For those who tire of battle-centric shonen anime series and want a little bit more “aww” in their lives, these anime will warm your heart.
If you were to look at anime as a genre from a distance, you might think it has nothing else to offer other than kids with weird hairstyles with a penchant for blowing things up. But buried in the rough are some anime that’ll reach out and hug you, that is before suplexing you into oblivion with their endearingly wholesome storylines.
Navigating endless catalogues of anime to test the waters can be a daunting task so I’ve assembled four of the best wholesome anime I’ve watched as a starting point for folks looking to watch some feel-good shows.
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Much like how the “Big Three” revolutionised the anime industry with their iconic cast of characters and heroic feats, these four shows, which I’ve dubbed the “Mt. Rushmore of Wholesome anime,” are the GOATS of sprightly must-watch shows that the genre has to offer. Why Mt. Rushmore you ask? Well, I’m a wrestling fanatic and whenever you ask someone their favourite “X” thing, we call it our Mt. Rushmore. The qualifications for this list involve shows that are non-shonen and have an intriguing twist to what would be a rudimentary storyline. Without further adieu, here are four feel-good anime you should check out.
Way of the Househusband
If you’re fond of the outlandish sidequests of the Yakuza series but wish you could spend more time with a domestic Kiryu Kazuma instead of the melodramatic crime drama that he’s known for in the games, then Way of the Househusband is the series for you.
Way of the Househusband follows a former yakuza member called the “Immortal Dragon” Tatsu. Instead of hustling businesses to pay their dues or throwing down in gang fights, Tatsu turned over a new leaf as a full-time househusband.
While his tough-as-nails demeanour, imposing scars, and sick-arse tattoos are initially off putting to everyone he meets, Tatsu is a caring husband with a love of taking photos of cute doggies, finding deals at the supermarket, and cleaning the house for his kick-arse wife.
While the manga has garnered a cult following, I’d be remiss not to warn you about the Netflix adaptation and its slideshow-esque animation. While its stunted animation style is a stylistic choice on the part of J.C. Staff to evoke the slapstick comedy of its manga, it might be a bit off putting to some. But judge not an anime by the frames (or lack thereof) of its sakuga, but by the content of its subject matter.
And if you still can’t find yourself able to stick with the slideshow quality of the Netflix anime adaptation, the series has a wonderful live action show that just so happens to have a movie on the way. You can check out Way of the Househusband on Netflix.
Komi Can’t Communicate
Ever wonder why the prettiest person in class doesn’t seem to give folks the time of day? Well, in Komi Can’t Communicate, the answer isn’t that she’s a snobby arsehole; it turns out she’s suffering from debilitating social anxiety. Go figure.
Komi Can’t Communicate follows Komi Shouko, a high schooler whose goal is to make 100 friends. With the help of her first friend (and potential love interest) Tadano Hitohito, Komi bravely tries to make friends with her school’s eccentric students and folks in her neighbourhood. Because of her anxiety, though, she communicates by writing things in a notebook before meekly showing it to the person she’s talking to.
Komi Can’t Communicate breaks the mould of a run-of-the-mill comedy and will-they-won’t-they romance series with its dedication to exploring the many qualms that people who suffer from social anxiety deal with on the daily. While it’s told through a comedic lens, it isn’t mean-spirited. Instead, the show laughs at how complicated the task of communication can be, especially with rowdy high schoolers. It even has positive genderqueer representation, something anime as a medium has historically fumbled with in the past.
You can check out Komi Can’t Communicate on Netflix.
Kotaro Lives Alone
Kotaro Lives Alone, as you might surmise from the title, is about a child named Kotaro who lives in an apartment unit by himself. But to say Kotaro lives alone would be a bit of a stretch, because his fellow tenants, a mangaka, a hostess, and a yakuza, come to be the pseudo guardians of the well-spoken cartoon-loving Kotaro as he navigates his way through life.
While the gag of Kotaro being a kindergartner that pays rent is played for laughs throughout the series, the show doesn’t shy away from answering the pressing question of why a four-year-old would be living alone in an apartment without his parents. It is later revealed in the show that Kotaro came from an abusive household and that living alone serves as his way of “becoming stronger.”
After becoming aware of his background, the adults in his life nurture him by providing him the care-free childhood he never had while also breaking the habits he learned in foster care. Along the way, Kotaro also provides the myriad of adults in his life with stark insight on how they too can improve the complicated dilemmas that adult life brings.
You can check out Kotaro Lives Alone on Netflix.
Spy x Family
If the found family trope is your anti-drug, Spy x Family is a piping hot dose of sweet familial goodness.
In a mission to prevent a war breaking out between two neighbouring countries, a renowned super spy named Loid goes undercover and infiltrates the school of a politician’s son. To do so, Loid must assemble a fake family. Unbeknownst to him, Loid adopts a telepath named Anya and marries a deadly assassin named Yor.
Unless you live under a rock (no shame, you get mad shade under those puppies), you might have heard of this show since it’s been all the talk online in anime spaces. And for good reason. Despite only having five episodes out at time of publication, Spy X Family is the highest rated show on MyAnimeList and the top-selling manga in Japan in April, beating out the likes of Jujutsu Kaisen, One Piece, and Demon Slayer.
While Spy x Family has more than its fair share of smooth fight animation, thanks to Wit Studio and CloverWorks double-teaming the show’s animation, making a show this cute should be illegal . The throughline for the show’s plot is each family member hiding their secret identity (and superpower in Anya’s case). As the show progresses, the play-pretend family’s bond gradually develops from mission to reality.
Fun fact: the creator of Spy x Family, Tatsuya Endo, was an assistant to Hajime Iseyama, the creator of a little known anime called Attack on Titan. The jury is still out on whether you pronounce the “x” or not in the show’s title or not. Curse you and your naming convention Hunter x Hunter. See what you have wrought?
You can check out Spy x Family on Crunchyroll.
As with all arbitrary “best of” lists, my choices for the GOAT of wholesome anime have a high chance of not aligning with your own. I’d love to hear which anime you’d put in your Mt. Rushmore of Wholesome anime too.