way as we watch. And at their best, every part of these “healing” series is designed to be calming and relaxing. It’s not a magic fix, of course; more like a comfy blanket. And sometimes, it just takes a comfy blanket to relax us enough to start looking after ourselves.
What iyashikei series do you turn to when you need some calm?