With the pandemic came a wave of people falling back on the word ‘comfort,’ and it extended past comfort foods. People started championing their comfort books, television series, movies, and more to anyone who would listen as it was key to aiding them in relaxing and processing the world around them. In short, a comfort piece of media like a web-comic you adore or a book series you keep coming back to is something that feels like stability to you. It feels like home. It is familiar and has significance to you. Just like a favorite dish you love to eat when you are under the weather or feeling down, this comfort is supposed to hit the spot and be a beacon when you need it.
For many years I linked comfort anime to Iyashikei Anime, which is often referred to as “healing anime”. Anime Planet notes that “Iyashikei is a subgenre of Slice of Life anime that is designed to have a healing effect on the viewer. Iyashikei anime are typically episodic, have little to no conflict, and showcase the characters’ peaceful lives…Common features include mellow atmospheres, soothing soundtracks, and gorgeous background art.” There are several series in this genre that I enjoy including Girl’s Last Tour, Azumanga Daioh and Wakakozake.
As much as I enjoy Iyashikei anime, I know that it is an incomplete offering or definition of the fabled and much-loved comfort anime. Every December I rewatch two of my favorite anime series: Escaflowne and Cowboy Bebop. These are anime series that I believe shaped me as an anime fan. Escaflowne aired on television when I was a middle school student when I was just discovering manga, and Cowboy Bebop aired on Adult Swim when I had just entered highschool. Escaflowne is totally responsible for my love of Isekai, the sub-genre of fantasy in which a character is suddenly transported from their world into a new or unfamiliar one.
Any “girl or woman who falls out of time or into another world” was instantly on my radar to read or watch afterwards–hello Inuyasha, which I would watch a few short years later. This is a profound connection to make, because I actively seek this in the media that I read, watch, buy, and engage with: everything from YA novels to webcomics from all parts of the world, especially in Japanese Manga and Korean Manhwa. (The Reason Why Raeliana Ended up at the Duke’s Mansion is a fave in every adaptation I’ve had access to.)
Cowboy Bebop was responsible for showing me that English dubs could be stellar and not so heavily edited. Bebop also became a global hit and a great gateway anime to share and recommend with those who incorrectly think that anime is just for kids. I love that throughout the years the series has become even used in classrooms by those who teach media and film for its mashup of homages to everything from westerns to jazz music to space operas. Music wise, this was the first series that made me appreciate an anime’s soundtrack and one of the first that I could start collecting (followed by Samurai Champloo and Wolf’s Rain).
I watch these series at the end of every year (and their respective movies) and thought to myself these are comfort anime series of mine!!! Why had I not made this connection?! For some re-watching Haikyu!! Or Spy x Family is the very essence of comfort anime versus a series that some may associate as more “fluffy” and lower stakes like Do It Yourself!! or Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits.
Taking to Twitter, I mean X, BNP asked around on just what made a comfort anime, a comfort anime and what series were golden. Some of our BNP fam chimed in: Khadijah mentioned that she knew it sounded counterintuitive “…But, (the series that I feel is a comfort anime) helps me fall asleep. If I’m having a stressful day, or insomnia acts up, I can just turn it on and laugh myself into my pillow.” As our site’s Food Wars aficionado, she added that she watches it while cooking Thanksgiving dinner every year now. “Like it’s one of those things that brings me joy at any point of my day.” She also mentioned that Yu-Gi-Oh! is a BIG comfort anime: “Because ain’t nothing funnier than Seto Kaiba roasting somebody completely unprovoked.”
Naja, my Blerdy Sister in Christ, I mean Otome Games, defined that to her a comfort anime was: “Something I can turn my brain off and just watch over and over again, no matter the day of the week and still watch with the same energy.” She also counted Jujitsu Kaisen, S8 the Infinity, and Hitorijime My Hero as comfort anime series that she’s seen dozens of times–and mentioned that they still have emotional weight every time she watches. The boys of Haikyu!! also have her heart, no matter how many times she watches that series! Horimiya, Sasaki and Miyano, Given were mentioned by others for their “Sweet romance, wholesomeness, nice art and music.“ Anime “that I’ve seen a bajillion times (familiarity), or a procedural like Conan” was also mentioned.
The ante was upped on the same social media platform when music and soundtracks were mentioned, some series level up in the best ways in our memories for comfort anime because of their opening and ending themes songs. BNP writer Frantz started off the race, bringing up the iconic music of fan favorite Cowboy Bebop. Everyone speaks of Tank!! (It’s my number one ringtone and has been since my first smart-ish cellphone) ringtone. He had high praise for the Waltz For Venus track: “…Feels like a Sade instrumental that she forgot to sing on…unfiltered chilled and sultry vibes”. I found all my fellow aging Millennials who grew up watching Inuyasha because they were belting out the lyrics to my favorite ending songs from the series in the replies and quote tweets ( I see YOU, Kat. You get me!)
The Vision of Escaflowne’s intro was also mentioned in the pipeline of great and/or iconic music to comfort anime examples. Bleach then and now with TYBW was brought up as well as Yu Yu Hakusho (everyone and they mama rocks with Smile Bomb, of course. Even Megan Thee Stallion, certified hottie and nerd, dancing to it as evident in this TikTok video from her account) We received a few links to opening songs from one user who mentioned that for comfort anime: “If the theme song is a banger, then I can sit through the opening, which gives me that much more time with the show” with Tanya The Evil as an example.
We also asked our Instagram fam and they, too, came through. The makings of a comfort anime included: My Love Story with Yamada-Kun at Level 999 for “actual romantic plot and not a harem”. BARS. Komi Can’t Communicate was selected for being “silly, cute and lighthearted” for a series that grabbed a viewer who doesn’t even watch the slice of life genre in anime. The 90s OVA anime Record of Lodoss War found its way into the comments for being “only 13 episodes, peaceful, not harsh on the eyes, great score, fantastic voice work. It doesn’t feel like a chore to watch.”
Other comfort anime series included in the comments: Samurai Champloo because of the vibes (and that that Nujabes soundtrack), Gurren Lagann for the perfect score and music that amplified the story, Ouran High School Host Club for the found family trope and shade being thrown around and several films from the house of Ghibli were added as well. I took home several recommendations for series that I’ve never watched before like How to Keep a Mummy, Play It Cool, Guys and The Ice Guy and His Cool Female Colleague.
On more in-depth definitions of what makes a comfort anime, our Instagram family gave us more food for thought: humor and heart, cozy aesthetic, being set in a world that makes the viewer want to be immersed in. No matter what definition, I read supplies from the app and website formerly known as Twitter (Look, I STILL call it Twitter) and Instagram– found myself really fascinated and humbled by everyone’s shared enthusiasm on anime, and the series that made them feel whole.
I took my time re-watching the anime adaptation of Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku, splitting up the episodes between August and September. Re-watching this series of some otaku friends navigating the workplace, dating, and trying to play it cool around other non-otaku people was a breath of fresh air between family drama and a few deaths in the family. Realizing that I seriously needed some laughs and some unserious hi-jinks was an eye opener for me. It also made me reminisce on all the nerdy friends that I had made growing up and why those friendships were important.
In actuality, it is in that re-watch of Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku where the idea for this editorial started manifesting. I knew that I wanted to have a collaborative element from others to wax on the power of comfort anime and help define what they are. Yet I also wanted to string together collective reasons of why I believe that there is power in finding pieces of media that speak to you, give you peace, and impact our lives, forever. Whether it is a sports anime or an anime with a grand romance for the ages, comfort anime vary across the board in genre and narrative.
These beloved series teach us about the power of friendship, the fight to keep evil at bay, and the silliness of everyday life whether you’re a young child going to school for the first time or a seasoned veteran of life’s storms mentoring the next generation. I love that we all can define and redefine comfort anime on our own terms and continue to do so in good times and bad. For some: a comfort anime provides “No stress, just vibes.” For others, it is specifically, “an 80s Super Robot show with a kickass opening theme”.
As we get closer to the end of the year and I get ready to re-watch Escaflowne and Cowboy Bebop and their respective movies, I’m ready to feel at home, again. I am ready to become the preteen and teenage versions of myself re-watching these series and the awe, discovery, and fascination I held when watching some of anime’s finest series of the 90s. I wish that for all of us: the wholeness we feel from re-watching a favorite comfort anime and the ability to experience the series once again without missing any of the magic that attracted us to them in the first place. Happy watching (and re-watching) and a good comfort anime to all!