Anime girls are more than ‘sexy’ thanks to wave of new shows
Anime girls face a lot of expectations. Audiences want to see them sweet, sweet, funny, relatable and, of course, super sexy. Their plots force them to be hyper-competent, hard to get hold of (but still looking for love), and once again, super sexy. Often times, they are expected to be all of these while saving the world. Is there no justice for waifus? When will this end?
Apparently now. A growing number of shows, especially in the iyashikei or the “healing” anime genre, finally free their female protagonists from these weird pressures and, better yet, take their relationships seriously. In the signature series of the genre, like Flying witch and Tamayura Hitotose The focus shifts from action and romance, to making meaningful connections with family and friends, and finding joy in every detail of life.
Iyashikei anime is certainly not new, but its popularity is increasing, thanks to its much-needed calming effect on viewers. The genre first emerged in response to the trauma that followed the Kobe earthquake and the Tokyo sarin attack in 1995, when audiences craved to feel safe from fiction. While iyashikei can include works that feature elements of action or fantasy, the focus tends to be smaller and more mundane, and the focus is on visually stunning settings.
Many quiet, though charming, storylines are sadly dismissed as “cute girls doing cute things,” as is often the case with the series. Not no Biyori. Other series are considered an accomplishment of domestic fantasy for men, such as The helpful fox Senko-san. While a key element of iyashikei It’s the sense of serenity it brings to viewers, relying on female characters to provide that emotional impact without granting them interiority subjects them to the same expectations they face in other genres.
The pressure to be cute and helpful isn’t going to immediately dissipate for our two-dimensional tall ladies. But series that allowed their female protagonists to act serenely have been around since the 1990s, even though this particular kind of on-screen empowerment was rare.
While the magic powerhouse full of action Sailor moon helped popularize anime in North America, 1998 Yokohama Shopping Diary provided a serene counterbalance, even if it was largely ignored by Western audiences at the time. Studio Ghibli films (especially My neighbor Totoro) over the years has helped establish iyashikei, while proving that stories about the lives of women have commercial viability. The low-key Hangout animated series Azumanga Daioh brought these efforts to the early 2000s, with a set of high school girls leading their (mostly) normal lives, with a healthy dose of surreal humor to boot.
With the foundations laid and the growing demand, it is becoming more and more acceptable for shows to let their young wives explore life safely and thrive as they please. And Kuma And Bear and Adachi and Shimamura are two incredible examples who recently completed their first double seasons. Relaxed camp (currently available only with subtitles) takes cold vibes to the next level.
And Kuma And Bear (streaming on Hulu and Funimation) begins with a isekai scenario where the protagonist, Yuna, is transported to the world of her favorite video game. But rather than struggling to get back to the real world or continuing her influence in the game, she is just enjoying life and looking for good food. Despite his somewhat selfish motives, his quests often improve the lives of other residents in the game, many of whom appear to be NPCs. Alternately funny and sweet, the series presents additional appeal for all those who enjoy found family tropes and deliciously drawn culinary delights.
Adachi and Shimamura (on Funimation) is a more traditional slice of life, with just a touch of romantic angst and a few surreal side stories to keep things interesting. The protagonists, Sakura Adachi and Hougetsu Shimamura, are two high school slackers who befriended by skipping class. Gradually, their connection grows into something more. It’s basically the antithesis of classic anime Inuyasha: There are no holy items to collect, no action-packed fights with mighty demons, and certainly no dramatic shouting of each other’s names during fights and professions of love. In place, Adachi and Shimamura devotes several episodes to buying gifts in low-traffic malls.
Relaxed camp (on Crunchyroll) is exactly what it sounds like: a series about girls going camping. It is indeed Azumanga Daioh in the woods, with even more stunning backdrops and serene, food-centric storylines.
Without the drama of the forces of evil to be overcome, or even the awe-inspiring, troubled romances of fan favorites like Basket of fruits, some people might find these shows boring. But the beauty is in the absence of conflict: knowing that everything is going and will be okay for the characters creates a deep sense of relief for viewers. Yes Basket of fruits is the media equivalent of a jag crying after the breakup, iyashikeiThe vibes of are much more like falling asleep under a weighted blanket next to someone you love.
Rather than the plot relying on constant drama to keep the story moving, the emphasis is on the interactions and ideas of the characters. In And Kuma And Bear, it plays out with Yuna solving problems for communities in a video game world while developing closer friendships than she has ever had in the real world. In Azumanga Daioh, the actors of the ensemble simply live their daily lives, the comedy coming from their interactions and interpretations (or erroneous interpretations) of these interactions. In Relaxed camp, the scenery is so stunning that even with the fairly minimal plot it is still a pleasure to watch.
Stylistically, iyashikei Also tends towards bright secondary colors, elaborate backgrounds, montages with cheerful music, and a voiceover used to make the characters reflect on their feelings, rather than react to their opponent’s last fighting move. The character design shows a strong influence of the traditional shojo aesthetic, with “cute” styles that focus on big eyes and trendy clothes, rather than unrealistic outfits or exaggerated anatomy. Communication also tends to be simpler. There are still misunderstandings between the characters, but especially for the comic effect.
Rather than indulging in the most typical tsundere dynamic, characters are much more likely to gently and easily share their true feelings, whether they are focused on friendship, romantic interest, or more family-oriented love. While there may still be some build-up and angst in these confessions, it’s clear to audiences that the feeling will be mutual and that the characters should feel safe expressing themselves.
While the high-stakes worlds of the most popular animated series are filled with epic battles and angsty relationships, meant to spark endless excitement and emotional engagement, sometimes the intensity is just too much. There is a lot of joy in just watching the characters go about their lives. Enjoying peaceful landscapes, following slow relationships that develop at their own pace, and taking genuine delight in the absurdity of existence offers a unique type of escape that is desperately needed in an overworked and overstimulated world. The time has come. These calm portrayals of women’s lives and relationships will only become more frequent and popular.
An open world stands before us, a world with stories that reassure us that it’s okay to exist, to appreciate others, and to understand the world around us. And one where anime girls can finally relax.