With lots of dark, chilly days left ahead in the coming months, ’tis the season for hibernation! And as much as I dislike the cold and the all-too-early sunsets that come with this time of year, I love the prospect of some time off of work, some relaxing evenings at home, and some actual free time (for once!). When I finally get my hands on a bit of extra time, I inevitably find myself wondering how best to use it. And out of the many possibilities available, one of my favorites is binge-watching a new show.
Naturally, this is a great way to catch up on some anime—but how to choose the right one? The possibilities are endless, and so many of the best series are far too long to binge-watch in full in a sitting or two. But thankfully, there are lots of great series out there that can be watched in their entirety in one long, lazy day, or even over the course of an afternoon. Here’s a list of a few of my favorite examples, all of them with 13 episodes or fewer!
Something Sweet: Haibane Renmei
This series follows Rakka, a young girl who awakens from a cocoon to find herself in a strange town called Glie with no memory of where she came from or who she is. She is surrounded by a group of haibane—people who all, inexplicably, have small angel wings and tiny halos. After (painfully) acquiring her own set of wings and getting a halo, Rakka befriends her fellow haibane, and she soon starts feeling more comfortable in Glie, enough to begin trying to find her place there. But what is she truly meant to do in this strange, sleepy, in-between place? What brought her there? And when a close friend disappears, she wonders: what will take her away?
This anime can best be described as equal parts sweet and melancholy. The story is more slice-of-life style than plot driven, and there are few points of conflict, but at the same time an undercurrent runs through the story, hinting at something deeper (and maybe darker). There’s been a lot of speculation about what the themes of this series are getting at, but nobody seems to have quite nailed it down yet. To see what I mean, you’ll just have to watch and find out for yourself!
Something Silly: The Devil Is a Part-Timer!
This series takes a hard turn toward the absurd when Satan, a demon king from another world called Ente Isla, retreats from a deadly battle through a portal—only to find himself smack in the middle of Tokyo along with Alciel, one of his generals. After struggling for a while to figure out the ways of our world, Satan and Alciel soon realize that if they want to survive in this new realm and find a way back to Ente Isla, one of them is going to have to find a job. Satan starts going by the name Sadao Maou and finds work at a fast food-joint called MgRonald’s (of course), while Alciel keeps house and tries to find a way for them to return home. Will Maou and Alciel finally find their way back home? What ridiculous shenanigans will they get into in the process? And most importantly, who might be trying to sabotage them to ensure that they stay stuck in Tokyo forever?
This series has a simple story line full of goofy moments that will keep you laughing throughout the entirety of your binge-watching sesh. It’s got that delightful mix of a fish-out-of-water scenario, supposedly evil characters starring as the heroes of the story, and the hilarity that ensues when beings from another plane are mystified by mundane objects and everyday expressions. While it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of depth, this series is a great time from start to finish!
Something Fantastical: Magi: Adventure of Sinbad
This prequel to the multiple Magi anime series is a sweeping (though somewhat meandering) epic about Sinbad the Sailor’s coming of age and simultaneous rise to fame and power. Sinbad is the child of Badr, a warrior who fought for his war-obsessed country until losing his leg in battle, and Esra, Badr’s kind and beautiful wife. When Sinbad is a little boy, it becomes apparent that he has a special talent for always knowing exactly which direction to go—from being able to navigate out of a raging storm at sea to knowing the best choice to make in order to steer his fate in whatever direction he wishes. This skill soon leads him to become the first to master the mysterious Dungeon of Baal that looms over his hometown. He goes on to conquer several more dungeons, found his own trade empire, and collect a (literal) crew of motley characters along the way.
The plot of this series wanders quite a bit, in a way that’s reminiscent of a lengthy D&D campaign in which the players don’t much care where they end up, as long as it’s somewhere interesting. And though I enjoyed watching this series in one afternoon, I found it to be a bit of a bizarre, dreamlike experience, as the threads that hold the plot together become progressively more tenuous. Weird hijinks and otherworldly plot elements aside, though, it has breathtakingly beautiful artwork, a fun cast of characters, and a sense of adventure compelling enough to awaken your inner swashbuckler.
Something with Heart: Library War
Finally, we return to the real world (albeit a couple of years into the future) with Library War. This series takes place in a semidystopian alternate-timeline version of 2019 Japan, where all media is heavily censored, books are an increasingly inaccessible resource, and libraries train task forces that defend the institutions from Media Betterment Committee raids. The story primarily follows Iku Kasahara, a young soldier-in-training at the Kantou Library Base. Iku was inspired to join the force when, several years previously, a member of the task force kept an important book she was about to buy from being confiscated by the MBC. Iku loves her life as a task-force recruit except for the thorn in her side: her super-tough drill instructor, Atsushi Doujou, who seems to personally have it out for her. This, coupled with the fact that Iku is as clumsy and reckless as she is determined, means that Iku’s life as a task-force recruit (and later, full-fledged soldier) is anything but straightforward.
For an anime with combat and a corrupt government among its main plot points, this series is surprisingly heartfelt. The characters feel genuine, and their relationships are believable and meaningful. Beyond that, there’s a great balance between high-tension scenarios and lighthearted, funny moments that keeps the story feeling pitch perfect throughout—it’s a something-for-everyone, down-to-earth tale that is even better than its premise suggests.
These are just a few examples of some great anime series that are short, sweet, and easy to digest. But there are lots of others out there! What are some of your favorites?