I don’t know about you guys, but every time this part of the year rolls around, I find myself settling deep into Winter Doldrum Land, where the world comes in shades of black and white and apathy is the prevailing emotion. Getting out of the house to get some Vitamin D and shake those hibernation vibes certainly helps, but sometimes, staying at home for a little lighthearted escapism is just what the doctor ordered.
Thankfully, there are lots of great anime series (and films!) out there that fit this bill nicely. Lots of the more popular series seem to be full of violence and heavy, mind-bending themes, but fear not! There are tons of great choices for someone looking for a more cheerful, mood-lifting story, and I’m here to tell you about a few of those today. I’ve seen a number of happy-go-lucky anime stories in my time—some favorites include Ouran High School Host Club and Fruits Basket, which I’ve written about before, as well as the light side of the Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki cadre of anime films, like Whisper of the Heart, My Neighbor Totoro, and Ponyo. But instead of touching on those today, I wanted to tread some new ground and find more series to watch and hopefully love!
After trawling the interwebs for light and happy anime series, I settled on three that I wanted to try: Seitokai Yakuindomo (or Student Council Staff Members), Daily Lives of High School Boys, and Kamisama Kiss. I decided to watch two episodes of each to get a feel for the stories and see what stuck. I watched them in the aforementioned order, and, serendipitously, ended up liking each one more than the last!
So without further ado, here are my thoughts on this trio of lighthearted anime!
This series follows Takatoshi Tsuda, a high-school freshman who’s just started attending Ōsai Academy, a former all-girls’ school that’s recently become co-ed. As one of just a handful of boys attending Ōsai, Takatoshi unsurprisingly finds himself drawing a lot of attention (both wanted and unwanted). On his first day, he gets roped into becoming the vice president of the student council by Shino Amakusa, the strong-willed, outspoken student council president. What follows are the many shenanigans the council gets into together.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed the episodes of Seitokai Yakuindomo that I’ve watched so far—the characters are fun, if a little one dimensional, and I often found myself laughing out loud at the silly stories of the council members’ schooldays. However, I have to say that the overarching themes and many of the jokes turned me off to this series a bit. With a story that focuses on a boy going to school amid a sea of girls, there’s bound to be some gender-related jokes, and I fully expected that. But the shtick for two of the main female characters is that they’re both really pervy and are thinking, talking, or joking about sex and gender differences constantly. And I mean constantly. I can put up with a joke like that here and there, but before long, it just felt like I was being beaten over the head with it. Like, yeah, he’s a boy going to school with a bunch of girls who haven’t known many boys up ’til now. We get it, okay?! I can’t decide whether I think there’s a subtle social commentary going on or whether they’re just going for the cheap jokes, but I found these themes too grating to really think too deeply about them.
As I mentioned, I did have fun watching a couple of episodes from this series, but even watching just a bit of it, I feel like I already know what I need to know about this one. I may return to it to finish it one day, but for now, it’s a few slots down on the list.
Daily Lives of High School Boys
Like a lot of anime that can be called lighthearted, this series is part of the “slice of life” subgenre. These series usually contain little to no fantastical elements, have a light (or even nonexistent) plot, and follow the day-to-day lives of the protagonists as they move about their world. Many of them are about ordinary high-school students, and as you might deduce from the title, this one is no different.
Daily Lives of High School Boys is exactly what it says on the tin: the story is primarily about a group of three high-school buddies who spend most of their time hanging out together, making their own fun, and spending their time in the silly, nonsensical ways most high schoolers do. Each episode is presented in a series of vignettes, and in each one, the boys start doing a random activity or having a random conversation—and then go completely over the top with it. Thus far, one of my favorite vignettes is the one in which the boys start talking about weird things they’ve noticed in daily life and try to one-up each other with their stories, calling them “ghost stories” even though they’re just talking about odd things they’ve seen or done. Another favorite was the one in which one of the boys finds a really cool stick on the ground and all start pretending they’re in an RPG game, that the stick is a mighty sword, and that they’re on a quest to defeat the boss monster—all while walking down the street on their way home from school.
I really loved this one; it felt a lot like watching my high-school self and my friends telling goofy stories and imagining pretend scenarios for ourselves when we got bored. It was hysterically funny and felt so true to the way real high-school students behave. Even though there’s no real through line in terms of plot, it’s fun to watch the group of friends go about their daily lives, and the vignette style kept my attention from waning the way it sometimes has with other slice-of-life stories that are more linear. I’ll definitely be coming back to this series soon!
This series falls into the romantic-comedy subset of the lighthearted anime realm. It tells the story of Nanami Momozono, a high schooler whose father has recently run off to escape his gambling debts after getting himself and Nanami evicted because he can’t pay the rent. Homeless and with nowhere to go, Nanami ends up in a city park, where she finds a (seemingly) young man who’s stuck in a tree because he’s scared of the dog barking at him from below. Nanami chases the dog off, and in thanks, the man kisses her on the forehead and tells her she should go to live at his house, since he hasn’t been back in years and doesn’t need it anymore.
Nanami thinks this is a bit strange, but having no better option, she heads off to find the house. It turns out to be a run-down shrine, and shortly after arriving, Nanami finds that the young man she met was actually the former god-in-residence there, though he’s been shirking his duties for the past 20 years. Nanami meets the god’s former fox-demon familiar, Tomoe, who informs her that the kiss the god gave her was really a divine mark, and that it has made her the new goddess of the shrine. Tomoe tells her that she must now take over the god’s former duties, which include answering the prayers of supplicants who visit the shrine. As a normal human with no godlike powers to speak of, Nanami is not at all sure how she’s going to accomplish this, but she decides to try her best. After bonding Tomoe to her as her familiar by sealing the deal with another kiss, she starts trying to live up to her new role as best she can.
My summation of this series from what (little) I’ve seen so far is that it’s like someone took all the best parts of Inuyasha and Fruits Basket and spun them all up together to create a new show. It reminds me of the shows that got me into anime in the first place, and it’s nostalgic in a really entertaining way because of that. Add in what promises to be a sweet, heartwarming romance, and you’ve got a recipe for a series that will easily keep me hooked.
I thoroughly enjoyed my lighthearted anime sampler and am excited to see where (at least two of) these series will take me! Have you seen any of these series? What other lighthearted anime helps get you out of that late-winter slump?