Even at the best of times, life can often be exhausting, unpredictable, and needlessly cruel. And in times of crisis, we all could use a pick me up! There are tons of deep, compelling anime that will blow your mind and fuck up your life, but there are also some cute, beautiful, and inspiring series that are guaranteed to make you smile. So here’s a few of my favorites, in no particular order!
The poster child of the “cute girls doing cute things” subgenre of slice of life anime, K-On! is about five girls who start a band together in high school, only to find they’re easily distractible and spent most of their time eating cake instead of practicing. K-On!‘s strength is its adorable cast of characters, who all play off each other’s unique personality quirks. It’s easy to get attached and pick which girl is you amongst your group of friends. (I’m definitely Yui!) And the music is all great – it’s like the early Beatles as a J-pop girl group. What’s not to love?
Cardcaptor Sakura (1998-2000)
90’s anime hits a nostalgic sweet spot for me, and Cardcaptor Sakura has a ton of old-school charm. Sakura Kinomoto is a magical girl who accidentally awakens the mystical world-destroying Clow Cards, and must catch-’em-all with the help of her gay best friend Tomoyo, her bi rival-turned-best-friend Syaoran, and her sassy gay magical teddy bear Kero-chan. The character designs are adorable, the color palette is warm and nostalgic, and the story mixes a Pokémon-esque adventure story with genuinely moving slice of life moments. If you haven’t seen it, or only remember the terrible English dub, Cardcaptors, it’s definitely worth checking out!
Okay, so maybe cute girls doing cute things isn’t your style. But if you want a fast-paced, exciting series that will make you cheer for joy, look no further than Haikyuu!! Shoyo Hinata is a scrawny high schooler with dreams of being a professional volleyball player, but ends up on the same team as his rival. It’s got all the story beats of a classic shonen battle series: rivalries, tournament arcs, and an instantly relatable underdog story – but instead of crazy superpowers, it’s about a real-life sport any of us can understand. I don’t know shit about volleyball, but watching this anime made me inspired to start working out again. So why not give Haikyuu!! a shot, and see if you feel similarly inspired?
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (2017)
Anime can be pretty weird sometimes. I mean, where would you find a story about a disgruntled office worker who wakes up one morning to meet a terrifying dragon – only for said dragon to turn into a cute anime girl, make an over-the-top love confession, and insist on working as her live-in-maid? Despite the odd premise, though, Dragon Maid is a fantastically gay rom-com with gorgeous artwork and a lot of heart. The characters are fun and relatable, and I’m a sucker for any story about a group of misfits coming together to find their chosen family. There are some weird ecchi scenes that kinda make this a “problematic fave” for me, but the great comedic and slice of life moments more than make up for it. Gay Dragons FTW!
A Place Further Than The Universe (2018)
Disclaimer: this anime will make you smile, but it will also make you cry – possibly at the same time. It’s the story of four young girls, searching for a meaning to their lives, throwing caution to the wind to embark on an Antarctic exposition. It’s all about growing up and the transformative power of female friendship. The main characters all have multifaceted and endearing personalities, and their character arcs show how much this trip has helped them change and grow. I could gush about this anime for ages, but anything else I could say would probably head into spoiler territory. So if you haven’t watched it yet, it’s only 13 episodes. Watch it!
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