The soothing qualities of anime; or a case for re-watching favourites during lockdown or any time
My opportunities to illustrate anything and everything took a nosedive when the steady introduction of lockdowns took over all our lives. I just don’t have the physical space to work anymore and that in itself is demotivating. I live in a small flat with very little space – certainly no dream art studio! Setting up my workspace just to have to put it away again is very frustrating. So, I turned to my favourite source of inspiration and took to visual research via anime. This is not new to me – I have often made something according to how an anime made me feel but lockdown has really brought it home about how important that it is to my creative research as it’s all I’ve really been capable of.
It’s also very soothing. A bad day can be soothed away by a sure victory of a good re-watch. It’s not a waste of time – It’s visual comfort food. I tend to do this alongside watching something new, too, so my ongoing research doesn’t suffer, but revisiting old friends – who you know make you happy! What bliss!
I use Pinterest as a visual record of my viewings and MAL (MyAnimeList) database I use for logging, voting and research. I think I enjoy Pinterest because it is so visual – I have four main collections so far – the aim is to collect 100 and then make a new board – it works for me as I like my list to be visual and contained, and finishing a board is seriously rewarding. I’m on my fourth list right now – some of what I’ve collected are definitely on the “wish I’d never bothered” pile but some are turning out to be real favourites.
I’m going to talk about four of those now. I think I should also do some fan art but maybe that’s for the future given the current limitations.
- Tanaka-kun is always Listless
- Natsume’s Book of Friends
- Non non Biyori
Mushi-shi is an episodic supernatural, dreamy, ethereal show that is just wonderful visually. Each episode focuses on an unsettling mystery with every day folk. Its beautiful art and serene atmosphere are otherworldly and provides a real sense of tranquil escapism. The mushi are strange, often transparent creatures that thrive free from the human eye (mostly) but have an impact on the human world (sometimes). The Mushi-shi – a man called Gin – travels the quiet and dreamy countryside dealing with the problems that can occur when the mushi and human world collide. Watching the show is like taking a gentle stroll with him. An anthropologist’s dream, maybe – because you most certainly wouldn’t want to interfere or get in the way. Probably wise, because the mushi are not unkind – they are not wired that way, but they can hurt you.
Tanaka-kun is always listless is charming and funny and probably the most forgiven lazy boy you could meet. He just likes to sleep. The entire show feels calm and sleepy. The art is calm, the music is calm. His life is calm. The only time it isn’t calm is if he is forced out of his sleepy bubble to do boring things like life. The story within the anime is wonderful! The characters that surround this boy are total enablers – his friend, Ohta, especially. But I forgive them all – the experience is just too restful not to.
Natsume’s Book of Friends is another supernatural show with nice art but it’s the characters and the feel of the story that feel comfy and relaxing to me. Natsume’s background is a sad one but his present situation feels like the beginning of a happy ending in some ways as we watch him grow and become more confident and trusting in the people in his life. Some of these ‘people’ are Yokai. Most of them are helpful or become helpful as the story twists and turns and as they get to know and appreciate each other. Most people can’t see the yokai and this often gets Natsume into trouble – but he is a very kind person who is quietly heroic and always tries to help even if it comes with risks. The music helps carry the mood and it’s a very addictive experience. I really like the character art – its soft and gentle, like the story and all of these elements carry Natsume’s Book of Friends into a very soothing and rewatchable experience.
Non Non Biyori is a show that centres around the countryside. It’s beautiful rural scenery is complemented with really adorable characters, focussing on the school children of the village and the people and situations they connect with. It is funny and it is such a gentle experience. It is extremely sweet to follow. Every little adventure they have is delightful and nostalgic. These tiny little childhood moments bring a certain nostalgia with it and I find myself trying to remember the silly, important things I used to do as a small child. The big danger with this show is the desire to go back for a do-over but I get that a lot with anime. Anime certainly does come with its wishful thinking perils!
A real tell-tale sign to a new favourite (for me) is when I start obsessing over the music – I have many favourite OP’s and ED’s (i.e. opening and ending songs) – all providing another way to revisit the charm of a favourite show. As a person with a goth culture background this should be difficult to admit but I can assure you it isn’t. If music speaks to you then one really shouldn’t waste time denying it – for to deny that is to deny yourself and apparently, I’ve had plenty of practice with all the strange stuff I used to listen to (and still do when I have a mind to). If I’m not listening to anime intros then I listen to metalcore and 80’s, mostly – just in case you are interested.
I think all of these shows deserve a re-watch whatever the state of the world but revisiting them during trying times is a form of therapy for me. Nostalgic, relatively risk free and pure comfort.
I will leave it there and start planning my next four escapes.
MyAnimeList – http://myanimelist.net
Mushi-shu – studio – Artland
Tanaka-kun is always listless – studio: SILVER LINK
Natsume’s Book of Friends – studio: Brain’s Base
Non Non Biyori – studio: SILVER LINK