One of my preferred types of anime are iyashikei, otherwise known as “healing anime.” Notable favorites include Aria, Mushishi, Kamichu!, and Amaama to Inazuma. The two discussed here aired this past year and share similar environments that overlap a world very much like our own with the spirit world. Instead of treating the otherworldly as something to be completely avoided, they meet it on its own terms and respect the rules, spoken or not.
Flying Witch tells the daily story of a high school witch-in-training newly moved to her relative’s town. When this show first aired this past spring, it had an almost immediate positive response from my anime community. Viewers loved Makoto’s gentle temperament and almost ditsy application of magic. It’s easy to mistake her as a normal human since she arrives in her new hometown by train and bus just like anyone else. There’s no poof of teleportation, no arrival by broomstick. The only indication we have about her identity as a witch is the black cat who silently follows. Magical ability also does not save her from a complete lack of a sense of direction.
The show’s stories are episodic and meander naturally from one daily activity to another. Much of the time we spend takes place at home or in school. Some of the best humor results from the normal casually bumping into the supernatural, like when Makoto first flies on her broomstick in front of Chinatsu and Nao, when the Harbinger of Spring stops by to visit, or when Akane mistakes the consequences of using a witch’s hair to summon crows. A lot of favorite moments also center on Chinatsu. Her character perfectly captures the curiosity and wonder of a little kid. Though the anime is only a short twelve episodes in length, the people and town come alive almost immediately and you’ll be reluctant to leave at the end.
Natsume Yuujinchou Go is a sequel to an already popular series following a high school boy who can see and communicate with spirits. I’ve followed the franchise from the beginning anime season, and am a passionate fan of Nyanko-sensei, a.k.a. Madara. The main premise has always remained the same–Natsume bumps into various youkai who once knew his grandmother, Reiko, and gave her their names. These names can be released by Natsume from the “Book of Friends” he inherited from Reiko.
Due to the power owning a true name entails, the show could easily lean towards a more suspenseful tone. NY does touch on the darker sides of the spiritual world from time to time, such as youkai full of hatred for humans or ambitious exorcist families playing political games with spirits as their pawns. But much of what endears the anime to viewers are Natsume’s and Nyanko-sensei’s daily encounters with spirits. Natsume’s nature compels him to understand others and very often help them find peace.
Anime like Flying Witch and Natsume Yuujinchou are invaluable to me. Shows of this tone are few and far between, yet work wonders with calming the spirit. I definitely appreciated the quiet moments I shared with these characters this past hectic year. Their atmosphere and attitude towards the world around them also influences my own approach for the better towards my surroundings. If you decide to give these shows a chance, I suggest you start the NY series from the very beginning. While you can watch the seasons out of order, the background information provided earlier on helps significantly with understanding the main characters’ motivations and progress.